Sometimes you just have to put pen to paper and see where you go. As EM Forster said, ‘How do I know what I think till I see what I say?’
I had planned to start this in good time, but I’ve been sidetracked by a presentation about business storytelling that I have to prepare for next week and now it’s five-thirty on Thursday afternoon. In an hour I’ll go for my routine swim and later this evening I’ll head to the pub to stretch my fingers at the first live music session of the year. I don’t have long to write this and I’m stumped for a subject – which doesn’t feel terribly auspicious for the first post of 2013.
That of course is the trouble with the new year. Expectations. We arrive in it with so many: of resolutions, fresh starts, new beginnings. Yet it’s mid-winter, the lowest point in the calendar. We were tired when the holiday period began and we’re more tired still by the end of it. Yet we cross the annual threshold in the hope that we’ll return to our desks as if we’ve spent two weeks in the Bahamas.
In my case the blues are further compounded by what I’m increasingly convinced is mild seasonal affective disorder – low mood, loss of energy, irritability – caused mainly by the large hill in front of our house behind which the sun vanishes for two months. We live in a ditch, albeit a pretty one. From St Andrew’s night to Burns’ night the sun glints tantalisingly on the rooftops of Dunkeld, half a mile across the river, while Birnam remains deep in shadow and the frost and snow, if there is any, lingers on.
But the days are lengthening again and there lies hope. On Tuesday we held our Dark Angels AGM – a grand title for a jolly lunch at the Scotch Malt Whisky Society – and we’re looking at exciting developments in 2013. I’m working with my alma mater, the University of Aberdeen, to help them communicate their fundraising messages in a more engaging way. Visits to the lovely medieval campus where I spent my student days always cheer me up.
And there’s been an unexpected outpouring of kindness on the domestic front. My daughter Anna is on the threshold of working life. She graduated last summer in fashion and apart from a short, and for her parents rather alarming, solo excursion to St Petersburg and Moscow, has spent the last six months at home earning money and catching her breath after a gruelling final year (which happily resulted in a very good degree).
Now she is heading off to London next week – I picture her, Whittington-like, with a spotted handkerchief on the end of a stick – to seek her fortune in the world of fashion, or perhaps film or theatre costume. So far she has some pub work lined up through her sister, and a few weeks rent-free with a kind friend, but that’s it and while I’m both envious and admiring of her youthful esprit, I’ve also been feeling rather useless that these are worlds in which I have no contacts.
But some of my friends do. I emailed a handful of them at the end of last week, somewhat hesitantly because I’ve been on the receiving end of the please-can-you-help-my-child variety of message, and they’re not always terribly welcome. I needn’t have worried. The response has been almost overwhelming. Anna now has two weeks’ work at London Fashion Week and enough people to contact in fashion, film and theatre to keep her busy for a month.
None of those friends needed to go to the trouble they have. Yet they’ve offered their help gladly and freely. They may even have considered it a small gesture, yet the difference it could make to Anna could be enormous – the start of a career. It’s knowing that that generosity, that basic milk of human kindness, is out there in the world that encourages me more than anything else to gird myself for the year ahead.