As Big Ben chimes twelve, I half-heartedly clink glasses with the Nearly-Beloved. My hopes of boogying the night away have been scuppered. Omicron and middle age have put paid to my partying. The latest Covid variant has gate-crashed the festive season and only the young and intrepid are brave enough to join the rave. No midnight knees-up for me. Just a humble Hootenanny with Jools whilst my other half moans about the miseries of the last twelve months. So much for New Year’s Eve excitement! I down the remains of a lukewarm Prosecco and head for bed.
The plus side is I greet January 1st with bright eyes and a clear head. Not so the Nearly-Beloved who stayed up watching re-runs of Glastonbury with his good friend Glenfiddich and is now somewhat the worse for wear. ‘Good riddance to 2021,’ he mutters as I hand him a glass of Alka-Seltzer, ‘But I can’t see the year ahead being much better.’ This is not the introduction to 2022 that I need, so I put on my running shoes and leave in search of inspiration.
It’s so easy to follow the same old route. But a new year calls for new challenges, so I set off for the city centre and a run along the canal side. I haven’t been here in years and am surprised by what I find. Victoria Quays has been tastefully redeveloped and the canal basin is host to brightly painted, spirit-lifting barges. I carry on along the tow path, passing the occasional walker, who offers me a cheery greeting. It’s hard to remember that a year ago we were in Lockdown 3 when pedestrians would jump into a nearby bush to avoid all contact with an incoming jogger. But now we are all multi-vaxed, so even with Omicron on the loose, the sense of danger is much reduced.
As I run on, the surroundings become less industrial, the path opens up into grassy, tree-lined areas with birds flying past and ducks bobbing on the water. It’s positively bucolic! I pass several fishermen, who tell me they’ve caught carp and pike this morning. With all the doom and gloom of global warming, it’s good to know that this once polluted canal has had a major clean up and is no longer stuck in its ‘Full Monty’ version. I’m glad I made the decision to run here – I didn’t realise how much had changed.
Arriving home, I enter the house at the same time as Grunting Teen. He’s returning from his first New Year’s Eve sleepover at the Liberal Parents’ house. And, judging by the sight of him, not much sleeping has been achieved. ‘Happy New Year, mum,’ he says, folding me in a six-foot hug that smells more of bear and beer than boy.
‘Did you have a nice time, sweetheart?’ I ask. ‘Yeah, it was well good,’ he replies, ‘I think 2022 is going to be okay, innit?’
‘You’re right,’ I reply. ‘At least the schools will be open, unlike last January. And all things considered, 2021 redeemed itself half way through the year. It can’t have been as bad as dad makes out.’
‘2021?’ interrupts the Nearly-Beloved, now looking a lighter shade of green. He waves his phone at us. ‘I’ve just been reviewing my annual photo book online. Turns out the year was better than I remembered. See, I’d forgotten about my mum’s 90th and that family reunion in May. And there’s some lovely pictures of our holiday in Pembrokeshire, those two weddings we went to and the arrival of our little angel.’
He smiles and I smile back. The internet and fresh air have done the trick. Sometimes we just have to look back to see that things weren’t as bad as we thought and that also they have a tendency to change for the better. Let’s hope the trend continues into 2022. Happy New Year!