It’s Not Really Your Year Though, Is It?

The New Year’s Resolution. A seemingly innocuous and, on the face of it, potentially beneficial concept. It has become painfully apparent to me, however, that the heady whispers of betterment flung about at this time of year are at best optimistic, and at worst, farcical. Not only that, but there’s every possibility that the whole idea, coupled with the inevitable fervent cries of ‘this is my/your/his year!’ is actually rather a destructive one for well-meaning resolutionists, as it were.

Why take such offence to this particular idea, you might ask? In this age of indefatigably peppy catchphrases and Kardashianisms which insist on sodomizing our vernacular, is this one really worthy of its own withering castigation?  It is not the phrase in itself which is the problem; if it were, I’d probably have had to write about the odious ‘grab something to eat,’ (you’re not a bloody hunter-gatherer, you imbecile). Rather, it is the hopeless optimists, or unabashed con artists, who take refuge in its ambiguity that are the problem.

When you think about it, a year gives people far too much leeway. January is perceived as something of an ordeal. Thirty-one days of near-constant darkness and incessant flood warnings, without the cheery prospect of the imminent anniversary of Christ’s birth to ease the pain; something, therefore, to be endured as opposed to made use of. And after that comes February, which is plagued, albeit to a lesser extent, by the same problems. It isn’t even really a month either, since it’s only 28 days long. Thanks to the forgiving length of the year, however, all those people who woke up with a throbbing hangover and a case of frostbite on January 1st and declared airily that they were going to better themselves immeasurably in the coming 12 months can rest happily (and lazily) in the knowledge that a year is long enough that they needn’t bother joining the gym, or giving up the fags, or parting ways with whatever other unseemly proclivity it is that troubles them, until a more affable month arrives. Like March. Of course, by the time March actually rolls around, they’ve completely forgotten that this is, in fact, their year. They’ve abandoned even the faintest notion of joining a gym, and the wastepaper basket is still full to the brim with shiny boxes adorned with pictures of cancerous lungs.

The reliance on the year as a defining time-period in this way is horribly misguided. The Mayan and Aztec civilizations who constructed early calendars put forth a rough determination of the length of a year (the time it takes for the Earth to rotate around the Sun) based on the solstices and equinoxes and other such solar phenomena. The exact length of the calendar year has been modified over the centuries by the great minds of generations; they were even kind enough to iron out certain mathematical inexactitudes with the introduction of such natty developments as the Gregorian calendar and the leap year. My point is that while much serious thought has been donated to determining the duration and most suitable measurement for a year, for very significant reasons, at no discernible juncture in history did one of humanity’s great thinkers conclude that 365 days was, in fact, the ideal length of time for fat people to wean themselves off curry chips and Haribo Starmix. It just didn’t happen. So why must we place such incorrigible faith in the turning of the year as the supernatural key to self-control? It simply doesn’t make sense.

My humble opinion, of course, does not form the sole basis for this disgruntlement; the numbers speak for themselves. A neat little website called ‘Statistic Brain: Research Institute,’ tells us that 62% of those surveyed on the subject make New Year’s resolutions at least some of the time; of these, a staggering 24% report being uniformly unsuccessful in all their attempts, while 49% report “infrequent,” success. The survey also tells us that a quarter of resolutions will fail inside the first week of their life, and that only 46% survive past the 6 month mark. These statistics hardly make for encouraging reading.

To conclude, then, let us resolve to abandon this halfhearted, self-destructive tomfoolery in favour of immediate, incisive action. Rather than relying on the vast expanse of a whole year to find time to solve our problems, let’s start tackling them in a week, or even a day. Let’s approach our collective back-monkeys, not with vacillation, but with determination and poise. And let’s do it in March.

Happy 2016, folks.




The Dusk Chorus

Orangeness bulges and warps in the ancient windows, shines off the archaic mahogany, illuminates the expectant faces. Hundreds mill and whisper, a disjointed crowd of carefree spectators, a judicial Roman mob. I drag my moistening hands along my fading trousers for the hundredth time, remember benevolent words, suck in a sigh, splutter it out again. Relax. My chest itches beneath its frayed sweater, too loose and too tight, ripped at the wrist, identical to forty others, crest standing proudly on our chests. The crowd settles, quieter now. A blackbird alights on a wire outside, singing gently. Probably better than me. I laugh and cough together. Heads turn, casual disdain etched in their faces. They seem to shuffle backwards, fade into the background as I climb my refulgent pedestal. Star of the show. My throat hurts. The speakers crackle into life; the announcer mounts her wooden plinth, smile attached awkwardly to her face as she speaks and I don’t listen; the crowd sit impatiently, chuckle periodically at watery jokes. My fingers creak and shiver as I shove them further into the depths of their pockets. Twilight recedes to darkness; the blackbird has fled his perch for the night. The choir laughs heartily at a joke I don’t hear, and the mob grants us a perfunctory round of applause. I shudder gently, close my eyes, open them again, breathe deeply. The hall falls to a sepulchral silence. My microphone stares up at me, metallic and black. Piano keys fill the void, slender and sublime, melody flowing beneath melody as the choir takes its first collective breath, forty voices reaching into a fusion together, growing from restrained hum into a cacophonous roar, filling space until no more remains, becoming part of floor, ceiling and all in between, and turning, falling, returning to nothing, the last chord hanging infinitely into the distance, anticipating a great arrival. My eyes close.

The solo begins.