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Goodbye 2021 and All That …

Already, 2021 seems like a distant and unpleasant memory.

But perhaps that’s being unfair to a year that, unlike its predecessor, did give us a few gems:

The Vaccine. Wimbledon. The Olympics. The Booster.

The historians in a few decades ahead will no doubt link the two – the years marred by The Virus. And as for novelists – there’s already a novel out by Jodi Picault that evidently takes the wretched thing as its propelling subject. I was very set against reading it simply because it’s bad enough hearing Covid matter every time you turn to a paper or switch on the radio, but the reviews have been positive so perhaps I’ll chance it.

And no doubt there are others novels already in the publishers’ pipelines that dwell on the calamity of the past two years – I have to say it wouldn’t be my choice of subject matter to write about, but then I do like to focus on eras and decades that are clearly in the past so that a certain hindsight is possible. An understanding of what came next.

Unlike now.

We are, after all, still carrying face masks around in our pockets at the start of 2022 and small talk is still preoccupied with the subect -let’s face it, the most common conversation openers in 2021 were no doubt Astra Zeneca or Pfizer? Have you booked your second? Are you boosted yet? Hopefully, 2022 will be more along the lines of well, at least life is slowly sludging its way back to some sense of normality.

Yet the impact of these past two years in undeniable.

Tragedy has, of course, marked and marred many families and relationships as a result of the virus. And the pain of separation for people with sons, daughters, grandchildren et all living thousands of miles from each other – in the best of times, only a long flight separates them, but at the worst? Unbearable. However attractive zoom calls can be, there is no replacement for flesh on flesh contact, the enveloping of one in another’s arms, that burrowing animal need for those we love – well, those wonderful images from the opening and closing of the film Love Actually says it all.

So 2022.

Here we go.

And resolutions, enormous or far more modest, are supposed to have been formed by now.

Literature certainly offers us some interesting New Year events.

Take Ibsen’s play The Doll’s House. In a scene which shocked his contemporary audience and was considered scandalous, Nora chooses the approach of the New Year to walk out of her home and her marriage in order to live a life she considers her own – a very strident and emancipating start for her New Year. And one that continues to divide opinion and spark endless discussion about her actions since she first stepped away from her doll’s house, as she had grown to see it.

In George Eliot’s Middlemarch, a New Year’s Eve party at the Vincey’s home proves to be a catalyst for both plot development and insight as Mr Farebrother picks up on tensions in the relationship between Rosamond and Lydgate, at the same time that Fred Vincey grows jealous of said Mr Farebrother’s attentions to Mary Garth. Phew! An eventful party, that one!

But it’s poetry that, often in a single or just a few lines, offers a poignant and thoughtful reflection on the new year. Jackie Kay says:

Remember, the time of year

when the future appears

like a blank sheet of paper

and Carol Ann Duffy:

I drop the dying year behind me like a shawl

and let it fall

And Sylvia Plath’s simple line in New Year on dartmoor :

This is newness

Thomas Hardy’s the Darkling Thush is a beautiful evocation of winter – Frost was spectre-grey and Winter’s dregs – together with the sense of a new year (a new century too for Hardy)symbolised by the song of:

an aged thrush, frail, gaunt and small,

In blast-beruffled plume,

Had chosen thus to fling his soul

Upon the growing gloom.

Which moves me onto New Year Writing Resolutions – and the relevance of the picture at the top of this post!

Obviously I am resolved to write more, finish more, market more – and all the other ‘mores’ that go with being a writer who has to insert writing into a timetable of other work obligations together with the delightful distractions of life in general.

But I will be well served by the splendid coffee machine – an inspirational and wonderful birthday present (I’m a Very Close to Christmas Babe) from my son who clearly knows his mother’s caffeine addictions very well.

My barista skills have been well honed over the holiday and I can now produce lattes, cappuccinos and flat whites to order. So there is absolutely no need for me to leave my screen except for a quick dart down to the kitchen to produce the best cup of coffee imaginable. (It really is that good!)

If I was a poet, I’d attempt a poem or at least a little ditty about it.

Instead, I will turn to page 240 or so of novel 4 sitting on my big screen and rescue my characters from the stasis they have been sitting in for some days now, at the same time giving due reverence to the perfect froth on my mug of cappuccino, waiting for inspiration to take characters and plot forward.

A Very Happy New Year to everyone!

It is, after all, a blank sheet of paper!

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