Post-festive punishment

I wake up in the middle of the night with the sugar sweats. It’s my body’s way of rebelling against those invading forces from Christmas – Quality Street and Roses. They joined league with Tia Maria, Cointreau and Amoretto – foreign mercenaries who go undercover for eleven months of the year then rally to the war cry during December.

You see, even if the festivities are behind us now, the battle scars are still a visible reminder of the collateral damage we’ve suffered. And all of it is ‘friendly fire.’ We’ve no one to blame but ourselves! Oh, why did I think that a double helping of bhajis with my bhuna would make a victorious accompaniment to Ant and Dec’s Boxing Day ‘Take-away’? And was scoffing an entire Yule log really a just dessert for the post-New Year cease-fire in socialising?

I blame the Nearly-Beloved. He went behind enemy lines, plundering the goody-bag arsenal and liberating any remaining snacks. ‘They’ve got to be eaten,’ he told me. ‘We can’t just abandon them.’

But, judging by the Pringles-tin-shrapnel covering the floor, Grunting Teen has already stumbled into the mine field of unfinished sweets and savouries. Now he’s lying on the field-hospital sofa, his skin tinged Chocolate Orange.

‘Mum, I feel bare unhealthy,’ he groans. ‘I need to get fit.’

‘You can join me down the gym then,’ says his father, sucking in his stomach in an attempt to disguise the spare tyre acquired on inactive duty.

Thank goodness then it’s ‘Veganuary’, the month when we retreat to build up our strength and resources. No more idling in front of the TV, no more fancy food and drink, no more home leave. Instead, it’s back to boot camp and basic rations.

Unfortunately, allies and enemies alike have gone for the same tactics. The Nearly-Beloved returns unamused from his work-out. ‘The place was rammed out,’ he complains. ‘Full of amateurs who can’t tell a dumbbell from a kettlebell. And they need to fix their scales – I can’t have put on that much weight!’

Grunting Teen is also unimpressed. He headed for the climbing wall. And, for once, couldn’t complete his usual route. Apparently, all the holds must have been changed. What other explanation could there be?

Morale is low. The troops need cheering up. But the provisions stock is now bare. I dish out a soup, concocted from blackening veg, liberated from the bottom of the fridge. It’s supposed to be healthy and heart-warming but instead it’s bland and bleak. For afters there’s a skirmish over a bruised apple. The losers end up with a squidgy tangerine and over-ripe banana. We all go to bed hungry. Sleep is sporadic and interrupted by more sugar sweats.

Fast forward two weeks and Grunting Teen is back route-marching to school every day, his stamina and fitness honed by a diet devoid of carbs from the now empty ‘forbidden cupboard’. At the gym the Christmas-present-conscripts have gone AWOL, their New Year’s resolutions abandoned by apathy. Only the professionals remain. The Nearly-Beloved has regained control of his body. He’s returned to tip top military condition and now views the festive season defeat as a mere blip in the fight against flab.

As for me, I’ve been debriefed on my reckless conduct and detoxed of all sugar. I’ve survived an intensive training programme and am now ready for action. I should be honoured to be recruited to the fitness battalion. But being a member of this elite squad has its drawbacks. Who wants to go for a run when it’s gloomy and grey outside? And swimming is surely too much effort on a cold, wet day?

Which is why, as hail batters the windows, I’m caught defecting from my post.

‘Mum, what are you doing?’ gasps Grunting Teen, star-jumping into the room.

I wipe my lips in vain. But the chocolatey crumbs reveal me as a deserter to the cause. That rogue box of Fox’s biscuits down the cellar is my undoing. Good job they haven’t yet discovered my secret stash of Walnut Whips in the attic…

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