I awoke this morning to an unaccustomed brightness. The sun was warming my back and filling the world with light. Everything is golden. The land is gently steaming, like a fragrant plate of dim sum. My ears are still ringing from the howling winds, and the unfamiliar calm feels a bit odd. It’s not raining but I’m sure the humidity is well over 80 per cent. Everything is wet. Every twig and leaf sparkles with drops. Every dip in the ground has become a paddling pool. The vegetable patch looks like a rice paddy. Ducks are happily floating around in fields where cows usually graze. Water has swollen every trickle, brook and river to bursting and beyond, creating little waterfalls and impromptu streams everywhere. There is a sense of reprieve in the air. Even the animals seem to feel it. The dogs and cats are rolling around on the drive as if it were high summer. It feels like Nature is heaving a huge sigh of relief.
After the battering we’ve had since Christmas, it’s good to hear the birds singing again. One has to wonder how they manage to sit out the storms? I expect that they just hunker down and hang on for dear life like the rest of us. I’ve rarely heard storms as fierce as what we’ve just been through. On St Stephen’s Day it sounded as if a battery of canon were positioned across the valley. Loud booming shook the house. The rain was so hard, it felt like the canon were shooting nails at the windows. The door handle has been tied to the Aga since the holidays and it is a delight to be able to leave the kitchen door open again. In fairness we didn’t have it too bad. We only lost one small tree and never lost power. Floods were small and short lived.
The change in weather, along with the month that it’s in, carries a feeling of new beginnings. I can see the tiny green shoots of the daffodils just peeking above the soaked ground. We still have a chunk of winter to weather, but soon it will be time to begin again. I think that’s why we are so obsessed with making resolutions at this time of year. There is a sense of possibility, without the pressing urgency of summer. You can sense the Spring ahead and yet feel that you still have the time to consider your options. It is a time when we can contemplate what we might do in the coming year from the comfort of our sofa, content in the knowledge that there’s no rush to actually do anything. Most of us will have mentioned a New Year’s resolution in passing. Some of you may have developed the idea and started taking steps to implement these fine new objectives. But unless you’re the type of person who keeps a record of your resolutions, you’ll have probably forgotten 12 months from now. I know I’d have, if it weren’t for the fact that I’m one of those people who have a record.
I’ve been writing a column for many years and the January column almost always has some mention of New Year’s resolutions. The last decade mainly reads like a litany of failure. I have resolved to go walking, learn the piano and stop smoking…As I started to write this column I realised that I don’t really have my 2014 wish list set yet. So, I checked out my 2013 New Year’s column to see what I had written about this time last year. I couldn’t remember any of it except for the fact that I had made some mention of my New Year’s resolutions. As I read what I had written a year ago, I was gobsmacked. What devilry was this? In January 2013, I clearly stated three New Year’s resolutions and here I was in January 2014 having pretty much accomplished them. I had resolved to join the gym again, take up archery and eat porridge for breakfast. I go to the gym regularly. Archery has become my new passion. I don’t eat porridge every morning, but I did twice this week and very nice it was too, thank you very much. I would be feeling rather smug if I wasn’t feeling so bewildered. What happened? Did I get older and wiser? Was my list any more achievable than other years? Is there some lesson I can learn about setting goals? I honestly have no idea. Not to worry — I still have a couple of weeks to think about it.