TRY harder. Walk more. Eat less. Be kind. There – I’ve just saved you a small fortune. It’s the time of year for self-improvement.

The bleakest month and we try to cheer ourselves up by going for martyrdom – lose weight, take more exercise, ditch the booze, give up smoking, floss regularly, visit Granny and altogether be a better, nicer, thinner, healthier person.

As if January weren’t miserable enough already… A quick check on Amazon shows 674,495 books on what might be loosely called “self help”. If they all worked, what a perfect world it would be. There are books on physical, mental, spiritual, emotional well being. Books to make you think happy, think successful, think thin, think as a winner.

There are books to discover your inner child, your inner chimp, your inner genius, your place in the universe, your purpose in life.

And in case you think all this is a bit wishy-washy there are some books with very sweary titles, and bold colours to appeal to no- nonsense, sweary sort of guys whose masculinity would be threatened by a helpful sort of title in a delicate pastel shade.

No doubt some of these books have helped a number of people over the years. On the other hand, many more books have stayed, unopened on the bedside table, their very covers a silent reproach adding to the burden of guilt.

When it comes down to it, a book can’t change your life unless you really want to change and are prepared to put in some effort. In most cases it doesn’t involve anything tricky or technical or terribly complicated.

The answer usually boils down to much the same thing: Try harder. Walk more. Eat less. Be kind.

That covers an awful lot of eventualities and I’ve just saved you £8.99 plus postage and all that effort of reading.

Don’t mention it. Just put the money you would have spent into the charity box and you’re already on your way to being a nicer you.

The Northern Echo:

Tributes outside George Michael's house in Highgate, North London, UK, following the singer's death. Picture: Ben Stevens/PA Wire

MAYBE like George Michael… Mystery still surrounds the singer’s death but we’re learning a lot more about his generosity. We knew about his many charity concerts but most stars do those, if only for the publicity. He gave millions to Childline and generous donations to many charities linked to friends or family.

But now we know George Michael also gave generously to random strangers whose stories touched him, such as a couple desperate for IVF, whose plight he heard about on a TV quiz show, or a student nurse working as a waitress to clear her debt, to whom he gave a £5,000 tip.

No one knew at the time. It wasn’t done to make him look good but just out of kindness. He volunteered at a homeless shelter too, on condition they didn’t tell anyoane.

A shame we had to wait until he’s dead to know about it – but it’s a good way to be remembered.

IT’S one of those mysteries that I have yet to solve. Right up there with the meaning of life and why the train that’s always late when you’re on time, leaves on time only when you’re late.

Why do hotels fold the end of the loo rolls? Are you offended by an un-tucked-in end of the toilet roll? Or do you see it and sigh with satisfaction? Not as bad as those places that put great strips over the loo saying “Sanitised for your protection.” Always tricky when you don’t see them till it’s too late… Anyway, Swedish researchers have just worked out that ten million hours a year are spent making triangles at the end of toilet tissue. About as pointless as painting coal. Not doing it would save chambermaids about five minutes a day, half an hour a week.

And in a baffling world, would leave the rest of us with one less mystery to worry about.

ACTRESS Helen Mirren, said in an interview this week that her life has been “an endless litany of mistakes and missteps” – the wrong roles, the wrong men, missed opportunities.

Yet at 71 she’s at the top of her game, has won just about every possible acting award and is still considered a sex symbol.

Which reminds me of the truth of a card a friend once sent me: “I’ve learned so much from my mistakes, that I think I’ll make some more.”

Well, if it works for Helen Mirren…

CONGRATULATIONS to Janet Jackson, a first-time mother at the age of 50y and looking radiant. I wish her joy in her new son. But above all, I wish her lots and lots of energy…

ACCORDING to Tatler, some of the best posh names this year include Euripides, Npeter (the n is silent…), Uxorious and Wigbert for boys.

And for girls – Estonia, Hum, Yellow and Scar.

Aren’t you glad you never had posh parents?