Automatic for my people

What a difference a week makes; book-ended as it was by songs that evoke emotions so heavy they don’t bear hearing more than once in a year. O Holy Night cracks its whip on the heart, startling it to bolt upright and take off around the track of emotion. Past memories, some magical, others painful; disturbing the earth surrounding dormant feelings as it gallops onward through the bend of hopeful anticipation before hitting the straight. Then chasing Now along the final furlong to cross the line in a perfect photo-finish. A week later Auld Lang Syne will not be able resist pulling at the stray thread dangling from the soul; it won’t be satisfied until it unravels it completely before abandoning it in an untidy heap for its owner to disentangle and rewind.

For as long as I can remember, I have loved the Eve of Christmas and loathed that of New Year with equal measure. Nothing new or unique in that, says you. This doesn’t go unnoticed. All the New Year greetings are filed long before the credits roll on the spent one. Few, it seems, are alone in longing to keep the head down and let it wash over them. Possibly in a similar haze of miniature snack denial that sees the desperate diner through a sustained period with their considered size. Honey, you shrunk the hot dogs. It’s OK, Dear, there’s another 45 of them in the oven. The relief in the room palpable.

Under pressure to respond, I get most of my replies texted by 10pm. It used to be that no-one could be arsed going out on New Year’s Eve anymore. In recent years, I mistook the flurry of early evening messages for a preventative measure against an echo of Millennium hysteria that caused ordinarily laid-back folk to fear telecommunication failure at midnight. Now I know it’s a cure against other people phoning them to detonate the ring tone equivalent of Auld Lang Syne, and the risk of letting the wrong person in.

Unlike Christmas Eve, with its camaraderie, the promise of impending bonhomie and threat of reciprocated love among one’s own tribe, NYE sits in judgement in the confessional box of life, waiting for you to enter alone to square up to yourself. Bless me New Year’s Eve, for I have sinned. It has been one year since my last confession and here are my sins…

Like the death-knell signalling the near-end of school holidays, you know the party is coming to an end. The determination to ring the best out of the remaining days is your two fingered salute to the army of Mondays advancing.

I phone the one friend I can speak to on a night like this. Throwing scorn on the notion of resolution, we resolve to go gentler on ourselves and to meet soon. I ask her what she’s doing. She is loath to write a list but is in the middle of compiling two: one with the things from the past year she wishes to let go; the other with wishes for the coming year. Both will go up in flames in her tiny hearth in the hope that the former will be extinguished, and the latter just put out there. To the universe. She read about it somewhere. I hope the right list attaches itself to the stars, I say. She forgives my outburst of cheese before we bid our goodbyes.

An hour later, safely ensconced in our mini-snack stupor, we risk crossing the threshold of another January to the dulcet tones of Liam Neeson lamenting his firmer bowels. A quick flick to Jools striking up the band. Ten..nine..eight..

Like the classic seasonal ending to a dodgy soap where the credits roll over the scene, my mind’s eye involuntarily pans those chief characters of my life in tonight’s episode. I see my mate with her knees tucked under her chin watching the flames go up; my parents dragging their grandchildren to their feet; my brother waiting to pick up a fare; my State-side friend with a few hours to go; another kicking back in the sun by way of good riddance; and even the odd blogger whose faces I wouldn’t recognise but who I’ve become immensely fond of nonetheless. The powerful round-ups of their year reverberate.

Then the morning comes. Just like that the storm is over. Souls are re-wound with renewed determination into slightly different shapes than before. And a new year of fleeting speckled pieces of happiness beckons. We’ll do alright.

Happy New Year

5 thoughts on “Automatic for my people

  1. Happy New year.
    Like it or loath it it is no more than a moment where we pass an unseen mark somehow leaving behind all we dislike, believing as we move forward, everything will change.
    I used to dread the thought of the year ahead, afraid of what it might bring, but funnily enough since young Daniel died I don’t dread it any more. As long as we are still healthy this time next year I’ll be happy. I don’t do resolutions either, maybe that helps too.

    • Many contented returns to your good self, tric. You’re wise in recognising it as a moment albeit one freighted with heavy meaning but like you say it passes. I’ve managed to cultivate a sort of a defiant detachment to it by now, which might explain why last night was almost an identical copy of the previous NYE. Best wishes to all in Daniel’s circle for the coming year.

  2. A Happy New Year to yourself. It’s very telling that an Old post serves just as well as the New 😉 It’s a poignant reminder of my favourite adage…plus ca change. Think I’ll stick up last year’s too – see if anyone notices 😉

    • The lazy blogger’s get-out-of-Christmas/New Year-Jail card. If my modest number of readers didn’t notice from my spelling it out, then I can do no more; apart from maybe post it again next year. I’m unimaginative enough to chance it. More than laziness, it did indeed confirm the predictable rhythms of life; and the paralysis from attempting to look back or up ahead. And I was tuned into Jools again surely. The night was a re-run except for the limited variety of snacks, and the lack of Footlights alumni in the audience to sneer at. Aren’t Future Islands just the business?

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