You are not permitted to download, save or email this image. Visit image gallery to purchase the image.
New Year’s resolutions which, in my experience, tend to concentrate on deprivation of one sort or another, seem pointless.
Not repeating any of the idiocies of this year would be as close to one as I could get.
Top of my list, mainly because events are still fresh in my mind, would be not to end next year scrabbling around in either my recycling bin or the toilet cistern.
For two years in a row, Christmas Eve has seen me diving headlong into my wheelie bin. Last year, I returned home from church at Glenaven in the early hours and noted there was an empty beer can on the hearth beside a crumb-laden plate. In an unaccustomed fit of tidiness, I swept the plate into the sink and disposed of the can. Just before retiring for the night, I realised the can and plate had been left for the benefit of my grandson as "evidence" of Santa’s visit.
Since my wheelie bin was almost empty, retrieving said can and restoring it to the hearth was not simple. (Had I been a beer drinker, I would have taken the easy way out and polished off another one.)
This Christmas Eve, my delve into the bin came as part of a half-hour search for the television remote control - I thought I might have thrown it out with a pile of newspapers. It was not to be. After I had turned the house upside down, the offending item was found lying innocently under an envelope on the couch.
Regarding the toilet cistern, I have lost track of how many times I have been forced to attend to its inner workings. We have become used to the fact it is ridiculously slow to fill, but after Christmas Day it had reverted to its old nonsense of leaking into the bowl before waiting for the cistern to fill. Boxing Day morning, gearing up for another family gathering, I found myself faffing about with a screwdriver and buckets of water, trying to work out what was going on. I won’t bore you further with the details, but I managed to sort it out.
Every time there is a drama with the toilet, I tell myself it is time to replace it, but there is something reassuring about the decades-old copper cistern with its clunky flush valve mechanism (cleverly held in place by dental floss). I am the only person in the family who feels this affection for the toilet but then nobody else shares my intimate understanding of it. (I had no choice but to replace the much younger plastic cistern upstairs some years ago after an irreplaceable piece of plastic in its inner workings broke.)
Rather than making impossible pronouncements about next year, perhaps I could just revisit my wishes for this year.
They included a fond hope for a fresh commitment to openness from the Government. I was looking forward to the ombudsman’s revisiting Dame Beverley Wakem’s "Not a Game of Hide and Seek", an overall review of central government official information practices.
Chief ombudsman Peter Boshier’s look at the 12 agencies involved, the Ministry of Health among them, will include assessing their resilience under pressure or unusual circumstances, such as the Covid-19 pandemic.
He had been expected to report back in the middle of last year, then this year, but it has been further delayed until next year.
His aim is to highlight good practices, identify any vulnerabilities and help lift the overall official information practice across the public sector. That can’t come too soon.
This year, moved to point out to the Southern District Health Board that the 20-day limit to respond to an Official Information Act request was a maximum time, not a "nice-to-have" and that if it was to extend the time it must advise of that and the reasons for it, I was thanked by its corporate solicitor for reminding the organisation of the ombudsman’s guide on this.
Good grief. There should be no need to remind any organisation of the rules around time requirements which are basic to the OIA. (More than once, the board merely apologised to me for lateness.)
Something else I hoped for last year was the binning of the tedious, inaccurate and infantile "team of five million" expression.
No joy there either. Maybe I should just stick to daytime sleeping, spells of antisocial reading, and chucking back the leftover Christmas food.