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?
SPONSORED FEATURES
iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Recruitment Genius: Senior Environmental Adviser - Maternity Cover

£37040 - £43600 per annum: Recruitment Genius: The UK's export credit agency a...

Recruitment Genius: CBM & Lubrication Technician

£25000 - £27500 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This company provides a compreh...

Recruitment Genius: Care Worker - Residential Emergency Service

£16800 - £19500 per annum: Recruitment Genius: Would you like to join an organ...

Recruitment Genius: Senior Landscaper

£25000 - £28000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: In the last five years this com...

Day In a Page

Read Next
Labour's Jeremy Corbyn arrives to take part in a Labour party leadership final debate, at the Sage in Gateshead, England, Thursday, Sept. 3  

Jeremy Corbyn is here to stay and the Labour Party is never going to look the same again

Andrew Grice
Serena Williams  

As Stella Creasy and Serena Williams know, a woman's achievements are still judged on appearance

Holly Baxter
The long walk west: they fled war in Syria, only to get held up in Hungary – now hundreds of refugees have set off on foot for Austria

They fled war in Syria...

...only to get stuck and sidetracked in Hungary
From The Prisoner to Mad Men, elaborate title sequences are one of the keys to a great TV series

Title sequences: From The Prisoner to Mad Men

Elaborate title sequences are one of the keys to a great TV series. But why does the art form have such a chequered history?
Giorgio Armani Beauty's fabric-inspired foundations: Get back to basics this autumn

Giorgio Armani Beauty's foundations

Sumptuous fabrics meet luscious cosmetics for this elegant look
From stowaways to Operation Stack: Life in a transcontinental lorry cab

Life from the inside of a trucker's cab

From stowaways to Operation Stack, it's a challenging time to be a trucker heading to and from the Continent
Kelis interview: The songwriter and sauce-maker on cooking for Pharrell and crying over potatoes

Kelis interview

The singer and sauce-maker on cooking for Pharrell
Refugee crisis: David Cameron lowered the flag for the dead king of Saudi Arabia - will he do the same honour for little Aylan Kurdi?

Cameron lowered the flag for the dead king of Saudi Arabia...

But will he do the same honour for little Aylan Kurdi, asks Robert Fisk
Our leaders lack courage in this refugee crisis. We are shamed by our European neighbours

Our leaders lack courage in this refugee crisis. We are shamed by our European neighbours

Humanity must be at the heart of politics, says Jeremy Corbyn
Joe Biden's 'tease tour': Could the US Vice-President be testing the water for a presidential run?

Joe Biden's 'tease tour'

Could the US Vice-President be testing the water for a presidential run?
Britain's 24-hour culture: With the 'leisured society' a distant dream we're working longer and less regular hours than ever

Britain's 24-hour culture

With the 'leisured society' a distant dream we're working longer and less regular hours than ever
Diplomacy board game: Treachery is the way to win - which makes it just like the real thing

The addictive nature of Diplomacy

Bullying, betrayal, aggression – it may be just a board game, but the family that plays Diplomacy may never look at each other in the same way again
Lady Chatterley's Lover: Racy underwear for fans of DH Lawrence's equally racy tome

Fashion: Ooh, Lady Chatterley!

Take inspiration from DH Lawrence's racy tome with equally racy underwear
8 best children's clocks

Tick-tock: 8 best children's clocks

Whether you’re teaching them to tell the time or putting the finishing touches to a nursery, there’s a ticker for that
Charlie Austin: Queens Park Rangers striker says ‘If the move is not right, I’m not going’

Charlie Austin: ‘If the move is not right, I’m not going’

After hitting 18 goals in the Premier League last season, the QPR striker was the great non-deal of transfer deadline day. But he says he'd preferred another shot at promotion
Isis profits from destruction of antiquities by selling relics to dealers - and then blowing up the buildings they come from to conceal the evidence of looting

How Isis profits from destruction of antiquities

Robert Fisk on the terrorist group's manipulation of the market to increase the price of artefacts
Labour leadership: Andy Burnham urges Jeremy Corbyn voters to think again in last-minute plea

'If we lose touch we’ll end up with two decades of the Tories'

In an exclusive interview, Andy Burnham urges Jeremy Corbyn voters to think again in last-minute plea