370 years ago today, the joyless Puritans led Charles I out onto the balcony at Whitehall and, with one blow of the axe, removed his head. History recalls that he asked for two shirts so that the crowd would not see him shivering and mistake his cold for fear.
Last year, the Puritan within me decreed a New Year’s resolution that was subsequently so unsuccessful that, by about the fourth of the month, I couldn’t even remember what it had been, far less let it change my life.
Misery loves company, so this year I made no less than six resolutions, very much on the basis that it was statistically probable that a couple would eventually sneak under the wire by the end of the month, and I would feel good about them. This, after all, is how reproductive biology has worked since the dawn of time. The resolutions have sat in my soul ever since, glaring at each other like maiden aunts at a family wedding, and the approaching end of the month calls for a review of how they did.
No alcohol in January has been surprisingly easy, and I haven’t had a drop. I couldn’t always have said that, which is refreshing in itself, but I can’t yet state that my body feels any more changed than a comfortable smugness. Personally, I would trade it all for one good cover drive in the forthcoming cricket season. Something deep inside told me that I might abstain for the rest of my life, but its voice wasn’t a quarter as loud as the clinking sound of the bottle of Mersault that I put in the fridge in readiness for Friday.
The vegetarian month has been successful, too, so long as fish are part of a vegetarian diet, along with Haggis (once), chicken (once), and a glorious bacon bap at the St Enedoc clubhouse. A man could get used to this vegetarian lark.
I promised myself that I would never buy a plastic shopping bag at the check-out again and, as yet, I haven’t. This has led to strange scenes in Midhurst where I have bundled up seventeen different items in a fold in my fleece and then dropped them on the pavement when unlocking my car. Twinned with that was my pledge always to take my own bamboo cup in whilst buying coffee. To be fair, I have done this quite a good percentage of the time, but must describe this one as a work in progress.
My phone tells me that I have only missed 10000 steps four times (my fifth resolution), but also that my daily average is over 11000. This was by far the daftest aim, producing its own soap opera of ridiculous situations, like leaving my car deliberately far from the station, taking my phone to the gym to record mileage, and taking the reluctant dogs for multiple pitch dark walks in the local woods.
I have forgotten completely what the sixth was. Instead, I have now looked back at something that I happened to have not done (flown in a plane), reinvented it as a resolution and entered it back in to the system like a corrupt accountant’s balancing item.
So, two things, possibly. First, the challenges, such as they have been, have actually added a weird but enjoyable structure into a month I normally detest, and I have ended it rather cheerfully. Secondly, I believe that this time I have finally kicked the plastic bag habit for good. According to the DEFRA report in 2017, that will take 25 more of the little bastards out of the system every year from now on, which is truly something to celebrate. A journey of 1000 miles starts with a single step, and all that.
On Friday lunchtime you will find me, if you want me, at the Petersfield branch Macdonalds getting on the outside of a huge burger.