Friday, 2 January 2009

2008 was like my Christmas tree - Mad, bad, glorious and wonderful!

My judgement must have been severely impaired when I bought this year’s Christmas tree. The young man selling them was trying to show me better trees, and knowing him well as I do, I should have respected his greater understanding of such things. Frozen in my memory is the image of him standing by what looks now to have been a perfectly shaped medium to small tree.
But no. I knew best, didn’t I, so off I marched down the row, pointing like Dr. Watson to a fresh corpse.
“There! That there!”
And now I sit and stare at this most bizarre of Christmas trees. The Snapper has performed a minor miracle with lights and decorations, and it is most certainly now a pretty tree, but the real miracle is that it got away with pretending to be a Christmas tree at all.
Maybe, contrary to our liberal greenie beliefs, trees of the pine forest do not have much fun stuck out in the cold, and pray to their arboreal gods to be taken to Tree Nirvana, where they become Christmas trees, to be draped with lights and garish plastic shite of all description.
We can leave the deeper mysteries of trees and their religious beliefs until the day comes that I am sufficiently barking crazy to finally oh yes finally be able to hear and understand what the trees are telling me.
Maybe the miracle is none other than the fact that I knew this thick-trunked beast would perfectly reflect the year that’s been. Maybe as I picked out this tree, I knew that its destiny in tree mythology was far greater than it could ever have been, had it been merely a pyramidal symmetrical no-gaps perfectly-formed Christmas tree.
This tree will henceforth be known as the Contrivance Tree, because I’m contriving to suggest that it is just as mad and bad and glorious and wonderful as this year has been for me.
With its towering top lopped off, my tree does exactly what a Christmas tree shouldn’t: it has huge gaps and branches like interest rates, that go up as well as down. It defies symmetry, throwing long strong shoots there and short thick twigs here and here and here.
Oh and it’s huge. Yeh, it’s rude, crude, brash and barmy, and I love it.
And just as I like my tree for all its imperfections, I still love life. Some years have a reasonable amount of life crammed into them, while others are fairly gentle and simple. 2008 was for me a year packed with so much life that I can feel some satisfaction to now sound so positive.
This time last year I had just finished the first draft of my novel, and was taking a break for the festive season. Then life in intervened as only life can, when threatened with death.
My Dad, who had been unwell for many years, began his final lengthy decline, and many of the first months of the year were spent over there, with my family. I had just lost a dear friend to cancer, and was already a little wobbly, but this was no time to be weak. There was life to deal with, and a wedding to plan. Just in case my Dad might make it, we planned a ceremony and lunch in England for family and close friends, followed by party two days later in Galway.
But first it was off to California, to visit the Last Chance Mountains, Bishop and San Francisco. Had I made up the locations in my book such a trip would have been unnecessary, but real people lived out there in the desert, and I had to go and meet them, crossing seven mountain ranges in a rushed road trip that bought new friends and a lifetime of beautiful landscapes to my brainbox. Also, it was fantastic to return to San Francisco, not only vital for my book, but also to enjoy an emotional reclamation, after having spent some sad years in a superb place.
Fired up with the spirit of adventure gained by having faced my fears and succeeded, I worked alongside my woman organising the wedding, whilst flying back and forth to England.
Dad died two weeks before our big day, and my mum was strong, beautiful and graceful as we all enjoyed our ceremony, followed by (hallelujah!) the most fantastic party we could have hoped for. With the sun shining solidly all weekend, Galway showed all the friends and family that had flown in how beautiful it can be, and our Galwegian friends and blow-ins alike pulled together to blast the night away in serious sty-all and fash-un.
And then I worked and worked and worked, and somewhere along the way a couple of weeks ago I finally finished my book. Off I went straight afterwards, to England to visit the family, but evidently it was a trip too far. Somewhere between my father’s death and my marriage to the most loving and loyal of women; between the days driving over American mountain roads and month after month spent crouched, scribbling in front of this keyboard, there lay hidden a gargantuan backlash of stress that unleashed itself upon the muscles of my back and legs last month, crippling me into submission, finally forcing this stubborn brute of a bear to stop.
Were it not for the pure genius of one local masseuse, I might not have been able to spoil your last ten minutes by writing this, but lucky you! The pain is on the way out, and any day now I might once again be able to walk the Prom.
So this year, like my tree, has been ugly, brash and painful; joyous, thrilling and emotional.
What? You saying my tree’s not emotional? Man, if you could only hear it talk, and watch it listening to Mozart, you might understand it the way I do!
Sorry folks, I lied to you last year! No DV Awards this year, and yes, I know, I know, that’s two years in succession. Well, I promise that should this Noble Rag still desire my scribbles, next year those beloved DV Awards will return.
In the meantime, I hope you may enjoy a happy, healthy and not too broke 2009. As they say in my culture: I vish you all you vish yourself!

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