Belfast Telegraph

We may have the best of intentions when it comes to New Year, but the only thing we're good at is giving up on giving up

By Lindy McDowell

Today is Day Three. And if you are one of the millions who annually launch into a self-improvement/health kick to mark the start of another new year, giving up the booze and the fags, the buns, the hoarding of clutter and the irrational spending on stuff you don't need, you will know full well the significance of Day Three.

Day Three is the devil from hell.

Day Three is the day when despite your magnificent efforts to eradicate garbage from your diet, suddenly you are hallucinating about curry chips and Maud's Pooh Bear Delight.

Would just one wee puff on a ciggie really be a gamechanger? And a glass of wine - don't scientists say that's actually good for you?

As for saving money? Come on, you only live once ... can you afford not to throw it round you in the sales?

This is typical Day Three thinking.

Suddenly, the hard border of your iron resolve has gone a bit Jean-Claude Juncker. Sufficient progress has been made for now. We can safely move on to the next phase.

Oddly (I think so anyway), here in Northern Ireland we are, apparently, among the most enthusiastic proponents of the hardcore self-denial which along with the weather, the bills and the extended wait for payday, make January such an utter pig of a month.

Especially when it comes to giving up the hooch.

Following the Sober October initiative (which at least had a catchy name going for it) the health police are now promoting Dry January.

Different month, same empty glass.

And interestingly, according to statistics, this New Year exercise in sobriety has been more avidly embraced in Northern Ireland than in any other part of the UK.

Overall, 3.1 million people are said to be stepping away from the bottle opener. Northern Ireland has the highest percentage of these abstainers, with 10% of people here aged between 35 and 54 saying they are going alcohol-free.

So what does that say about us?

Some might argue that it's down to our northern Puritanism. Self-denial is hardwired into our DNA. We find it natural to say no.

But if that was actually the case, would we even be drinking in the first place?

If we are so good at giving things up, how come there is anything left to give up?

The sad fact is, of course, that the one thing we're really, really good at is ... well ... giving up on giving up.

We're well-intentioned. But our problem is that we are all too easily lured back into the path of carbohydrates and Smirnoff.

In a way we sort of suspect from the off that the health kick, the tidy kitchen drawers and the save-a-million strategy are doomed to end in Dairy Box and disappointment.

But countering that is the lure of that virtuous kickstart to a shiny new year that always makes us believe it could be possible.

On Day One and Day Two anyway.

By Day Three we've discovered that our inner Gwyneth Paltrow was actually just gorby old us cruising along on the surfeit of post-Christmas calories.

Because by Day Three reality has pulled the plug and we realise this abstinence business might be trickier than previously thought.

But people do stick with it. We know that because we all know someone who at one point or other, launched into a diet or signed off the booze and have managed to keep it going ever since.

If they got through the Day Threes surely we can too?

Maybe we just fail because our hearts weren't in it in the first place.

The hospitality industry has been expressing some concern that Dry January will hit profits at what is traditionally a bleak time of the year for the trade.

I don't think they need to worry too much. Even the health lobbyists seem to accept that further initiative will be necessary.

And the next one up, before Sober October, is the, again, pleasantly rhyming Dry July.

Hmmmm ... Dry July.

Not sure if Northern Ireland will again head the league of participants in that one.

It's not Day Three that will scupper it for some.

It's Day Twelve.

Nothing magic about festive TV for adults

I'm glad that we can finally put Christmas and Harry Potter behind us. I have nothing personally against the boy wizard. Except that over the festive season he stuck around longer than the turkey.

Every time you switched on the telly, there he was. If it wasn't Harry it was some irritatingly virtuous Disney Princess.

True, I was glad enough of this stuff when my own were small. But isn't television now overdoing the children's offering just a bit?

Santa came. They've got toys to play with. It's we adults who need the escapism.

Not television schedules entirely gone to Potter.

Harry's girl doesn't impress with £56k dress

Speaking of Disney princesses... I'm still trying to get my head around that Prince Harry and Meghan Markle (left) photoshoot where the newest royal posed in her £56,000 gown.

You counted the zeros right there - £56 grand. The price of a decent terrace house in Belfast.

How could you ever justify such a price tag? Especially since, should she ever wear it again, people will be saying: "Och, that oul' thing. Has she nothing else to wear? She never has it off her back." It's not even the most fabulous frock you can imagine.

And what Princess Anne, who is still recycling stuff from the 70s makes of it, doesn't bear thinking about ...

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