Stick to small vices, and let the Big Ones follow

Thomas Sutcliffe sets limits to his resolve

Share
Related Topics
Has everyone had enough? It's odd, isn't it, how a cliche of hospitality, uttered hundreds of thousands of times over the past few days, should flow so seamlessly into the cliche with which we conventionally announce that we've reached the end of our patience. Well, I've had quite enough. I'm glutted to the point where I can honestly say that I'm hungry for nothing - so sharply famished, indeed, that I can almost smell it; clean, uncloying, unintoxicating nothing. What else tastes as good as denial, particularly after a solid bout of indulgence? (And if you are a real connoisseur of self-mortification you will know already that it is a kind of gourmandising too, the appetite for nothing being the most decadent luxury of all, one that cannot be appreciated by those who have access to nothing all year round.)

Hardly surprising, then, that this is the time of year associated with resolution. It isn't really that the calendar provokes thoughts of a fresh start in us, the year lying ahead as spotless as a new exercise book; it is more that our powers of consumption are now at their lowest ebb. Repletion has them in a full nelson, breathless, sweaty face pressed to the dusty canvas.

So why not make a virtue out of necessity? Why not attempt to pass off this hapless submission to the limits of stomach and liver as a moment of moral reassertion? The conscience comes bullying into the ring to lord it over an opponent safely incapable of resistance. And every year the conscience conveniently forgets that in about two weeks' time wayward appetite will recuperate and wipe the floor with it. Give up smoking? Easy, when your mouth is still tarry from a brakes-off nicotine beano that would stun a Polish docker. Lay off the alcohol? No problem, when the words Appellation Controlee make the stomach lurch uneasily. But try saying the same things when consumption's bruises have healed, when it is spoiling for a fight again. Even Don King wouldn't have the audacity to promote such an ill-matched bout.

Which is why this year I will be making no large resolutions at all; nothing grand about diet or demeanour or general human benevolence. Let those come, if they do at all, on days less inauspicious for fulfilment, and let them be provoked by some unease more permanent than dyspepsia or distension. This year, instead, I have decided to make only micro-resolutions - mere molecules of determination. No grand, New Frontier declarations, no moon-shots of self-improvement - nothing more challenging, in fact, than a local bus-ride. This way I stand some chance of success and, who knows, these tiny seeds of amelioration might thrive, extending tendrils into unexpected quarters. Perhaps, as with Zero Tolerance policing, you have to begin with the trivial details in order to change the big picture.

This is my list so far. I will never take a telephone number down on a scrap of paper without noting the name to which it is attached (and, where necessary, an explanation of who that person is). This is going to be a year in which I don't have to ring numbers simply to find out whether I really want to ring them at all.

I will no longer save mysterious pieces of plastic/solitary screws/Playmobil pirate neckties in a little dish on the mantelpiece, where they form an entropic pot-pourri, reminding me that everything around me is hastening towards universal disassembly. They will be summarily binned on capture.

I will not stick dirty plates into a clean load in the dishwasher and put it through the cycle again in the hope that my wife will not find out and will unstack the whole thing later. I will keep the little plastic capsule that the roll of film comes in somewhere safe, so that when it is ready for developing it can go back into same, rather than into the capsule borrowed from the next roll of film. Ditto video cassette boxes, CD covers, etc, etc ...

I will not stuff bills into a folder marked Bills to be Paid, in the hope that this will make it more likely that they are paid on time rather than less likely. I will change the sheets before they turn beige. I will not purchase grapefruits in the belief that I am going to have a healthy breakfast tomorrow. I will buy them only for their decorative qualities. I will throw them away before their decorative qualities have diminished so far as to render them actively repulsive.

I will not change lanes in heavy traffic, having been persuaded by repeated experiments that Einstein's Law of Jam Relativity is true; that is, from any given observation point the velocity of an adjacent stream of cars will always appear greater.

When I find unidentified organic substances on the carpet I will not dispose of them in the gap between the wall and the back of the sofa, on the grounds that at least there they are out of reach of the baby. I will not spend time thinking about newspaper reports of fellow journalists' salaries. Failing that, I will ask my wife to censor all such references with a heavy black marker pen before allowing me to read the paper. I will not pretend that when I watch Friends I am merely keeping a professional eye on a symptomatic element of popular culture. Ditto Brookside and RugRats.

