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2016: Thank you and goodnight

…you’ve been a strange year, arriving like an assassin in an expensive but inconspicuous coat, hanging round nightclubs and whispering in the ears of politicians, waiting until the world was sitting in its bathtub, then pulling the plug.

This year I: read 75 translated novels in 3 months, watched whales from the summit of a mountain in East Greenland, danced in August, cried in June, missed a flight, found a corner of the Peak District I’d never seen, published two books, shaved my head, had intensely vivid nightmares, lost the plot in Leeds, drank too much tequila in Manchester, saw the Northern Lights above a glacier, moved back to the town I grew up in, slept very little, said ‘goodbye’ too often, crashed through snow in Canada and drove to Scotland in sublime light.

diaryI’ve ended the year in bed with sickness and fever, hallucinating childhood scenes: my grandad’s house in Oldham, the shape and shadow of every room. Yesterday, I felt as if I was sweating out the old year, approaching 2017 with a kind of emptiness. I also started reading some of my old diaries. I found a notebook from when I was 11 and another journal kept while I lived in Grasmere from 2010-11. It’s not exactly Dorothy Wordsworth, but there are some choice quotes from other writers scribbled down in the pages:

‘Life makes as much sense to me
as a ripe avocado does to a dog.’
– Geoff Hattersley

There are also a million evocations of snow and rain: ‘snow here for days, the hills not so much blanketed as gagged’, ‘rain worrying at the house’, ‘ice on a small, glassy tarn – the hill’s well-kept secret.’. Mostly though, the pages contain advice-to-self:

  1. Read something spectacular each morning.
  2. Remember there’s no such thing as a quiet pint in Tweedies.
  3. Every day, try to speak to someone who has your best interests at heart

I’ll definitely try to carry 1. and 3. over into 2017.

As the festive season limps along, here’s one of my favourite Christmas poems, a beautiful end-of-the-year piece by Liz Berry called ‘Christmas Eve’. You can listen to Liz reading it here.

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