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Resolve and reality

Amanda Barrie.
Amanda Barrie.

My New Year’s resolutions this year? Not making any. Not even one. Not that I’ve made one for about the last decade or so, anyway, as the usual suspects keep cropping up on the to-do list and depressing the hell out of me by the second week in January.

After all, surely the point of New Year’s resolutions (or any other kind of forward life plan) is to make you feel better. If they don’t, then what is the point?

It all strikes me as a bit self-punishing, castigating yourself over what you haven’t done or can’t do, trying to fit into that snugly-tailored hair shirt and finding yourself awash with emotional flagellation, giving yourself a hard time about things which, in the long run, don’t usually matter very much, anyway.

Drinking less, eating less and moving more are always good ideas, let’s face it, but beating yourself up about it can’t be that good for you, either. Kicking the old habits that die hard shouldn’t also mean that you’re permanently kicking yourself for not doing enough, regularly enough or successfully enough.

It’s always seemed to me that the answer is doing more of what you’re good at, doing it well or at least, a little better than before rather than setting unachievable goals and getting thoroughly fed up when – surprise, surprise – you don’t achieve them. Having said that, I’ve started playing the piano again this year after the best part of 40 years. I bought the Big Book of Scales and I’m tinkling up and down the keyboard like a good ‘un, if more like a good ‘un wearing boxing gloves. I’ve identified about half a dozen pieces that I think I can eventually play properly and that is good enough for me. I was never Marta Argerich even when I played regularly and I’m not suddenly going to morph into her now.

But the point is, I’m enjoying it. I like it. It’s fun. I’m not looking to sit exams or justify my musical existence to anyone else but me – and the long-suffering husband, who may just, if I carry on long enough, be able to recognise the Moonlight Sonata out of the morass of notes currently emanating each evening from the back room. Roll over, Beethoven. And tell Tchaikovsky he has absolutely nothing to worry about.

Fame game

Go, Amanda Barrie! I have never (and, despite the aforementioned protestations about resolutions) WILL never watch Celebrity Big Brother. But since I like the veteran British actress, one of our greatest purveyors of a funny line bar none, I will admit to reading a bit about her decision to enter the Big Brother House for the current token women show.

With a straight face and impeccable comic timing, the 82-year-old reckoned it was a crazy but rather cool way to put off thoughts of death and that the money would help to pay for her eventual care home costs. Gaun yersel, Amanda – I’ve rarely heard better reasons for the continued existence of Rylan Clark and the guilty pleasure of watching other people sleep and slag each other off.

Speaking of token women, Ms Barrie will, of course, be appearing alongside many “contestants” of whom I have happily never heard, apart from the equally redoubtable (for very different reasons), Ann Widdecombe. Two ladies of a certain vintage and a previously largely invisible/ignored generation, taking prominent roles in a contemporary TV phenomenon? Heaven forfend. I imagine they will shake up the younger ones more than a little along the way.

As for the rest, I see that this completely unreal style of reality entertainment is becoming a family fiefdom of the Johnson clan. After Stanley’s jungle foray in I’m A Celebrity… Get Me Out of Here, daughter Rachel is in da house, cut off from civilisation as we on the outside rather unfortunately know it. If only we could shut Boris away from the rest of the world for a few weeks, how much better (and safer) we might all feel. And it might give him a taste of what it’s like to be locked up in a foreign jail with no one on the outside either willing or able to help.

It does also point up the inescapable fact that neither Mr Johnson senior or the doubtless capable and talented Rachel would be doing any of this if they weren’t related to the (current) Foreign Secretary, who always somehow seems to be living in a world of his own, anyway. Time was when politicians used to pay at least lip service to the concept of getting somewhere in life by your own efforts, rather than because of who you were related to. After all, we still have the royal family for that.

So much for the increasingly meretricious myth of meritocracy, not that you have to have much by way of merit to appear on a reality TV show. If you can’t even get on to that on the back of your own achievements, then it really is still not what you know but who you know that counts.