Today's letter from the Editor
Today's Matrices
iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

SSRS Report Developer - Urgent Contract - London - £300pd

£300 Per Annum: Clearwater People Solutions Ltd: SSRS Report Developer – 3 Mon...

KS1 Teacher

£95 - £150 per day: Randstad Education Birmingham: Key Stage 1 teacher require...

HR Business Partner - Essex - £39,000 plus benefits

£32000 - £39000 per annum + benefits + bonus: Ashdown Group: Generalist HR Man...

Trainee Recruitment Consultant

£18000 - £30000 per annum + uncapped: SThree: Do you feel like your sales role...

Simon Kelner: Quest for self-improvement has a lot to do with school

In one newspaper, Paul McKenna offers to turn you into a genius. In another, a personal trainer encourages you to go running. Everywhere, there are diets to make you thin, to help you conquer stress and to make you a better person.

Then there's the Mayor of London offering his own tips on how to shed pounds. (You must be thinking what I did when I saw it. He's not exactly the perfect role model. It's like Charlie Sheen offering anger management courses.) I'm not sure there's a book in the Bojo Plan Diet, sensible and foolproof though it is – no booze, potatoes, pasta or "stuff like that", and plenty of kale and apples – but Boris has, not for the first time, captured the prevailing mood. The new year means self-improvement, and that encompasses everything from losing weight to learning a foreign language.

A few Januarys ago, The Independent ran a promotion that invited readers to learn French. It was an astounding success – it could not have had more impact if a £10 note had been stapled to the front page – and was quickly followed by similar promotions for Spanish, Italian and German. Each achieved the same impressive results, cementing the idea that, as adults, we are inculcated with the desire to be better – to know more, to learn more, to develop a new skill – and this feeling is never stronger than at the turn of the year. My personal road towards betterment in 2012 involves nothing more elevating than eating less meat – doing my bit for the environment, not to mention my own health – getting better at table tennis, and reducing my golf handicap, although that's down to the tutelage of Steve Gould, the master of swing.

I have resolved to leave learning a musical instrument until later in life. Last year, I did a course of ukulele lessons, which I found companionable, engrossing and rewarding, but ultimately unsuccessful. Not only did I find it difficult to make the time to practise, I also discovered that I have very little (ie no) musical talent. While others in my group were strumming and picking like George Formby, I was barely able to keep up with the first few chords of "Will You Still Love Me Tomorrow".

In the end, I found it rather frustrating, but I should have known. I was looking at some of my old school reports recently and there, under musical appreciation, was the following comment: "His contributions have been spirited, but largely insubstantial." Well, thanks a bunch, Mr Edwards. It made me determined to prove him wrong: one day, I'll be playing my cello to concert standard and thinking of him. And it also made me wonder whether this modern-day adult quest for self-improvement has its roots in what happened in our school days. Teachers were much more frank in their assessments back then: "He has no aptitude for French" or "She can't get out of her own way on the hockey field". These harsh comments have rankled all these years, and, come January, we resolve to show how wrong they are. This year, we're really, really going to do it.

Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Career Services

Day In a Page

Wilko Johnson, now the bad news: musician splits with manager after police investigate assault claims

Wilko Johnson, now the bad news

Former Dr Feelgood splits with manager after police investigate assault claims
Mark Udall: The Democrat Senator with a fight on his hands ahead of the US midterm elections

Mark Udall: The Democrat Senator with a fight on his hands

The Senator for Colorado is for gay rights, for abortion rights – and in the Republicans’ sights as they threaten to take control of the Senate next month
New discoveries show more contact between far-flung prehistoric humans than had been thought

New discoveries show more contact between far-flung prehistoric humans than had been thought

Evidence found of contact between Easter Islanders and South America
Cerys Matthews reveals how her uncle taped 150 interviews for a biography of Dylan Thomas

Cerys Matthews on Dylan Thomas

The singer reveals how her uncle taped 150 interviews for a biography of the famous Welsh poet
The Battle of the Five Armies: Air New Zealand releases new Hobbit-inspired in-flight video

Air New Zealand's wizard in-flight video

The airline has released a new Hobbit-inspired clip dubbed "The most epic safety video ever made"
11 best sonic skincare brushes

11 best sonic skincare brushes

Forget the flannel - take skincare to the next level by using your favourite cleanser with a sonic facial brush
How could three tourists have been battered within an inch of their lives by a burglar in a plush London hotel?

A crime that reveals London's dark heart

How could three tourists have been battered within an inch of their lives by a burglar in a plush London hotel?
Meet 'Porridge' and 'Vampire': Chinese state TV is offering advice for citizens picking a Western moniker

Lost in translation: Western monikers

Chinese state TV is offering advice for citizens picking a Western moniker. Simon Usborne, who met a 'Porridge' and a 'Vampire' while in China, can see the problem
Handy hacks that make life easier: New book reveals how to rid your inbox of spam, protect your passwords and amplify your iPhone

Handy hacks that make life easier

New book reveals how to rid your email inbox of spam, protect your passwords and amplify your iPhone with a loo-roll
KidZania lets children try their hands at being a firefighter, doctor or factory worker for the day

KidZania: It's a small world

The new 'educational entertainment experience' in London's Shepherd's Bush will allow children to try out the jobs that are usually undertaken by adults, including firefighter, doctor or factory worker
Renée Zellweger's real crime has been to age in an industry that prizes women's youth over humanity

'Renée Zellweger's real crime was to age'

The actress's altered appearance raised eyebrows at Elle's Women in Hollywood awards on Monday
From Cinderella to The Jungle Book, Disney plans live-action remakes of animated classics

Disney plans live-action remakes of animated classics

From Cinderella to The Jungle Book, Patrick Grafton-Green wonders if they can ever recapture the old magic
Thousands of teenagers to visit battlefields of the First World War in new Government scheme

Pupils to visit First World War battlefields

A new Government scheme aims to bring the the horrors of the conflict to life over the next five years
The 10 best smartphone accessories

Make the most of your mobile: 10 best smartphone accessories

Try these add-ons for everything from secret charging to making sure you never lose your keys again
Mario Balotelli substituted at half-time against Real Madrid: Was this shirt swapping the real reason?

Liverpool v Real Madrid

Mario Balotelli substituted at half-time. Was shirt swapping the real reason?