I guess we’ve all done it – embraced a heap of New Year’s Resolutions only to let them clatter from our grasp sometime before January was out. This cycle of unrequited ambition follows, of course, in an old and venerable tradition. The Babylonians made promises to the Gods at the start of each year – that they would return that which they had borrowed and satisfy their debts – make peace with the past. The Romans pledged their promises to the God Janus (after whom January is named) and medieval knights took the “Peacock Vow” shortly after Christmas to re-affirm their commitment to chivalry. Watchnight services instigated by John Wesley continue to provide a Christian backdrop to reflection on the year and an opportunity to commit to resolutions for the months ahead. There can not surely be a single worthy endeavour known to man that someone somewhere sometime has not signed up to on the cusp of New Year’s Day. The fact that so many fail to meet these commitments is a refection not just on misplaced optimism or the eternal allure of lofty ideals but perhaps on the diminished personal discipline of modern times. Sadly (or perhaps thankfully) we don't all have the single-minded resolve of Simeon of Stylites, a 5th century Christian saint whose resolution stretched to a breath-taking display of the kind of ecclesiastical gymnastics so popular of that age - he lived permanently on a small platform atop a column near Aleppo for no less than 37 years. He spawned many imitators and a tradition of living atop a column, as a means for Christian devotion spread across the Christian Levant. For about the time that Simeon was perched on his pole I have made resolutions at New Year. Most involved a commitment to exercise, improved diet, weight loss and being more conscientious. Most were broken in pretty short order. So this year I have made an unambitious resolution. One that I expect to be able to keep and so avoid the guilt that goes with breaking a promise. I will once again take the Dry January challenge. Kick the wine and beer for a month. Glug down the fresh juices and fizzy waters in pubs and wine bars and treat myself to a nice big jug of crystal clear water and ice at home – perhaps even with a twist of lemon. If you fancy joining me let me know at email@example.com and I will send you some useful web links to help you on your way. Or you can check out details at www.dryjanuary.org.uk. Over 2 million people participated in Dry January last year. It will save you a little money (the average person spends £50,000 on alcohol in their lifetime), provide better sleep, give you clearer skin and (for those for whom it matters) remove an inch or so from the waistline. I’m looking forward to it.
Wishing you and your family a very happy and successful 2017.