Taking Frankie into school this morning, the long way that we like to when we manage to get out of the house in time with all of our bikes, helmets, lunches and bags- under the train line and through the leafy sidestreets of the secret middle-class ghetto hidden away behind the A6. On the pavements in front of imposing semi-detached residences, the discarded Christmas trees of the well-heeled lean drunkenly against wheely bins, awaiting collection by the Council. Ours has already gone, but not without a fight- the living room and the front yard are strewn with the many millions of tiny needles it shred in protest as we manhandled it inadroitly out of the front door. Rather more delicately, Frankie has collected up several handfuls of needles, which he calls 'prickles', and is keeping them in a paper bag, ready to be put into use on his trainset as lifelike railside greenery.
Christmas was spent in the traditional manner, watching episodes of Miranda while under the influence of unusual licquors, on familial sofas in the great cities of the Industrial North. Due to the unavailability of trains we travelled between these great cities in a small saloon car, hired for the duration of the festivities. The experience of motorway travel was luxurious but terrifying, and for the return journey from Newcastle south we stuck, like refugees from the 1950s, to the A-roads of Northern Britain, tootling through sleepy market towns at 30mph and trying to resist the temptation to stop in each one of them for a full English breakfast or a matinee showing of the new George Formby picture. The journey took a respectable six hours, but that was with a scheduled stop at Tebay Services, and an unscheduled diversion into the streets of Tebay itself, where a pair of surly, hunched up teenage girls glared at us from the depths of a vast concrete rural bus-stop resembling a Second World War tank trap.
The day after the journey I was straight back to work, to which I have been trying to mentally re-acclimatise- without, I think it is fair to say- any conspicuous level of success. I will spare you too many details, but if I tell you that on on Friday at approximately 10:30AM I was to be found tramping the residential streets neighbouring the office in my shirtsleeves, giving myself an audible talking-to ('come on now, this is normal, just normal here, back to the desk now, come on!') then that might give you an insight into my state of mind. Thankfully several members of the team seem afflicted by something similar, and after several hours on Friday afternoon trying to remember exactly what it was our jobs consisted of ('Is it something to do with Communities? There seem to be a lot of emails about Communities....'), we seem to be almost back in the swing of things now. This afternoon I actually caught myself on the telephone to some big strategic fish in Merseyside sounding like I actually had some idea what I was talking about (and using phrases like 'Third Sector Infrastrucutral Support', and 'Neighbourhood Needs Assessment', and 'Targeted Cross-Sector Based Capacity Building to Tackle Multigenerational Worklessness in Priority Areas'), so there is hope. Or perhaps no hope whatsoever, I'm not sure.
My New Years Resolutions then. Number one-not to have an actual and unsightly nervous breakdown during office hours, as this would run counter to the values of the organisation. Also- inspired by Joella, who has made a similarly bold undertaking - to post on here at least once a week. Stop laughing at the back, I'm serious. Happy New Year, and thanks for keeping reading (and for all the comments- I know I don't reply to all of them but really appreciate every one). Onwards!