Counselling: Auntie Ag and Uncle Ony

What a difference a day makes

About this time of year, I always start to feel very depressed about New Year's resolutions, because although I start with the best of intentions, I have never yet managed to keep one longer than March (apart from not starting smoking, which is a bit of a cheat because I've never wanted to smoke). I know I'll make my usual decision to stop drinking so much and get fit and then ruin it on the first day by sleeping off a New Year hangover.

Richard, Cirencester

Uncle Ony: New Year's resolutions are a pernicious exploitation of human frailty. Of course you can't re-make your character on the first of January - and why should you? This year, I urge you to make only one resolution: not to make any resolutions!

Auntie Ag: Well, angel, at least you don't smoke, and that's a very good thing indeed, quite enough to feel smug about for the whole bloody year, in fact. By all means, make a few resolutions: the New Year's stocktaking is, if sobering, good for the soul. But make them in the spirit that you would take out a mortgage: repayments are to be dealt with bit by bit, rather than in one huge, unmanageable chunk. Allow yourself a built-in monthly option to withdraw from or renew each one, darling, and they will seem a lot less daunting.

Lotta Bottle

All I got for Christmas this year was alcohol in one form or another, apart from my wife's gift, which was an exercise bike. This has made me feel a bit worried: could my friends all think I'm an alcoholic?

Tom, by e-mail

Uncle Ony: While the odd bottle here or there is very welcome, by rights you should also have a quota of jumpers, socks, CDs and after shave. The fact that your alcohol-to-other-things ratio is high does suggest that all your friends think of you as a toper. You should, indeed, take a long hard look at your lifestyle, Tom.

Auntie Ag: You don't have to drink it all at once, you know, angel. I would worry more about the fact that your wife obviously knows you for the couch potato that you are.

Talking turkey

Like most households, after Christmas we expect to have a substantial turkey-leftovers mountain. Is it acceptable to serve a meal that is evidently concocted of these leftovers to guests, or do we have to buy in something else?

David and Una, Blackpool

Uncle Ony: There are plenty of very respectable recipes that involve cooked turkey, but at this time of year, it's true that everyone will immediately think "leftovers" on being confronted with turkey in any shape or form. Guests, as a mark of respect, should be fed with the best - a principle that runs through societies and civilisations all over the world. So, keep the rest of the turkey for family consumption only.

Auntie Ag: It depends who you are expecting. At this time of year, most guests are extremely happy not to have to cook themselves and will engulf pretty much anything put in front of them, - though, if the Blairs or Edward and Sophie are likely to pop in, you should probably lay on some alternative menu options. I can never understand these leftover turkey dilemmas, though - all those terrible recipes for hash, curry and pie, when everyone has had a bellyful of turkey already. Doesn't anybody think of using the freezer? Keep the remains for lovely salads in the garden later in the year, sillies!

That inking feeling

Is it still considered necessary to write thank-you letters for all the gifts one may have received last week?

Emma, Torquay

Uncle Ony: If gifts are given of the giver's free will, as a token of their esteem, then no formal acknowledgment is needed. Indeed, too fulsome a response may embarrass the giver.

Auntie Ag: A charming little note is a wonderful guarantee of an even better present next time, angel.

Do they know it's christmas?

Why is everyone so depressed right after Christmas?

Mick, Dublin

Uncle Ony: Christmas represents an escape, the illusion of universal goodwill, a respite from the humdrum nature of everyday life. Sadly, once the presents are opened and the food is eaten, the Christmas specials watched and the crackers pulled, we all come back down to earth with a bump and realise the world is still the imperfect place that it always has been.

Auntie Ag: They're all hungover, darling.

Teletubby buy buy

I'm feeling terribly guilty because I failed to secure the Teletubby doll my daughter set her heart on for Christmas.

Maureen, Cheam

Uncle Ony: Explain to your daughter that many children have had no presents at all this year. Pick up some charity leaflets to illustrate your point; it's never too early for children to learn that there are others less fortunate than themselves. I'm sure that once you explain the fundamental inequalities of Christmas, your daughter may even wish to donate some of her own gifts.

Auntie Ag: Oh, really, this Teletubby hysteria has to stop. Think of it as a useful life-lesson for her, angel, on the way that expectations seldom measure up to reality. Anyway, what did she give you? The diamond bracelet you'd set your heart on? An hour's peace and quiet? Or a wonky kitchen-paper holder, or a home-knitted peg-bag? Something like the latter, I'll be bound, darling. QED.

You are invited to send your problems to: Auntie Ag and Uncle Ony, Real Life, Independent on Sunday, 1 Canada Square, Canary Wharf, London E14 5DL. Auntie Ag and Uncle Ony regret that they are unable to enter into any personal correspondence

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