A slightly re-written version of my Jan 2013 Surrey Life column. How the black majesty of winter’s bleakest month became just another cog in the never-ending retail cycle.
I’m not going to pretend I like January. It’s horrible.
The feasting and bonhomie of Christmas and New Year have gone. The weather is grim and wet, and the county’s poor, huddled commuters gather once more to board their virus-filled trains, silent and miserable in the morning darkness.
You don’t enjoy January, you get through it. Or at least, you used to.
In recent years it's changed. Instead of retreating into the warmth of our homes, venturing out only to work and buy necessities, we are being encouraged to treat the entire month as a giant weight-loss opportunity.
The fitness DVD adverts start on Boxing Day. The newspapers start using the d-words - detox and diet - in the run up to New Year.
Why do we do it to ourselves? Why massively over-indulge through the Christmas period and then pretend we’re going to act like ascetic monks from the first Monday of the New Year?
Because we’re told to, by people who stand to make lots of money from it. Fatten up, little piggies, now join a gym and get on the treadmill.
Last year my producer Emma ran away from the BBC to take a job with the charity Alcohol Concern. Emma is a wonderful human being, but went up in my estimation considerably when she told me that during her interview she asked if the staff ever went for a drink. That could have gone badly for her, but it didn't.
Emma’s big project for 2013 is a campaign aimed at encouraging us to dry out for the whole of January. The idea being you try not to drink any booze for a month, whilst people essentially bet you do, by way of sponsorship. Any money raised goes towards helping people with ongoing alcohol problems.
I’m not going to do it.
It’s taken me a long time to realise moderation is a laudable aim. In the run up to Christmas that means giving mince pies a hard stare, rather than a cheeky, conspiratorial wink. In January, it hopefully means I don’t have to join the temporary teetotallers, forever boiling strange lumps of vegetable matter in the office microwave whilst pretending to enjoy their herbal tea. I’ve been there, and I never want to do it again.
My New Year’s wish for the readers of Surrey Life is that together we stop doing what we’re told to and remember the true meaning of January - headaches, mild depression and whisky.
February's edition of Surrey Life is on sale now for £3.25.
December 2012 - on doing more stand up comedy