new year's resolution ideas

January means a fresh start – so why not seize the opportunity to take up a hobby, learn a new skill, join a club or class, or finally tackle that project that you've been putting off? Here's your guide to finding a New Year's resolution in London that you'll actually stick to

  • New year, new you

    Jump to it: do something new this year!

  • Write a book – but make sure you finish it
    Rebecca Taylor, Time Out’s news editor writes: ‘In the spirit of the New Year I’ve decided to give my Great Unfinished Novel one final shot. I’ve enlisted the help of two of London’s top literary consultancies – agencies which offer writers advice at all stages of the writing process. Helen Corner from Cornerstones and Rebecca Swift at Literary Consultancy offered to give me feedback on the first 80 pages of my manuscript, as well as the synopsis. The detail involved in the feedback was impressive, ranging from suggestions to alternative plot twists to the suitability of certain words and even punctuation. Literary Consultancy offers creative writing lessons and an online mentoring scheme, and is running a writing holiday in Spain next May. Cornerstones runs self-edit workshops and welcomes authors looking for feedback on first chapters and synopses, or who just want to talk through their novel, with no obligation to use their services.’
    www.cornerstones.co.uk
    www.literaryconsultancy.co.uk

    Grow a windowbox garden
    This year marks the seventieth anniversary of food rationing in Britain when the country was asked to ‘dig for victory’ – and with climate change a real concern and the recession biting into wallets, growing your own makes a lot of sense. The smallest container or windowbox can be put to growing use – miniature vegetables and climbers like green beans are good salad fare. Plant onions and broad beans (under cloches to fend off the cold) now. For info and tips on windowbox gardens see www.seedtoplate.co.uk and http://littlegreenspace.com.

    Get in the saddle
    Many adults who think they can ride horses can’t. Learn to ride – properly – at this city farm, in an incongruous setting: the middle of Vauxhall.Vauxhall City Farm, 165 Tyers St, SE11 5HS (020 7582 4204/ www.vauxhallcityfarm.org). Private lessons: £25 for 30 mins; £37 for 45 mins (Wed & Thur evenings only). Available after Jan 7.

    Nourish your mind
    There’s no better place in London for educative but unstuffy self-improvement than the School of Life on Marchmont Street. In January they are offering classes on how to make love last, how to cope with your family and how to be cool. On January 16 and 17, they are planning a workshop weekend on work, in which they promise to help find ways to make it ‘fulfilling, creative and adventurous’. On January 30 there’s ‘A Voyage in Epicuriosity’, a gastronomic tour of London’s kitchens and food shops. On February 6, there’s a London science walk called the ‘Eureka Moments Tour’ and if you’re in need of some post-Christmas cheer, try Barbara Ehrenreich’s sermon on ‘Optimism’ on January 10. For full details of all these events, see www.theschooloflife.com.

    Become a wine expert
    Definitely the best way to get real wine confidence – and meet like-minded people to share your quest to become an accomplished oenophilist – is to take a course. Michael Schuster’s beginners’ class is informal but informative – and for two hours a week for six weeks will guarantee you a decent drink. Several, in fact. To test your wine knowledge in the field, places that use Enomatics are a good bet – these machines help preserve open bottles longer, so they can open a wider range of them. Chris Galvin’s new restaurant, Galvin La Chapelle (www.galvinrestaurants.com), has them – and great food, too. Negozio Classica (www.negozioclassica.co.uk) has a titchy bar area and lovely Italian wines that they sell off-licence as well. Terroirs (www.terroirswinebar.com) is owned by one of London’s best wine distributors, Les Caves de Pyrene, so its selection is fantastic. For info on Michael Schuster’s courses, see www.schuster.f9.co.uk.
    Galvin La Chapelle, 35 Spital Square, E1 6DY (020 7299 0400).
    Negozio Classico, 238 Westbourne Grove, W11 2QA (7034 0005).
    Terroirs, 5 William IV St, WC2N 4DW (020 7036 0660).

