The TV presenter and comedian advises readers as Weekend’s agony aunt
Dear Graham I’m dreading New Year. My wife has insisted on throwing a dinner party — a hellish combination of grim relatives, dreary neighbours and lonely spinsters. She has talked of nothing else through Christmas and planned the most absurd extravaganza, with Champagne sorbets between courses (of which there are a cardiac-arresting seven) and matching wines with each dish.
Extremely reluctantly I have agreed to part with a few of my Montecristo cigars, which are going to be served after dinner along with my favourite Armagnac and, no doubt, the inevitable grim regiment of herbal teas.
I am threatening to go to bed before the first stroke of midnight. Why must one socialise at New Year? Surely the best approach is to retire early with PG Wodehouse and a stiff whisky?
Peregrine D, Dorset Dear Peregrine I cannot believe that there is anyone on the planet who hasn’t seen A Christmas Carol — even The Muppets have done a version. Stop being such a Scrooge. Your wife is merely trying to lay on a special evening to mark the passing of another year for a group of waifs and strays who are perhaps very grateful for the invitation.
I will admit that it sounds like hell on earth. I think Champagne sorbet stopped being classy when Jordan served it at her wedding. But the point is that your wife’s heart sounds like it’s in the right place, while yours sounds like it doesn’t exist.
As bad as this dinner party might be, it will only be improved by you going to bed early if you enter into it in your present state of mind. There is no mandatory reason to socialise, but you have married a woman who clearly enjoys company — possibly to avoid being alone with you. Make a deal with your wife: if you get into the party mood and support her culinary fiesta, then next year she’ll allow you to take the whisky-andWooster route.
Laugh at bad jokes, compliment the chef, hand around your stinking cigars freely. Next year truly will be a happy one because you won’t have to do it all again. Dear Graham I’m writing this from my banker boyfriend’s computer in St Lucia (he’s still asleep). We’re both on holiday and it’s all going really well, with lots of snorkelling and romantic dinners. But he hasn’t shown any sign of proposing. I feel desperate about it. We’ve been going out for three years and I love him to bits and want kids — preferably several (I’m 29). Before leaving London, I spent a fortune on leg waxes, body scrubs and facials, not to mention Liz Hurley sarongs and bikinis, and nothing has happened. It’s so disappointing!
We have four more days to go. Do you have any tips on how to return home with a ring on my finger? Dear Poppy Like cabs with a bright yellow light on New Year’s Eve, marriage proposals come along when you least expect them. You are having a wonderful holiday, so enjoy it. You are making yourself seem creepy and unattractive by complaining that your boyfriend has failed to follow a script that the poor man knows nothing about.
He thinks he is spending Christmas with his girlfriend in the sun, while you are busy having your life ruined. Which scenario is true? And why the urgency now? St Lucia may be a place for honeymoons, but I don’t see why he can’t propose to you at a bus stop in Peckham. All right, so the ring might get stolen, but you get my point.
So many people would love to be in your position, so be grateful for what you’ve got. Forcing your boyfriend into a proposal is never a good idea. The engagement might happen sooner but, trust me, so will the divorce.
Poppy S (West Indies) Dear Graham What is the point of New Year resolutions? Does anyone stick to them?
This year I have decided to: a) drink a lot of Champagne in January; b) eat Gü chocolate soufflés whenever I feel like it; and c) read as many trashy novels as I can lay my hands on.
Do you think I’ll be more successful sticking to my resolutions than my more virtuous friends who opt for gym membership, teetotalism and no carbs after 6pm? Or are even the more hedonistic resolutions doomed to fail?
What’s your view on the whole New Year thing? Sackcloth and ashes, or roses and Ruinart? Dear Alexia I’ve said it before but, as we head towards another new year, now might be a good time to remind people that life is not an exam. There is no celestial examination board that is going to grade your choices. You could never eat a slice of white bread again or become a fat drunk. No one cares.
The whole idea of New Year resolutions is about self-improvement, not altering how others perceive you. In one sense, I do agree with you that resolutions — any resolutions — are doomed to fail. Why? Because life is not lived in absolutes. There are enough physical, emotional and financial constraints in all our lives without inflicting self-imposed ones.
Eat a Gü chocolate soufflé by all means, but do it because you enjoy it, not because you have to. It seems to me that somehow your head has become stuck in school mode. Here’s a New Year resolution you might try to keep: treat the rest of your life as one long gap year.
Alexia G, west London