Another year over…

The winter solstice passed by ten days ago and in the northern hemisphere, slowly but surely, daylight hours are beginning to increase. Tonight we usher in another New Year and in doing so set this one behind us. Another year over. In less than 6 months the summer solstice will mark a return to darker nights and the cycle – birth and death, growth and decay, dark and light – will continue. That is how our planet works.

At two points in my lifetime our family had five generations to celebrate Christmas and New Year, something of a rarity even in days when families were very large and women typically had children in their late teens or early twenties. Today very few of us remain and those who do are scattered over long distances across three continents.  Family is important to me and I would happily forgo all worldly goods for the opportunity to spend an extra year with lost loved ones, though a year would be insufficient because some were lost at a very young age. Young or old I know that parting again from those held dear would be far too difficult, something I would not relish for a second time so memories and photographs must suffice.

My oldest living relatives, my great aunt and great uncle, are 86 and 89 respectively. I was unable to visit during cancer treatment because I was chemo-pale and sickly, doing my best to avoid infections. They had experienced all that 17 years ago, immediately before they lost their only daughter and I couldn’t countenance this elderly couple bearing witness to the ravages of cancer treatment yet again.  A couple of years on and I’m largely recovered, pass for near-normal and have a functioning immune system. The Christmas break offered a good opportunity to visit and I found that Aunt and Uncle wear time well. They remain largely independent though they’ve both faced many personal health challenges in the last few years. They continue to live in the house they moved in to over half a century ago, the first house to be occupied on their street of brand new houses at the time.  Uncle tells me they are the last of ‘the originals’ on the street, they have seen many people come and go and he has lost his oldest friend in the last few months. Great aunt remains a country girl at heart, the Welsh lakes and mountains are never far from her thoughts and I am sure if she could, she would return there.  Though they’ve been married for 63 years I noticed Aunt continues to call Uncle cariad; he calls her cariad in return. Darling or sweetheart in Welsh. We talk of many things, of our lost loved ones and of those who are still here, of modern times and days gone by. Uncle gives M a bottle of beer and they discuss their favourite brews, he has a J2O for me because Aunt has told him I’m doing my best to take care of my health. We pet their dog (who is also very old at c17 but no-one knows his age for sure – he was rescued). We drink tea and remind Aunt and Uncle to keep warm in the cold weather, stay safe indoors.  The visit passes quickly and when its time to go Uncle takes my hand and says “keep looking after yourself, once there were lots of us but now there are few. We don’t want to lose any more.”  So true.

I wonder if there’s a point in our lives when we come to realise time slips through us quickly, more quickly than we might appreciate? If so, does the realisation change the way we view the world and go about our lives? Perhaps our experiences ordain when that point might be and make it dawn earlier for some than others, if at all?  As ever there are so many questions that seem to have so few real answers. 

Another year over and I think perhaps I have reached the point where I appreciate the value of time, how fleeting it is and how far beyond our control it lies. I also realise, and have done for a while, that I am free. Free from worrying about my pension, what other people think, how I look, whether my health will stay stable or my joints will ever improve.  I realise there is no time to waste which means enjoying the time there is, all of it, in whatever shape or form it takes. That is my mission for 2015, nothing more and nothing less.

To everyone who has followed Fecthis, liked and commented, thank you all – your encouragement and support is truly inspiring. To those who are facing cancer afresh or continue to live with it, I send fortitude, love and compassion. For everyone, I send wishes for happiness, well-being and peace in the year ahead. You are all amazing and you all deserve more time than human form allows.

Happy New Year

Happy New Year

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At the stroke of midnight, step forward a dark-haired man…

Just a few more hours and we’ll be saying goodbye to 2013 and welcoming in the New Year.  Happy New Year! to everyone who has already celebrated.

As with many notable days of the year the rites and traditions associated with New Year’s Eve and New Year’s Day have become a little hazy over time.  In many of our towns and cities it’s another reason for people to party, become excessively drunk and get themselves in a pickle.  New Year’s Eve can be a lot of fun but it’s often a frustrating, horribly busy evening for the emergency services. Members of our family have worked in medicine and law enforcement for longer than I can remember so we have plenty of stories from the darker side of too much alcohol, drugs or both, including some tragedies.

Here’s hoping this year sees plenty of merriment without mishaps for all those who are celebrating.

