The big drawback about New Year's Resolutions is that they seem to have no after-sales service, no back-up, no help line. Once you've made your resolution, you're on your own, aren't you?
No! Wrong! Not this time round! Today we bring you the first ever advice column for the man or woman who has started out the year 2004 with a whole bunch of good intentions and already needs help and counsel.
Q. Are New Year's Resolutions legally binding? For instance, if I promised to go on the wagon for the whole of January, and by the end of the first week have already gone back to drinking, can I be found guilty of that?
A. It depends how serious the resolution was. If you just said to your partner, "I have decided to go on the wagon for a month," that's fine. You can break that any time you like. However, if you actually went to a lawyer and took out an affidavit legally committing yourself to abstinence for a month, then someone could take out a private court action against you.
Q. What sort of person would do that?
A. Your lawyer, for a start.
Q. Hmmmm.... But what if I didn't go to a lawyer but swore to God instead? What if, on New Year's Eve, I raised my hand heavenward and said: "If a drop of alcohol passes my lips in the month of January, may I be struck dead, may my liver become like an overcooked hamburger and may all my flocks die of strange diseases next summer when I take them out to pasture!" and then, forgetful of this mighty oath, I did take a drink?
A. Let's take this very gently one step at a time. Did you actually take that oath on New Year's Eve?
Q. I don't know. I can't remember anything about New Year's Eve. I was very drunk. That's why I took the oath.... Oh, my God! I remember now! I did take the oath!
A. Right. Next step. Have you taken a drink since then?
Q. Yes. I have. But only a weak gin and tonic.
A. Nevertheless, that is enough to break the oath. Next step, have you actually been struck by a thunderbolt or something similar since then?
Q. I don't think so. Let me have a look.... No, I haven't.
A. Well, that doesn't mean anything. God is very busy this time of year. Perhaps He just didn't have time to get round to slaying you.
Q. What do you mean - yet?
A. God is a slow but methodical god. Just because you have broken your solemn oath and are doomed to be slain, doesn't mean it's going to happen just yet. Maybe He will even drag out the process a bit, just to make you suffer.
Q. He doesn't sound a very merciful God to me.
A. Nobody ever said that God was going to be merciful. That's just a scare story put around by the Christians.
A. So maybe He's sitting up there, looking at his calendar and saying, "Let's not take him out just yet! Let's send him a thunderbolt in the third week of January! Things look quite slack round there!"
A. Or maybe - here's an idea that has only just occurred to me. Maybe God has made some New Year's Resolutions as well. Maybe He has said to himself: "It's just too easy to strike people dead, just because they broke a solemn oath! That's not worthy of Me. So in 2004 I am going to give up smiting people with thunderbolts, bolts from the blue, and all that sort of thing! That is my New Year's Resolution!"
Q. Phew. Do you think so?
A. Yes, indubitably. The only thing is....
A. Well, you're not the only one who might break his New Year's Resolutions, you know. If God got tired of not hurling thunderbolts by mid-January, and thought he might just hurl a few, just like you felt you might like a gin and tonic, well, you'd be pretty high up on the list for the first bolt.
Q. Would I?
Q. Oh. Oh, God....
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