Globally: Brexit, Trump, Syria, Calais, migrants, drowning, “Alt-Right”, tribalism, Le Pen, stupidity, Farage, Johnson, Gove, fake news, FTSE plunges, protest, gloating, hysteria.
Personally: operations, fear, scars, struggling to stand, struggling to walk, running up hills, jumping into the sea, trying to become strong again.
If you’ve ever run down a hill and found the top half of your body going faster than your legs, lining you up for a high-speed face-plant, well, that was my 2016.
I’ve reached the almost-end of the year in a state of collapse, yet I’m sitting in a comfy chair with my exhaustion; that alone says I should be getting up and helping those who feel far worse but have no roof or cushioned seat. And in due course, I will. Just let me sit for one moment, listening to Comfortably Numb, wishing we could… what? Go back five years and do better? A snowflake indulgence. Now is now.
I started to put together a post about the politics of the day but I’m still barrelling towards that face-plant and there’s only 90 minutes left of the year. Perhaps I will finish this ex post facto, by way of a eulogy to 2016. That might be a good idea; I’m struggling to say anything good about the year while it’s still here, although I am ending it in the way that I wanted.
Tonight I didn’t go out. We all stayed at home; I’d already decided to turn down any invitations and had spent a few days away from friends. It doesn’t mean I don’t love them. It means I wanted to stay at home.
To make the night special for the children, we bought in foods and flowers. I cleaned our home, spent the day on my hands and knees, digging into corners with brushes and cloths. Climbing the walls to reach the cobwebs. We cooked. Prepared delicious salads. Laid out meats and fish, fancy morsels from the deli. Put fruits in the fridge. Poured warm honey mead liqueur and chilled juices.
In the evening, I lit a fire. Ate chilled satsumas with my youngest, wrapped in blankets on the sofa. We all clustered around a dining table festooned with poinsettia and roses, and loaded our plates with slabs of pork pie, curls of smoked salmon, miniature spring rolls, hot snap peas and cherry chilli peppers. We stared at the food before we ate it. We ate around a glass table scattered with Carcassonne pieces. The children beat me. We left the table, to soak in bubble baths in the bathroom I had scrubbed. We returned in pyjamas fresh from the day’s laundry. We listened to the logs crackle and spit; logs that I hacked from a forest some weeks ago, using a bow saw. I remembered my blistering hands and screaming arm muscles, and the tiredness in me felt more acceptable. I read The Giving Tree to my youngest.
We watched television. We never do that. We did tonight. Gordon Buchanon and polar bears – reminded me of forays into the sea, diving with cameras. I’m more afraid of bears than sharks. We watched Dawn French and laughed a lot, I understood her words on many levels, and my laughter came from somewhere deep. We watched Jools Holland, the children drifting now. Ruby Turner. Chaka Khan. UB40. Christine and the Queens. Spellbound by Hélöise Letissier. Hugging my awake child Happy New Year. Scooping up the others. Carrying them. Feeling my scars tugging, even now, months later. Glad to be able to walk with them in my arms. Settling them. Kissing them goodnight. Telling them that I love them. Watching my youngest smile in his sleep.