There's a paragraph in Tony Parson's first novel "Man and Boy" where he describes driven along the Southend arterial road beneath the orange street lamps that has always resonated with me, conjuring up images of drives back into the Essex wastelands after Christmases spent in the bosom of a vast East End family.
The colour green also brings back memories of past Yuletides, that weird lime green colour that only Christmas tree lights seem to have which, along with that rather strange looking blue, make the lights take on weird psychedelic properties. Perhaps Timothy Leary had a job in a previous life designing baubles and lights.
It was interesting to see Roger McGough saying the other night about how Christmas songs made him nostalgic for a time he knew he had never experienced as a boy growing up in post WW2 Liverpool. Christmas songs, at least those pre-2002, managed to generate their own little world to which everybody was admitted if only for four weeks of the year. I heard a psychologist say recently that once we pass the age of ten all of our memories from before that period are seen from an adult point of view, we have gone past that point before which we could recall things through the window of a child, once we reach ten those curtains are closed and we enter the world of adult perceptions and trigger points.
I have only a handful of memories of Christmases before the age of 10 and to be honest once you get to my age they aren't the sort of things you want to bring out on Christmas Day and think about. When you have children of your own you tend to live Christmas through them, the anticipation of the great event, the buying and giving of presents, the annual palaver over cooking yet another roast dinner, this one apparently has to have 'all the trimmings' - whatever they are.
Perception has been an important word for me this year because I think how we view things, usually based on our own individual experience, colours how we perceive those events which we don't necessarily have any impact on but which for some short time fill newspaper inches and dominate the rolling news channels.
The Olympics and Paralympics showed two things for me which I hope left a lasting impression with people, firstly that we still have it in us as a country to pull together and put on a show that can inspire genuine awe. Of course the opening ceremony had its detractors, some sour faced bloke called Hitchens for a start, who complained about its heavy handed multi-cultural message. Oh to have been in the Hitchens household on 'Super Saturday' when a Somali refugee, the daughter of a midlands mixed marriage and a ginger won gold medals whilst wearing the vest of Great Britain and Northern Ireland. Heavy handed? Not a chance.
Then of course there were the Paralympics which I suspect had an even bigger impact on those who watched them then the able bodied event had a few weeks earlier. We saw all the patronising opinions of the modern world turned on their heads as athletes from around the world showed that disability only need be a barrier when that barrier is manned by somebody who is 'able-bodied'.
We then of course had two events that questioned whether or not the Leveson Report had actually been read by anybody, the Andrew Mitchell affair which not only showed how low Labour will sink to make a point but coming so close on the heels of the revelations about Hillsbrough really did make me wonder why anybody would choose to believe the opinion of a few police officers over the word of a politician who had done nothing more wrong than been born with a silver spoon in his nannies hand. Then of course there was the death of Jacintha Saldanha, a nurse who found herself in the wrong place at the wrong time and whose death made everybody I know question exactly what security measures were in place at a hospital where a member of the Royal Family was spending a few nights. The press office of the Royal Household remained suspiciously quiet during the whole event whilst the two Aussies responsible for 'the prank' were hung out to dry and the family of the deceased nurse were wheeled out to face the cameras in a horrible echo of the 'Diana years'.
The biggest shock of the year came in June when a YouGuv/Times poll that had been carried out in May revealed that 56% of the whole population are either "not at all interested" (37%) or "not
very interested" (19%) in football. If I had read that twenty years ago I would have concluded that it meant 56% of the population must be gay but there is plenty of evidence beyond those Sky and ESPN channels that suggest 56% might actually be a little on the low side. I constantly meet men for whom any cultural reference involving football is a complete mystery, those involved in IT seem to be the least interested of any if the sectors I deal with regularly.
The group who should be the happiest as 2012 gives way to 2013, according to the various surveys and indices, are those who are white, married, live in the countryside and are involved in horticulture. Unfortunately if you are a black, divorcee living in London and a banker it's not going to get any better!
It's been an interesting year on many fronts and I feel more optimistic than I have done for a while. The economy since 2008 has left people feeling a little more realistic than perhaps they were before the current woes began, there has also been the gradual opening of eyes to the fact that many of the current problems were created by the last Labour Government and they too have realised that the only way forward is to ditch once again the belief system that had allowed them to be the dominant force in British politics for more than a decade. Whether or not the Coalition can improve on its pretty woeful public relations of the past twelve months remains to be seen, if people could see beyond the stereotypes of 'toffs' and 'nasty party' they might be surprised.
To everybody who has passed this way over the last twelve months thank you, especially thanks to Shy and Span for their comments which are, as always, appreciated. As Mike Huckabee said on his New Years Eve programme, changing from 31st December to 1st January is at its basic only a question of turning over a page on a calendar but it gives us a chance to press a mental reset button and to put into perspective those things that really matter.
Happy New Year!