Wednesday, December 07, 2005


December 1965: This is my second christmas, but the first I can explore crawling and walking. I have no memory of it - grandparents and siblings may have been involved. I think this is the year I got my first book of poetry: Mother Goose, but I could be wrong on this one.

December 1970: Being six years old, I get extremely excited by the thought of christmas - the advent calendar, decorating the house a week before the big day. I spend a lot of the time looking in the catalogue at the presents I somehow know I won't get. During the day I go to infant school - I'm an old hand at school now as I've been there since my fifth birthday. I can read: my favourite books are wind in the willows and winnie the pooh. I even enjoy the poems. I can also do sums, which helps because the money is changing, new pence instead of old pennies. For christmas I get a train set which my dad bought from a friend who knows a friend who works in a factory that makes them. Packaging not included.

December 1975: I'm in my last year of junior school, which is kind of frightening. Things are changing: where once I shared the bedroom with three brothers now I share it with just the one. I have two grandparents left, soon to be one. For my last birthday I decided not to have a party as that sort of thing was for kids. My favourite book of poems is Old Possom's Book of Practical Cats, and I'm reading Arthur Ransome's Swallows and Amazons series, and Willard Price's Adventure series. To be honest, I've read all of the children's books in the local library several times over.

December 1980: If last christmas was strange, with me sleeping on various people's sofas after mum left home, then this year is stranger as dad moves out to live in a caravan in a field next to some stables. Ever the dutiful son, I visit my dad on christmas day before returning for dinner with the rest of the family. I don't remember what I got for christmas this time around: somehow it just doesn't seem important anymore. Instead I spend a lot of time drawing maps and inventing a language, putting the real world out of my mind.

December 1985: I'm unemployed and living at home. After 2 years at college I'm the proud owner of a Higher National Certificate in applied biology - meaning I'm qualified to do lab work. But there is no work. Lots of people I know are unemployed - we meet up on Wednesdays to go to the benefits office together. To do something with my time I've joined the local athletics club: athletics will come to dominate my life for the next 30 months. I go training on Tuesday and Thursday evenings and on Sunday mornings - and I rarely miss a session. These are wierd memories, a wierd time.

December 1990: 20 months of the civil service feels more like a community service sentence. I've promised myself I'll do no more than 5 years in London. I have a new boss this month, fresh from university, so wet behind the ears I'm tempted to drown him in the shallows around the nape of his neck. My new skills of paper management have been honed to a fine degree, and I am in charge of over 1,000 files. To keep me quiet, my line managers have given me the job of summarising them all, identifying key papers for a precedence book. Who would have thought the management of highways consultancy contracts could be so exciting? But the most exciting thing for me this month is the decision to move into new accommodation - my very first bedsit, in Islington, rent £45 a week. The gas fire leaks, the bathroom is shared. But I'm on my first steps towards sorting out the wreck of my life. I'm even beginning to write poetry that doesn't make people automatically cringe when they hear it!

December 1995: This is my third December with my lover, and after the excitements and ructions of the first two years we are beginning to settle into each other, accepting each other for what we are rather than what we want the other to be. December has a theme this year, and everything has to be Victorian - even the wrapping paper. New year will be spent in the Canary Isles. I'm working at the Highways Agency on private finance stuff, and enjoying the solidity of a job not about to collapse under my feet. I'm drinking a lot, too - my partner and I can clear a bottle of (cheap) whisky a night. I have just finished editing Magma 6, a poetry magazine which I helped establish a couple of years ago with colleagues attending Lawrie Smith's poetry writing evening classes. Things are beginning to look good.

December 2000: I'm bored of rain: it's rained all year and it's raining still. I'm working at the Department of the Environment (currently called DETR) on waste policy, which amazes me in some ways - I sometimes wonder what happened to all the people I went to college with. And I'm still with my partner, rarely an argument breaking our companionship - we broke our drinking habit a few years back and we've been tobacco free for over 9 months. This will be the first christmas just by ourselves, no guests for christmas day, which suits me fine as I can spend more time online in the poetry newsgroups or extending my website.

December 2005: Life is good. I have a job - indoor work. I have a 12 year relationship. I have a blog: you're reading it. I have a book of my poems published through the wonders of the web. I have no idea what the future's going to be like, but I intend to fully enjoy the good bits. Life, after 40, has started.

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