A TRIAL rebrand by high street stationers WH Smith has occasioned confusion and derision. It’s dropped the “Smith” from the name, leaving WHS which, being white on a blue background, looks like “NHS”.

As well as the new branding, the shops’ signs advertise books, stationery, greeting cards, newspapers and “convenience”. Wait, what, there are lavatories?

The trial has hitherto been restricted to 10 shops and, doubtless, will have to be scrapped. But poor old WH Wotsname had to do something. Or so I thought. Whenever I’m in the city, I usually pop in, for notebooks, pens, 20th century stuff. They also sell magazines and books: how quaint. Sometimes, I’ve been the only customer and, often, there’ll be nobody on the tills, so you must serve yourself. It’s also quite dark in there. Not good retail practice: Markies and John Lewis know the value of decent lighting.

But while such experiences have caused me to wake in the night worrying about the venerable institution, it says here that revenues at its airport and train station shops increased by 36 per cent to £101million over the year to 31 August. It’s only on the high street that sales were down: by a whopping one per cent. So why the rebranding? No one trusts a name change. It’s generally the province of rough pubs trying to erase the memory of a recent fatal stabbing.

The WH Smith experiment provides a cautionary tale for those planning a personal rebrand for 2024. Not that I suppose many of you are planning a name change. After several people misheard me on the phone, I have long wanted to become Brad McNeil, instantly changing my first name from someone who sounds like he steals from shops to someone heroic with a jutting jaw. But I lack the gumption. I also suspect my friends would laugh. Which they do already. New Year is a time to rebrand ourselves – meditate more, be kinder, keep fit, don’t sweat the small stuff. All wholesome stuff. But maybe you need to be less, not more, virtuous: stop mucking about, stop laughing, stop being nice, start getting serious. It’s dog-eat-dog out there, and you better start barking and peeing on lampposts.

Alas, nature and nurture ensure we remain pretty much the same. We are all automatons. How many times have we had to drive somewhere different but have unconsciously followed the same route we take every day?

A month ago, I decided to have breakfast at the kitchen table instead of at my armchair, where I kept spilling marmalade and Honey Monster Puffs onto my laptop. And, every single morning, I have gone straight to my armchair. I’ll never learn.

I get it from my late dad. I’d tell him: “You will never learn to shut doors, will you, wretched progenitor of my bamboozled presence on this planet or sphere.” And he never did. You are as stuck with your personality as you are with your face. But, just as you can get off your face, you can escape your personality. I’ve picked up good habits over the years and, every morning, my first 15 minutes is spent – in bed – doing a form of meditation engendered by stretches and breathing exercises.

It’s the happiest time. It began as an attempt to recreate a yoga nidra experience I once had in a class. No peculiar positions, just a meditation that involves scanning your whole body, anchoring it to the bed or floor and then … floating off.

Some mornings, it works a treat. The nearest physical experience is swinging in a hammock, hanging suspended between earth and sky. It’s a good resolution: float more.

Oddly enough, often afterwards I feel grouchy, having returned from the ethereal realm to this imperfect world of burnt toast and lost spectacles.

I find I start most days quite well. And then I get up.

Fit for purpose
HERE’S a profound-style thought for the New Year. Now that we’re all individuals, religion has broken down, and there’s no overarching morality on which we can agree, we are lacking a purpose larger than ourselves.

In the past, prime examples would be the army or your country, even to the extent of laying down your life. Then there was your church. For some people, it can be their football team, or even a workplace.

You want it to prosper and you try to make it work. It isn’t all about you. It’s about something bigger.

These days, though, such opportunities are fewer. All the religions are rubbish. Loyalty to institutions, perhaps even the army, counts for little. Devotion to country can be dangerous; that’s if you can work out which is your country.

The Herald: Football fansFootball fans

You do see devotion at the football, but that’s out of control. People cheering loudly and all sorts.

You don’t want to become fanatical about anything. If you make a football team your main purpose in life, you’d have to question your priorities.

It’ll be 2024 in a minute. So make it the year you adopt a purpose, even a cause.

But – please – nothing nutty. That is to say, nothing to do with sex, politics, religion or football. Good luck, folks!

What we have learned this week:

The Herald: A survey found 99% of those asked wouldn’t date a dude who kept the controversial amphibiansA survey found 99% of those asked wouldn’t date a dude who kept the controversial amphibians

Frogs unlikely to spawn love
Folk are funny about what they want to see and not see in a potential partner. And the thing they want most not to see is a frog. A Kitty Bingo survey found 99% of those asked wouldn’t date a dude who kept the controversial amphibians. Spiders and snakes put yir tea oot tae. Folk are so picky.

Sea reason
The Red Sea may not have been parted by Moses but by a “meteorological phenomenon”, say Leicester Yoonie scientists. Powerful winds can lower water levels in one area while causing build-up downwind. Strong spring tides plus blustery breezes might also create a dry area. Actually, the Moses explanation still sounds the most feasible.

Customers fleeced
A cashmere sweater uses the fleece of up to six goats. Who knew? We learned this in the small print of a plea by John Lewis to avoid washing woollens. This is to help save yonder planet and because over-washing cashmere can damage it. Mind you, if cashmere causes such grief, why sell it?

Waist of space
Average male waistband is now 38.5in. More than a third of men, up from a fifth in the 90s, have a “very high waist circumference”, i.e. at least 40in. Average female waist is now 35in, up from 32 in the 90s. Tam Fry, of the National Obesity Forum, said folk were “eating as though it is Christmas every day”. Yep. Taking the Slade song too literally.

Tao much?
The King and Queen make up yin o’ yon yin and yang thangs, yah? So says Camilla’s sister, Annabel: “They are polar opposites.” She was speaking on a documentary which showed Camilla in jeans and Charles in tweed jacket and tie. Charles should have said: “Yin is not amused.”

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