I WAS a couple of chapters into the book when I realised I was finding it rather enjoyable; indeed, recognised some of the characters from old Pat Roller days in the Daily Record.

We’d all have to take a turn as Pat ie patroller; driven around the city until the early hours, calling in at police stations and hospital porters’ cubby holes wearily asking if anything were happening.

There the gruesome, the tragic and sometimes the surreally comic, tales of the city at night were held up as pickings for early hours copy to be inserted into the latest issue.

The guys had to be careful, though, when introducing themselves to the punters as the much-beloved Pat Roller, after one became a night incident himself when floored by a drunk who said: ‘Nah, you’re no. I met him last week.’

In Ian Rankin’s Rebus, I remembered a dozen long forgotten names, and faces flashed through my mind from those days when we shared a strange, interdependent camaraderie…and often pub.

We fed off each other in wary black humoured jostling and eked out, or fed, bits of information which gave us page leads and splashes, carefully hiding the identities of the ‘contacts’ who supplied them.

Our over-inflated expenses – mainly drink – simply said ‘entertaining contacts’ and no-one would ever dream of asking for a name.

Only once was I caught out when working for the notoriously stingy BBC Scotland which demanded names if receipts were over a certain amount.

So, as I had indeed seen a certain Councillor and returned with a good story, I had no qualms about offering a hefty cocktail bar bill from the same day. He and I had had coffee earlier.

Called in by an old newspaper hand and now the core of the news gathering operation at the Beeb, George Sinclair, I was not asked to sit as he waved my receipt in front of me.

‘Bit hefty,’ he said.

‘I know,’ I said with a grimace. ‘But he was swallowing doubles like there was no tomorrow. And I got a great story.’

George gave me the death stare – I returned it what all the innocence I was good at mustering then.

‘Strange that,’ he said grimly. ‘He’s an alcoholic but he went on the wagon six months ago and has been doing great.’

I swear I didn’t falter as I switched to a pitiful expression. ‘Oh, poor, poor man. Well, he’s well and truly fallen off it now. I pray he’s not on a bender.’

George signed off my expenses. A long time later he told me he’d been so impressed by my quick-thinking cheek he could do nothing else.

Anyway Rebus. Not really being a fan of that genre but well aware of its popularity, I ordered the book simply because I read an interview with Ian Rankin where he said he’d given the now-retired, once hard-drinking, heavy smoker Rebus COPD – chronic obstructive pulmonary disease.

There wasn’t, sadly, much to console or inform me in Rebus’ dealings with it, beyond his inhaler use. I am obviously, at Stage 3, far further down the well than he.

But there was one revelatory moment when discussing it with a former colleague, dying from cancer, the term: ‘managed decline ‘was wryly used.

And those two words, dear readers, will be my buzz words for 2020 in the absence of the resolutions I never make for fear of tempting the fates. (Seriously? I think I know now that tempting them or placating them makes no bloody difference. But…just in case.)

Aren’t we all, after all, merely managing decline for most of our lives?

The ones pounding or cycling the city streets in lycra may race all they like in a bid to keep at peak performance. The sweating gym, carb-limited, supplement-boosting, turmeric-swallowing, smoothie-juicers, may glow all they can to hone and tone those still perfect bodies.

You may choose to do pilates, hot yoga, cool meditation, fasting retreats in the Austrian mountains where white clad ‘experts’ eat your thousands as you fast and chew each meagre allowed mouthful forty times.

You may book mark each, daily, major new story that shows yet another way to stave off cancer or dementia, the bogey-men fears of this century.

And as you mash your avocados with chillies and cream your hand-rolled, organic oats with almond milk, you will feel in control and you will feel that just one step ahead of your….fate.

But all the blessed Rankin has now shown me, as the footsteps have barely muddied this pristine year, is that you and me are merely managing decline.

I declined some years ago and I’m sure I’m way, way ahead of many of you, but, for now anyway, I feel quite energised to manage the rest of it.

So – back to the treadmill; the diaphragm breathing exercises, the daily 2ltrs of water etc etc and out of the slough of despondency.

And next time anyone asks, with that sideways tilt of the head and sweet smile, ‘How are you?’ I shall answer – 'managing decline'.

Just like you but in a slightly different way. Upwards and onwards.