The TV pre­sen­ter and co­me­dian ad­vises read­ers as Week­end’s agony aunt

The Daily Telegraph - Saturday - - Wellbeing - Gra­ham Nor­ton

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

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