There’s no Place Like it

What marks the beginning of 2016 for you? Is it the weather? Overindulgence of any kind? Resolutions you’ve made? Perhaps you’re beginning the New Year with some regrets about how much Christmas has cost? Or are you planning which world destinations you’ll be visiting?

For me the departure of 2015 is stained with the enormous blemish of homelessness, both near and far. Much of it has been caused by the weather-climate change, which we can no longer attempt to deny. Here in the UK there are many who’ve been put out of their homes by floods three times. I admire the spirit and resilience of these unfortunates as they mop up yet again, but you have to wonder if it might not be time to re-locate those who inhabit vulnerable areas.

Elsewhere-in the USA for instance, weather conditions are no kinder, with lethal tornadoes reducing everything to matchwood, followed by blizzards. Then in Australia searing temperatures have produced ideal circumstances for the punishing fires they’ve had to combat. We hear less about the enduring droughts in countries such as Namibia, where families are unable to keep the few animals they depend on alive.

We know that the conditions that have caused climate change are mostly man made. And so are the conditions that have brought about an exodus of Biblical proportions as a flood of another kind spread across Europe in the form of refugees.

Those who survived their grim voyages in defective vessels provided by corrupt and ruthless traffickers might be considered to have been the ‘lucky’ ones; but after a traumatic and exhausting ordeal on inhospitable seas they have had to traipse across one country after another seeking refuge. Of all these unfortunate, desperate people it is the mothers with tiny children who elicit the most sympathy from me. Their plight must have been dire for them to leave everything behind and risk the lives of their small children in un-seaworthy boats then plod miles with them, sleeping in the open along the sides of roads and railway tracks and depending on the unreliable handouts of local communities. What did they know of Northern European weather? Not enough to prepare them for the cold and the wet. A sick child is a worry to a mother in a warm home with food and medicine available. What can it be like for a mother camping out in a strange environment with no access to facilities?

I’ve only once experienced the unnerving panic that homelessness provokes, when evicted from a rented flat in London. But I was single, in my twenties and in paid employment, needing only to look through the flat-share ads for a new home. The anxiety then was fleeting. For the children growing up with the uncertainty of having been displaced and little hope of a warm, safe place to live the repercussions must surely last a lifetime. Under the circumstances ‘Happy New Year’ is tainted with a hollow ring…

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Lower Your Expectations still Further

So now all that Christmas malarkey, with its mountains of sprouts, wrapping up, decking the halls, washing the pots, preparing yet another meal, watching tedious re-runs of ancient ‘Christmas specials’ on TV, picking up sweet wrappers, smiling while you unwrap Aunty Mabel’s hand-knitted tea-cosy, being endlessly nice, hoovering up pine needles, opening yet another bottle of fizz, putting on your indulgent face while some teeny tot trashes your tasteful decorations, discovering the dog has eaten your hand-cooked ham with its special glaze you saw on Nigella, clearing up said dog’s vomited up ham….is now done.

You can relax. But what will you be doing to see 2016 through the year’s portals? Set off to sunny climes, smug in the satisfaction of having booked it months ago? Get scrubbed up and enjoy a swish hotel dinner that you cunningly arranged last January? Drink yourself into a post-Christmas trauma-mitigating stupor in front of TV’s Hogmanay offerings? Or will you retire early with a cup of cocoa and any literary offering that was not a] a biography of last year’s winner of ‘I’m a Celebrity Get Me out of Here’ b] the latest ‘must-have’ cookery book or c] some lame attempt at humour?

Or will you, perhaps settle for drinks in the convivial, comfortable company of old friends, those who you’ve chosen to be a part of your life, rather than your relatives, who, whilst having ‘blood thicker than water’ may nevertheless be hard work over a prolonged period. So-friends then. But which friends? Your childhood bosom buddies from the village where you were born? Your uni friends whose lives you’ve followed on Facebook and met at reunions? Those who you met at the ante-natal classes, parent-first-timers like you? Your fellow five-a-side footballers? The blokes down the pub? The neighbours?

Maybe the answer is to host your own New Year’s bash and invite them all. Then the dilemma is solved; or is it? In my experience any kind of celebratory party that includes everyone you’ve ever known is never an unmitigated success. This is because these polarised factions are likely to have very little in common with the exception of YOU. I’d follow the example of Husband’s friend who recently had his 60th bash. He held a different event for each group of friends or relations [a restaurant, drinks at home etc], negating the need to attempt to get strangers to talk to each other-always a soul destroying task.

Perhaps, however you will do what Husband and I have done on occasions, go to your local pub/bar/café and throw yourself into any New Year’s do that’s going, the more 60s hits, karaoke and chronic DJ jokes the more riotous and cheesier the better. Leap about with anyone and everyone. They may not be ‘auld acquaintances’ or even new ones, but who cares? It’s all ‘best forgot’ anyway…