Its been an unusually mild December, so no festive frost, not even the usual seasonal sludge and rain. Perhaps that's why I feel particularly unfestive. I finished work yesterday, realising I needed at least a day or two before catching up with family, and I feel like I'm in some sort of fog. I think that's the 2016 blues for you. Although its personally been an okay year, that's through hard work, gut determination and throwing off those ever-present shackles of self-doubt; approaching fifty, I guess one doubles ones efforts. But with the rest of the world reeling from celebrity artistic deaths like Bowie and Prince, followed by the dismal step backward of Brexit, and then the cataclysm of Trump as American President at the same time as the Cold War starts heating up again, and Aleppo becomes a tragedy of our times, its hard to uncouple one's own slings and arrows from the general malaise.
I marvel at how many people I know have managed to move on in their lives and their art, either through change of job, place, career or relationship - sometimes all four - whilst my life seems wilfully static, coming into a fifteenth year at the same employer, around a decade in my rental... creatively it's been hard to fit things in - I've written, more music than prose, more short pieces that long, but its been a year of failure in the wider sense - of pieces failing to find a home etc. My reluctance to spend more time on my writing comes from the difficulty of getting anywhere with it. Funnily enough, I've been more stoic than ever about my position as a "writer" and despite what Morrissey once said, I like it when my friends become successful.
This week I've heard of an old school colleague who passed away - the best sportsman in the school, as well - and of friends coming to terms with medical problems. Lucky then to have the first world problems, of too busy a life, of wondering what to do next... and yet, I do think there's something in the zeitgeist that creates an morphic resonance at times, so that we act as if under a dark cloud. Most of my life has been under Tory governments, and the ultimate puzzle for me has been the lack of optimism they engender. They never build anything, make anything, create anything or inspire anything, and yet the British like them in their times of grumbling.
Not an end of the year piece - that will come - more a taking stock as I settle down for the Christmas festivities. Out with a friend last night, we talked about Christmas traditions, and how all families have their own, and the sticking to them is what counts, even as they change subtley over the years. Our Christmas gets stretched out these days, with my sister usually visiting the family on Boxing day, so leaving me and my parents for a quiet Christmas together. Maybe I should go back to those old traditions, when I used to scour the Radio Times for what films would be on, and diligently watch the Marx Brothers or Woody Allen seasons on BBC2 or Channel 4. I've seen just about everyone in Manchester this last couple of weeks; and managed to make it down to London to catch friends there as well, so in some ways, I'm now ready for a bit of quiet time - and family time.
It's still mild, so I hardly need the heating on, but will enjoy a quiet night in this evening, hunting presents that I bought a couple of months ago and hid somewhere in the flat. My out-of-office is on at work, and I'll not be checking it till the New Year; I'm tempted to close down my Facebook and switch off my mobile as well. Merry Christmas, Merry Christmas, every one.
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