Start as You Mean to Go Wrong

1) Every year as January 1st rolls around, we all try to think of interesting yet achievable New Year’s resolutions to improve ourselves or broaden our horizons. Every year I fail to last more than a week.

Starting out with overzealous determination has in the past seen me actually join a gym, cut out chocolate, cut out crisps, cut out most of the foods that I enjoy but someone, somewhere is telling me I’m not allowed. One year I just vowed to try to be a ‘nicer person’ – clearly a year lacking in creativity and willpower. Come the first day back at school faced with a 7am alarm, an empty box of cereal and a freezing cold bus journey, that one went swiftly down the pan, as the bus driver can attest to.

I guess the sentiments behind New Year’s resolutions are generally to be admired — well-worn encouragement to eat healthily, exercise and generally try to be a better person can’t really be faulted. Or can it? It’s Christmas, I’m on holiday, just starting to settle in to that well deserved, luxurious bubble of having absolutely nothing to do when suddenly I’m pelted from all sides, not only with the realisation that collections are looming and that I’ve procrastinated away an entire month in front of the BBC’s (seriously disappointing) Christmas TV schedule. But also with the demand to stop enjoying myself and start belittling myself. Because really, the basis of any New Year’s resolution is essentially that; find something wrong with yourself and ruthlessly determine to change it. Furthermore, the feeling of self loathing is tripled by the inevitable failure to resist the family sized Dairy Milk bar at the bottom of the shopping bag or to drag yourself to the gym after working an 8 hour shift in the middle of the January sales.

So this year, like all the others, after realising I just cannot be bothered with the trauma of making a New Year’s resolution, I am not going to make one. Or maybe I will, I’ll make a handful of them. My New Year’s resolutions are to eat as much chocolate as I want without vomiting, make no effort to choose the vegetarian option in Hall to try to be healthier, exercise as little as possible and drink an excessive amount of alcohol throughout Hilary. All of which are fully achievable and will no doubt make me feel a lot better about myself.

2) On New Year’s Day, I had a revelation. I felt like utter shit. My head was pounding, my mouth tasted of sick, my tongue was furry, my eyes were blurry and my voice was gone along with my dignity. My tired, twenty-year old body wasn’t standing up as well to New Year frivolities as my lithe, teenage one had. This was my plan.

Give up the drink. Give up the grey mornings spent staring at the dull porcelain of the toilet and the mourning of headaches and pains and anxiety and paranoia. Give up forgetting what has happened the night before. Give up the disgraces and embarrassments. Give up the damaging of your finances, so often multiplied by poorly judged rounds. Give up the tiredness. Give up the long walks in a confused, lost state around areas you have known all your life. Give up putting on weight and damaging your teeth and the bruises sustained in fights. Give up the apologies made without any memory of what is being apologised for. Give up the sad realisation that the only time you can converse well with other human beings, laugh and feel like you have a connection to other people is when you have had at least two pints. Give up the horrible soul-searching over whether you owe or are indeed owed drinks. Give up the random chats with members of the public who at the time seem highly talkative and very engaged in conversation but are just bored and sober. Give up the drunken texts to parents or teachers or exes. Give up the frapes and apologising for the damage done by frapes. Give up the competitive conversations the next day about how much everyone drank. Give up the discovery that you can’t remember what the music was like. Give up the unbelievable struggle of working the next day. Give up the saddening feeling of having to lie on a doctor’s form because your mum is looking over your shoulder at the alchohol consumed section.

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If there were this many reasons to give up anything else, you’d give it up too.

3) I’ve always been proud of my college. I admit it has its flaws- for example we’ve no spires, or gargoyles, or chapel or classic architecture, which defines most Oxford colleges. However, despite its lack of popularity, the Gatehouse building (if you’ve seen it, you’ll try to forget it) and our ‘humble’ campus (some of the staircases used to be the St John’s servants’ quarters), the one thing St Anne’s does have, and prides itself on, is its food. We like to eat. And we’ve won awards, you know. The time where the sustenance of our hall is at its best, when the cuisine is at the peak of succulence, when our kitchens are abundant with mouthwatering odours, is inevitably at our formal hall.

I was innocently talking to a friend at Queen’s about this exclusive event, and it got me to thinking that perhaps 2012 is the year where I will escape my cosy college comfort zone and have a taste of what you other colleges have to offer. So, reader, you’ve heard it here first; this year I resolve to eat at every Oxford College Formal Hall.

My first barrier for this ambitious challenge: I only know about ten people from different colleges. The second barrier: I don’t own enough fancy clothes. The third barrier: I have 24 weeks of Oxford term to try and squeeze in the other 37 college’s formals. Lets remain optimistic – it’s do-able right? All I have to do is somehow accumulate 37 new friends, each from a different college and persuade each ‘new friend’ into allowing me to tag along to dinner without gaining a reputation as the girl who invites herself everywhere (we all know one).

My bank balance will take a serious hit from my future 37 dinners, not to mention my waist size, but for the good of Cherwell, and of 2012: bring on the courses.

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4) I’ve tried all the obvious resolutions: go to the gym every day, hand in all my work on time, don’t have Hassan’s on my way home every night. Invariably they decline throughout January until it’s third week and they’ve become: go to the gym once this term, hand in all my work at some point before finals, alternate evening meals between Hassan’s and Macdonalds, for variety’s sake. So this year, I’m jumping on my parents’ bandwagon and going for the slightly more pragmatic, although still highly beneficial, approach.

Firstly, I’ve decided to really make an effort to really avoid inappropriate moments. Seemingly simple, yes. But the breadth of this resolution means that firstly, it’s a good talking point. And, more importantly, I can choose to define its success as I see fit. It might seem that there’s not much involved in this, however, I can assure you that if I’d been as determined as I am now to stick to this last year, I would have avoided a not insignificant number of red-faced moments. If only I’d checked the ‘To:’ box on that e-mail that I sent to my tutor, not my tute partner, stating that: ‘I have no idea what I’ve even said in this essay. I’ve read an article and a half and I think one of those was about the wrong text. Please save me in this tute.’ I coud have saved myself a very miserable hour discussing why exactly it was that I’d only read half a relevant article. If only I hadn’t accepted the dare to walk into the Christ Church pizza van and try to teach them exactly ‘how I’d do it’ if I were a chef. Which I,of course, am not. I think I’ve made my point: with a little more consideration, my year could prove much less humiliating. And if it doesn’t work, then at least I’ll have some good sconce-fodder.

Secondly, I’m going to go to all of my lectures this term. Well, you need to have something unattainable, for tradition’s sake.