Tuesday, January 01, 2019

New Year's Resolutions for others

Happy New Year, dear readers! 2019 is not for the fainthearted, but in the history of the world I'm sure there have been worse.

Here, to give you a boost, is a piece I had in the Times some years ago...

When you're dead I'll read in bed

At the beginning of January three things happen with an unfortunate synchronicity.
First, you get a desire to purge domestic detritus.
Second, peri-Christmas pressures make trivial niggles with your partner get out of proportion, leading you to consider clearing the domestic decks in a rather more drastic way.
Third, there is a problem that links the two above – that of wanting to throw something away but your partner saying that you can do it only over his/her dead body.
I have no neat solution to the problematic intersection of the above. However, my husband Dave and I have devised a game to dispel some of the tension it engenders. It is based on the idea that no matter how happy and settled you are with a person there will still be some things that you look forward to when they are no longer around.
The best time to play the game is when the winter seems interminable, and family members are getting chronically fractious, like schoolchildren after two weeks of wet playtimes. We have found it especially invigorating on those gloomy January afternoons when we have attempted a post-prandial walk and only managed to get as far as the end of the road before an icy downpour has propelled us back home with our dripping anoraks stuck to our soaking jeans, which are stuck to our cold wet legs.
We call the game When you are dead, but if you find this title in poor taste you can always re-name it (less pithily) In my next life I shall marry someone who.
'When you die,' says Dave, 'I’ll rip out the phone.'
'When you die,' I respond, 'your 25-year-old cycling jersey will be the first thing to go.' It has more runs than the Australian cricket team and is now more mends than original. Yet before putting it on for a bike ride he stretches the darned thing out on the kitchen table to show me the latest holes and pulled threads, and says pathetically 'Couldn’t you mend it, just one more time?' A less indulgent woman would have made the “mistake” long ago of mixing it up with the bag of jumble bound for recycling.
'In my next life' say I, 'I shall marry someone who doesn’t complain when I want to read in bed.'
'In my next life,' says he, 'I shall marry someone who doesn’t rush off to answer the phone when they’re in the middle of talking to me.'
Another version of the game is New Year Resolutions for others. Thus Dave’s resolution for me would be that I would throw away old food rather than leaving it to skulk in the back of the fridge. Last week he thought he saw a novelty fabric cucumber behind the egg box, because the mould on it had the texture and sheen of velour.
He would also like me to desist from clearing away his tools from the kitchen when he hasn’t finished a job, and to restrain myself from returning his half read books to the bookshelves in random order. Also to do some mending – starting with his cycling jumper.
My first resolution for him would be to take off his muddy shoes at the door - as the children do – rather than keeping them on, forgetting to wipe them, and then treading mud all over the carpet, followed by his saying in a puzzled tone, as if the effect were as mystifying as the marks on the Turin Shroud,  'I seem to have got some mud on the carpet.'
I would like him to stop soaking his bicycle chain in paraffin on the draining board in one of my Pyrex dishes; to finish off an item of food before starting on a new one - loaf of bread, bottle of milk, cucumber, whatever; and to stop using the answering machine to screen every single telephone call – even when it’s a bank holiday and the only person we are expecting to ring is my sister.
You may see recurrent themes emerging from all this dissent, and that explains the intractable nature of the problems, and why the game is such a boon. Living with someone long-term is like Dr Seuss’s Crumple-horn, Web-footed, Green-bearded Schlottz, 'whose tail is entailed with un-solvable knots.'
And I still think the original name of the game is best  - When you are dead. I felt a great sympathy with Lady Longford, who, when she was asked if she’d ever thought of divorcing her husband, said  – 'Divorce never, murder often.'

At someone else's wedding, 1970

 ©            Sue Hepworth/Times Newspapers 2019
published here with kind permission of Times Newspapers


Anonymous said...

Loved this post - gave us such a chuckle.

What cracking games!
Long may you play them.

Sue Hepworth said...

Thank you!