No one ever regarded the First of January with indifference.

‘No one ever regarded the First of January with indifference’ Charles Lamb observed, in his essay entitled New Year’s Eve, and one can only agree. In my case, I tend to arrive in January 1st with a profound sense of relief that December 31st is finally over and done with for another year.

I don’t particularly like New Year’s Eve. It always seems to promise so much and yet invariably disappoints, more than almost any other day of the year. As a child I was convinced that New Year’s Eve must be the most exciting day of the year, as one year changed into another, and adults all stayed up until midnight to see this amazing thing happen. I longed to do the same. The reality, when I finally got there, was disappointing to say the least, and no amount of sherry and mince pies could ever make it better. Even now, I don’t think, deep down, I’ve quite got over it. These days, I am happy if New Year’s Eve looks like any other evening, the one concession to festivity being the now-traditional roast duck dinner. We don’t stay up until midnight any more; the first premature fireworks usually wake me for long enough to note the year’s passing, and to comfort any cats that need comforting because of the noise, before I go back to sleep. I will undoubtedly wake up around 5.30 as I usually do, and be pleased to discover that the world is still tootling along, but that it is now January 1st. January 1st means celebratory champagne and getting on with life.

2011 has been a very uneven kind of year for Paul and for me. Too many bad things happened along the way, and although life has improved slightly during November and December, getting this far has seemed like too much of a struggle for me to want to look back over the year now fading away. So, no highlights of 2011 – it’s enough to have survived – just a resolute looking forward to 2012 and the hope that things will continue to improve, globally and locally.

No resolutions either. I may have plans for Paper Knife for the coming year, but for now I am keeping them to myself, except to note that I am going to participate in a project to read and blog about the works of Alan Garner, and a few related books, something I’m really looking forward to. More details when we figure out what we’re doing, but commentary will be spread between here, Practically Marzipan and Solar Bridge.

Among the related works we will be reading is Sir Gawain and the Green Knight, my favourite piece of medieval literature. I oredered the modern versions by Simon Armitage and Bernard O’Donoghue just after Christmas and, almost miraculously, they arrived today; definitely my kind of post.

You will, I hope, recall that after beheading the Green Knight at Arthur’s Christmas gathering, Gawain agrees to receive a similar blow the following year. After spending the Christmas season with the jovial Sir Bertilak and his predatory wife, as the New Year approaches Gawain at last finds his way to the Green Chapel to meet the knight.

Welcome to my world after all your wandering.
You have timed your arrival like a true traveller
to begin this business which binds us together.
Last year, at this time, what was yielded became yours,
and with New Year come you are called to account

That’s Armitage’s version. Here’s O’Donoghue’s:

You are very welcome to my place here.
You’ve timed your arrival as a true man should,
and you know the terms agreed between us:
a year back you had to take what was yours,
and I was to repay you this New Year’s Day.

At the end of the encounter, Gawain is still alive, if slightly bloodied and more than a little bowed. That is how I feel at the end of 2011.

So now, on to 2012.

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