It has often struck me that early January is a very poor time to be resolving to give up our bad habits (or, for that matter, to acquire new good ones). In the cold, dank darkness that used to characterise this time of year (and to an extent still does), we need all the bad habits we can muster just to help us make it through the difficult days until Spring. As with so much, we can probably thank the Romans for this desire to make resolutions at the start of the year (and perhaps even trace the habit back as far as ancient Babylon). However, I suspect Rome and Babylon have (or had) a rather different winter climate than does the UK – perhaps one more conducive to the the casting off of the old comforts and taking on new asceticism.
I feel Spring would be a better choice if we must have a fixed time to overhaul our lives – though far better to make improvements as and when needed – as the sap, people’s hopes and Persephone are all rising. I have always (I think) resisted the urge to make New Year’s Resolutions – which does at least avoid the embarrassing climbdown which most followers of the tradition have to make around about now – in part because I dislike being told when to do things. However, this year I have found myself carrying out actions which could easily be mistaken for an NYR, though really aren’t (however, the New Year is heavily implicated in their introduction).
As previously mentioned, I had guests staying over on New Year’s Eve and this necessitated some tidying and re-organisation of the flat. Some things finally found proper homes, a mere 17 months after arriving (with their owner), which was nice. When the guests departed, I found a better organised and tidier flat was rather a fine thing – and so decided to finally implement some other long delayed plans to find better homes for stuff. With the aid of a modest purchase – a small filing cabinet – my filing is finally much better ordered and much easier to keep in that most desirable of states. Pictures have also been moved from resting on shelves (not a common choice in the galleries I have visited over the years) to being hung on the wall – a more conventional option perhaps, but sometimes convention can supply some decent ideas. Finally, some surplus stuff has left the flat to seek pastures new in nearby charity shops. The resultant pushing back of local entropy is proving rather pleasing and has now been sustained for six (6!) days – long may it continue. I think I have too much “stuff” and in future I may be applying an object-based immigration policy of such stringency that even the Daily Mail might baulk: 1 in, at least 1.1 out (this should probably really use a volume-based measure rather than merely a count as acquiring one elephant and disposing of even two mice would not really meet my objectives. The volume measure itself might need adjustment based on some sort of tessellation metric, but this may be starting to overthink things – not an accusation often levelled at the Mail).
The visitors also required a visit to my nearby storage unit to recover additional bedding and I also needed to reclaim my copy of The Silmarillion which I had promised to lend someone. The past is indeed a foreign country, books were a mere £1.59 when I acquired the backstory to Middle Earth: these days they are more than that second hand in the charity shop. I’m starting to think I could fund my time machine development project (sadly the Time Machine that comes as part of OS X is a great disappointment) purely on the basis of shopping in the past – it couldn’t entirely replace shopping in the present, but could still offer substantial savings. Anyway, whilst searching the many boxes of my books in the store I came across lots of old friends – and a few just had to come back with me (I claim they stowed away). Subsequently, emboldened by the freeing of some shelf space previously blocked by pictures, a few more “friends” have started trickling back.
One of these returnees was Number Theory by George E Andrews. I didn’t study the eponymous topic at university (it was an option I failed to select) and have regretted this ever since and so many years ago bought the book to try and move beyond the futility of empty regret. As with many things in my life, this didn’t get tackled immediately – or, indeed, at all. Still, we are none of us getting any younger and the brain is not known for increasing flexibility with age (nor, for that matter is the body), so I decided it was perhaps time to tackle the subject. I also thought it would make for an interesting combination with the gymnastics – I realise other men turn to fast cars or loose women for their mid-life crises, but I’ve never been one to follow the crowd. It is entirely possible that I am alone in starting these two new endeavours in my late forties, though I am to an extent following in the footsteps of Leopold Kronecker who did tackle both (albeit that he shared the activities when at least 30 years my junior). Still, I am making steady progress through the book – and tomorrow should see the Linear Diophantine Equation hove into view. The flexibility of my ageing grey matter has not (yet) been an issue, but my fading eyesight has. It is becoming rather challenging to correctly identify the sub- and super-scripts used in the book, which as any mathematician can tell you are rather critical to the meaning. I rather fear I may have to face up to my age (something I can usually avoid) and acquire either a pair of reading glasses or a magnifying glass. Oh, the indignity of it! Despite this unwelcome hint of time’s wingèd charity hurrying near (a Marvellous phrase), I continue in my steadfast refusal to wear anything made of fleece. Some standards I plan to cling on to, by my very cuticles if necessary.
So, despite my best endeavours (which apparently now have much the same meaning as my reasonable endeavours – under the law of England and Wales, at least) I seem to have inadvertently taken on two life changes at the turn of the year. How will my delicate self-image survive? Still, at least I can still easily exceed 1000 words when trying to knock off a brief post – so there is some continuity remaining in my life.