The Challenge Of January

January is the beginning of a long sequence of things I’d rather not do, a sequence which lasts approximately a year, and it’s a time I have never found it easy to like for that very reason. The month is not completely dominated, or characterised even, by New Year’s Eve celebrations and their aftermath – the aftermath being the key, falling as it does on January 1 – but as a start it still sends negative signals not too different from when it presaged a few more days of school holidays, which would be quickly followed by returning to school. Even though I quite enjoyed school, functioned well in that environment, had friends, and was an intelligent kid, part of me has never quite overcome this sense memory: a sinking feeling in the bowels or perhaps a tingle on the surface of the bum cheek, the gulp of realisation that it was coming and would soon be here and would not be fun.

Not that it was Hell for me, but I hated starting school again for the year – hated it – and that’s the point. Starting. Making a start is difficult for the practised procrastinator, but it isn’t just that. There are ways to begin, to nibble at the edges of a task, and break it up and do parts of it, and before you know it you are doing it, really stuck in, in the thick of it, and it’s not so bad, and you wondered why you were so reluctant to start. There was no nibbling around the edges of school, doing the easy bits first and pacing yourself – no, it was every day, obeying the rules, away from home with its extra sleep and eating chips in front of the cricket and watching movies, and having to get to know new teachers and students and learn more stuff and pass more tests, and there was so much of it, and it would take so long until it was all over again.

That’s still my problem. Doing it all over again. Climbing up a bloody huge mountain, which takes strength and courage in parts, and getting to an area in the uplands where the air is cool and the breeze is fresh and birds sing and it’s green and there is feasting every night, if you wish to partake, and plenty to eat and drink, and the fruits of all the year’s labours are enjoyed. And then we start all over again. From the beginning. Which is at the bottom of the mountain.

But that’s the way it is, so you just get over it, don’t you.

I was off work, as many people were, for the week where Christmas fell, and for the first week of January. It was a good, refreshing time, punctuated by reading and relaxing and not taking too many things too seriously. There was cricket, as always, but I made sure to not become a slave to that either. Laetitia was playing “Skyrim”, quite a lot, from Boxing Day onwards – and in fact she still is; it’s that kind of game – but that was not a problem either: we both spent a bit more time than usual doing our own thing, on our own, away from the other person, and that was good.

During this period I have eaten more chocolate than I have for years – the legacy of a of an outsized Whitman’s Sampler box we purchased for the fun of producing it on Christmas Day, and it was funny, but it also had an enormous number of chocolates in it, and they don’t eat themselves you know. There was also an experiment with smoked salmon and lightly toasted bread and a mix of mayonnaise and grain mustard, which worked remarkably well, but just squirting American mustard onto a handful of the pink flesh and jamming it into one’s mouth worked rather well also. Laetitia fried ham shavings and combined the result with fried eggs, which tasted great, and cheese and tomato in toasted sandwiches, which tasted great too. There was tea and water flavoured lightly with cordial and wine, and I tried out one of my new brandy balloons and the fumes went up my nose and it was wonderful, pungent and ticklish, and seemed new, and that made the experience even better. I read the Keith Richards memoir Life and the F. Scott Fitzgerald play The Vegetable and I read other things and listened to classical music on the radio, and latterly, when it arrived, listened to cricket commentary on my new portable digital radio which is much more in synch with the action on digital TV.

And on Sunday we went for a drive, with the dogs in the car, to have a look at a possible location for quite an important wedding which may well be coming up, one of these years. We walked and climbed and took our outer tops off as the overcast sky turned to blazing, and the dogs enjoyed the smells and the people and a change of scene.

Contented, they slept when we got home.

As a winding down measure I retired to the front verandah with a Nicaraguan cigar and a book, and after favouring a few plants with a bit of water and other attentions I settled down to smoke and watch the rain arrive, which it duly did. And with more force than expected, which was just what I wanted, although I didn’t know that when I sat down. The next day would be my first working day of the New Year and so I thought about my work and my job and the office and the people. And there was nothing to be concerned about – I’ve seen it all and done quite a lot of it too in this job – but I was a bit tense. I can’t help it, or couldn’t, and I also couldn’t help being sick in the front yard on the damp lawn near the flower beds.

January can still be a trial but it’s getting better.

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Published in: on January 9, 2012 at 7:19 pm  Leave a Comment  

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