January. Oh, the pressure! I make the same resolution every year: Eat less, move more… and, inevitably, by day three, I break it.
But not this time.
2020 is all about being new and improved. Besides, on moving from London to the country, I’d determined to transform myself into a capable and serene woman who’s quietly in control of her life and not, as per my usual style, flying by the seat of her larger- than- average-sized pants. And January seems the perfect time to begin. Actually, now I come to think about it, after all the Christmas binge eating, my pants, jeans and everything else are feeling a bit on the snug side… but that’s only to be expected I tell myself. After all what else is there to do over the holidays except eat, drink and watch a lot of silly films featuring elves, run-away-reindeer and portly old men suffering under the delusion that they really are Santa?
An equally depressing prospect for January is all the admin’ tasks I have to tackle. The accumulated paperwork that I’ve been ignoring over the last couple of months has now to be faced. And I’m not good with paperwork. Forms, tax returns, official documents of any kind, they confuse and intimidate me. I pick them up, attempt to make sense of them and put them down again. Then I bury them under a pile of newspapers and forget all about them. This always makes matters worse because whatever it is that HMRC or my insurance company or energy provider are bothering me about, doesn’t go away. These people can be doggedly persistent and thus more correspondence ensues. It usually takes a third letter and several phone calls to make me knuckle down and respond. And that takes it out of me, really it does.
So, my new scheme for 2020 is to confront one frustrating admin’ job per week, starting now. Spread the dreariness out so I won’t feel so overwhelmed is the plan. Right, I’ll start with… oh… it’s exhausting to even think about… best I have a lie-down.
I get up again and I start to compile a list. It’s a long list and I resist the urge not only to take another little nap but to bring a glass of wine and some chocolate to bed with me. Congratulating myself for not giving in to this impulse makes me feel virtuous and I allocate my first task: Register with a doctor, something I should have done a few months back when I moved here. Oh well, better late than never and I’ll talk to the GP about the whole eat less, move more thing and maybe he or she can give me some tips on how to sustain that resolution for a meaningful length of time… or at least to day four.
I make my appointment. Here’s how it goes:
“How many alcoholic units per week do you consume on average?”
“More than I should but less than I’d like”
That usually works, I think. He doesn’t have to know the exact amount surely?
“Is alcohol an issue for you? Would you consider that you drink too much?”
No sense of humour, I decide. Or perhaps he’s heard it before? I try again
“When is too much ever really too much?”
“When its more than 14 units a week for a woman. That’s when it’s too much. Do you drink more than 14 units a week?”
He fixes me with a penetrating stare. I’ll try and change the subject I think.
“This seems such a lovely surgery. I’ve just moved here from London and it’s so refreshing to ……”
But he’s having none of it.
“I am trying to get a picture of your general state of health. Alcohol is a significant factor in the increased likelihood of a whole range of degenerative diseases. So, number of units per week?”
“I’m sorry but that information is on a strictly need-to-know basis”
“Well, I’m your doctor and I need to know”
But do you? I think.
I remember an incident. It was early one morning and The-Boyfriend-Before-Last asked the question that should, between lovers, never ever be asked. No, not the one about regular check-ups. The other one. The one about how many people one you’ve slept with prior to meeting the present partner. I’d batted the question away. What does it matter? I’d said. Who we have loved, who we have slept with in the past simply isn’t relevant. This relationship is all about now, I’d said. It’s all about us. But he’d persisted.
And so, reluctantly, I’d come clean.
Silence followed my disclosure.
“That many?” He’d remarked eventually “Really?”
“Well, you did ask” I’d replied.
And we’d had a bit of a scene about it. He’d pouted his way through breakfast, been somewhat sniffy through lunch, sighed forlornly over dinner to eventually reconcile himself to it by the following morning. Thank God, I remember thinking, that I’d only admitted to half of the real number or I’d never have heard the end of it.
This technique of giving a much-watered down version of the truth, I now use on the doctor:
“Oh… well at a guess I’d say somewhere around twelve to fifteen units a week. What’s that? A couple of bottles of Chardonnay. That’s not too bad, is it? Moderate, I’d say. Practically abstemious if you ask me”
“A bottle of wine contains, in fact, 10 units. So, you are actually consuming 20 units per week which is significantly more than the recommended amount as per government guidelines. And are you quite sure two bottles is your limit?”
He’s giving me another one of those looks and so I nod. He doesn’t seem entirely convinced but notes it on my records nevertheless.
I will cut down, the New Me decides, whilst still smarting at the unfairness of life where a measly bottle of wine accounts for ten wretched units. Bloody hell, it looks like 2020 could prove to be the year that I finally develop a modicum of self-restraint. Where’s the fun in that?
As I close the door to his office the doctor calls me back.
“Don’t forget. Do try and cut down on the Chardonnay”
I give another nod. An emphatic one this time.
“I’ll give it a shot” I say and make my way back through to reception relieved that if nothing else, I’d completed my first week’s admin’ task.
Hold up, I think. A shot. Now there’s an idea. Vodka? Tequila? Vermouth? I wonder if I have any ice.
TO BE CONTINUED