I don’t make resolutions. I probably did, back in the mists of time, but like most people I realised at some point that they are quickly forgotten and usually unattainable.
But there are things I promise myself at the beginning of the year and some of them will probably stick, like burrs. It’s not difficult, for instance, to renounce single-use plastics, and I’m not a great one for takeaway coffee, preferring a shot of freshly made espresso.
But I must remember to take my coffee cup with me for those odd occasions when I do want a moccha to warm me up.
I must actually finish what I have started. This applies to a wide variety of things – from work (which, as a journalist used to working to deadlines, I always do, but it’s usually right up against the deadline!) to food. I specialise in buying interesting food, particularly when we are travelling. And we try it with enthusiasm – and if we like it, we have it again … and again. And then a little voice in my head says: If you finish it, you won’t have it any more. And so, I leave a bit.
And then when we do the annual clean and clear in the larder, there it is, or rather, there they are. A couple of teaspoons of some particularly fascinating aromatic preserve, a little bag with the remains of some now unidentified (or unidentifiable) spice or seeds, half a box (lid missing) of some unusual lentils, half an inch of a flavoured oil, lurking murkily in the bottom of a bottle, a few ounces of a grain bought at some historic mill in the Aveyron or the Marche or the Blue Ridge Mountains.
I am resolved to finish things, use them up, not leave unusable remnants in cliptop boxes that will end up in the recycling caddy. (And on the subject of the food caddy – we are still puzzling over who stole our food recycling bin, which was full of peelings, scrapings and inedible leftovers … and why. At the same time, let’s have a shout-out for South Somerset District Council which has a great record on recycling, including food waste).
I have what can only be described as a rather flexible attitude to time. Apart from catching planes or getting to the theatre before the one-minute bell, I am very relaxed and always assume I have more time than I actually do or that the time I turn up will actually be the time that I need to be wherever it is. Similarly, with work, I have always tended to think that I can squeeze in a few more words, even if it means using a different print size or font.
Working on Deepest Dorset and Deepest Wiltshire has had the very useful (albeit uncomfortable) effect of making me realise how misjudged the latter attitude is, when it comes to books. With newspapers, where I firmly believe that the average reader is not bothered about font or print size (as long as they can read it), it was OK to squeeze things in, or turn to another page to finish an article. But you can’t do that with a book. And failing to provide a proper word count to contributors, who are giving their time and their expertise, meant that a lot of very good writing and information had to be cut in the first book. So I learned that lesson. It’s good to know that, even at my advanced age, I can still learn things!
And talking of birthdays, I’m not one of those who “doesn’t do birthdays” – even though I find the most recent “landmark” a bit alarming (just tell me I don’t look it, and I’m fine!) – but I am dreadful at remembering them. Children, grandchildren and friends are all used to the apologetic “sorry it’s late” card/email/phone call, which comes a few days after the due date.
We have a perpetual calendar in our kitchen which is just for birthdays, but I have to remember to look at it.
When I was a child, I apparently used to say “I’m going to,” whenever my parents asked me if I had done something. My late mother used to say that if I predeceased her she would have these words carved on my gravestone: “She was always ‘going to’ and finally she did!”