2016 wasn’t so bad. For me, anyway.
Oh, on a worldwide scale it’s been a bloody horror. For a start, many of my cultural icons have died. People who have a genuine place in my heart, people who created films, music and other works which are tied to cherished memories which will forever now feel tinged with sadness.
Then there’s the current political climate. I personally think Brexit was a bloody stupid idea and Donald Trump is a bloody stupid…man? Lizard? Gone-over-orange-in-a-wig? Whatever. The point is, whatever you think of Farage or Trump or May or any of them, everything is kind of up in the air right now and that’s scary as hell, but that’s not what I want to talk about.
No, 2016 had a lot of good moments for me and my loved ones, was riddled with absolute arse for the world as a whole and while i’ve no reason personally to detest it, i’ll not be sorry to see this year breathe its last as 2017 comes screaming out of the metaphorical birth canal and takes responsibility for the next three hundred and sixty five days of nonsense.
What I want to talk about right now, folks, is New Year’s Eve itself. The evening of the 31st of December, leading into the wee small hours of January 1st, often spent in the company of a shitload of alchohol and a whole lot of poor decisions.
I remember some years ago, me and my friend Big Dave (honestly) set off on a pub crawl around Crewkerne, our old stomping ground. We would have been around eighteen or nineteen years old and had plans to hook up with the rest of our merry crew later that night to ring in the new year but we first decided we would head out to a wee village pub not far from us.
The plan was simple. Enjoy an early evening ale at The Globe, walk the mile or so back into town and hit every one of the I-can’t-remember-but-I-want-to-say-12 pubs that were open at the time and round out the night with much carousing in the Crown, our local.
I remember spending at least half an hour at the bar in Ip’s Palace, a local Chinese restaurant, because they had excellent prawn crackers and reasonably priced Budweiser.
I seem to recall drinking about one quarter of a pint in the Nags Head before leaving, after realising that it wasn’t beer we were drinking, really. It was more like beer flavoured dog piss. Bloody awful pub, the Nags, but it’s now a very nice Indian takeaway, so there’s a thing.
I have a slightly fuzzy recollection of making it back to the Crown a little before 12 and fighting my way to the bar to order a drink, before linking arms with my companions, belting out a slurred rendition of Auld Lang Syne and tongue kissing someone, no idea of their identity or gender, before moving on to the serious business of building a Sidekicks pyramid the height of the bar.
That was then. This is now.
I am a 32 year old, much married father of two and New Year’s Eve, 2016, finds me draped across the sofa in my cosiest pyjamas. They are fleecy and tartan and feel like being hugged by some sort of Scottish angel made of warm clouds. I am drinking Lucozade, because I am ill, but it’s Lucozade Zero, because i’m diabetic and actual Lucozade would probably kill me.
Some of my family are getting together tonight to ring in the bells but i’ve had to say no. I can’t stand up without wanting to fall down, both of the kids have been rough as hell over Christmas and asides from the fact that I fear the winter may take me, i’m buggered if i’m going to be patient zero in the plague that kills off the McLellan clan. They all understand and sad as I am to not be with them tonight, it’s the best thing, really. I’ll give them a bell around midnight and they know I love them and all that other soppy, human stuff, so that’s fine. So what AM I up to?
I’m watching Pokemon trading card pack openings on Youtube with Child Unit 2. In fairness, he’s playing Geometry Dash on the tablet and i’m watching the Pokemon videos, wondering if some lucky bastard is going to pull the Hoopa full art that I want for my collection. I want us to spend some time together and every now and then he does actually put the tablet down and start chatting away, at which point I realise just how lousy I feel and kind of wish he’d go back to his game so I could half-doze. Obviously, I feel guilty no matter what i’m doing, because parenting.
Child Unit 1 is upstairs on her very first smartphone. She’s 9 years old, 10 in January and she’s lying on her bed, video chatting to a school friend on Whatsapp. In the frazzled, plague-ridden, distressed parenting centre of my brain, this innocent video chat will almost certainly lead to a career of lewd webcam gyration*.
Normally, when people say “Oh they grow up so fast” my first thought is usually “One day at a time, because that’s how time works, dickhead”, but it’s true. Time seems to be passing faster than it did in the old days and my babies aren’t babies anymore. It’s wonderful and terrifying in equal measure and most days I just hope I don’t fuck it up SO badly that they resent me for it.
My wife, wondrous creature that she his, has just finished a 12 hour shift. She’s a nurse, she does an important, incredible job that I simply could not do. She might make it past midnight or she might have to head upstairs to get some sleep before long because she has another 12 hour shift to do tomorrow. Whatever. It would be lovely to have her here around at midnight, but i’d sooner she got some rest if that’s what she needs. It’s just a tick on the clock and as I plan to spend all the rest of the ticks I have with this woman, I can hardly complain if she spends a few of those ticks asleep from time to time, can I?
So that’s my New Year’s Eve, 2016. The Child Units are doing their own thing, for the most part. Marital Unit muttered something about incense and fired up Pokemon Go, having handed me a slab of Panettone that would choke a walrus. My head hurts, my joints throb and my throat feels like it’s been vigorously assaulted with a spiky rogering stick.
When I was younger, i’d be just about hitting my stride about now. Four pubs down, eight to go and a kebab stop at ten to keep me going.
This year, I decided against having a midnight dram because it might not sit well with my meds.
I wouldn’t change a bloody thing.
Happy New Year, folks.
* I fully support anyone who chooses a career in webcam gyration. I’ve got a couple of friends who make a bloody good living wobbling their bits online and I wish them well. It’s just…she’s nine, guys. I panic easily.