January 04, 2007
Delay your resolutions till the daffodils appear
A new year, a new you. Thatís what they promise, isnít it, those
lifestyle gurus and advertisers and magazine headline writers? But
Iíve never been able to figure out how it works. Itís easy to decide
what you want to change about yourself, but effecting that change is
trickier. Iím not even talking about short or medium-term failure to
keep a new year resolution. In my experience the battle is lost on day
one before a shot has been fired because the act of welcoming the new
year is so debilitating that you are in no state to do anything beyond
merely haul yourself into January and hope that things look up. The
worst time to try to go out all guns blazing as the new you is when
you feel like a very, very old you.
This year my hangover was caused by kids and germs rather than
alcohol. Indeed, itís a while since I fell into a booze-induced coma
in the early hours of New Yearís Day. Last year, with a month-old
baby, we were tucked up in bed by 11.
This year we were staying with friends in north Norfolk, on a
stretch of salt marsh even more beautiful under the bleak, low skies
of mid-winter than it is in high summer. The scenery salves the soul.
My soul needed salving.
The problem was, I suppose, partly alcohol-related. Arriving two
nights before New Yearís Eve, all the adults got a little over-excited
and drank like teenagers on a first trip away from home, as if we had
forgotten that there were kids upstairs waiting to commence nocturnal
games of musical beds just as red wine-induced brain dehydration was
setting in. Their remorseless pre-dawn wake-up wails, combined with a
heavy cold and my wife constantly kicking me and hissing ďStop
snoringĒ in my ear all night, ensured that I was on my knees by
10.30pm on New Yearís Eve. I was shamed into staggering through until
two minutes past midnight.
On a dazzling New Yearís Day the new me emerged. At least I hope it
was a new me. If not, then I would like to apologise for being such a
miserable old grouch these past 37 years. On Holkham beach my
three-year-old boy and I went into meltdown together, shouting
snottily at each other and stomping off in opposite directions before
cutting short the walk and collapsing, exhausted, into the car to wait
for the rest of our party. There was some consolation to be found in
the sight of other families in the midst of similar tear-stained
Resolutions are best not made in such circumstances. Last year I
also avoided making long-term, life-changing plans. But I did make
three little pledges and, looking back at what I wrote then, Iím
astonished that I kept them. I went to the dentist and made
long-overdue appointments for a company medical and to see a
dermatologist. In each case, however, January was over before I got
round to picking up the phone.
This time last year we were weighing up selling our house. But we
didnít manage to put it on the market until February. Then it sold in
about five minutes and we took the big decision about where we wanted
to spend the next chapter of our lives during spring, when our brains
and the world were fertile once more.
A year ago I was fretting about burglaries, twitching the curtain
at the first sign of a fight in the street and turning into a prize
Nimby over the councilís plans to concrete over the local park. Now I
worry even more about burglaries and my Nimbyism is raging out of
control, thanks to the Governmentís plans to expand Heathrow across
the whole of southwest London. But my twitching is now focused on
activity on the nutbag rather than nutters making great tits of
themselves in the street. And thatís a pretty good life change.
My advice in this dead month would be to abandon your sorry new
year resolutions now (if you havenít already) and have another crack
when the daffodils start poking through. The Welsh will probably
object, but how about hijacking St Davidís Day and making it