I refuse to bow down to the gods of mod­er­a­tion

The Herald on Sunday - - THE WEEK - Su­san Swar­brick

THE trick to mas­ter­ing the grey gloom of Jan­uary is to go easy on the self-flag­el­la­tion.

My waist­band may be cut­ting un­com­fort­ably into my bloated belly as I type – yup, I’m aware this is what hap­pens when you have been say­ing “To hell with it, it’s Christ­mas” since the Sep­tem­ber week­end – but I refuse to bow down to the gods of mod­er­a­tion.

The su­per­mar­kets are the worst for this. Only a few weeks ago, the aisles were packed to the rafters with tempt­ing treats. They pushed cheese plat­ters like crack deal­ers and used mar­ket­ing voodoo to brain­wash us all that if you didn’t have 19 dif­fer­ent types of fancy bis­cuits, you were fail­ing as a host.

Now you can’t move for pro­tein shakes and ket­tle bells. Hav­ing steadily clogged your ar­ter­ies with gloopy lard over the past fort­night, you’re sud­denly ex­pected to buy an air fryer and a veg­etable steamer. No more idle rolling be­tween the fridge and sofa ei­ther. In­stead, you need to march about ev­ery­where as if you have re­joined the Girls’ Bri­gade, rack­ing up steps that will be tal­lied by a shiny new fit­ness tracker. Bikes are be­ing dusted off in garages and run­ning shoes re­trieved from the back of cup­boards. Reg­u­lar gym-go­ers find them­selves ousted from work-out ma­chines by the peren­nial Jan­uary in­flux of in­ter­lop­ers who swear blind that this will be the year they be­come a paragon of health.

The re­al­ity is they spend 0.01% of their time ex­er­cis­ing and the re­main­der post­ing arty self­ies on In­sta­gram (hash­tags #NewYearNewYou #CleanEat­ing etc) or star­ing mes­merised at their own Ly­cra-clad re­flec­tion in the floor-to-ceil­ing mir­rors.

That thun­der­clap-loud ka-ching is not the sound of shop tills ring­ing up the last of the cut-price Christ­mas tat but, rather, phys­io­ther­a­pists, chi­ro­prac­tors and masseurs bank­ing moolah for treat­ing a tsunami of daft fit­ness-re­lated in­juries.

Then there’s the Dry Jan­uary bores. Te­dious in­di­vid­u­als at­tempt­ing to seem less mind-numb­ingly dull by imag­in­ing them­selves to be locked in a thrilling tus­sle with al­co­hol overindul­gence when, in fact, they are merely es­chew­ing the oc­ca­sional small glass of red with their Sun­day lunch.

You can keep all of it. I need a few more days. Maybe a week. Screw it. I’ll take the month.

Ad­ven­tures in soft fur­nish­ings

GOSH, I’ve read that back and re­alise I sound like a right old grump. My sin­cere apolo­gies but it has been a test­ing few weeks. Reg­u­lar read­ers will know that I re­cently moved house. We’re set­tling in nicely, thank you. I’m just try­ing to wrap my head around a few things.

Such as buy­ing car­pets. Ap­par­ently, it is not quite as sim­ple as walk­ing into a shop and say­ing: “I wish to pur­chase one car­pet, please.” In fact, it is not any­where near the ball­park of what could be con­sid­ered straight­for­ward.

Firstly, it in­volves traips­ing round an in­dus­trial es­tate on a Sat­ur­day af­ter­noon to visit show­rooms, each filled with iden­ti­cal lit­tle squares of car­pet. You brush a hand across the sur­face, ad­mire the thick­ness of the pile, flip the price tag over and emit a silent scream.

If you squint your eyes and look closely, there can be seen the most sub­tle of dif­fer­ences. Cream or dark cream or light cream. Maybe a flicker of beige. A hint of fawn. Un­der­cur­rents of oat­meal.

But mostly it is star­ing in­tently at sam­ples un­til your pupils start swirling like when Kaa hyp­no­tises Mowgli in The Jun­gle Book.

Car­pet shop­ping is a be­fud­dling busi­ness. Mat­ters weren’t helped by the fact I might as well have been ring­ing a bell and wear­ing a sand­wich board that read: “Ut­terly clue­less. Take my money.”

By the time we reached the fi­nal

stop on our odyssey any rem­nants of com­mon sense had de­serted me. The sales­man asked what area and I gave him my post­code. “Erm, no,” he said kindly. “I mean, is it for a bed­room, a liv­ing room, per­haps a hall?”

It took slightly less time to buy a pair of cur­tains. Al­though I have since come to ac­cept that the time spent perus­ing these two rec­tan­gu­lar strips of fab­ric is in­versely pro­por­tional to the time spent hang­ing them up. Four hours it took. It was akin to wrestling a cloth wal­rus.

As the af­ter­noon light faded, I re­alised my en­tire street was be­ing treated to an avant-garde theatre per­for­mance that in­volved scram­bling up and down a lad­der and dis­ap­pear­ing be­neath mounds of ma­te­rial only to pop back up again with a tear-stained face like a mime act in a silent movie.

For­got­ten some­thing?

A GLASS eye, a 5ft choco­late Easter bunny and a gal­lon of wa­ter from Loch Ness.

No, it’s not the con­tents of the gazil­lion boxes still tee­ter­ing in my spare room wait­ing to be un­packed but, rather, some of the un­usual items left be­hind in ho­tels last year. Other mis­laid bits and bobs in­cluded a bot­tle of vin­tage cham­pagne, a chest of semi­precious stones, a Coutts cheque book and a replica of Meghan Markle’s wed­ding dress.

Bud­get chain Trav­elodge re­vealed there has also been a grow­ing trend of pets be­ing left in rooms in­clud­ing fish, two Per­sian cats and a cock­a­too called Brexit.

I can quite be­lieve it. I once ar­rived at a mo­tel in Texas to find a ter­rapin peer­ing up at me from the bath. It had been left be­hind by a pre­vi­ous guest. I don’t know about you but my mind was less, “Who the hell trav­els with a ter­rapin?” and more, “This [in­sert bleep] room has not been cleaned!”

This was later borne out when I scooted down on to my hands and knees, peered un­der the bed and saw a stack of crum­pled Taco Bell wrap­pers. A tin­foil mon­ster.

In other news, sales of mu­sic cas­settes soared by 125% last year. Next you will be telling me that gramo­phones are mak­ing a come­back.

Now, if you’ll ex­cuse me, I plan to get ahead of the curve by comb­ing land­fill sites in search of a Be­ta­max video recorder.

Let’s not bang on about what we’re do­ing in Jan­uary – I’m still un­pack­ing boxes in my new house, if any­one’s in­ter­ested

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