Monday, 05 January 2015

The Lady Guide to Modern Manners: 2 January

Most of us make them but should we really bother with New Year’s resolutions? Thomas Blaikie offers some guidance…

Written by Thomas Blaikie
Dear Thomas,
I’m sure I need to improve in many ways but I’m reluctant to make any New Year’s resolutions. In the past I’ve never kept them and I suspect I caused a lot of irritation to others while I was about it. Do you approve of New Year’s resolutions?
Sandra Long, Loughborough

Dear Sandra,
The one New Year’s resolution I’ve managed to keep I made many years ago: never again to eat an iceberg lettuce – because I don’t like them. I would hope that we’re trying to improve all the time, not just at New Year. Life, as far as I’m concerned, is a constant drive to be slimmer, richer, with an ever more spotless home, frayed and stained upholstery banished, worn-out carpets replaced, meat and fish more and more carefully cooked to perfection, etc. Soon I might explode with the effort. And I must admit, I’ve got a list of the 500 or so things that need to be done that never seems to diminish.

Perhaps, for some, a good New Year’s resolution would be to be less resolved.

There’s grimness about New Year’s resolutions very often. It’s all about giving things up – no more chocs, gin, parties, late nights. I wonder even if there isn’t an underlying hostility towards friends and life itself. Do we really need to improve on this scale? For the selfhating, New Year’s resolutions are a field day. I’m also put off by this self-conscious, stage-managed way of living, most attractive to those who wish they weren’t human. The unnaturalness of it all must be why so many New Year’s resolutions fall by the wayside.

Meanwhile, those who have adopted these wonderful shiny new regimes must hector and bore the rest of us with their miraculous new selves and point out our own dismal weaknesses. But people who have really changed have no need of advertisement. Someone who has truly given up smoking, for instance, will have forgotten all about it and will not be struggling with a great void in their life.

Other New Year’s resolutions are so general and vague, they fail at the first sign of real life: to be ‘nicer’, for instance. Do you want always to be ‘nice’? Or even ‘kind’? Is it necessary or right?

Don’t misunderstand: I’m not saying that some of us don’t need to change or are not capable of doing so. Of course, willpower plays a part and along the way it can be a struggle. But the time and emotional conditions have to be right: then bad habits, indulgences and cruelties will drop as rotten fruit from the tree and be dispensed with. Awful to struggle to fit yourself into a mould that you cannot fit in to. If you are going to make a New Year’

Please send your questions to or write to him at The Lady, 39-40 Bedford Street, London WC2E 9ER


After the disgraceful scenes during the ‘Black Friday’ shopping spree on 28 November, how will we fare at the January sales? On Black Friday, a woman was hurled to the floor in Asda, Wembley, as shoppers fought for TVs, and police were called to 10 supermarkets nationwide. From the viewpoint of my agreeable drawing room, the problem seemed to be that customers were grabbing very large but empty boxes from a pile, which they could then exchange for the actual TV in another part of the store. Really, didn’t anyone in charge foresee the inevitable chaos?

To be fair, outrage at the sales is nothing new. The opening of the Harrods sale has often featured the sound of smashing crockery as ladies in headscarves do battle in the china department. Sales mania afflicts us all, high and low. As in every scrum, such as those that occur beside the luggage carousel at airports, the thing to do is to stand back in an imperious fashion, above the mayhem, then lunge forward with the target in view at just the right moment.

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