It’s the beginning of another new year, and predictably the media is saturated with diet tips and other ways to feel bad about yourself (#newyearnewyou). Well, stuff all that. Yes, we can all do with a little self improvement, but I’ve never been one to obsess about it. I don’t remember ever seriously trying to keep a new year resolution, and I certainly don’t intend to now.
It’s a time to pause and reflect, especially now the Christmas leftovers are dwindling and I’m at home again, back to the quiet after almost two weeks of relatives and friends filling my days. Quiet. Yes, I’ve missed the quiet of home – even when I’m just faffing on my laptop by myself, slightly bored. Sitting at my desk, soaking up the quiet, lighting a scented candle – this is contentedness defined. So is a full fridge – not full of festive crap, but real vegetables, real ingredients – and all the possible things I could make before going back to work next week.
Silly things annoyed me about being at my parents’, and then my in-laws’ over the Christmas period – but nothing more than being able to decide what I’m going to eat, and cooking it myself. This is such an important part of having my own house and being an adult for me, second only to being able to put a wash on as soon as my favourite clothes get dirty. I was stupidly cautious about choosing what to wear, knowing it would be over a week before I could do laundry at home. When did I get so obsessed with housework – and hang on, how did I get so boring?
I think it’s a control thing, actually. When I’m visiting family, I’m not in charge. I found myself following my Mum into the bank – the same branch of HSBC I used to tag along at her heels in when I was twelve (and Mum really should have grasped the benefits of online banking by now, but that’s another story). I felt a slight rush of panic at the memory of being a bored kid in a bank, and here I was again, feeling the same irritated tedium, aged thirty-two. Except instead of being twelve-year-old me and wishing I was upstairs in WHSmith browsing through the cassette tapes, I simply longed to get home and put a wash on.
Then for New Year, we rented a cottage in the Cotswolds with some friends. We mainly slept through it, all of us exhausted by a week tolerating relatives and enduring long motorway journeys to various parts of England. I proudly fed eight people with a Jamie Oliver chilli recipe and our trusty rice steamer; domestic bliss, because I was in charge (is this a teacher thing?!). We were in bed before eleven most nights (and I couldn’t even stay awake for midnight on New Year’s Eve). It was very relaxed, certainly in comparison to family obligations and frictions and a true testament to the fact that I have really, really lovely friends. For the first time in a while I greeted the first of January full of energy.