Into the New, Out of the Old

In 1982 I experienced the best year I have had since birth. I have now had even better years, but in 1982 I had no idea this would be so. I fell in love, I finished school, I did a spot of child minding in a time of great unemployment in the UK; thanks Maggie. I started a better job in a very posh building that smelt of beeswax and ended the year with a kiss from the love of my, then, short life.

It is one year that is preserved in aspic. Untouched by the terrible and not so terrible things that would follow. I knew, in 1982, with a clarity and surety that I had never felt, before or after, how my life was going to turn out.

I was going to live in a farmhouse, built in times past, in the green of the English countryside, with my husband and five children. Victoria, Louise, Charlotte, and two boys whose names I wasn’t really that interested in. Something fun and manly at the same time I suppose. I would have a wonderful kitchen in oak and bake Women’s Institute style dishes and cakes. I would pause from this industry on occasion to look upon the green fields, either in the bloom of spring or covered in frost. Nell Gwyn-cum-Martha Stewart. Who knew then the latter would end up in prison.

It all went tits up the following year. I can’t say I’ve ever seen the future so clearly since. I was obviously pretty crap at fortune telling.

My 17 year old self would be surprised that I would marry, divorce, and marry again with a bit more forethought. Move to the other side of the world, have two boys (with actual names), and a mad dog called Bolly. Suffer a mental illness and not discover a talent for cake making. My house is tumbledown – full of half mended appliances and small holes. Spiders and a refusal to stay clean. The kitchen is made of cheap pine I painted in lime green, purple and pillar-box red.

My sons were both born in April, as was the husband. I spend that month – the month of the cursing and butter smears – in my shabby-shabby (it’s not chic at all) kitchen trying to produce light sponge cakes without dips in the middle. It’s intense.

My home is surrounded by 12 acres of green grass and gum trees. I follow my dream of writing. I’ve given up my dreams of perfectionism. I’m happy. As I write, I realise that actually my life does bear a resemblance to the vision of my teenage self. An untidier, less controlled, less perfect version. Perhaps I should dig out that scarf and big earrings.

I don’t make New Year’s resolutions. I know how differently things turn out. We can’t really control the future. Be kind. Be hopelessly optimistic. Don’t give yourself a list of goals you know you cannot hope to achieve. The gym surges with unexpected membership in January, a large proportion of whom will not be hogging the shoulder press by March.

Have an imperfectly messy Happy New Year.


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