Poor old January. No one likes you. Unless perhaps just maybe you have a birthday in the month, and even then the problem is that everyone is hungover – in terms of energy and financial cost if not also literally – from Christmas and New Year that no one really is in the mood for celebration. My birthday is in late February, and by that point most people are back on the party track, especially if it gives them (and me) and excuse not to give up alcohol for Lent (again). My Father’s birthday is in early January and we were up again to see him and to ‘celebrate’, as much as is possible when he still in hospital and his condition becomes increasingly complicated, and not in a good way. But for a while he enjoyed opening presents and looking forward to reading the massive pile of books I have bought him – we all have to stay positive. He also insisted that the box of Walnut Whips go home – or else the nurses would snaffle them (he does like them, but to be honest it is more of a family joke, my revenge for the many years that he threatened me that the only thing I would get for Christmas was a ‘Matchbox with Smarties’. He always delivered too, although of course in addition to the proper presents). It was good to give him something to smile about, and then get told off by the potential Walnut Whip snaffling nurses for not telling them it was his birthday. He loves that. He’s a cheeky old sausage, and I love him massively and wish I could do more to help at this juncture. We’ll be up again soon.
But getting back to this month, I quite like January. It is a time for new beginnings, the turn of the year. We are finally freed of the wall to wall Christmas marketing circus (albeit in return for ‘look at this nice holiday in the sun you can have’ replacement, and the Valentines stuff is already wall to wall, Easter eggs starting to creep through). People are making efforts to be more healthy, do more exercise and a handful will even continue to try into February. The bird feeders have never been busier – we went to the Wildfowl Trust (WWT) at Washington and sat in amazement in a hide watching pretty much any woodland bird you might imagine, including Goldcrests, Tree Creepers and Nuthatches as well as more tits and finches than you can shake a stick at come to visit a set of feeding stations – if you ever want to feed the birds, this is the month to start (on the same subject, our inability to clear up wind fall apples again produces the delight of a garden full of thrushes, mostly blackbirds (who put aside their territorial leanings briefly and studiously ignore each other as they feast on Bramley) but with a Field Fare that thinks everything is only there for it). With the leaves still off the trees – but the buds starting to appear – it is never easier to see a Kingfisher on the river, a flash of azure and orange that, possibly the Jay aside, must be our most attractive bird. These are the things I hold onto in January. These are the things keeping me smiling, when mostly I want to cry at the moment. I’m all for ‘Dry January’ but for me I’d like the welling of tears to be something I would have the opportunity to lay aside for a while, but I’m suspecting that’s a bit of a forlorn hope. We soldier on.
Soundtrack: ‘January, February’ by Barbara Dickson, beloved by both my parents and the least cool thing in my CD collection (OK, that’s a lie; that probably is the best of Val Doonican, but his cover of ‘Elusive Butterfly of Love’ is still a lovely thing).