Andrew Vine: Another round of resolutions goes jogging by

AS the chimes of midnight sound, and whoever’s turn it is to first-foot shivers outside with a piece of bread in one hand and a lump of coal in the other, it’s time for the New Year resolution.

And this time it’s going to be kept, honestly it is. This is not going to be yet another of those New Year’s Eves when good intentions evaporate at the bottom of the extra glass raised to toast the start of another 12 months.

So goes the determination in countless households and hearts across Yorkshire and beyond, as a farewell – fond or otherwise – is bidden to 2013 and the dawn of 2014 feels like the opportunity for a new beginning.

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All the old chestnuts will be putting in an appearance. Giving up smoking, getting fitter, cutting down on the booze can be counted on to surface with the inevitability of night following day.

The middle-aged, whose every New Year seems to bring a thickening of the waistline, will resolve that this is the year when the rot must stop and a return to the svelte – or so it seems in retrospect – and snake-hipped figure of the 20s is begun.

Websites and catalogues will be browsed in search of exercise bikes, gym memberships will be mulled over and the opening times of the local swimming baths looked up. Reduced-calorie recipes will be turned to in the cookbook and passing joggers barely breaking a sweat regarded with a touch of envy.

The morning paper will be collected on foot, instead of by car, at least until the first wintry downpour brings its bearer home soaked and shivering. Holidays spent walking or cycling instead of lazing on a beach will be considered.

And all without moving from the comfort of the armchair, basking in the warmth of the central heating as wind howls and the rain rattles against the windows.

Because that’s the trouble with New Year resolutions. They’re pipe dreams that mostly don’t get acted upon, virtuous notions that seem like terribly good ideas but end up being simply too much trouble in the grey depths
of January when the lighter evenings and summer sunshine that beckon towards activity seem impossibly distant.

So many of them are prompted by guilt at over-indulgence during Christmas, and the sinking feeling that comes with the silent admonishment of the bathroom scales or the waistband of the trousers that have become inexplicably tighter than they were a few weeks ago.

Like Scrooge insisting to himself that a spirit’s appearance is a nightmare prompted by an undigested piece of cheese, so our resolutions are often enough an emotional hiccup from too much food and drink. And, like hiccups, resolutions vanish as suddenly as they appear.

Come the end of January, with winter’s grip at its tightest, the resolve to lose weight, get fitter and eat healthier has been buried under the need for warming comfort food to insulate against the frost and snow. The low-calorie recipes have been abandoned in favour of rib-sticking stodge, and the passing joggers with blue noses
no longer regarded with admiration,
but a silent “Rather you than me, 
mate”.

But there are those who do stick to their resolutions, and the rest of us can only applaud their willpower, especially if their goal is high-minded.

Such lofty intentions made a friend take up the violin, and the blood-curdling, fingernails-down-a-blackboard sounds emanating from the house suggested that he had taken
leave of his senses and was doing something appalling to his beloved ginger cat.

But no, Tigger was in his usual place by the front door, purring contentedly, which was more than my friend’s wife could manage in the face of the unmusical torture. That particular resolution lasted until about March, when it fell by the wayside in the face of an ultimatum that either the violin went or she would.

Lower motives can also make New Year resolutions stick. A neighbour in Sheffield, weary of being plagued by unwanted callers attempting to sell everything from cleaning products to religion, resolved that this would be the year when he put a stop to it.

Having a handsome brass plaque made in the great metal bashing city was no trouble at all, and in due course he collected it. It read: “If you haven’t been invited, don’t knock on this door.” It was a splendid piece of work. His
wife was appalled, and the plaque consigned to the cellar without it ever being given the chance to discourage hawkers.

But there’s a lesson for us all in the determination to scrape away at a 
violin or be rude to people trying to 
earn a living by going door to door, and that’s to set a simple goal and try to stick to it.

So I’ll be making a straightforward New Year resolution which I think I’ll be able to stick to because I’ll keep it in mind from January to December, and that’s to make 2014 the best it can possibly be. Have a very happy and peaceful New Year.