Pinch, punch, first of the month

PINCH, punch, first of the month.

For yesterday.

This little ritual is a regular event in our household. Twelve times every year, in fact.

On the first of every month, while I’m cleaning my teeth, or trying to stuff both feet down the same trouser leg, or pouring my first coffee, bleary–eyed, partially into a cup, some childish cretin will squeeze my flesh between their fingers, slam their knuckles into my arm and cry ‘Pinch, punch, first of the month!’

Oh, how droll!

It is only by an effort of supreme will that I don’t club them to death as I snarl, ‘a slap and kick for being so quick.’

But there are house rules, and in our house this pathetic little rejoinder is not allowed. Nor does the household recognise the universal limiter about not doing stupidly childish things after midday.

This is because my household is — or was — ruled by children. Pinch, punch first of the month is fun when you’re a child. You don’t hit hard enough to hurt anyone, and your parents think it’s cute.

But kids grow up. They get muscles and weigh 70 kilos. By 9.30am on the first of every month I am generally very bruised and very, very irritable.

Why don’t they learn? Why do they still think it’s amusing to knock me about, scald me with spilled coffee and choke me on a lodged toothbrush for no better reason than that it’s the first of the month.

If I ever got to do it first I would see the funny side, but I don’t. I keep careful note of the date. I even write it in my diary. On the last day of every month there’s a scribbled note saying, “Get the bastards in the morning.”

But the next day, when the sun hammers at my bedroom window, the last thing I care about is attacking people.

Why, then, do they attack me?

I try not to do anything that suggests I enjoy it. I swear at them. I lose my temper. I employ reason.

They respond by telling me it’s a tradition. What’s more, they say, it’s a tradition I started by knocking them about when I was bigger, stronger and had a better memory for dates.

Surely then, that gives me the right to stop it?

Not so. Give birth to a monster and it will follow you forever.

Luckily the children have all left home, so it’s only when they visit on the first of any month that my physical wellbeing (and theirs) is in danger.

But there’s still my wife. She’s 54 and should know better. I’m sure that normally she wouldn’t hit so hard. I’m beginning to suspect this cute family game is disguising more sinister motives.

I remember introducing the pinch-punch game, but I don’t remember we ever allowed weapons.

And how come she always gets me. I must keep a closer eye on my diary. I thinks she’s cheating. So far this year I’m sure I’ve been pinch-punched at least 14 times — and yet there’s still a month to go. That can’t be right.

Some people I know just say white rabbits when the new month turns up. A purposeless exercise, if you ask me, but at least it doesn’t hurt anybody.

I think that’s why she scoffed when I suggested it.