Spectator: Leslie Geddes-Brown

So here we are in the first week of January, the worst week of the entire year. It’s dark by mid afternoon, it’s bleak, the bills thud through the letterbox and we have to sort out last year’s Income Tax. We’re still eating turkey soup and refried Christmas pudding. What could make it worse? Answer: New Year’s resolutions. If you’ve already made them -and the traditional time would be yesterday-I recommend that you take the sheet of paper and, both literally and metaphorically, tear it up. I can bet it includes something like: stay teetotal for a month or cut down on the demon drink, giving you the alluring prospect of an evening with a daring spritzer or, even more downheartening, fizzy water and elderflower cordial. All fine in their way, but not in January.

Next, your resolution will probably demand that you lose weight, probably on a diet of grapefruit and goji berries or some insufferable quack’s suggestion so awful, so against a healthy appetite, that you would prefer vitamin pills. You resolve to write twice a week to Great Aunt Primrose when all she wants is to talk to her pug. Then, you insist on walking your dog until the poor beast howls for mercy. To compound your misery, you put the goldfish on a diet. You’ll probably keep this up until you hit Lent on February 13, when you’ll have to start all over again.

It need not be like this. I propose a New Year Revolution instead: enjoy yourself. Think of all the
things that you long for but haven’t got around to, or things that you feel are so self-indulgent that you put them off. And resolve to do them this year. In my case, I’ve been pining to light up the garden so that, in summer as dusk goes down and the bats come out, the 300-year old oak towards the bottom of our garden will be underlit so its wrinkled boughs and leaves turn golden in the darkening sky.

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Other lights will sparkle around our moat so our house, which comes straight out of the water, looks like the Queen Elizabeth 2 in harbour (okay, I exaggerate, but one writer did describe it as like ‘a vessel at anchor’). I resolve to have our dog in bed -not on, in-every night, which I feel sure Daffy Tottering does, too. Not only for our pleasure and hers, but because, this January, she’s an extremely efficient hottie. I’m going to use local shops and our nearby farmshop (excellent smoked prawns) and the London firm of Hubbub, which collects my order from places such as La Fromagerie and chocolatier Paul A. Young, and delivers them when I choose. So, extra virtue points, as well as a regular Vacherin cheese to bake. Talking of which, perhaps I could copy Davey Warbeck, Nancy Mitford’s charmer, who was told by his doctor to get reelingly blotto once a week as therapy. And I’ll buy a decent secondhand copy of her The Pursuit of Love rather than my 15p Penguin, which has to be held together with string.

A noble ambition, but not quite on the scale of a 78-year-old relative who has just lashed out on a 1970 Triumph Stag. He’d wanted one for decades. On this tack, I’m going to give in to my impulses. Last year, this was a full-size wooden deer, sold at auction as belonging to the ‘Chu’ dynasty (about 1100BC), which I seriously doubt. But I love him and pat him each morning. Husband Hew has just bought a spear used by the ‘fuzzy wuzzies’ at the Battle of Tamai and wrested from them by his ancestor (it says so on the shaft). Impulses are good for you.

It may be I’m extra ebullient because I’ve just cleared out my blarder, where there were enough juniper berries to plant a decent forest or flavour a large vat of gin. I haven’t thrown them out-I’m not that impulsive-but today’s resolution is to chuck the half empty (or should it be half-full?) bag of semolina bought for who knows what recipe (sell-by date 2005). Whoopee!

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