Taking Aunt Margaret to lunch: NYR4

Bruce Abrahams views New Year's resolutions with the help of his old copier. You know, the thing that sits on your desk, taking up too much surface space.

There are three intriguing command buttons on my early model digital phone/fax/copier. They say ‘Resolution’, ‘Collate’ and ‘Quick Scan’. I have never used them and until now could only guess at their function. There are those for whom gadget instruction manuals are compulsory reading, others (mostly very young) who can’t read that well but have an instinctive understanding of electronics, and people like me for whom such literature might as well have been written in Japanese – which, originally, it probably was.

Nonetheless, in the usual de-briefing process that follows our seasonal assault course, they assumed a new, almost metaphysical meaning.

Everyone makes resolutions. Mostly these are informed by the post-festive recovery process and to do with the correction of past failings rather than statements of new goals. That is, to lose weight, drink less, be kinder to irritating relatives and so forth. On occasion they may put a more positive gloss on the aims implied; such as ‘get to be a size 12’, ‘look after my health’, ‘take Aunt Margaret to lunch once a month’, and ‘have more regular sex with my partner’ (subject to terms and conditions).

But in the end the process tends to result in a laundry list of guilt and self-improvement: most of the entries of which become ghosts in our conscience destined to fade through neglect. The survivors usually last until about February, at which point circumstances kill them off with excuses for breach and self-indulgence – such as the really cold weather and/or justified causes for celebration; the really annoying behaviour of the relevant objects of your good deeds and inevitably in the case of sex, that both of you have been too pre-occupied with all the other resolutions you were trying to fulfil.

So it occurred to me that those mysterious buttons offered a solution: enter the resolutions that presented themselves, collate them into relevant categories, give them a quick scan, print them off and file.

That done, I shall be putting together a tasty supper for two (not from M&S), opening a sufficient amount of wine and hoping that January 2013 will at least end with a bang – even if it didn’t begin with one