Almost two millennia after the original wilderness experience, it is surely time to bring the concept of Lent up to date. Nowhere in the Gospels does it say that those 40 days and 40 nights in the desert were exclusively about deprivation, and should be an excuse for centuries of joyless nagging about drinking, smoking or eating chocolate.
Here is an alternative view of Lent: Jesus was getting His head together. In that spirit, we should treat this time of the year as a moment to step outside our daily routines, and take a clear-eyed look at the way we behave throughout the rest of the year. It is a time to be uncompromisingly honest, and act accordingly until Easter.
To take an example close to home, it often seems that a spurious sense of authority can enter a column when a writer quotes the precise words of those in the news. How much truer it would be – in a deeper, non-factual sense – if what was written was based not on what was actually said, but on what should or might have been said. My Lent resolution, then, is to be less enslaved to the truth. What of some of our best-loved public figures:
Rupert Murdoch In a spirit of seasonal honesty, I'm going to admit this: I've spent far too long over the past few months apologising to a load of time-wasting bludgers in London. Pies in the face, journos shouting questions at me, closing and opening Sunday newspapers like there's no tomorrow, doing the old sorry tango whenever some Pom whines. Here's my resolution: Stay away from bloody England.
Kate Middleton First of all, I'm not Kate, OK? I'm Katherine, Duchess of Cambridge. As for Lent, I'm giving up smiling, and waving, and looking pretty, and saying nothing when I feel like saying a lot. I'm just going to slob out, catch up on my reading, eat inappropriately at all the wrong times and watch a lot of telly. The country can have its pet doll back after Easter.
Carlos Tevez Over the coming 40 days, I shall be putting myself first for a change. I've sacrificed a lot for my team, Manchester City (or was it United? I lose track!). I've missed my family, journalists are disrespectful, I have to live in a wet, grey city which smells of fish and chips. Some people say that, because I'm paid £250,000 a week, I should be prepared to suffer but Lent reminds us of this important truth: money isn't everything.
Uggie This Lent, you're going to see the real Uggie. Because – let me break this to you slowly – the dog you saw doing cute little stunts in that film The Artist is not the real Uggie. That was what we actors call "acting". Here's the way the real Uggie likes to relax: stealing food off plates; farting under the dining-room table; rolling in the remains of a dead rabbit; lifting his leg on the sofa. You want Uggie to do a trick? Here's my Lent message: talk to the tail, the face ain't listening.
Stephen Hester No more grovelling appearances on the Today programme for a bloody start. I'm a banker not a civil servant, and the whole mea culpa palaver isn't part of my DNA. Compared with my muckers in the financial sector, I'm virtually on starvation rations, and yet the mere mention of a little annual sweetener has everyone going bonkers. Let's hear it for the bankers this Lent. We're doing a tough job, and yet we never complain about it.