Monday, 9 January 2017

The January greys

I’m not a fan of January; it doesn’t have a lot going for it, does it?   It’s no May.   May is a favourite; a month full of promise and the knowledge that weeks and weeks of longer, warmer days stretch out way ahead.  May reassures me with its carefree message of, “Don’t worry, we’ll do it in the Summer, there’s loads of time yet! Relax!” and its multiple sneak previews of what’s to come – new leaves on trees, new leaves to be turned over.  Yes, loooaaaaads of time yet. 

Nor does January have the sweetness of wistful goodbye kisses like my other favourite month, October. October paints over the faded greens with juicy reds and lurid yellows and delivers surprise presents every now and then: those mild, sunny days when you exclaim, “I can’t believe it’s October!”  I think of it like a lover reluctant to end our Summer fling.  Oh, October, you tease!

January is none of those things, it’s just shades of grey interspersed with, well, other shades of grey.  This year I’m finding it harder than ever too.  To be honest, I'm feeling a wee bit down.  It's impossible to disassociate some things: January is the month in which two of my good friends had their birthdays, and last year it was also the month in which one of them died, the week after Bowie.  The other friend’s unexpected death followed just a few months later (I may write about him again soon too).  They were both only 57.  I miss them hugely and there’s a big part of me which still can’t quite believe they’ve both left - and of course all of me that wishes they hadn’t.

Anyway, in Januarys (Januaries?) past  I would have sent A a customary email on his celebratory date, saying HAPPY BIRTHDAY (nothing if not original), each character in a different colour and font, kind of like rainbow-coloured Never Mind The Bollocks lettering, which he would have completely got.  And he would have replied with a little note of thanks and surprise that I’d remembered.   “Must pop over for a cup of tea soon,” one of us would have said (it was always me going over to his house, he had the bigger kitchen), and in the meantime more messages would bounce across the ether, exchanging snippets and opinions, video clips, what was in the news, our latest wildlife updates, random notes on art, music and books, little bits of gossip about what was going on in the village, sometimes a bit of rockbiz goss too from his own/sibling connections.

In January three years ago the closest we got to rockbiz goss was that someone new was due to be moving into the big (and very expensive) historic house just down the street from us both.  “I’ve been told he’s a ‘punk rock musician’”, A told me.

Well, of course, we went through the list of possibilities.  Who would we like it to be?

“I wish it could be Mark E Smith but I think he’s too attached to the North”, A emailed.

"It has to be someone with some wonga, doesn't it, so that rules out a few I'm sure... but not someone with enough that they'd move to California, so that rules out a few too.  (I've been thinking... maybe Captain Sensible?  He's already fairly local I believe???)  Haha, I can't wait to find out!" I replied. 

 (Yes, I still have the emails...these are verbatim.)

News soon followed that our new 'punk rock musician' neighbour was called Jimmy.

Jimmy Pursey?  we both mused, somewhat incredulously.

Then an update arrived from A that it wasn't a Jimmy after all, but a Tommy.

Tommy...  Tommy....nope, drawing a blank here.

Then another update, "No, scrub that, it's not Tommy, it's Terry!"

Cue further email exchanges about Terry Chimes, who is apparently now a Chiropractor.

But by the time I popped over for a cuppa tea and a real-life chat, it transpired that the new resident was neither Chiropractor nor punk rock musician, instead someone neither of us had heard of and whose connection to the music biz was not to either of our tastes at all…  a session keyboard musician who composes music for TV....  A long way from Mark E Smith, that's for sure.

Life is full of disappointments!

Not my new neighbour

And well, like disappointment, you just have to accept death, don't you?  There's nothing we can do to change things and we're only going to experience more of them because, if it's not our own trip into oblivion, it will be that of others we know and love (sorry).  So I hold onto the memories and the fondness, the hopeful Mays and the sunny Octobers, and the little snatches of chat about non-punk rock musicians, amongst other things.

If A had lived to see this birthday I’m sure we’d have been sharing more similar conversations, both in email and real life, and this January would not be quite so grey.

The Fall:  It's A Curse
For A


  1. My best friend died in February three years ago, also in their late 50's, I'm not sure you ever get over the " I must tell...." moments .
    The thing about getting older though is that May will be here in the blink of an eye !

