20/20 Vision

 

There are bound to be a few contenders for this title, so I might as well make my pitch early.

Well, New Year is with us.  The air smells of cordite, my shirt smells of whiskey, and the house smells like…maybe just open a few windows?

The first thing, I guess, is to christen the decade – like we had the Roaring Twenties last century; how about the Scorching Twenties this time around?  Then we should maybe give a title to the era – the nineteen-twenties absolutely owned prohibition, will the twenty-twenties be remembered for degradation?

I have no personal experience to offer:  contrary to suggestions by certain people, I was not around in the Roaring Twenties; but history suggests that was a time of liberation, a carefree release from the strictures of the corseted Edwardians and their predilection for war and power.  Will this new decade have the same signature of freedom and tolerance?  I wonder.

But setting all that aside, New Year to most of us is a personal thing:   even for cynical old duffers like myself, to whom it should be no more than a flip of a sheet on the calendar by now.   I still sit up and wait dutifully for midnight, listen to an hour of painful contemporary music after the bell has gone, before creeping off to bed.  In spite of my bold comments above, in truth, the memsahib and I rarely party through the night these days. At Christmas mayhap we will – at New Year, no.  It’s such a fuss getting hold of the extra oxygen; I’m not sure which deserted us first – the stamina or the motivation.

The same is not true of everybody.  Witness our neighbors, for whom the clock was clearly an invention too late.  The fireworks start at eight o’clock, conspicuously ignore the witching hour, and splutter to a damp pulp at around two-thirty a.m.  I don’t mind – I just wonder if they’re partying through the night, or…oh, they wouldn’t be, would they?  Well, these days – so many things, darlings, you know? You can’t tell what they’re getting up to.

So here we all are, groggily awake, ready to embark upon our brave new adventure.  I have my kitbag of ‘resolutions’ pruned to one.  I am determined to lose sufficient weight so when I am cremated I can go through a standard-size furnace door.   In which cause all Christmas food still remaining has been banished to the patio.  It is the turn of the birds, now.   Mince pies seem particularly popular – the memsahib informs me it has to do with the alcohol content in the mince:  Rocky Robin has suddenly acquired a much more interesting meaning.

I have tried playing them some music to get a party going but their little hearts aren’t in it.  They are just birds, after all.  Winter is hard for them in our garden – what will they do when the stollen runs out?   The RSPB wants us to do a survey of our garden birds later this month – I hope they will be sober by then.

Aye me!   Another utterly commercial and brazenly damaging annual festival is over and we can all get back to being rude to each other for another year.  I am about to put down this ingeniously sequestered piece of Christmas cake and go to weigh myself for the day.

Wish me luck!

Twelfth Night, or What You Will…

So the frivolities are over, the obligations fulfilled, the promises made.  The bride and bridegroom of the old year have been waved away, leaving  the land to rest and await Spring’s wakening.  The coloured lights, the glitter’s memory, the gleam of hope must warm us for a while as we prepare against Nature’s frozen sleep.

Yet there is an air of apocalypse about this year’s turning.  Highest winds, heaviest rain, warmest recorded days – they  march together holding their placards high to remind us – the world is old; it has no more to give.

So many good people have spent their winter festival in darkness this year:  no coloured lights, no tinsel, no happy gathering of family or friends to warm their hearts, just the rising waters of burst rivers about their feet, the howl of the storm around their heads.  Although there will always be those who smile and push the truth aside:  next winter will be better, next year all this will be forgotten – although some will insist it is ‘God’s punishment’, and go about in sackcloth and ashes exhorting us to use coloured bins, to drink our own recycled urine, to store our sunny days in batteries as if that will somehow tip the scales, yet there is only one truth.  We all know it, in our hearts.

We are too many.

I have this one wish.  If you like it is my New Year’s resolution.   It is not for me, my tenancy has nearly expired.   It is for my children I ask that we please accept:  there is a god – not some mythical deity reigning over an undefinable paradise, no, but a god whose existence is provable, who has us in her care.  By our actions, rather than by cheap words and mindless ritual, we should honour her.  Yet we turn our backs.  We exploit her, we use her gifts for our own selfish gains.  When, occasionally and understandably, she gets cross she reminds us of her power.  In the tsunami, the earthquake, the typhoon, the epidemic or the drought.  She is reminding us now.  In fact, she is giving us our final warning.

Before the contagion of monotheism took hold our ancestors well knew Nature’s power – they grew wise in the art of living beneath her panoply and they prospered, in the terms of their time.  They brought us to our place in the world of today.  And no, I am not advocating  a return to the grass hut, or the shadow of a new plague.  Civilisation has brought many good things to the table; progress is not all bad.  Conspicuous consumption, over-indulgence and greed – those things are bad;  and no religion is needed to remind us of basic morality – that we can see for ourselves, whether or not we choose to confess it.