    Expand your art-history horizons
    Know what you like, but don’t know much about it? The National Gallery has a free 60-minute ‘Taster Tour’, which starts every day at 11.30am and 2.30pm from the Sainsbury Wing Information Desk.
    The National Gallery, Trafalgar Square, WC2N 5DN (020 7747 2885/ www.nationalgallery.org.uk).

    Start your own football team
    If this doesn’t get you off the sofa, nothing will. Start a five-a-side team, join Powerleague’s national Johnstone’s Paint League and, if you get through to the final, step on to the pitch at Wembley Stadium where the final will be played on March 28 2010.
    Powerleague, 26 Euston Centre, NW1 3JL (7383 9100/ www.powerleague.co.uk). £77 peak; £60 off-peak.

    Learn to sing… properly!
    Karaoke is all well and good, but if you really want to find your voice, join a choir. A good place to start is a community choir such as Lewisham Choral Society (www.lewishamchoralsociety.org.uk) or Highgate Choral Society (www.hcschoir.com) and Crouch End Festival Chorus (www.cefc.org.uk), all of which have top reputations. New group Vocality Singing (www.vocalitysinging.co.uk) offers lunchtime singing at St George’s Bloomsbury and St Giles Cripplegate. No experience is required and it is holding a free workshop on January 11. Vox Box (http://voxbox.eu) in Camden offers private lessons as well as a regular ‘Friday Sing’ group session where you can bash out all your jukebox favourites. Meanwhile, the BBC is running a national project to encourage people to join choirs and sing the ‘Hallelujah Chorus’ (www.bbc.co.uk/sing).

    Qualify as a life-saver
    Sign up as a volunteer first aider or youth leader for St John Ambulance, give up one evening or day a month helping out at events and learn to save lives. As a volunteer, the courses are free.St John Ambulance, 27 St John’s Lane, EC1M 4BU (08700 104950/ www.sja.org.uk).

    Fast-track your way to self-defence
    You don’t need to spend years mastering the Israeli self-defence discipline krav maga to be able to use it effectively – the system builds on a person’s instinctive reactions when being attacked. Trial classes take place at the University of Westminster central campus, 309 Regent St,W1B 2UW (6.30-8pm), or at 41 Mackennal St, NW8 7DH (7-9pm). £15. See www.krav-maga.org.uk.

    Learn to shoot
    Using a gun doesn’t have to mean massacring pheasants – or even owning your own shotgun. Load your weapon and go on the pull at a clay-pigeon shooting range.
    The A1 Shooting Ground, A1 Barnet Bypass, near Rowley Green, EN5 3HQ (020 8441 9986/ www.a1sg.co.uk). 10am-4pm Wed-Sat; 10am-1pm Sun.

    Make your own accessories
    A world away from home-economics classes and repetitive stitching – learn to sew by making a sweet tote bag. This absolute beginners’ course covers bobbin-winding, machine-threading and the sewing of seams.
    The Make Lounge, 49-51 Barnsbury St, N1 1TP (020 7609 0275/ www.themakelounge.com). £43 (includes materials). Next course: 6.30-10pm Jan 12.

    Give something back
    There’s more to volunteering than delivering meals to the infirm (although that’s really important). Government website ‘Do-it’ matches the things you enjoy doing with what charities need – the YHA is currently looking for photographers, for example; YouthNet needs student party organisers; and St Hilda’s Community Centre needs a gardener. For more info see www.doit.org.uk.

    Brush up on butchery
    Legendary London butcher Allens of Mayfair runs beginners classes around the chopping block, covering the full gamut of blade techniques. Classes book up well ahead and cost £100 per person, including taking the meat home. The Ginger Pig also offers classes in pork, beef or lamb, which cover everything from perfect cutting techniques to sausage making. (All classes £125, with a 5 per cent discount if you book two classes, or a 10 per cent discount for three.)
    Allens of Mayfair, 117 Mount St, W1K 3LA (020 7499 5831/ www.allensofmayfair.co.uk). Classes are every Wed at 1pm.
    The Ginger Pig, 8-10 Moxon St, W1U 4EW (01751 460091/ www.thegingerpig.co.uk).

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