Tag Archives: traditions

Pooh Sticks and Perfect Intentions

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Happy 2015, dear reader.  How are you?  I hope your festive season was joyful, relaxing and as sparkly as possible.

I’m sure that everyone’s Christmas experience is unique, but there are a couple of thoughts that most (if not all) of us have towards the end of the holiday season:

1) I love my family, but I could probably go a few weeks/months/decades without seeing them now.
2) I have GOT to eat a salad.

Ending the year with good intentions for the future leads me neatly onto my main topic for today, which is new year’s resolutions.  Of course, many people don’t want or need the excuse of January 1st to try new things or give stuff up.  In some ways it seems bizarre to block out twelve months of our lives and classify them as having been collectively “good” or “bad”, and to make decisions about our future based on the events that took place during that time.  Is that why the tradition of making resolutions prevails in our culture?  Because we need to believe that we can divide our lives into units of what we have done and what we are going to do?

There is nothing wrong with doing this, of course, or with most traditions in general.  Tradition – as the characters of Fiddler on the Roof know very well – is extremely important.  Traditions can be religious, cultural or local.  They can even be something that only you and one other person abide by, such as the annual game of pooh sticks that I play on Hungerford Bridge with my friend Paul.  We do it on New Year’s Day, and each stick represents a resolution for the year ahead.  The original idea was that the person whose stick came out first was most likely to keep their resolution.  This year it was so windy that our sticks kept flying back to hit us in the knees, so we had to improvise slightly.  (“Shall we just go to the other side of the bridge and chuck them downriver?”  “Er…yeah.”)

I don’t know about you, but Paul and I usually find that our resolutions stay fairly similar year on year: there’s always a resolution about learning to manage our money, and another about improving ourselves in general.  There also tends to be something project-based (Paul: “Build a PC!”) and an optimistic love life goal (Me: “Sort it out”).  In some ways it is disheartening to think that our aims are inching rather than leaping forward, but then who can be expected to completely change their lives in just one year?  Or two?  Or three?  Or…oh…I’m spotting a problem here…

People’s resolutions stay similar because we are only human.  No matter how many years we are given or how good our intentions are at the time of resolve, we will probably never achieve complete perfection.  Paul, God bless him, never criticises me for the fact that “clear my overdraft” has been on my resolutions list for the last three years in a row, and I appreciate that.  He does remind me of my successes, e.g. last year I resolved to take a show to the Edinburgh Fringe, which I did.

This time of year can be very tricky, because we are caught in a limbo world of recovering from the previous year and trying to plan the next.  If we think that we have made little progress over the past year, we can become pessimistic about what we are capable of in the next one.  The important thing is to keep going, keep trying, and to make sure that you have people around you who will remind you of how far you’ve come.

Have a glorious Friday, and a wonderful 2015.  You have achieved a lot more than you think.

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Old Fashioned Statement

Hello, you absolute delight of a human being!  How’s your Tuesday going so far?

Everybody’s a bit of a sucker for nostalgia, aren’t they?  We can all get a bit misty-eyed thinking about the past, whether it’s an event from childhood or a night out from last week.  Even if we weren’t actually around for them, we think very fondly of times gone by.  (For example, I would love to have been running around with the beautiful and damned darlings of the inter-war era, tearing up London with a cut-glass accent and wearing devastating dresses.  I was born a mere eighty-nine years too late to be part of that crew.  So close.)  

Times change and people change with them.  Technology, education, culture, language (and basically everything else you can think of) all transform unrecognisably in a few short years.  In general this progress is an excellent thing, but have we left anything of value behind?  Have the fads of fashion left us bereft?  Aren’t there traditions and ideas which might benefit us in the present day?  We can’t ask Doc Brown for a lift to the past, but here are a few old-fashioned practices I think we ought to resurrect:

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  • Wearing Hats

The first thing I should say about this one is that most hats don’t suit me, and yet I think we ought to bring them back as standard clothing items.  Hats add a level of respect and formality to greetings.  For example: men tipping their hats to ladies, which is just a nice greeting, or people removing their hats as a sign of respect when they enter someone’s home.  Hats also have the Sunglasses Effect – which I explained in this post – everyone looks dashing in the right hat.  (It’s just unfortunate for me that my ‘right hat’ is basically a bonnet.  Whatever, I can deal with that.)  When society wore hats all the time we all just looked a lot smarter and cooler, in my humble opinion.

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  • Writing Letters

We don’t really need letters anymore, if we’re honest.  Emails and Facebook messages can take forever if you’ve got a lot to say, texting is very straightforward and, if you’re feeling super old-fashioned, you can always pick up your mobile cellular telephonic device and give someone a ring.  We should bring letter-writing back for two reasons: firstly, the time it takes to hand-write and the money it costs to post letters shows a level of courtesy and attention which means much more than simply pressing “send”.  Secondly, if we can’t use a backspace key then we might think more carefully about what we say and how we say it.  If you want to make someone feel special, send them a letter.

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  • Dancing

You know when you’re watching a period drama or something similar, and everyone starts dancing in a very complicated-looking pattern without a second’s hesitation?  Someone from the sofa always says “but how do they all know the steps?”  Because that was a massive part of British culture in the Regency period, basically.  All children were brought up learning dozens of dance steps, because dancing was where it was at.  Flirting, favour, showing off how ‘accomplished’ you were, making friends, spurning enemies and holding pleasant conversation all happened on the dance floor of Austen’s time, and all of that social exertion was accompanied by lightly beneficial physical exercise.  Why don’t we do that anymore?  What a brilliant way to bring people together for a boogie, without resorting to deafeningly loud music and Jägerbombs.  

There are loads of other brilliant old-fashioned things that we could bring back if we wanted to.  For instance, I have a friend who always wears a pocket watch, and another who favours the cigarette holder.  This insanely talented friend even makes vintage clothing.  Whatever it may be, I hope that something from the past makes your present day life more enjoyable.  

I’m off to buy a bonnet.  Have a gorgeous day.