So, I hibernated my way through January, pretending it was a normal year and my staying in was just a reaction to overdoing it in the festive season. But now it’s a different matter altogether because it’s time for celebration.
For a start it’s my wedding anniversary. Usually the Nearly-Beloved is instructed to take a day off work and, after a leisurely breakfast and exchange of gifts, we head to the cinema, have a late pub lunch and maybe a bit of retail therapy. Then we go home, dress up and hit a fancy eatery for a five-star meal. This year, however, is rather different.
‘What do you mean, the Amazon package hasn’t arrived in time?’ I snarl as I’m handed a wilted bouquet hurriedly acquired from the local garage. And although the country walk the Nearly-Beloved has planned for me is very scenic, his picnic of squashed ham sandwiches and a can of lager whilst sheltering under a tree from a downpour is not what I’d dreamed of. When we return four hours later I haven’t the energy to cook a romantic meal, so it’s either my signature corned-beef hash or a take-away curry.
I’m still feeling the effects of the vindaloo several days later. But at least I can put my lack of sleep down to indigestion rather than the usual lockdown anxiety. Just as well I’m awake when all hell lets loose. Huge bangs reverberate in every direction. Are we under attack? What the heck is going on? I shake my snoring hubby back to consciousness to check the SAS aren’t about to break down the door.
‘It’s fireworks,’ he mutters, ‘who on earth is setting them off at midnight?’ As he closes his eyes on the spectacle, I stand mesmerised by the window. A whole rainbow of colours fills the night sky, bringing a sense of wonder and excitement. Then I have a moment of clarity. Of course – it’s Chinese New Year. Normally there would be a bit of a run up to it, a couple of dragons parading around the town centre, the chance to watch some traditional dancing and acrobatics in a show at the City Hall, whilst the Chinese restaurants would be booked up well in advance. Still, at least the local community are seeing off the most-unpopular-in-history ‘Year of the Rat’ and welcoming in the Ox. Apparently, it’s a year that embodies patience, a ‘reap-what-you-sow’ kind of beast. So maybe the government’s more careful approach to easing restrictions is in keeping with the Ox’s slow, steady energy. If we can just hold faith for a little longer, the unprecedented changes that the Rat year brought us might yet yield positive new beginnings.
Next up is Valentine’s Day. And surprisingly, without its normal commercial hype, it turns out to be quite enjoyable. No pressure to eat out and spend a fortune on forced romance. Instead, we settle down in front of the TV in comfy lounge pants that expand to accommodate the delicious but reasonably priced supermarket ‘meal deal’.
Grunting Teen might not have fully embraced that particular occasion. ‘I know it’s from you, Mum,’ he tells me, rolling his eyes when a mysterious card appears for him. Still, it doesn’t stop him from snaffling his chocolate heart and most of mine too.
But he’s certainly keen to celebrate the next important date – Pancake Day. With strawberry sauce, ice-cream, maple syrup and a squirt of synthetically sweet cream, the sugar rush in itself makes the world seem a happier place.
And the change in the weather is also making a difference to our mood. Icy January and freezing February had their benefits, with the magical illusion that we were snowed in rather than locked down but now there’s a breath of spring in the air. Snowdrops and crocuses are poking their heads above the ground. Exercising with a friend is now more about leisure and less about survival. And there’s a hint of sunshine mixed in with the showers.
Even the nightly news is starting to have a celebratory feel to it as Covid cases fall whilst vaccination numbers rise. There may still be some way to go but could it be that the world is slowly coming out of its long hibernation?