Happy New Year, and a special welcome to the new readers- literally tens of you- who have come on board since we brought 2008 to a grandstand close by picking up a prestigious nationwide award. Of course if the Post of the Week people had deigned to tell me four years ago that all I needed to do to win the respect of my peers was half-kill myself by dangling naked and upside down inside of my own chimney for the evening then we could all have saved ourselves a lot of time and trouble. But then they do say it is important to struggle for your art, and the truth is that if the recognition had come four years ago then I wouldn't have appreciated it. No, the truth is I am honoured. Really.
I was going to say, somewhere within that preamble, that the new readers shouldn't expect such excitement on a regular basis. But the truth is that mishaps of one variety or another seemed to be following me around throughout last year- and they always seemed to happen during holidays. It was during a week off in March that I toppled over on the five-a-side pitch and did my back in, bringing a promising footballing career to an end at the cruelly premature age of thirty-nine and three-quarters. And it was half-way through a week's summer camping holiday in Wales (a holiday we had booked partly with the intent of cheering me up after three months of moping around the house feeling sorry for myself) that I toppled over getting out of a tent and did my back in even worse than the first time. So really when I booked that week in November off I should have resolved not only to stay in the house (because after all the chimney is, technically speaking, still part of the house) but actually to spend the full week hidden under the duvet, refusing point-blank to come out. Although knowing my luck that would have just have led to our hapless dog-minding friends Darren and Gary making a two-man attempt at labrador rescue and one of them falling straight through the cieling plaster and landing on my face. Which would have been equally painful as what really happened, but possibly not such an arresting image for the Post of the Week shortlisters. So- all in all we should be grateful for small mercies.
I'm certainly grateful - given the catalogue of misadventure described above- to have come through Christmas and New Year unscathed. Miraculous really, given that the holiday season featured marathon criss-cross train journeys (Manchester- Newcastle- Liverpool), some of them undertaken during the sort of wintry conditions that customarilly stretch the nation's infrastructure to breaking point and beyond. Festive highlights included:
....Playing Blankety Blank (the board game version, strictly for connoisseurs) in a living room in Blaydon-on-Tyne, and Buckaroo (Now With New Mule,it said on the box) in a front room somewhere on Merseyside.
....Meeting various friends named Mark (almost all of my friends are called Mark, but I avoid any confusion by making absolutely sure they never meet each other) in separate rail-station bar-rooms for afternoon pints of lager and reminiscences about 1980s indiepop and terrace culture.
... Me and Charlotte (who is not called Mark,we do make the odd exception) managing to get out for a couple of pints on New Years Eve while an obliging grandparent did the Frankie bedtime honours. An all too rare treat.
....Receiving excellent Christmas presents, including (in no particular order of favouriteness) a set of framed black-and-white pictures of my mam's family and a slim European volume collecting the literal translations of three-line news stories from the French newspaper 'Le Matin' dated 1906 (it's a lot more poetic and gripping than it sounds)
....and of course, watching Frankie open his Christmas presents. He was quite touchingly overwhelmed at every last one of them, right from the very first stocking at the end of his bed ('oh look Mammy- Father Christmas has been- and he's brought me a pair of lovely socks!'). The fire station complete with engine and helicopter went down well also, which was pleasing as the kit had taken four hours to put together, the instructive diagrams rendered ever-so-slightly hazy by the latenight consumption of strong Polish lager).
And- oh I am sure lots more, but it's getting very late indeed and in six hours' time I've got to go back to work and make a slightly better fist than I did this morning (the dreaded First Day Back) of remembering what the hell it is I do for a living (the password for the computer would be a start, as would the name of that vaguely familiar woman in the blue sweater at the desk opposite). So I'll be off. Here's to a fine 2009, with hopefully more than one-and-a-half posts per month (although I remember making similar rash promises this time last January, so don't hold your breath) and, above all, slightly less mishaps than 2008. Do me a favour and if I say anything about booking a week's holiday remind me of this post via the comment box, will you?