Man in the Middle – Chapter 59: Hurrah for my free bus pass!

This is the diary of a middle aged man. A man who walks the tightrope between the demands of his Mother, wife and kids when all he wants is more ‘me time’. Post Crash, Post Covid, Post Libido, Past Caring. Ecce homo. Ecce Boomer. Ecce Man in the Middle.

If you’d like to begin at the beginning and missed the first instalment, you can read
No. 1: The Letter here

No.59: Hurrah for my free bus pass

January has retched up another miserable milestone. Today is my sixtieth birthday.

Oh, Boomer, did it come to this?

Once I had hopes as frisky as Labrador puppies and a lime green sports car so sickeningly ostentatious that bystanders flicked V signs at me as I drove past them or spat on my bonnet when I stopped at pedestrian crossings. What Bliss was it in that dawn to be spat at, and to be young was very heaven!

I can’t even go out tonight to drown my sorrows in a bath of wine and a nine-course tasting menu somewhere because no restaurants are properly open in this nowhere-to-go-or-anything-to-do-because-of-fffing-Covid-world.

I decide the only sensible thing to do now I am sixty is to hide under my duvet for a fortnight. This will give me enough time to acclimatise to the fact that I now qualify for a free bus pass.

I peak out from under the duvet feeling a little better from my whinging, like a monk after Matins. The bedside clock says it’s 09.00am.

‘Happy Birthday,’ says my wife, parking a birthday brew on the bedside table.

‘Whatever.’

‘Coming downstairs?

‘No. I’m staying in bed for a fortnight to think about my Freedom Pass.’

‘But we’re waiting to open your presents.’

‘I’m not worth it.’

‘We know.’

I am not sure if she is serious. Her tone is bone dry and flat, like the Black Rock desert where they set land speed records.

‘Why are you doing this?’ she asks.

‘I’m turning my bed and me into a piece of conceptual art.’

‘Like Tracey Emin?’

‘Exactly.’

She shakes her head.

‘Tell me this is one of your man-child traumas quickly or I’m going to have you sectioned,’ she says.

‘You can’t know how tough it is being a sixty year old man. Just like that, overnight.’ I snap my fingers. ‘I’m having to face up to some serious existential questions.’

‘Like what to watch on Netflix tonight?’

‘Like ‘What am I Going to Do With Myself for the Next Ten Years?’’

I lean back onto the pillows and moan softly hoping to add a little manly pathos to the situation.

‘If you’re not downstairs in ten minutes, the mushrooms go into the bin,’ she threatens.

‘Mushrooms?’ I say, lifting the pillow from my face.

She’s cooked me mushrooms. I adore mushrooms but the rest of the family would rather have a holiday in Chernobyl than eat or cook them. If my wife has cooked me mushrooms, she’s taking my sixtieth birthday very seriously. If so, who knows how much she’s spent on my presents. I begin to salivate.

‘In butter and chopped parsley?’ I ask, hesitatingly.

Something flashes across her face, she has a momentary rictus.

‘No oil. Parsley. Butter. Garlic.’

I leap out of bed and give her a hug. The smell of bacon and coffee floats into the bedroom.

‘You’re a Goddess,’ I say, pulling on my trousers.

‘Ten minutes,’ she says, leaving.

Downstairs, the breakfast table has a small but encouragingly well wrapped pile of presents on it. There’s toast, sausages, bacon and a bowl of slowly scrambled eggs, folded like large, orange-coloured napkins on my plate. The children look bright as buttons suggesting they may even have bathed for the occasion.

‘Happy birthday, Dad’ say the kids and hand me a present.

‘What’s this?’ I say looking at a book shaped present.

‘A book obviously,’ says my daughter.

I strip the wrapper away. Underneath it is a book is called ‘OK Boomer: Let’s Talk’. The book is subtitled is ‘How My generation got left behind’.

‘What’s this about?’

‘You know how you’re always irritating us by calling us Snowflakes?’ says my daughter.

‘Sort of,’ I say.

‘Well, this book will tell you why you should stop.’

‘It also explains why you are wrong about everything,’ says my son.

‘And will show you how you can be a better person still, if you really want to be,’ says my daughter.

‘Though we realise that could be hard for you now that you are really old now and may find it hard to change the prejudices of a lifetime, like an old dog learning new tricks,’ says my son.

The Lime Green Sports Car Man within me, who I thought was dead stirs to life, like King Arthur summoned to save the Kingdom. I’m about to tell them I am working on a book which also hopes to solve inter-generational conflict which is called: ‘Shut Up Snowflake’ and is subtitled ‘I’m Too Busy Playing Golf to Give a Toss’.

Just as I am about to open fire, my wife arrives at the table with a pan of finely chopped mushrooms, sizzling in garlic butter and sprinkled with chopped parsley. As she pours them onto the brown toast next to my sausages and scrambled eggs, I realise that I must act my age. I’m too old to get suckered into an inter-generational scrap. (At this time of the morning, at any rate). I shall ignore their taunts. I shall embrace my inner Biden, not my inner Trump. I must build unity, not division. Most of all, I must eat the mushrooms quickly before they go cold and spongy.

‘Good?’ asks my wife, as I finish wiping specks of parsley and butter from my chin, three greedy minutes later.

‘Best breakfast in sixty years.’

The children groan.

‘Half an hour ago, I had nothing left to look forward to. Now, I’ve got a belly full of fungi and several sausages. Things are looking up. I think sixty could be the new fifty,’ I say.

‘Good,’ says my wife. ‘Because the kids have made you a birthday cake with a special message just for you.’

The kids put a cake on the table with an iced message on it. The message says: ‘You’re 60. Get over it.’

Read more blogs by James Thellusson

Read the next in the series – Chapter 60: A right royal Valentine

Read the previous one – Chapter 58: Mother has gone into a nursing home

See all James’s Man in the Middle blogs here

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