The Duke - December 31, 2014

New Year's Resolutions, list of items
New Year's Resolutions, list of items
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I don’t make New Year resolutions… but if I did they’d probably be the worst ones in the world.

Apart from the fact that it’s unlikely that by this time next week I will remember what I’d resolved let alone have the will power to honour my pledges, I actually can’t see the point.

DISTRACTION: Mobile phone message

DISTRACTION: Mobile phone message

According to Wikipedia a New Year’s resolution is “a secular tradition, most common in the Western Hemisphere but also found in the Eastern Hemisphere, in which a person makes a promise to do an act of self-improvement or something slightly nice, such as opening doors for people beginning from New Year’s Day.”

Well I’ve tried that one as recently as last weekend when I attempted to assist a woman struggling to get a pushchair into The Taps in Lytham and got a look somewhere between “you live in Poulton, what the heck are you doing in our leafy haven?” and “get lost you chauvinist, I can manage on my own – and don’t even dream of running off with my child.” The ancient Babylonians made promises to their gods at the start of each year that they would return borrowed objects and pay their debts.

I’ve never gone that far but still feel a shade guilty about possessing a book about Frank Matcham theatres loaned to me around 30 years ago.

The Romans began each year by making promises to the god Janus, after whom the month of January is named. And in the medieval era, knights took the “peacock vow” at the end of the Christmas season each year to re-affirm their commitment to chivalry.

The iconic Coca-Cola Christmas truck.

The iconic Coca-Cola Christmas truck.

I’ve never done that either but sometimes vowed to lose weight (increasingly difficult), cut back on alcohol intake (increasingly impossible) and be more punctual (how well do you know me?).

At the end of the Great Depression, about a quarter of American adults made New Year’s resolutions (must get a job, must not get another great depression). At the start of the 21st century, about 40 per cent made them (must get a job, must not take any notice of what’s happening in the rest of the world).

So, I was all ready to again not make any resolutions when along came Coca-
Cola. One of the world’s biggest corporations has decided to switch off the voicemail function on the telephones of all its employees “to simplify the way we work and increase productivity.”

Call me old fashioned (because I am) but isn’t that what voicemail (or answerphone as we originally called it) is all about?

In those rare moment s we are not within arm’s reach of a phone we’d ask people to leave a message and promise to get back to them. I regularly changed my office message until hitting on “the tide is in but I’m out, please leave a message and I’ll get back to you as soon as I return to the office.” Originally it added “after a quick rub down” but someone complained that this was too risqué so I changed it.

Anyway Coca-Cola now invites people to “find an alternative way of making contact.”

And the reason? It seems the under 35s “have an antipathy towards leaving a message.”

Or they can’t be bothered to listen to the recorded message let alone respond to it after drinking too much Coke before making their phone call.

Let’s just hope that Coca-Cola is alone in this. Voicemail is a great way of avoiding having to actually talk to people – yet much less impersonal than text messages because you have to make the effort of sounding genuinely disappointed no one is there.

My resolution? To mend my voicemail.

It’s been on the blink for far too long and the tide is coming in again.

Happy New Year.

Vlad the Imbiber is someone who’d get my vote

I think I must be mellowing with age.

The first sign was digging out a Barry Manilow album I didn’t even know I had and suddenly thinking “do you know, that’s not at all bad?”

Then I began to notice good points about pantomime – a theatrical genre I had grown to loathe having had to sit through at least half a dozen a year for what feels like longer than Sleeping Beauty slumbered. This winter I noticed how contemporary the better ones have to be – jokes have to change, music has to be updated. I even used the term “cutting edge” in one review and found myself being strangely drawn to one of Cinderella’s not-so-ugly step sisters at The Dukes in Lancaster (and let’s not even mention the Lowther Pavilion’s Slave of the Ring!)

But the piece de resistance is thinking that President Vladimir Putin isn’t that awful after all. All right he might invade more countries than Hitler and have a penchant for oil/gas ransoms.

But while our home grown politicians dither and dawdle about what to with booze prices Vlad The Imbiber ignores the fact that half his population are raging alcoholics and reins in rising vodka prices.

Now there’s someone I’d vote for.