Somehow – peacefully, I would hope – we need to get some sort of grip on the numbers.  We have to comprehend the selfishness of the individual when that runs contrary to the interests of our species and control our natural desire to multiply.   If we do not do so, if we continue to delude ourselves that somehow technology can be made to stretch the resources of our planet indefinitely, then Nature will act.  Humankind will become just another brief chapter in that dusty tome of evolution which nestles on a shelf somewhere among  the stars.

The way of man is the pointless fight.  It is the way of man that the final battle is always lost.

That is something we have to change.

That’s it.  Sorry to add a sombre note, but there are some things I just have to say!  Back to the stories next time….

 

© 2016 Frederick Anderson; all rights reserved.   No part of this article may be reproduced or transmitted in any form (other than for the purpose of re-blogging) or by any means, electronic or mechanical, including photocopying, recording, or any information storage and retrieval system without permission in writing from the copyright holder.

 

 

 

Resolutions

“Time tae greet the New Year, Freddy!”  My friend raised a glass.  “What’re ye havin’?”4565034003_d465a7a7c8

Now Scotsmen have a reputation for meanness.  As generalizations go it is not without some substance, but a curious contrariety tends to occur around about the sixth whisky.  Thereafter, from whiskies seven to fourteen the generosity curve steepens logarithmically.  After fourteen it is hampered by incoherence.  I judged my friend to be at around nine – just entering the spontaneous hugging stage.

“No thank you.  I’ve given up.”   I cannot doubt the pall my words cast upon the assembled party-goers.  Silence fell.  Someone turned off the music.

“Given up the drink? Ye’ll nivver do it, Hin. Ye must be mad!”

He was right, of course.  He is right.  Ninety percent of New Year’s resolutions barely survive to twelfth night, although abstinence from alcohol has a better chance perhaps than stopping smoking, travelling more, losing weight, ceasing to swear, or watching less television.  Why?  Because as a dutiful Scot (well, I do have some ancestry in that direction) I am honor-bound to forgo sobriety entirely between Christmas and Hogmanay.  I therefore float into the latter in a sufficiently inebriated state to survive a Haggis, if someone deems it necessary to feed me one, or even to fully misunderstand why they’re hitting that damn great bell twelve bloody times.  So I can hit the ground running.  I am able to draw upon my reserve tanks until the 3rd January at least without another drop passing my lips.   Thereafter it gets harder.

I discussed the problem with my Scots friend over a Coca-Cola:  not a subject that seemed to interest him unduly but it helped me to take my mind off the fumes from the room, his glass, and him. It also distracted me from ‘Dead March in Saul’ which some wag had unearthed and put on the sound system.

“Can ye no see this is the time o’ year for drinkin’?”

“Is there a time of year for not drinking?”  But he had a point.   We are delving into deep midwinter, when a sallow sun can scarcely raise strength to crank itself over the horizon for seven hours, and the rain only ceases when the snow begins.  The wind is a wild rider, Odin’s cart is heard to creak between the gallows trees and Thor’s hammer cleaves the sky.

All right, I’m getting a little carried away.  We don’t have gallows anymore and those clashing sounds have nothing to do with battle at Valhalla:  Ragnarok is more likely to occur at a football match these days, isn’t it?  But you get the idea.

We are embarking upon three months of dark boredom interspersed with moments of terror.  The ship of night has to carry us all the way through to March with absolutely no motivation for a stroll on deck and with sporadic cringing fear as we listen to the wind deconstructing our roof or watch the river come through the back door.  Can there be a worse time to stop smoking?  Is there any other season which competes with television for our attention less successfully?  Is travel a temptation, given snowdrifts, high wind at the airport, or the discovery that the rain in Spain falls mainly on you?  And yes, even the Riviera can be cold.

Do we wonder then, why abstinence in such conditions proves so hard to maintain?  Party music is playing, glasses are rattling, food – wondrous, odorous food – is nature’s way of fighting the cold, and it looks so good; it tastes so sweet, it tempts, it flirts outrageously, it beckons…taken early, your resolution might survive the Week of the Leftover Turkey, but thereafter?

Twelfth night, then:  outside, the wind is blowing, the window panes are laced with snow.   Inside, there is laughter:  harsh and defensive maybe, a little fearful possibly, but laughter nonetheless.  Inside there is music to drown out the night.   The smiling golden liquid glistens in the bottle, waiting to pour free.

“Will ye no just have a dram o’ this single malt, Freddy?  It must’ae been a fine year, this!”

“No.   Well, I shouldn’t.  I promised not to, you know.   I said, didn’t I?  But then, I suppose just the one wouldn’t hurt.”

“Would it?”