The Way To Go
One of the worst things about January (apart from the fact that it’s not July) is that you can’t move for exhortations to improve yourself. Every magazine and newspaper has its own variation on ‘New Year, New You’, pushing some new diet or fitness regime on you. Where do they get them all from? My theory is that there are only about half a dozen different ones and they feature them in rotation, secure in the knowledge that no one will ever notice.
In fact Public Health England didn’t even have the decency to wait until after New Year’s Eve to issue their warning about middle-aged people facing a health crisis, on account of eating and drinking too much and not getting enough exercise. Professor Muir Gray told Radio 4 that, “Modern life is dramatically different to even 30 years ago. People now drive to work and sit at work. By taking action in mid-life… you can reduce your risk not only of type 2 diabetes, which is a preventable condition, but you can also reduce your risk of dementia and disability, and being a burden to your family.”
I’m not averse to exercise – my Zumba class is a joyous and liberating experience – but I just can’t stand the thought of ceaseless monitoring from a Fitbit or Smartwatch. It must be rather like being under the stern judgemental gaze of God (from who no secrets or sneaky walnut whips are hid), but without any of the fringe benefits, such as forgiveness, love and grace abounding.
And ultimately, what’s it all for? I’ve seen three people who quite spontaneously did all the right things – kept their minds active, exercised, rarely drank, and ate healthily – descend into dementia, so there are no guarantees. The prospect of living on for years with a shattered mind housed in a ridiculously robust body appals me.
It was watching the Sherlock special The Abominable Bride that gave me an idea. This one-off drama was set in the Victorian era, and as a little sideshow to the main action it featured a morbidly obese Mycroft stuffing himself with plum pudding and bickering with Sherlock over how quickly this dietary self-abuse would finish him off.
What I want is a finely calibrated, highly personalised Exit Regimen. This would entail increasing – or even reintroducing – all the forbidden pleasures as your dotage advances: meringues, double cream, alcohol, fags, vegging out on the sofa, all at a rate calculated to deliver a swift and decisive blow while you still retain a critical mass of functioning brain cells.
Please can somebody start working on this now. Who knows, once the professionals get really good at this, you could perhaps place an order for a six- or twelve-month Regimen, depending on how long you think it will take to put your affairs in order? And think of the fun you’ll have along the way! (Make mine a double, btw…)
The only downside is that I suspect that if Jeremy Hunt got wind of this he would soon make it compulsory, which is not the idea at all.