A view backstage at Beverley Minster

A New Year Message

 The end of one year – according to some the end of a decade – prompts Mister Minster to consider the future.
Now is the time of year for new resolutions, for good resolutions. But what could I possibly improve over and above what I already am?
Looking at myself with a clear eye I have to say that there’s not much wrong with me that I can change for myself – and I refuse to go down the Botox route.
But it’s the time of year when those around will have expected a portentous statement about what I intend to do differently over the next 12 months. So I decided to put the whole question to an intense scrutiny and see where that led me.
Let’s look at this sensibly. The whole purpose of resolutions at the start of a new year is to improve yourself or change some of your behaviour that you feel is wrong. This is a very laudable aim, a form of rebirth into a better person, which is part of the basic Christian message after all (although we irritating Christians put a few caveats and boundaries on it).
This change is not intended to be a selfish exercise, a resolve based on the idea that: “I want to get fitter so that I can be more attractive to members of the opposite/same sex and have more fun”. That’s not really the right motive, or at least it doesn’t feel right to me.
Although maybe I should get out more.
Regardless of my viewpoint it seems logical that, if you’re genuine about changing yourself then you obviously have to go through a process that includes a clear-headed look at yourself, analysing where you have failed in the past and could (or should) do better. If you’re serious then it also logically means that you need to examine how to make a successful resolution that will stick.
(I suspect my greater-than-normal use of the world ‘logical’ is based on the fact that I received a Christmas DVD of the newest Star Trek movie and I’ve been channelling the new Spock ever since).
It seems to me that the best form of New Year resolution (and, paradoxically, the one that is probably easiest to keep) is where you vow to change the entire world, rather than just the shape of your anatomy ‘twixt neck and legs.
This may seem a ridiculous statement at first glance, but the more I examined it the more true it felt.
I considered how many times I resolved to lose weight, give up smoking, cut back on drink, become a nicer person, take up regular exercise, be more thoughtful to my wife, pay more attention to other people or stay awake during sermons.
I had to admit that I haven’t got a particularly good track record in maintaining self-improvements much later than January 2nd.  
In my own defence I should point out that there are at least three of the items on this list that I have successfully accomplished – although never as a result of a be-sozzled vow on 31st December. 
But there are several much bigger vows that I accomplished easily – relocating my family to Yorkshire, saving the world from economic meltdown and climate catastrophe (sorry, I appear to be channelling Gordon Brown now).
(Oh, no, I can’t be, I’ve just said ‘sorry’.)
Hahahaha – bit of satire there.
No, I mean things like getting a new bin to improve our recycling efforts, getting a new job to reduce the amount of time and petrol I waste in my car, finding out more about the things I buy and avoiding unethical products, thus helping the world become a better place.
And once I remembered those I realised what was different about them – my resolution had been tied in with a practical method of achieving it.
Suddenly it became clear how to form a sensible resolution that might actually achieve something – not just for me but for other people as well – possibly even the whole planet – be practical.
And so it was that I considered the flowers in the fields, the birds in the air and all the rest around me to settle on my great purpose for 2010 – just what did I think needed to be improved? What had really got me angry in 2009?
And then it struck me. Pringles.
Yes, the diminishing size of the processed snack that trades under the name of Pringles is an evil that should be confronted at every turn. It’s a symptom of a rottenness that should be expunged before we are all contaminated.
Basically, it represents the nasty, cheap-minded, quality-cutting, cheating, thieving, spiv-like approach of Ebenezer Scrooge: the penny-pinching, heartlessness and sense of unearned superiority over the common people that characterises a soulless individual who knows the cost of everything and the value of nothing.
This year they’ve been at it like gleeful gannets, swooping over processes, products and people and using the excuse of the recession to chip their little grammes of flesh from the quality of our lives.
Look at the modern Pringle tube:  it’s smaller than it was. (If you don’t believe me try and find an old tube – you can slide the new one through it like a toy telescope. The curved bits of crunchy thingy inside the tubes are therefore smaller as well, but you haven’t seen the price cut proportionately, have you?
I remember sad old football fans complaining that Wagon Wheels were much larger back in the 1970s when they, along with a cup of hot Bovril, were a staple part of watching your local team from the terraces, and I laughed at their distorted memories. Then ‘Life on Mars’ appeared on BBC and, by jove, these old buffers had been right all along. The cheapskate confectioners had reduced the size by more than half over the years with their budget-trimming. The Wagon Wheel experience had been devalued in the name of a fraction of a penny profit per sale.
There is someone walking this fair planet of ours who proudly boasts that they researched and implemented the reduction in size of sticking plasters by one millimetre each way to save their employer money. Remember that individual the next time you try, and fail, to stick a plaster over a bleeding cut and curse them for their inhumanity.
There’s a pub I know where, instead of putting a few pennies on the price of spirits, the landlord reduced the measure from 35ml to 25ml without telling anyone. That’s the same kind of uncaring contempt for other people that is a complete opposite of the Christian ideal – it’s also totally unfair and I’m sick of putting up with it.
So that is what I shall address as my New Year Resolution. If I think I’m being ripped off, ignored or generally treated with contempt by an institution, a manufacturer, organisation, council or whatever then I’m not going to mildly shrug my shoulders and put up with it.
I’m going to complain, I’m going to make other people aware of what I’m complaining about and I’m going to try and make the people who make these nasty decisions see that there are consequences to their actions.
If we all do the same we might actually stop the toe-rags from abusing our faith and taking us for granted in the future.
There’s a good precedent for our actions – Jesus did it to the moneychangers in the Temple so I think it’s something he’d bless – and that’ll help me keep going through the rest of 2010.
So I’ve decided to wish some people a very unhappy New Year.
First published December 2009 


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