    1. Thanks so much for your kind words, and I'm sorry for the loss of your friend too, I remember your mention of that before and the resonance. I was saying to someone the other day that, although the pain loses its sharp edges and so gets 'easier', at the same time you inevitably *miss* the person more the longer it is since you last saw them.
      And yes, you're right, it's definitely those "I must tell..." moments - so nicely put.
      So look forward to Spring!

  2. Sorry you're feeling down but not an easy month to feel "up" in really. You've mentioned the two friends already who passed away last year and it is strange when things like birthdays comes round - no cards or cheery emails to send. But, life goes on and those of us lucky to still be around need to grab it with both hands as it can indeed be fleeting.

    Here's a nice thing however - We spend New Year's Eve with all of our neighbours and the lady who always used to bring her guitar and sheet music passed away a couple of years ago (exactly the same age as myself bar about 4 days) - This year her daughter, who is a keen musician, came along with the guitar, and the sheet music we were so used to having handed out. It was an uplifting night and not sad at all, it just made sense that her legacy had been passed on to the next generation.

    As for me I quite like January in that the clutter and busyness of the festive period is past and day by day it is getting lighter. The real turning point is when the first snowdrops appear. Sorry your new mansion inhabiting neighbour didn't turn out to be someone more exciting but hey ho, mansions change hands so maybe next time!

    1. Thank you...I should perhaps add that it's very rare for me to feel a bit down and it's only ever briefly, but maybe that also adds to heightened awareness of it when it does happen, and the reasons behind it. Didn't want to bring the mood down but life is multi-faceted so I think a blog can be too!

      Even without sad memories January tends to be low-key, as you say, and one that you just have to travel through to get to the next destination... I've never liked it as a month, though, it has to be said!

      Your New Year's Eve sounds lovely, a perfect tribute to the lady you mention. I feel quite acceptant of death and the whole cycle of life thing (in spite of the sadness) so if it can be turned it into a celebration instead of a mourning then so much the uplifting.

      Yes, days getting noticeably longer and snowdrops appearing are real turning points. I'm currently loving the way the birds in the garden are already getting territorial in readiness for the breeding season plus there's a lot of activity on the feeders - nature is my favourite tonic any time of year, tho wine comes close ;-)

      This street is an interesting mix of tiny humble hovels (like mine!) and a couple of huge old properties (the people who lived in my cottage centuries ago were probably servants for the ones in the bigger ones!). You never know who's going to end up here... could be like Stella Street!

  3. My own experience is that the January after losing someone close can be a particularly tough month. I once described it as the awful feeling of finally leaving that person behind, locked in the previous year, as you are gradually pulled away from them into the future - the beginning of a new calendar year creating a tangible sense of life moving on, as it must, without them. (I hope that makes sense - it's a difficult thought to articulate.)
    I can only imagine how hard this month is for you, being your friend's birthday too. Your memories of him are sweet, funny and, as always, beautifully written. It's a shame that no member of the punk rock fraternity appeared in your village as you both hoped, though as Alyson says, it could still happen! (Come to think of it though, isn't there someone who fits that criteria living in your house right now?)

    1. Thank you, I like that way of looking at January and loss very much, giving the transition through the calendar year some significance. Yes, it does make sense.
      Indeed, you never know who might move in some day and I'm still holding out for Captain Sensible. As for the other inhabitant of this house - well, he's had his moments!

  4. Brilliantly written as usual C. That is one of the reasons I like living in Spain I just canot stand the 50 shades of grey of winter or the damp depression. Donald January is no Thressa May.
    Just think if it was Mark E, you could be doing the art work for his next album.

    1. Thank you Old Pa! I envy you the Spanish winter. I don't mind the crisp, blue sky and sunshine kind of winter days we sometimes get here, but those endless damp greys get very boring after weeks on end, don't they?
      As for some Mark E album art, haha, I'd love that commission!

  5. Mark E Smith to star in the new series of To The Manor Born?

    1. :-) Brilliant. Penelope Keith would never be the same again!

  6. My 'bump in the road' aka my 'wobble' happened in January. January 2011. Luckily, by the May it was visible only in my rear view mirror. I'd settle for an eleven month year every day of the week - fuck January.

    1. I'm sorry to hear that John, it's a rotten month, and I hope you have no more bumps in road/wobbles. My lovely friend A, as written about above, was keen to promote the idea that, instead of having Christmas every year it should only be once every four years. I'd definitely be up for that - and I reckon we should do the same for January.


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