Ian Clayton column: New year resolutions

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The ancient Babylonians made promises at the start of each new year, these usually involved paying off debts and returning things to their rightful owners.

The Romans made similar promises to their god Janus, the one who we name January after. Janus is the god of gates, passages and doorways, he looks forward to new beginnings whilst seeing the old ways out, which is why he is usually depicted with two faces, one looking forward and one looking back.

In the Middle Ages, the knights promised at the beginning of a new year to be more chivalrous.

Nowadays we resolve to stop smoking, drink less beer and wine, lose weight, join a gym or leave the car at home and use the train. I am not going to promise myself any of the above, because like more than half of the people who make these kind of resolutions, I know that by the beginning of February I will have failed.

Actually, I know I can keep the last one easily because I go about everywhere by bus, train or on foot.

My resolutions this year are all to do with trying to do something useful, especially around where I live.

So, for starters I resolve to spend less time on mobile phone calls to people who I could easily visit and I will make an effort to talk to my friends over a cup of tea. I will also try to do more local shopping. I have spent so much money on my credit card this year buying things from online retailers who I don’t know that I have decided to take a pair of scissors to the card.

If I can’t get what I want within a few square miles of where I am, I will either do without or make one myself. I also resolve to tell more jokes, because laughing is a good medicine, and I will learn how to say a few words in at least half a dozen different languages and make an effort to understand the customs and manners of cultures that are different to mine.

In this way I hope to make new friends. I will smile a lot more, in the hope that some people will smile back and I will try to talk more to people I don’t know on buses and trains, though this last one shouldn’t be too hard for me, because according to my family, I’ll talk to anybody.

In order to do my bit for the environment I will switch off all unnecessary lights, I will buy more local fresh produce, use both sides of any paper I am writing on and try to get my old shoes and clothes mended rather than throwing them away. I will also endeavour to pick up at least one piece of litter each day and put it into a bin.

On a wider front I have decided to take a good look at my finances and see what my bank and pension fund is actually doing with my money.

If I discover that my hard earned is being invested in anything that I don’t agree with, I shall shop around until I found someone who invests ethically.

I have been agitated for a while now by the thought that money I have worked for is being used by companies that make weapons and such like.

I don’t know how easy it is to find out where a pound I put into my bank in Pontefract goes, but I am determined to make a start this year. With an election year in mind I have decided that I will only vote if my candidate assures me that they will fight for a better distribution of the wealth that this country undoubtedly has and that they will not try to blame the poor, the disadvantaged, the immigrants or the budget deficit for the state we are in.

With that in mind, I think that a good new year resolution for all politicians, whether they be local, national or European should be to stop blaming stuff and get on with what they’re supposed to be doing, else give somebody else a chance.

I might have made a rod for my own back here. I’m beginning to wonder whether I ought to have said I’ll stop drinking again, but hey ho. Happy new year to all.