Matthew made his resolutions early this festive season and announced dramatically, on Boxing Day, that he was launching a radical, two-pronged assault on his major personal failings.
The first prong, he said, was sartorial. "I'm fed up with being perceived as a scruffy person, and from now on I will be dressing in accordance with my status." I said I wondered what status that might be, given that he spends much of his life in a shed playing internet poker, but Matthew ignored this and continued: "I'm not saying I am going to become a dandy, but it does irk a person when he is mistaken for a tramp by people on the Uxbridge Road. Neither am I suggesting anyone is ever likely to nickname me Beau Matthew, or mistake me for a boulevardier, but I do hope to forge a small but satisfying reputation as a dapper man of middle years."
I then asked what the second prong might be. "My physical shape and condition. I do not like being portly and unfit and that is why the gift tag on our marvellous new Nintendo Wii was addressed to the whole family. We will all use it and in doing so we will increase our fitness while enjoying ourselves and bonding."
The Nintendo Wii was the great triumph under the tree on Christmas morning. We have wanted one since last year and when Matthew stumbled into a video games shop in Bayswater on Christmas Eve and found that they had one left, he proclaimed it to be an even greater Christmas miracle than the Virgin Birth, and that we must cherish the Wii with all our hearts. It is to be passed down from generation to generation. It is also, apparently, Matthew's saviour.
"So then," he concluded. "Stylish clothes for a trim, fit body, that's my motto as we move into 2008."
We were still a couple of days away from the new year when Matthew became crippled with back pain. Responsible, needless to say, was the Wii. To use it you have to mimic the movements of whatever sport you are playing, as shown on the television, in front of which you leap around with a controller in your hand, which is, to all intents and purposes, a golf club, tennis racket, bowling ball etc. From my own brief experience the Wii does raise your heart rate and, without the proper warm-ups and stretches, it can cause stiffness in the muscles and joints.
Inevitably Matthew and Louis have barely stopped playing the Wii since its arrival they usually start with a little tennis before breakfast, graduating to bowling until lunch, a couple of rounds of golf in the afternoon, then winding down with table tennis and baseball after supper. I warned Matthew that the leaping and twisting and hurling himself around the room would ultimately do in him and was duly ignored.
Sure enough, just a few days later, Matthew got out of bed and screamed in agony before clutching his back and whimpering the familiar words: "Diclofenac sodium. For God's sake, woman, find my diclofenac sodiums." I did find his stash of anti-inflammatory medication, but not before correcting him. You'd think that a man with his classical education would remember, even when in extreme pain, that the plural of diclofenac sodium is diclofenac sodii.
Six hours later he was back in action and giving out triumphant yells of "Yaiss! Strike to the Dad!" and the recovery was a huge relief to all of us. It was followed, however, by further anxiety when, come the evening, Matthew had to dress for his big, much anticipated treat, an outing to the World Darts Championship at Alexandra Palace. Somehow he and a friend had wangled backstage passes in order to mix with some of the most glamorous figures in the darting fraternity. "We're bound to see Sid Waddell," Matthew excitedly informed us, explaining that Mr Waddell is the "the voice of darts, and very possibly the finest sports commentator alive". He also hoped to meet Phil "The Power" Taylor, Raymond "The Man" van Barneveld, and a player called Peter "One Dart" Manley who looks like Bluto from Popeye.
Never before had I known Matthew so excited or so obsessed with what to wear for a social engagement. He dressed and undressed four times before finally settling on jeans teamed with a Prada cashmere sweater I bought him for his 40th birthday.
It was half past nine when he called from Alexandra Palace. "You won't believe what's happened," he said. "You simply won't believe this one. It's just not credible." And then he groaned loudly and, imagining that he had been felled by his bad back, I made consoling noises. "No, no, no, no, no," he hissed down the phone, "Don't be obtuse. You think I can't live with the constant pain? You know how very good I am at coping with constant pain." I said nothing in response, other to ask him what the problem was.
"The problem," he said, "is that I have just been refused entry to the player's bar by a bouncer because I am wearing jeans. It appears that despite my new resolutions, I am not well dressed enough for the darts."
When he arrived home later that night, Matthew slipped into his traditional midwinter uniform of slippers and dressing gown and went to his shed with a bowl of Ferrero Rocher chocolates asking not to be disturbed, other than in the case of genuine emergency, until the first official day of spring.Reuse content