Each age has deemed the new-born year the fittest time for festal cheer.
December 31, 2023 – Sir Walter Scott

I spent this Christmas doing nothing. Well, not quite nothing… On Christmas Day itself I went to a delightful restaurant and let them feed me and my guests. It was not quite as busy as usual but some things never change: the food (although I ate less of it), the Christmas cards (although I sent and received fewer of them), and the small gaggle of overseas tourists who cannot understand why the shops are not open.

The friends kindly returned my hospitality rather more lavishly on Boxing Day. A few buttons began to strain. Then two former students I had mentored wanted me to have dinner with them at their flat the day after that. They wanted to show me, I think, how they were now doing. And I wanted to see. The food was much healthier, a shrimp risotto, but sadly they made up for that with an abundance of wine. The final day, the Thursday, I went out to the country and had a much smaller lunch with little alcohol. Nevertheless, I still crawled into bed on my return and had an early night.

After all that, I then had the traditional and quieter few days before New Year, reading all the doom and gloom articles in the papers. I suspect the journalists pen these well before Christmas. We are invited to change our ways, warned that everything we eat and drink will kill us, given various health nostrums and treated to forecasts of doom and gloom scenarios for the year ahead. It had such an effect on me that when I read one article which had a positive view of 2024, I broke out into a hoarse cackle and returned to the four journalists of the apocalypse.

You know it is nearly over when you start having those feelings of guilt and hopelessness: guilt because you have not done any of those things you promised yourself would be done and hopelessness when you find yourself paralysed from doing them now. My list was long: a skeleton argument for the Court of Appeal, preparation for a new trial, writing a long overdue article, my accounts – worse than ever this year as we have to catch up on two years’ tax at once as someone needs money to spend – and getting my suits dry-cleaned.

When I had finally descended into complete stupor watching a series of Carry On…! films, I was startled to hear my doorbell ring. I was even more surprised to see Paddy Corkhill on the doorstep with a bottle of whisky. ‘It’s not New Year yet,’ I said. ‘And I’m not carrying a piece of coal,’ he responded. ‘I’m just bored out of my tiny mind, William. I’m meant to have had the holiday cottage renovated, taken the dog to the vet, written several thank-you letters, composed an advice for a solicitor and done the accounts. It’s two…’ ‘… years in one,’ we both said simultaneously.

Having sat down and polished off the mince pies with Wensleydale cheese, a delicious combination, and quaffed several whiskies we decided that we could not take any more of Carry On Up the Jungle and Paddy said we should play a parlour game. I was not convinced two were enough for charades so Paddy suggest NYR. ‘Never heard of it!’ I said. ‘New Year’s Resolutions,’ he replied. ‘Not ours, everybody else’s.’

It turned out to be quite fun. We took turns. ‘Provide food at court,’ said Paddy. ‘Pay us more money,’ I rejoined. ‘Index-link our fees.’ ‘Abolish the Criminal Procedure Rules.’ ‘Make the clerks work Saturdays.’ The tone of the resolutions began to deteriorate. ‘Let vets become GPs.’ ‘Read a case before the first day of trial.’ We both started corpsing. ‘Stop laughing at the judge’s jokes.’ ‘Do the annual Chambers GDPR test.’

We became uncontrollable at this stage. The GDPR test was a particular joke. If you could not pass that, you needed medical attention. Paddy produced a copy he had printed off his computer. The first question was ‘What do you do if you see confidential papers lying in a conference room?’ The multiple choices were (a) nothing; (b) read them yourself; or (c) tell the clerks immediately. ‘C,’ yelled Paddy. ‘Not after 5pm,’ I shouted back. We were now sitting on the floor banging our fists with tears running down our faces.

Paddy grabbed my hand. ‘Here’s one we’ll keep. Do this again, next year?’ ‘Yes,’ I said, noticing the bottle was now empty. I suspected I already knew the resolution that I would be making in the morning.