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V. good

New Year’s resolutions:

1. No more TV IQ tests that expose one’s innumeracies and estimate one’s intelligence at somewhere between a One Nation voter and a newt.
2. No more Big Brother, Survivor, Wild On, or suchlike fooleries, on doctor’s orders.
3. Ration Passions to one viewing a month; won’t miss anything of the plot at all, since it takes weeks for one day to elapse in their timewarp.
4. Take up another hobby using whatever fingers left from the leadlighting class.
5. Discontinue pottery because of family’s cruel remarks and wimpish complaints about clay in the kitchen sink.
6. Take up smoking.

The last is possibly surprising for some readers, and I may or may not do this—but I am feeling quite sorry for smokers at the moment, pariahed and exiled, sneaking furtive drags in the roaring gales or stinging sun outside restaurants, workplaces and even pubs. There are hard, clever people around who’d like to make fags so expensive (even illegal) that they might become as attractive as all the other illegal drugs and form another useful income stream for criminals. In my teaching days, I always gravitated to the smokers’ staffroom (in the days when they had such things) because they laughed more and swore more and tended to be members of the union. Non-smokers weren’t always wowsers, and included wonderful, even ordinary folk, but one thing you could bet the hedge fund on was that whatever wowsers there were on staff wouldn’t be found in the smokers’ staffroom. Perhaps, since so many of my loved ones are nicotine slaves, I have finally become corrupted by the passive smoke: I love the smell of a cigar or pipe. Remember that immortal line from Black Books?

Huffy customer: Do you realise I’m breathing all your cigarette smoke?
Bernard: Don’t worry about it: just buy me a drink some time.

Now there’s a series that would bear repeating.

Anyway, if you’re trying to give up something, try giving up the telly. The happiest winter of my entire life, as I think I have probably told you before, was when the boys were 12 and six respectively and we turned off the TV and read The Lord of the Rings aloud to each other. Some of their pals found out and would come round and listen too. Long car rides became sunny times of wonder, school holidays full of fierce paper sword fights and detailed map-making. The very memory of it has moved me to create the following lines of what my Grandma Hughes used to call ‘doggery’.

Oh the TV the TV is such a great thing
It makes us forget how to dance or to sing
We sit facing into the eye of its storm
Deluding ourselves that its glare keeps us warm
And when we attempt to escape that dead eye
We find we’re addicted without knowing why
Oh turn the damn thing off and go out and play
Or start a petition or clean up the bay
Pester a pollie or write to the editors
Burgle a bad bank and pay off your creditors
Learn a new skill for the sheer love of doing
And tell bastard bosses you’re thinking of suing
March in the streets and demand better rule
Bake scones and eat them while playing the fool
Run outside laughing and feed all the birds
Tell politicians you think they’re all turds
Then start up a new movement, just for the brave
And face down your foes with an insolent wave
Don’t be made-over by vanity’s lackeys
Start a new shabby clothes label called Tackys
Applicable only to second-hand wares
That you gather with joy from garage sales and fairs
Invent a new love drug that makes people kind
And slip it in Howard & Ruddock’s cold mind
Stand up for refugees kept in detention
Give the world’s forests some precious attention
Look what you do when you turn off the teev
Read to the kiddies and learn how to weave
Starting late always feels better than never
Do all this just to feel ever so clever
Your dogs give the clue here resignedly waiting
For walkies while you sit here coagulating
And though this small song isn’t all the solution
Make part of it your New Year’s resolution        

Juliette Hughes is a freelance writer.



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