I remember my parents’ New Year parties – innocent occasions for the times. My mother spent the day baking – she made pizzas before anyone I knew in the North West had heard of them – always with
anchovies arranged in a circle round the edge, never olives. It was years before I tasted an olive. Crowds of people from the Theatre Club arrived, and there were games where a cork on a string was threaded though everyone’s clothing and on to the next person. We children were beside ourselves with glee when the
string got tangled in Norman Lofthouse’s extensive underwear. Just before midnight one of the men – who had to be dark haired and tall – was sent out with a piece of coal, and as the clock struck twelve he’d be let back in, then we all held hands for auld lang syne, and everyone kissed.
Such ritual seemed to me imbued with significance, as if the old year really was dying away, and must be mourned - if privately and briefly - before a new year full of brightness and hope arrived.
Later the adults sat in a circle on chairs and on the floor, and sang music hall songs long into the early hours. There's never been such singing and drinking since at my parents’ house.
It was possible then to be innocent and romantic and idealistic, as well as tangled in the drama of being young – life had a different kind of music. We knew very little and thought we knew almost everything.
Sometimes at night now I’m shocked into wakefulness, and thoughts I wouldn’t entertain in daylight hours, dance around in my head. I’m aware of the temporariness of life, and a fear of losing loved ones.
Being together, with family, with friends, surrounded by the commonplace seems, and is, so precious - the only thing I can really know. There is a sense of the numinous, of God, that’s both terrifying and at the same time comforting for being ‘other,’ and unknowable.
My cousin, in his wonderful blog post The first and most direct thing in our experience, writes.
'There's a strain in protestant thinking that asserts there is nothing humanly knowable about God and it is presumptuous to assume anything at all about His nature, methods and motives - 'Something unknown is doing we don't know what' indeed. It is a hard doctrine though -
'For Mercy has a human heart,
Pity a human face,
And Love, the human form divine,
And Peace, the human dress...'
I began this blog in the spring of last year, thinking I’d write about dance, and movement and choreography. Inevitably it’s moved on. I know I’m still finding my way with it, wondering where it will take me, trying to find a balance. It’s a challenge so different from that posed by writing fiction. A new thing - and something I think I'll go on enjoying.
On this first day of 2014 I look forward to much writing in the weeks to come – completing and publishing my e-book Meetings with Ivor– perhaps finding an agent for Lord Nelson’s Eye, and The Green Table, and hoping to start new fiction inspired by the wild Staffordshire Moorlands and a century of food.