Friday, 2 January 2009

been counting

'TIS the year's midnight, and it is the day's,
Lucy's, who scarce seven hours herself unmasks ;
The sun is spent, and now his flasks
Send forth light squibs, no constant rays ;
The world's whole sap is sunk ;
The general balm th' hydroptic earth hath drunk,
Whither, as to the bed's-feet, life is shrunk,
Dead and interr'd ...

Personally speaking, being a bit of a pagan, I tend to observe the winter solstice (if only from a distance) rather than Christmas, which strikes me as being the sort of thing that's a bit of a nuisance if you don't have a family to spend it with, and possibly a bigger nuisance if you do . Who was it who described Christmas as the only time that an Englishman would spend willingly with family rather than friends? -whoever it was, I know where he was coming from. Fortunately, I managed to lose my family somewhere along the way (all except for young K, of course), so I don’t have to do that stuff any more. Hence the ‘Christmas on top of a mountain’ option. It gets me away from the palpable air of overindulgence, regression and overwrought familiarity that seems to hang in the air.

Having already lighted a small flame against the darkness at the longest night of the year, it seems a bit redundant to do it again for New Year, which is only a bean-counting sort of event really. Or, in the case of the Spanish, a grape-counting event- I witnessed this custom on my last winter at sea, when, come midnight, the chimes of Big Ben were relayed around the ship followed by the captain rather solemnly and self-consciously wishing us all a Happy New Year: then, an hour later, the Madrileno equivalent of Big Ben (Benito el Grande?) did the same thing as the Spanish crew marked each chime with the swallowing of a grape. And all very cheery it was too.


However, despite myself and my sniffiness about new year resolutions and all that malarkey, I've clocked up a few memorable new years along the way. Like 93, when I was in Weymouth, working on the Channel Island ferry and my then partner travelled down from Bristol for the night. Weymouth does New Year big style, with the whole town thronged with revellers in fancy dress. So she and I swapped clothes for the evening and joined in. It was a bit of an eye-opener; the dragon in the room had come out into the open, and turned out not to be a dragon after all. The world didn't come to an end.


From where I am now, I can see it as the first step towards transitioning. At the time I felt that something momentous had happened, and wondered what to do about it. I'd recently been reading Seamus Heaney's Seeing Things, and a phrase he used came to mind: "I want to credit marvels". That phrase resonated with me. I walked on Weymouth beach the next morning before the town was awake, and found a scallop shell. I pocketed it as a keepsake and with a sense of pilgrimage yet to be made.


And then there was New Year's Eve 2001, when I first stepped out among friends as Dru. It was a very good evening, despite a small girl shouting "lady Dru!" at me rather too often as she thought it was too good a joke to use just once; and a rather dull lawyer type who got a bit alarmed at midnight, having conceived the fear that I might kiss him (fat chance!). "I....I don't think I'm quite ready for that," he stammered. Hopefully he's still not ready for it. Other than that, my friends did their best to get the hang of the new me, and it was all very positive.

It'd been a hell of a year, with my marriage falling to pieces and me wandering apparently endlessly picking up pieces in the trail of other people's doings... I'd made a start at the way ahead, having seen my GP and then a specialist in London, but I was still in the void between the collapse of what had gone before, and a new start for myself.


At dawn, I was up on the roof, admiring the sky. It was massively cold and clear, and the sun was glinting on the dense fog that hung over the Severn, to the north. It was the sort of morning, after such a night, to think bold and dramatic thoughts. So I did. "This is going to be the year it all happens," I thought. And, heck. I was quite right. And so were the following years too.


This New Year was very quiet. Young K had to wake me up, in fact, so that we could listen to the fireworks going off around Bristol. I like quiet. We'll do momentous sometime else, maybe.


Crikey. Seven years.