In Competition No. 2778 you were invited to express your regret, in verse, for New Year’s resolutions not kept.
The challenge produced an entertaining outpouring of contrition. I enjoyed John MacRitchie’s twist on the Frank Sinatra classic: ‘I’ve packed my case too full,/ Made dreadful curries, in a Thai way,/ Each year, my diets flop,/ Who cares what I weigh?’ Commendations, and commiserations, to unlucky losers Juliet Walker, Tim Raikes, Mae Scanlan, Douglas G. Brown, Jayne Osborn and G.W. Tapper. The winners, below, get £25 each. Top prize goes to Brian Allgar, who pockets the extra fiver.
Happy New Year!
I swore I’d give up sex and saturnalia;
That was my optimistic resolution.
So no more ‘escorts’ (farewell, Chloë, Thalia) —
A euphemistic term for prostitution.
No steamy vice, no lurid bacchanalia;
I’d join the straight-and-narrow revolution;
I’d throw away my S & M regalia,
And purify my vicious constitution.
I’d smoke no more; my teeth were growing scalier
And yellower from nicotine pollution.
I’d tend my garden, prune my white azalea;
My life would be impeccably Confucian.
I might as well have tried to eat Australia;
I broke each vow, preferring dissolution.
But this year, there’ll be no such moral failure —
I’m quite resolved to make no resolution.
One year I vowed to give up kinky sex,
But failed because my squeeze (alas, now ex)
Was keen on fifty shades of how’s-your-father,
So back it was to whips, KY and lather.
The next I said I’d give up drugs for good
To be the straighthead of the neighbourhood.
They’re harmful and expensive: what’s the point?
I lasted till my sister passed the joint.
Two epic fails behind me, I forswore
Inebriation. I would drink no more,
Yet soon relapsed to getting pissed with mother
(We’ve always meant so much to one another.)
These New Year’s resolutions — I don’t know,
They only seem to bring regret and woe.
I struggle to be good but I can’t win.
The trouble that these women get me in…
They were such good intentions, all of them.
All would have made my world a better place.
A daily walk for health, the five fresh veg,
Days without wine (I MEANT it: not a trace).
‘World peace’ — too big a scale; I’m thinking small —
The early nights, the bright and breezy days,
The tidy desk. But now the year’s turned round: Nothing to show of hopeful, healthier ways.
Long lie-ins merged (late nights were far more fun).
Uneaten veg go off, and fruit ferments.
The car beats feet for speed, and, oh, the wine!
(See the recycling heap for ‘good intents’.)
They started out so squeaky-clean. Oh well,
Each one now paves the greasy road to hell.
Quite late the morning-after, Common Sense
Regains the floor and moves a resolution:
Resolved, henceforth this body drinks no more!
The Hand that poured, now shakily relents;
The chastened Wits agree in mute confusion;
A turncoat Tongue and reddened Eyes implore
Concurrence. As the motion carries, cheers
And ringing sounds continue in the Ears.
In all the din, none note a braying snore,
Nor see, collapsed in perfect dissolution,
The instigator of their late offence,
Who’d led the party-of-the-night-before.
He sleeps the session through without intrusion,
Aware his comrades often jump the fence.
His slumber is untroubled: as Desire,
He’ll speak tonight, though — and he’ll be on fire.
The New Year tempts us ever to desist,
To give up things which we ought to eschew,
For mind’s and body’s sake. I made a list
Of things to give up which are bad for you.
Mens sana first: crap novels have to go,
Yet still I gobbled Fifty Shades of Grey.
Pork pies are bad; they make you fat and slow.
Oh well, I didn’t have one EVERY day.
I should have known what giving up entailed,
But soon I was well down that slippery slope.
I’m not sure now which I regret the most
Of all that I tried to give up, but failed.
One thing I learned, though: do not give up hope,
Or else you might as well give up the ghost.
Ah, the new leaf’s annual turning,
Dead of Winter’s pseudo-Spring,
Symbol of a hope that yearning
Of itself has fruits to bring.
But yearly ideas grow less fecund,
Blossoms blasted in the bud;
Resolution’s sadly weakened,
Tides not taken at the flood.
When and where success might be
Once seemed a thing within my reach
But I’ve learned since, it’s best to see
What useful lessons failures teach.
For had I kept each New Year’s vow
And never let them go to waste,
I couldn’t then, as I can now,
Enjoy regret’s acquired tart taste.
No. 2781: return to sender
Radio 4’s Today programme recently broadcast six cleverly cutting imaginary responses by the writer Lynne Truss to that annual exercise in self-aggrandisement, the Christmas round-robin letter. The object of the exercise was to deter the sender from ever sending another. You are invited to devise your own riposte (150 words maximum), guaranteed to take the wind out of the sails of even the most committed round-robiner. Please email entries, wherever possible, to email@example.com by midday on 16 January.