The right to make eccentric decisions

Pink Garden furniture

My wife has finished painting the garden furniture pink. The paint has a fancy name like Boris’ Bubblegum or Flirty Flamingo and I’m worried. Not by the name of the paint. I don’t give a tinker’s cuss if Boris chews bubblegum or if flamingoes are flirty or not. But why has my wife chosen the colour pink? Has she gone mad or is she just asserting her right to make eccentric decisions?

What the Dulux is going on?

Pink is a showy, attention seeking colour. It’s just not her. I can see why an egotist like Boris or a lonely flamingo looking for a no-strings-attached fun night out would choose pink. But my wife is not a politician or a long-necked wading bird. What the Dulux is going on?

It’s not as if there’s a lick of pink in the house or in her wardrobe to suggest she has any passion for the colour. Quite the opposite. When my daughter was young, we didn’t buy anything pink for her to avoid imposing a culturally driven gender stereotype on her. So, my wife’s choice of pink is, err, a bit of a bolt from the blue.

Perhaps this is one of those champagne and oyster moments in a marriage when you find out something new about your partner even though you’ve been living with them since the Flood receded and Noah traded in the Ark for a family bungalow. I should welcome it.

Marriage tires in beige

After all, everyone has the right to make eccentric decisions. Variety is the jalapeno in the chilli con carne of life. Marriage tires in beige. If painting the garden furniture pink makes my wife happy then I’m happy, too.

‘It’s great mum,’ says my daughter, looking at her mother’s handiwork.

‘Not too bold?’

‘Not at all,’ says my daughter.

‘Good job. It needed a make-over,’ I say.

‘You’re next, dad,’ says my daughter.

‘Your father’s pink enough already,’ says my wife, referring to my face, which is sun burnt and the mottled colour of a cooked crayfish.

‘You’ve made the garden look like a Manet,’ I say, slipping into the fifth gear of hyperbole.

‘I think you mean Monet?’ says my daughter.

‘Manet or Monet, it’s a nice thought,’ says my wife.

We’ve been isolating since my son tested positive for covid ten days ago and kiboshed our plan to holiday in Worcestershire. Did the pressure of isolation provoke my wife to paint in pink?

Isolation provokes unusual habits

It’s certainly provoking some unusual behaviour. I’ve wasted two days pointlessly rearranging my books alphabetically by author and built a mountain of old underwear and socks which I plan to take to the dump soon. I’ve nicknamed the plan the ‘Bonfire of the Panties’, which my wife says is the sort of thing only a ten-year old would say and think. She’s right. But I remind her we live in strange times and must cut each other some slack.

Which is why I’m relaxed that my son has become bewitched by ‘Love Island’. In normal times, I would do anything in my power to stop him from watching that programme. It’s everything I hate about modern TV. And life. It’s clearly evidence the Apocalypse is nigh.

Poor fellow. He’s been stuck in his room for 20 days out of the last 23 days, waiting patiently for his covid enforced isolation to end. I’m not sure I was as altruistic when I was his age. So, if he needs ‘Love Island’ to get through it, so be it. I’ll willingly put up with the screams and cackles, which come from his room at night as he watches it, even if it makes us feel like we’re living in a madhouse.

My wife heads back into the kitchen

I look at my phone. There’s an email from the local authority saying the care home has requested an extension to my mother’s deprivation of liberty order. When am I available to discuss the matter with them?

Her dementia means she no longer has the capacity to make complex decisions herself. The care home needs a deprivation of liberty order to keep her there legally. As her next of kin, I need to be involved. It’s a standard procedure. It isn’t time consuming and the justification for the request is clear. But I am uncomfortable with the responsibility.  As his kingdom collapses, a courtier says Macbeth feels the king’s crown ‘hang loose about him, like a giant’s robe upon a dwarfish thief.’ That’s how I feel. Will that feeling go? Will it get easier before the time comes when I have to make other, harder decisions?

The Age UK leaflet which comes with the email spells out what a deprivation of liberty order is and what it is not. It says we can’t be deprived of our liberty just because we might make bad decisions. We have a legal right to make ‘eccentric or unwise decisions’. My thoughts turn from my mother in the care home to my son upstairs unwisely watching ‘Love Island’ and to my wife’s eccentric decision to paint the garden furniture pink. Our lock down is coming to an end. Hers isn’t. We are still able to make unwise and eccentric decisions. She can’t. We should be grateful for that, as long as we can.


Published by Man in the Middle

Ecce Man in the Middle. The stale meat in the inter-generational sandwich.