I live opposite a pub car park. A country pub where people make an effort to go there for lunch. It’s rather the English idyll that so many visitors to our shores look for: summertime has seating outside to enjoy a pint in the sunshine; and in winter the open fire keeps the place inviting and warm. It’s well run and the beer is well kept.
I looked out to the carpark this afternoon and saw that it was much busier than it has been during January. While it may be that it’s taken only a few weeks for the initial enthusiasm for the patrons’ New Year diet to wear off, I suspect the timing may be a little more prosaic: it’s the Sunday after the first payday of the year. People have some money in their pockets again.
The first thought that sprang to mind is one of those shared cultural expressions that require little explanation: January is a long month. Now, we all know that thirty days hath September and that January is one of the slight majority with thirty-one. But it’s more than that. At the time of year when it’s at its darkest and coldest, it’s also the month where everyone is obliged to rein themselves in. I often feel this is somewhat premature: we didn’t manage to ward off the darkness and gloom of midwinter quite so well as we had hoped and now we live with the consequences of long dark days and little resources to fight them off.
As I have got older, so I find myself more planful heading into each new year. I suppose being the wrong side of the halfway mark in life tends to focus attention on the accumulation of achievement. But that early New Year vigour is more easily swayed than I would like to admit. So, while I’m fortunate that I don’t have to wait until the end of the month to dine out, the effect of the long, dark month of January has somewhat muted my enthusiasm for charging headlong into my list of goals.
In these times of limited daylight I could embolden myself with Dylan Thomas’s exhortation against the dying of the light, but instead have fallen into a quieter rhythm this January. It has been mainly work and domesticity. My usual desire to spend time outside in the natural light has been tempered by a reluctance to fight the wet and cold of this time of year. And so today, though it started with a bright sun through the windows, I have contented myself with those most Sunday of Sunday activities: reading, listening to the radio and dozing. I wasn’t going to fight anything – that can wait for next month.
Sometimes I guess Sundays should just be Sundays.