Yet for all this idyll of indolence, I am prey to anxiety at this time. I look forward to the lull, to being momentarily free of obligations, I envision a time of timelessness and dreaming, of serene emptiness, but also that somehow I will accomplish many useful tasks of restoring order in neglected corners, and still do something original and creative, and that I'll catch up on all the worthy and serious reading I've been setting aside. In addition I see us taking long and healthy walks, as well as having the odd bit of contact with other people now and then ...
It's a lot to ask of a week or so holiday, and at a low-ebb time of year, of course, and I am inevitably stalked by a sense of failure; that I have left undone those things which I ought to have done, and done those things which I ought not to have done and there is no health in me. Even the well-loved book seems questionable in its familiarity - why am I still hanging out with Celia and Sir James and Mrs Cadwallader and Camden Farebrother (for they are the ones I really love, more than the rather tiresome idealists and their disappointments), shouldn't I be getting out more, meeting some new and more exotic and exacting literary company? My own drive to make anything is hampered and beset by a creeping sense of its own pointlessness, by the numberless crowds of other things there are yet to learn about, and the knowledge that other people have made things so much better already; idleness and the presence of too much of the kind of food and drink I've been getting better at avoiding bring about a creeping heaviness of body - one of the six hard-worn-away kilos back already - and spirit. Abundance confounds me, and the weather has been dismal for walking and taking photos.
I bewail all this to Tom. Heaven forfend, he agrees, that we should actually relax and please ourselves this week.
I take out the tin of pastel pencils I bought when I went to England, and make myself draw a clementine and a chestnut, though the tin contains no colour orange.
We go to visit my new friend. She quizzes Tom on St John of the Cross; I don't know if he passes muster better than I do but they seem quite taken with each other. She has set up her pottery figures with the paperwhite narcissus bulb I brought last time, so that I can take a photograph.
Today, we walk in the fog, Molly and I, further than we have done lately. The countryside is, as it so often seems to be at this time, sodden and dull, reduced to earth and grey and grudging green, the last colours in the paint pots once again. Sullen heaps of manure lowering along the field edges provide some of the few discernible forms in the landscape. The fog has hung heavy water drops on the trees, which are almost bare except that the early cold seems to have prompted the oaks to hang on more stubbornly to their rust brown and ochre leaves. There is an occasional breeze, despite the foggy pall, and walking under them, they throw water at me in a tetchy imitation of rain.
It is so difficult not to be affected by light, or its absence, but reason tells me that this milder, damp weather is really something I should be thankful for. Crystalline wintry high pressure, beautiful as it is, is a worry when it comes to driving, and getting up on endlessly dark mornings to go to work, as I must again from Monday. And the globules of dew which the fog leaves, while they don't glitter and sparkle and delight, have their own reluctant glow and grace. For Molly too, the crushed and dampened earth, the broken vegetation and moisture laden air filled with the smells of the winter-driven wild creatures, are sweet delight, she is lively and especially interested in the world around her. I realise that for her these days, the world as I perceive it today - visually obscure, colourless, its shapes unclear, with muffled sounds from uncertain quarters pressing on the outside of the foggy curtain - is perfectly normal. So I enjoy the walk more through her eyes, or rather nose.
The light is always still there, it will be back.
I dreamed of my sister last night. There were the usual incongruities and inexplicable elements of most dreams, but in essence we were back to a time before she died, but I knew what was going to happen. There was a melée of distractions and problematical activity going on around us, but suddenly I knew the important thing was to go and put my arms round her and tell her I loved her, and I did.
I am not much for New Year, never have been. The celebrations always seemed forced, and usually left me feeling miserable; New Year resolutions are a dubious tradition. The change of date from one year to the next is necessary but arbitrary; time and change go their own way regardless of how we choose to mark them out. But mark it we do, and that tends to lead to reflection and a taking of stock. In a personal and family sense, 2010 will always be marked as a year of great loss and sadness, but not one of darkness. I resolved this year to live as well as I could, against timidity and sloth and my own limitations, as a promise to someone who showed me how. As with any worthwhile resolve, making and keeping it is a work in progress, I fail over and over and have to renew the resolve time and again. Resolutions, promises, commitments, aren't one-off events, announced therefore accomplished, but need perpetual review and maintenance, if they mean anything at all.
Tonight we'll watch Cate Blanchett Elizabeth the first the second and her amazing CGI Spanish Armada, and sundry other fibs and anomalies, in a spirit of why-not, which will take us past midnight here, otherwise we wouldn't bother staying up. Lunch at friends' tomorrow, that's fine.
Happy New Year.