It is the end of the year, and I have made it in one piece, more or less.! When I was young, 2016 would have seemed an impossibly long way off.
Yet here it is, all windy and rainy, and sometimes sunny. Where have the last sixty years gone?
I have lived through a few apocalyptic dates before . . . 1984 when the prophecies of George Orwell seemed to be coming to pass in the strikes and bitterness of the Thatcher years; 2000 with its mass hysteria about the Millennium Bug; 2001 by which time we would all be playing chess in outer space with psychotic computers in a Space Odyssey . . . and I know they are just numbers.
Auld Lang Syne has been sung, sometimes with gusto, sometimes with sadness. I have kissed strangers and I have played the clown. I have also gone to bed with a good book, and banged on the wall with a slipper to express my rage at the party next door.
In short, it is just another night, only different from the day before by the new calendar on the wall and the obligatory family walk in the country to blow the cobwebs away.
So why do we make such a fuss?
Suddenly, everybody and everything becomes obsessed with taking stock, with self-assessment, with the retrospective.
We get onto the bathroom scales and stare in disbelief. We watch mind-numbing compilations of the fifty best moments of the dying year. We have drawn up a list of resolutions, which we know will last until February at best. We have decided to get a job, save money, quit smoking, go to the gym, and go to a Health Farm. We all do this. It is one of the things that bind us together as a nation.
Why do we do this when all our previous years prove that we won’t be any different to our normal pathetic self?
In my particular case, why do I think I’m actually going to eat more sensibly and get rid of this belly before it gets to be a major problem?
Maybe it’s because we despise ourselves so much that we set ourselves impossible tasks, which we will fail miserably.
And we do it in the darkest, wettest, coldest time of the year, when every self-respecting human being should be either asleep or eating suet pudding.
To misquote Shakespeare, “Oh, what fools these mortals are!”
The hope is, I suppose, that things can only get better, which is a pretty awful place to start.
For the first week of January we are almost perfect. We get up early, with a song in our heart. We have a good breakfast so we don’t need to snack on those evil chocolate bars. We get to work early, before the boss, or we spend the morning writing letters to potential bosses, who haven’t even got up yet. We cycle round and round all day, or jog, or do energetic hoovering in every room of the house. We use the stairs rather than the lift.
If only we could put all those first weeks of January together into a complete year, we might stand a chance of being a good person.
But only for a year, after which we would get all the other months, when we are fat and drunk and whoring and hung over. We would be horrible.
There seems no way out of the problem. So we will just have to do what we can. Our mission statement should be, “I will try to do things the best I can.”
Anyway, there’s always next year . . .