January. One of my least favourite months of the year. What’s good about it? Once the fairy lights come down, the ordinary lights illuminate all too well the dust and the dirt and the debris that the fairy lights have kindly masked during the moodily-lit month of December. I miss the tree in the sitting room too. The fact that it’s perfectly normal to have a tree in the sitting room. No-one blinks an eye. Even at our one which rarely looks like the trees pictured on the fronts of Christmas cards. It’s almost a tradition now. Turkey? Check! Ham? Yes! Presents? Wrapped! Decrepit, lopsided tree? Oh yes. But put the fairy lights on that baby, pour yourself a glass of Baileys and repair to the couch, and you’ve got yourself a little slice of magic, right there, in your sitting room.
Then along comes January and with it, the Visa bill with its traditional smirk and air of I told you so. That cold, bare month that seems so long. Longer still if you haven’t yet reneged on any of your new year resolutions.
On the plus side, It can be an opportune month for contemplation, since you’re not going out and there’s no booze left in the house. You can sit and think.
I think about years. Ten of them. A decade. That’s a pretty significant period of time, isn’t it. Long enough to be considered an ‘era’. An ‘epoch’ even.
Ten is the number of years I’ve been writing.
I started writing in the September of 2004. I was thirty-four years old. That was ten years ago (ten years and four months for the more pedantic among you) which means, yes, I know, I’m getting to that bit….I’m forty-four years old now. Forty-four and a half actually but who – apart from the more pedantic among you – is counting?
I always planned to be forty-four some day. Not in a, ‘Oh I can’t wait to be forty-four’ kind of way. In a presumptuous way. I presumed I would be forty-four one day. That I would make it to this most inauspicious of ages. Despite the cigarettes and the red wine and the sausage rolls.
I never planned to be a writer. That’s the bit which took me by surprise. And now, I’ve been one for ten years and have written five novels. At thirty-four, I never saw that coming. At forty-four, I’m glad it did.
In the film, ‘Kramer versus Kramer,’ Merryl Streep goes to LA to ‘find herself.’ That always made me laugh. Scoff really. In an unkind way. I thought, ‘What do you mean? Find yourself? Sure aren’t you already there?’
My fifth book – Now That I’ve Found You – is out in paperback today, which makes January feel a bit better than it has any right to. And….this is going to sound twee….am typing this bit with my eyes closed, in cringing-type way….I sort of feel….yes, I’m going to say it….that, in writing, I’ve kind of found myself. Writing has uncovered me. Has dug me up, unearthed me. Ten years of writing, and here I am.
I’ve said it.
And I’m pretty sure it’s true, too.
Is Mise, le meas,