Saturday, 31 December 2011

Looking Back, Looking Forward

Surely I am not alone in wondering at the fact that another year is nearly over. Many too are now commenting in the media about what an extraordinary year it has been, with political convulsions across Europe and the Arab world and continuing economic confusion and stagnation.

The Roman god Janus
Beginnings and transitions were his department and January is named after him. Since he watched over entrances and exits, we also get the word "janitor' from him.

Someone at least was happy as I encountered him in our local garden centre a week or so before Christmas, although I wonder what fate has befallen him since. Did he find a buyer or is he even now on his way back to to some distribution centre on the basis that he found himself in Twickenham on “sale or return”?

Karaoke Santa, stuffed not with turkey but with animatronics and cheesy tunes.

Horrible things happen all the time: a teenager fatally stabbed on Boxing Day in London’s Oxford Street; an Indian student shot and killed at point blank range in Manchester in an attack apparently motivated by racial hatred. These are but two examples of the way that lives can be lost in an instant, the perpetrators surrendering to the red mist of rage and hatred that maybe lurks in all of us. The soul needs good food just as the body does and we are what we eat. What are we feeding on? What are others tucking into or even being forced to consume? I was saddened in the closing weeks of this year by the death of the writer Christopher Hitchens. Although I disagreed with him on matters of faith, among other things, it always seemed to me that his was a voice one could trust because of his fearlessness in seeking the truth and speaking it in some of the finest language we will ever hear. A good diet therefore, even if some of the meat was rather tough.

Christopher Hitchens (1948-2011)
His brother Peter, paying tribute, quoted Hilaire Belloc’s “Dedicatory Ode”: “From quiet homes and first beginnings, Out to the undiscovered ends, There’s nothing worth the wear of winning But laughter and the love of friends”.
I'll raise a glass to that and to his memory.

For me it has been a year of treatment and recovery, significant intake of chemo and other medications, numerous blood tests, two bouts of hair loss and, as we enter 2012, hope that my disease has been kept at bay (my third CT scan and bone marrow biopsy, both expected in the next couple of months, should establish whether this is the case). I have had much rest and spent relatively little time doing the work I am paid for. Family ties and friendships have deepened wonderfully and new friends and acquaintances have entered the scene. I have been grateful for the very best that the National Health Service can provide and rather less appreciative of its worst offerings (I refer of course to the food). This has been a year of personal remaking and the development of new interests in writing and history. I am looking forward to the future, buoyed up by exciting discoveries made in the genetics of Waldenström’s and the hope that these offer for the development of new and even more targeted and effective treatments.

I hope for a happy, healthy and peaceful new year for all of you. See you somewhere, some time after Big Ben has next struck twelve.

The amaryllis in our kitchen, an early Christmas present bursting into bloom just as the old year ends.
It has two up on Janus, as its blooms face in four directions. Perhaps it is taking stock of the fleeting present as well as scanning what has been and looking towards what will be.

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