And that should do, I think. No point in taking on any more than that, for the moment. You can see in the undergrowth here the occasional glimpse of one of the big game animals conventionally aimed at by New Year's resolutions: Pride, Envy, Sloth and so on. But I'm not aiming for any big trophies. I will leave that for the young and the ambitious. I do have hopes, though, that as many as two or three of these miniatures might make it through the year unchipped and unstained. It may only mean a modest improvement on last year, but even modest improvement is better than nothing.

React Now

Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Lead Teacher of Thinking School Drive Team and Year 3 Form teacher

Competitive: Notting Hill Prep School: Spring Term 2015 Innovative, ambitious ...

Year 6 Teacher - January start

£90 - £120 per day: Randstad Education Hull: Randstad Education are looking fo...

Year 4 Teacher

£90 - £120 per day: Randstad Education Hull: Randstad Education is urgently re...

Year 3 Teacher

£90 - £120 per day: Randstad Education Hull: Year 3 Primary Teacher in HullA f...

Day In a Page

Read Next
 

Daily catch-up: out of time, polling and immigration and old words

John Rentoul
Oscar Pistorius sentencing: The athlete's wealth and notoriety have provoked a long overdue debate on South African prisons

'They poured water on, then electrified me...'

If Oscar Pistorius is sent to jail, his experience will not be that of other inmates
James Wharton: The former Guard now fighting discrimination against gay soldiers

The former Guard now fighting discrimination against gay soldiers

Life after the Army has brought new battles for the LGBT activist James Wharton
Ebola in the US: Panic over the virus threatens to infect President Obama's midterms

Panic over Ebola threatens to infect the midterms

Just one person has died, yet November's elections may be affected by what Republicans call 'Obama's Katrina', says Rupert Cornwell
Premier League coaches join the RSC to swap the tricks of their trades

Darling, you were fabulous! But offside...

Premier League coaches are joining the RSC to learn acting skills, and in turn they will teach its actors to play football. Nick Clark finds out why
How to dress with authority: Kirsty Wark and Camila Batmanghelidjh discuss the changing role of fashion in women's workwear

How to dress with authority

Kirsty Wark and Camila Batmanghelidjh discuss the changing role of fashion in women's workwear
New book on Joy Division's Ian Curtis sheds new light on the life of the late singer

New book on Ian Curtis sheds fresh light on the life of the late singer

'Joy Division were making art... Ian was for real' says author Jon Savage
Sean Harris: A rare interview with British acting's secret weapon

Sean Harris: A rare interview with British acting's secret weapon

The Bafta-winner talks Hollywood, being branded a psycho, and how Barbra Streisand is his true inspiration
Tim Minchin, interview: The musician, comedian and world's favourite ginger is on scorching form

Tim Minchin interview

For a no-holds-barred comedian who is scathing about woolly thinking and oppressive religiosity, he is surprisingly gentle in person
Boris Johnson's boozing won't win the puritan vote

Boris's boozing won't win the puritan vote

Many of us Brits still disapprove of conspicuous consumption – it's the way we were raised, says DJ Taylor
Ash frontman Tim Wheeler reveals how he came to terms with his father's dementia

Tim Wheeler: Alzheimer's, memories and my dad

Wheeler's dad suffered from Alzheimer's for three years. When he died, there was only one way the Ash frontman knew how to respond: with a heartfelt solo album
Hugh Bonneville & Peter James: 'Peter loves his classic cars; I've always pootled along fine with a Mini Metro. I think I lack his panache'

How We Met: Hugh Bonneville & Peter James

'Peter loves his classic cars; I've always pootled along fine with a Mini Metro. I think I lack his panache'
Bill Granger recipes: Our chef's heavenly crab dishes don't need hours of preparation

Bill Granger's heavenly crab recipes

Scared off by the strain of shelling a crab? Let a fishmonger do the hard work so you can focus on getting the flavours right
Radamel Falcao: How faith and love drive the Colombian to glory

Radamel Falcao: How faith and love drive the Colombian to glory

After a remarkable conversion from reckless defender to prolific striker, Monaco's ace says he wants to make his loan deal at Old Trafford permanent
Terry Venables: Premier League managers must not be allowed to dictate who plays and who does not play for England

Terry Venables column

Premier League managers must not be allowed to dictate who plays and who does not play for England
The Inside Word: Brendan Rodgers looks to the future while Roy Hodgson is ghost of seasons past

Michael Calvin's Inside Word

Brendan Rodgers looks to the future while Roy Hodgson is ghost of seasons past