Telling the truth is, as we never tire of saying to our children, very important. However bad your misdemeanour, it can only be made worse by lying. When I was a child, my father used to tell us the salutary tale of George Washington and the Cherry Tree, evidently in the hope that it would turn us into honest adults.
It did work. Up to a point. I am honest in my dealings with HMRC, for starters. But other than that, I am sorry to say that my life is full of Harmless Little Lies. These aren’t the ones we tell other people. Oh no: we wouldn’t dream of lying to other people. These HLLs are the ones we tell ourselves.
Other people’s food has no calories. This particularly applies in restaurants. “Oh no,” you say, waving aside the pudding menu with a firm hand. “I really mustn’t / couldn’t possibly eat another thing. A double espresso will be fine, thank you. Though I might need two spoons for it.” You then proceed to tuck in to your companion’s portion of Death By Chocolate with merry abandon. This also, obviously, applies to other people’s chips at all times. And Pringles. It possibly applies to anything that you pick out of the fridge while hanging around the kitchen on a wet Wednesday afternoon. It is not an official meal time, ergo hummus and cheese have zero calories.
A bottle of wine contains only one unit of alcohol. Because ‘one’ bottle, obviously, is the same as ‘one’ unit. Which means you could in theory drink two bottles of wine a week and still be within the government’s recommended maximum weekly unit-age. And gin and vodka, of course, have no units and no calories either, as they are clear liquids (i.e. water by another name).
Money spent in the sales is money saved. So the more skirts you buy in the Jigsaw sale, the more the savings add up. Which means that if you buy enough skirts, you will actually end up with more money than you had in the first place. Buying anything at Wombells Auction House falls into this category, too. Proper furniture for less than you would spend on identikit white things at Ikea. This is why I possess more than one corner cupboard. It’s all part of a cunning plan to save money.
Speaking of money: if you don’t look at your statement, you will always be in credit. Goes without saying.
Buying a gym membership makes you fit. Of course it does. There’s the effort involved in actually going to the gym, and the arm-exercise involved in signing an expensive contract. Then there’s the window at the Gym Formerly Known As Energise, which enables you to watch other people using exercise machines. This makes you feel very fit indeed. Then there’s the extra arm exercise involved in lifting a cup of coffee while you watch, and the effort involved in turning the pages of your newspaper. Then you can go home again and repeat the process a month later. Instant fitness guaranteed. Buying a bicycle has a similar effect. Goodness only knows how astonishingly fit the people are who buy Lycra cycling outfits and never wear them.
Pressing the snooze button on your alarm won’t delay you that much. Only ten minutes more. And another ten minutes. And another. And then another. Of course you can get up and dressed and mobilise your children and make their packed lunches and find their missing shoes under the sofa and get everyone out of the house in seven minutes flat.
I’m only going to buy one light bulb in Barnitts. Half an hour later, you emerge with approximately 100 light bulbs, some hamster food, three water carafes and matching glasses, a soap dish, an avocado saver, a tube of Gorilla Glue, some purple dye to try to “improve” your sofa cushions, a bottle of Jeyes fluid because it reminds you of your childhood, and a second washing-up bowl, because it’s made in Britain and you want to support home-grown manufacturers as well as home-grown shops.