So January shows her cold face again and we move into our lifeless and ennui-sodden post-Christmas slough of despond. Though the days are mercifully short, they are grey, heavy and wearing on the soul. Now one really feels the chill of winter.
It’s not even anything to do with the weatherman though – its a visceral and heartfelt season of reflection and near despair. The festivities are over and – unless we get a holiday in the sun booked quickly – its back to the drudgery of everyday existence.
Not watched the news for a week or so, not had to commute or do any real work, but the prospect of getting back into it is only slightly less welcome than the though of of being hit by a speeding car.
Where is all the possibility that should be whispering into my ear? Where is all the promise of the new – the sun on the horizon, the adventure and the fortune?
I’ve never been a quitter, hence my inability to stop drinking. But this year is slightly different. I don’t do new year’s resolutions. It’s all as much a cynical marketing ploy as mother’s and father’s days as far as I’m concerned – the chance to sell gym memberships, organic food and exercise equipment that won’t see any use beyond the 1st of February. But this change of year has brought about an unbidden sense of contemplation and evaluation. My father always jokes that “Every day is another nearer the gaping pit!” In middle-age, however this is less amusing and has come to resemble a dire warning.
Just looked at the pages in my notebook as I write this and remembered a time at school when it was a relief to come to the end of one page of ‘foolscap’ paper (does anyone call it that anymore?)
A quick consultation of the dictionary app on my phone says that it’s chiefly British, is also called ‘foolscap octavo’ and sometime ‘foolscap quarto’ when used in a book. The name dates from 1690-1700 and is so-called due to the watermark of a fool’s cap used on such paper. Needless to say that I saw no such ornamentation on the paper at my comprehensive – perhaps it was evident in posher schools, or just something consigned to the past. But, it was the size of the paper (A4) that was particularly dreaded. It was especially bad when being given ‘lines’ for some infraction or other. Of course, 100 lines involved the same amount of work in whatever size of paper, but the difference in scale seemed like comparing Silbury Hill to Mount Everest in the young mind – almost as if there were so much more effort involved.
Anyway, the January epiphany is here, literally and figuratively. We get through the familial and social obligations of Christmas only to feel the sting of the unfulfilled and of creeping antiquity once the quiet sets in. And every year, despite everything, we’ll get through it.
Of course that is, right up until we don’t…