Janet Street-Porter: The seasonal advice you can safely ignore

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The Independent Online

Nothing is more guaranteed to ruin the festive mood than the mention of New Year Resolutions. This time around, there's the added irritation of celebrity chefs, pop stars, dress designers and economic experts all dishing out advice about how to cope in a downturn. Here's a tip from me. Ignore the bloody lot, pour yourself another glass of wine, eat a slice of black pudding, fry up those cold potatoes for supper, and don't, whatever else you do, embark on a diet.

Can I offer a few predictions? The last days of December is the time when every magazine and newspaper raves about a sure-fire way of restoring your stomach to ironing-board firmness (assuming it was ever like that in the first place). This grim regime generally involves not eating the following: turkey, bread, potatoes, roast ham, cold slices of goose or big wedges of stilton.

Of course there will always be one controversial diet guru claiming that Hollywood's top stars are flocking to adopt a regime that allows them to drink neat vodka shots, eat egg yolks by the bucketload, and slather everything with butter, because it's now been designated a "good" fat.

I can predict that 2009 will, exactly like 2008, be the year when drinking alcohol is either very good or very bad for you. One expert will tell you that several glasses of wine a day will increase your brain power, delay the onset of dementia and improve your circulation, while another study is guaranteed to reveal that regularly imbibing increases your risk of contracting cancer, suffering a stroke, not to mention wiping out innumerable memory cells.

This is also the time when shopping and consumerism are either socially unacceptable or the only way to beat the credit crunch and get Britain back on its feet again. For months now, middle-class frugalistas have been telling us how they weren't sending Christmas cards, they planned to purchase their festive fare at Aldi and Netto, and instead of presents were swapping services.

Then the Prime Minister ordered us to get out our credit cards and start buying in order to kick-start the economy and save thousands of jobs. Talk about confusing. And it's the same series of mixed messages from the retail sector. We've lurched from pre-Christmas sales which were renamed "discount days" to real sales that started earlier than ever – the minute the Queen had finished her seasonal message. All the shops that seemed to be doing so badly in the run-up to Christmas suddenly seem to be heaving with customers. Whether it will be enough to stave off bankruptcy is another matter.

It's inevitable that we will be made to feel guilty unless we pledge to atone for our seasonal fun. The newspapers are full of celebrities vowing that 2009 will see them stop buying cheap disposable clothing, running gas guzzling cars and eating out so often. Mind you, they're not giving up their personal trainers, their daily 8am yoga classes, the Yoji Yamamoto trousers or their swanky hairdressers. These all seem to fall into the category of acceptable luxuries.

For the rest of us, can I suggest lying in bed watching repeats of Midsomer Murders while eating left-over fritters, and if you want to keep fit, you can combine it with a few arm curls using those 3kg weights from Tesco. After all it's the top half of your body people generally see first. My resolution is to have no resolutions, to make no predictions of about the grim times awaiting us in 2009. I shall reorganise my fridge rather than my life. It's a more achievable goal.

The public talent of a private man

The artist Robert Graham, who has just died in Los Angeles, was a very private man responsible for some stunning public monuments, the first of which was the Olympic Gateway for the city of Los Angeles (his home since the 1970s) for the 1984 Games.

I was at a party with Bob and some of his artist friends when we drove downtown to admire these huge sculptures the night they were hoisted into position. They looked astonishing and still do, which is more than you can say for 90 per cent of the public art erected in this country over the last 30 years.

Bob's lifelong obsession with the female figure brought him undeserved criticism and accusation of pornography. His tiny bronze nudes had a ferocious intensity. Although he lived in London for a short time his last one-man show here was over 30 years ago, and his work is woefully lacking from our public collections.

In recent years Bob, seen here with Anjelica Huston at the unveiling of his statue Torso in Beverly Hills, created some fine public work, ranging from huge sculptured bronze doors for the Cathedral of Our Lady of the Angel in Los Angeles to sculptures of Joe Louis in Detroit and Franklin Roosevelt (in his wheelchair) in Washington. In everything, Bob was truly elegant and stylish.

Here's an up side to the fashion downturn

The global financial crisis is hitting the snooty world of high fashion, with Chanel shedding 200 staff, and Prada reduced to putting up posters in their shop windows announcing a sale. Look through the windows of any designer boutique in London's West End and there's nothing happening. A brand new Chanel jacket or handbag costs the same as a fortnight's holiday, several mortgage repayments or a second hand car.

So why bother? Hopefully, it's the end of the unhealthy relationship between an adulatory fashion press and top-end designers who dish out freebies and discounts to the chosen few.

* He's my idea of the neighbour from hell – the property developer who is determined to turn one of Scotland's loveliest bits of coastline into a golf club, luxury housing and a holiday resort. Donald Trump won his controversial battle for planning permission, but failed to persuade local farmer Michael Forbes to sell his dilapidated property located in full view of the planned world-class fairway.

Undeterred, Trump has lived up to his name and played a blinder. He's bought the listed manor house next door to Mr Forbes and plans to move in. With a stagnant housing market, this battle could run for decades.

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