Like MacArthur’s old soldiers, great hotels never die, they simply fade away. Sadly, this is the inevitable fate of Goa’s Taj Holiday Village at Fort Aguada, our December holiday destination for over a decade. The sine qua non for any fine hotel, particularly one that thrived on being a “party” destination, is its clientele. In this case, the celebrities and assorted movers and shakers that made Taj the place to see and be seen seem to have moved on, replaced by the crassly noveaux riche. Think leery fat men in white suits and gold chains, with the odd Russian budget tourist completing the picture of tragic decline. The last straw was a tasteless New Year’s Eve entertainment act featuring three scantily clad, overweight and utterly vapid Ukrainian burlesque dancers. Time to move on.
The fading glory of the Taj notwithstanding, sunny Goa was fun as always, with the usual combination of friends, family and assorted “old acquaintances” contributing to the richness of the experience. London’s fifty shades of January grey beckon, I suppose the only consolation being, as the poet Shelley says, “if winter is here can spring be far behind”.
The New Year is inevitably a time when we wax alternately nostalgic and reflective, as though the arbitrary break in the calendar should have some meaningful effect on fortune or fate. Of course it doesn’t, except for the fact that enough people subscribe to that line of reasoning so that it feels as if it actually matters. Social scientists say that this affinity for New Year’s resolutions actually has a name – “fresh start effect.” In their paper, The Fresh Start Effect: Temporal Landmarks Motivate Aspirational Behavior, researchers Hengchen Dai and Katherine Milkman from The Wharton School and Jason Riis from Harvard Business School attempt to measure this phenomenon. Not surprisingly, Google searches for terms such as “diet” and “gym visits” all increase markedly following temporal landmarks such as New Year’s Day or birthdays. The researchers posit “that these landmarks demarcate the passage of time, creating many new mental accounting periods each year, which relegate past imperfections to a previous period, induce people to take a big-picture view of their lives, and thus motivate aspirational behaviours.”
This is sort of interesting and fairly obvious, but in my view complete bullshit. According to a Times study, the average New Year resolution is broken by January 24. I always wonder about these studies, but the point stands; meaningful and committed goals are invariably set in response to trigger events, not phases of the moon, and the truly disciplined do not wait for a ball to drop in Times Square to get going. For the rest of us, Oscar Wilde has it right. “Good resolutions are simply cheques that men draw on a bank where they have no account.” Sometimes dates do matter, most notably in financial markets where a combination of psychological and technical factors make the “January effect” a measurable phenomenon. Mostly, however, year end machinations of the mind tend to be exercises in mental masturbation. Resolutions are invariably hopelessly cliched – “lose weight”, “work out more”, “work less”, and “spending time with family” all feature prominently on the list. Perhaps my “wtf” reaction is a function of being a living anti-cliche. Shedding a few pounds would put me on the wrong side of anorexia, my ageing joints struggle to keep pace with my gym routine, I really should be working more, and my family wishes I got a life and left them alone. Maybe I should resolve to spend more time with my dog.
Over the years, another one of my pet gripes with New Year’s Eve has been the saccharine ritual of holding hands and singing Auld Lang Syne on the midnight hour. Apparently even the Chinese do it now, though India mercifully sticks with the latest Bollywood “item number”, Radha being the choice for 2013. Wtf does that Gaellic shit mean anyway? But then, following an accidental visit to Jimi Hendrix’s former London home, I discovered this remarkable rendition (http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=PwTO54hXu3U) that changed my view completely. I’m not sure what Robert Burns would think, but this is vintage Hendrix improvising at his irrepressible best. Enjoy it – the Fender Stratocaster kicks in after a minute – and in 2014 resolve to simply “rock on”. Unlike those other resolutions, at least you’ll have fun trying.
“Radha on the dance floor!!!”