We don’t live in a town or city and New Year is a less raucous affair which, I must admit, suits me fine because I’m not much of a party animal.  Out here people from the farms and hamlets go to the local pub, socialise, celebrate and generally enjoy each others company. In some areas superstitions about the casting out of evil spirits are maintained on New Year’s Eve followed by the blessing of homes and farms on New Year’s Day.

Another tradition involves opening the back door on the strike of midnight to let the old year out, then asking the first dark-haired man carrying bread, salt, coal and greenery to come through the front door.  By doing so it is said that everyone in the house will have enough food, money and warmth coupled with a long and healthy life. Welcoming a dark-haired stranger into our homes while we’re all a bit the worse for wear probably isn’t a very sensible idea so lining up a suitably equipped friend, relative or significant other might be more appropriate!

2013 has been another long year and one I won’t be sorry to say goodbye to, that’s assuming I stay awake long enough to see the New Year in!  However you are celebrating, have a safe, happy and healthy 2014 🙂

English: Father Time and Baby New Year from Fr...

English: Father Time and Baby New Year from Frolic & Fun, 1897 (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

 

Bah Humbug to Triskaidekaphobia. 2013 will be a lucky year :-)

Many in the West consider thirteen to be an unlucky number but there’s evidence to suggest 13 is in fact lucky.  2013 will be a lucky year.

A number of people I know deserve much better fortune and I feel our world as a whole could do with a bit of a lift.  So here I offer 13 random examples designed to inspire and illuminate us as we approach 2013.  I apologise for any factual inaccuracies, this is a bit of trivia inspired by a dear friend because we’re aiming to cast off pesky Triskaidekaphobia together and will attempt to do it for anyone else who’d like better luck in future too!

1. The Thirteenth century was very productive for the Italian city of Florence.

Firenze

Firenze (Photo credit: NivesMestrovic)

Its prosperity and peace enabled rapid economic expansion which continued at pace. Various categories of tradesmen and craftspeople increased extensively going beyond their region to other areas.

2. Thirteen is a prime number suggesting an incorruptible nature, purity and integrity.

3. Improv Everywhere organise fun missions to entertain participants, onlookers and those who watch their videos. 

Participants of No Pants Subway ride at Times ...

Participants of No Pants Subway ride at Times Square (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

The No Pants Subway Ride takes place on January 13th 2013 in New York and has spread to other cities too. Participants wear winter coats, hats, scarves and gloves but no pants. The aim is to bring excitement to an otherwise humdrum setting, make people laugh, smile, or stop and notice the world around them.  Seeing this would certainly make me smile and spice up an otherwise boring subway ride 🙂

4. The thirteenth tarot card signifies death and eternal life.  The thirteenth rune ‘Eiwaz’ was the central rune around which all the others were ordered in the oldest runic alphabet.

5. When Chinese women make offerings of moon cakes, 13 will be served. Thirteen is the number of blood, fertility and lunar potency, the lucky number of the Great Goddess.

250px-Mooncake

6. Thirteen was revered by the ancient Egyptians who believed life had 13 stages, the last of which was death and transition to eternal life.

7. For those seeking to purchase a property in the UK, number 13 is likely to be £6,511, or 3%, cheaper than numbers 1 -12 or 14 – 30 based on Land Registry figures!

8. Thirteen is considered lucky in China where 1 in the position of tens sounds like ‘definite’ (shi or 实) in Mandarin and Cantonese dialects. 3 sounds like life, living or birth (生) so 13 pronounced shisan in Mandarin can mean ‘definitely vibrant’

9. In the Jewish religion 13 is the numerical value of the word ahava (love, Alef-Hei-Beit-Hei) and the age of responsibility. Jewish beliefs are contained in the Thirteen Principles.

10. The Great Seal of the United States has 13 olive leaves, 13 olives, 13 arrows and 13 stars forming a triangle over the eagle. The pyramid on the reverse has 13 levels.

11. The traditional Thai New Year – Songkran Day –  is April 13th.

English: Songkran at Wat Thai in Los Angeles, ...

12. Lohri, the zenith of winter is celebrated on 13th January. For Punjabis it’s a community celebration of fertility and the spark of life, an auspicious day marking the sun’s entry in to the ‘Makar Rashi’ (northern hemisphere).

lohri

 

13. Jeremy Guscott, Brian O’Driscoll and Frank Bunce are deemed some of the world’s greatest outside centres – position 13 – in rugby union.

Brian O'Driscoll - Happy Day

Brian O’Driscoll – Happy Day (Photo credit: M+MD)

Happy New Year, Happy 2013 everyone ♥