Saturday, 31st December, 2022

[Day 1020]

We wake up today to the last day of the yer of 2022 and I imagine that for many people, it is a year best forgotten. The New Year is always a time of good intentions, wonderfully expressed on some sports gear whch I saw advertised in the Aldi supermarket middle aisle a few years ago. I think that the caption read that ‘Exercise is for all year, not just for January’ and one wonders how many good intentions actually persist beyond the month of January. According to the long range weather forecast, we should prepare ourselves for another spell of freezing cold, Artic air during the month and we could well have several public sector strikes occurring at the same time and reinforcing each other. Many will have credit card bills to pay now that Christmas is almost well and truly over and one would anticipate that the amount of footfall that the average High Street will experience will be radically reduced and quite a few retailers may well go to the wall. Today, Meg and I picked up our copy of the newspaper (about which more later) and then made for Waitrose coffee bar. Here we met up with a couple of our pre-pandemic friends and then our University of Birmingham friend turned up by prior arrangment. Fortunately, I had taken with me some spare bottles of damson gin/vodka and a big slab of Christmas Cake which we had taken with us but which we did not want to have hanging over us indefinitely over the New Year. So we distributed our little presents according to who wanted what and then indulged ourselves in some of the luxurious Waitrose large mince pies which they originally sold at a price I cannot imagine many people paying but they seem to keep halving the price every day until their supply is exhausted so at that greatly reduced price, we thought we would say goodbye to 2022.

The edition of ‘The Times‘ is always particularly interesting at this time of year. They devote a lot of the Saturday supplement (which today conveniently falls on the last day of the year) to some of the outstanding political cartoons of the year, as drawn by Peter Brookes, the cartoonist for ‘The Times‘. Reproduced are the one or two really prescient cartoons that are a commentary upon the political events of that particular month. What makes the cartoons so interesting is that Peter Brookes tries to combine the element of two current stories into one cartoon – if you have followed all of the political events of the year quite closely, then you can discern the connection between the two stories. Fortunately, a little commentary is added below each cartoon to jog our memories and remind ourselves of the events in question. This is a publication not just to be flipped through idly but lingered over with real pleasure because each cartoon always contains some little details to bring a smile to the lips.

We seem to have had quite a few little presents lately. Our Irish friends from down the road gave us some little Christmas treats both to eat and to drink so we have something with which to toast the New Year. And when we eventually returned home, our new neighbours had very kindly donated some of their freshly prepared parsnip soup to us to we will have this when we return from Church this evening. We are not quite sure what to expect in the church service this evening. I am not sure if New Year’s Eve has any real liturgical or religious significance in the church calendar. On the other hand, the death has been announced of the Pope Emeritus Benedict at the age of 95. It had been evident for some days now after the announcements of the present Pope that the life of Pope Emeritus Benedict was slowly slipping away and so I wonder whether any funerial elements will be present in tonight’s service. As it happens, Meg and I were in Spain with a cousin at the death of one of our recent Pontiffs – it may have been Pope Paul II. We heard solemn tolling of church bells at a most unusual time which may have been about 7.40pm in the evening and assumed that it must be an event such as the death of a Pope. The following day, the Spanish seemed to have organised an impromptu procession (a ‘romeria’ it may be called) and the local population had all got dressed up in their national costume and then processed under a succession of banners and candles (which, mysteriously, seemed to be suddenly available for sale) and we all processed from the cathedral church in Santiago to the city boundary (at which point we left so we do not know how it all ended)

New Year’s Eve has a tradition well known amongst the North British known as ‘first footing’ but when we lived in the South of England, people had not heard of it. Just after midnight, a tall dark man is meant to run through the house, entering by the front, bearing a lump of coal and leaving by the back, probably consuming a glass of whisky en-route. As I was part of a single parent household, my mother used to simulate this by tying a lump of coal round the cat’s neck and throwing it out of the front door – through which it would hastily reenter.