Somehow it’s New Year again.
My daughter has gone back to university and all the Christmas food has been eaten except a few chocolates and enough cheese to make macaroni cheese for fifty (and the Christmas pudding which we’ll have tomorrow).
I stopped doing a ‘round robin’ Christmas letters a long time ago, around about when I joined Facebook. But this year I wrote one for a few friends I haven’t seen in person for years and who aren’t on Facebook much or at all. Turned out, when I started writing, that 2021 didn’t add up to a great deal. ‘Ooh,’ I thought. ‘There was that trip to Silchester with Debbie.’ Then I thought a bit harder and realised ‘that trip’ was in 2019. Somehow 2020 and 2021 have merged into one – a sort of roller coaster of lockdowns being imposed and lifted, of silence and noise, of anxiety and relief, of being able to travel and/or see people and then not being able to and then being able to again, of Christmases and holidays not being the way (or with the people) we’d expected and so on.
Meanwhile some things have sort of trundled on as if nothing has changed – my husband and I were never furloughed so have kept doing the day jobs, my children continued (somehow) their university work.
As you can tell from previous Januaries (sp??), I’m not much of a resolution maker (or keeper). The loft remains chaotic, my nails nibbled, the crochet abandoned, the choir I briefly joined has not been revisited. But I thought I’d have a quick look back at former January posts, and saw these New Year’s good wishes from Val Portelli in January 2020, at a point when my life was a little upside down, but before we all realised the whole world was about to turn upside down. They were:
- A secret writing space
- Trained housework fairies
- Self cleaning and ironing clothes
- Self cooking and washing up meals
- Empty, peaceful train journeys
- Supportive work colleagues
- Considerate offspring
- Strong anti-bodies as soldiers for ailing relative
- No plot holes, and
- A successful writing year
In retrospect they have a sort of poignancy. But, if I apply them to 2021 too, this would be the outcome:
- After first asking in 2005, I finally had a shed built for me to write in in July 2021. It’s furnished with odds and ends from the attic, and my husband keeps joining me in there, so it’s hardly secret, but it’s lovely!
- I’m fairly sure the fairies returned to fairyland in 2019 and I can’t say I blame them.
- I gave up the ironing years ago, but the washing remains visible only to me.
- Sadly not, although my husband still argues he loads the dishwasher better than I do. It’s simplest to agree. It keeps him happy.
- I only had one train journey in 2020 and two in 2021. I don’t miss the 6:45 am commutes to London twice a week, but I miss the rhythm and ‘out of the world’ feeling of train travel for writing in.
- My colleagues are amazingly supportive.
- My offspring are lovely, despite their early adult life not being remotely as carefree as they’d expected and I’m so proud of both of them.
- We got through. Sadly, not all our friends did. If you’re bereaved too, I’m really sorry.
- My plot holes overflowed. I spent even more of 2021 removing sub-plots than I did in 2020! I blame Covid. Not sure if it’s the lack of train travel or some sort of anxiety induced brain fog which means my ideas get more tangled than my crochet.
- Big old novels ‘Murder Saturnalia’ and ‘Death in the Last Reel’, novella ‘The Good Wife’ and short story collections ‘Invitation For Christmas’ and ‘Night Navigation’ all came out somehow. I’m content with that.
I’m not even going to try and make resolutions for 2022 – writing or otherwise – out loud. I have aspirations and things I hope to achieve, but if the last two years have taught us anything, it’s not to assume everything will go to plan. After all, there’s the Yiddish saying ‘Der mentsh trakht un got lakht’ meaning ‘Man plans, and God laughs’, and didn’t Robert Burns say ‘The best laid schemes o’ mice an’ men / Gang aft a-gley’ (go awry)?
But I will say that I’m working on a sequel to ‘Death In the Last Reel’ (the third book in the Margaret Demeray series) and also a sequel to ‘The Good Wife’ which will be a short novel rather than a novella.
I’ve just started reading ‘The Thief on the Winged Horse’ by Kate Mascarenhas and I have ‘Old Baggage’ by Lissa Evans next on the pile (and a pile of non fiction too as ever), but I plan to be more disciplined about reading and follow this suggestion for reading in 2021. It’s from the The Book Hangout Spot Facebook page. Here are the suggestions and my thoughts so far
- January: A book you read at school: Old Mali and the Boy’ by D.R. Sherman
- February: A book you wish you’d read at school: ‘Anita and me’ by Meera Syal. It didn’t exist at the time, because Meera is around my age, but it’s a great book – an eye opener of what it was like to be a British Asian contemporary living in a rural community (as I did, only mine was mono-cultural) watching the same TV programmes but with a different viewpoint. I wish we’d had more exposure to contemporary British people of a different ethnicity through the books we read at school. I think it would have made a massive difference in the long run to people’s perceptions and their decisions as adults.
- March: A book published within the last year: ‘This Much Huxley Knows’ by Gail Aldwin.
- April: a non fiction book: ‘The Great War: The People’s Story – Kate Parry Frye’ by Elizabeth Crawford
- May: a book you wouldn’t normally choose: I’m thinking Science Fiction – any ideas?
- June: a book that will improve a specific area of your life – no idea whatsoever!
- July: a book that a friend recommended: ‘The Singing Sands’ by Josephine Tey
- August: a book that you can read to your child: ‘Treacle Walker’ by Alan Garner
- September: a book that you listen to: ‘The White Russian Caper’ by Phyllis Entis
- October: a Pulitzer prize winning book of fiction: ‘The Night Watchman’ by Louise Erdrich
- November: a comedy: ‘The Flat Share’ by Beth O’Leary
- December: your choice: I’ll decide closer to the time!
Any suggestions gratefully received and I’d love to know if you’ve got any reading plans too.
AND FINALLY – if you’ve got this far. Two offers for a very short time in the US & UK:
‘The Case of the Black Tulips’ is 99p/99c until 6th January 2022
‘The Wrong Sort To Die’ is 99p/99c until 8th January 2022
Happy New Year! And may 2022 be a good one and full of peace and fulfilment.
Words copyright 2021 by Paula Harmon. All rights belong to the author and material may not be copied without the author’s express permission. Image File ID 104038561 | © Artur Szczybylo | Dreamstime.com
4 thoughts on “Once More With Feeling”
Thanks for including Huxley on your reading list! Good luck with all that cheese!
It’s been on my list for ages. I’m trying to be more disciplined this year. Last year I spent a lot of my free time writing/editing and not enough reading and I love your writing so I wanted to be able to savour it. I suspect some of that cheese will end up in the freezer!
That is so true: 2020 and 2021 kind of blended together. So weird. Lovely post as usual. I also miss my writing spot which was at a coffeeshop. I go there now sometimes but it’s not the same after almost 2 years of absence. Happy New Year.
You too! No, coffee shops aren’t quite the same!