Bizarre as it seems, I actually enjoyed January 2021. Well, to a relative extent. It bettered most of 2020 for several reasons. Lots of small achievements happened.
The odd bonus thrown in. Rather reminiscent of the good old days of clearing a table on my Saturday shift and seeing the pleasant rarity of a customer-stacked tray and relatively neat table instead of toddler-thrown madness in crumb, chip and sticky juice form.
Subjectively, we all have our preferred time of the year, for intrinsically individual reasons. Yet, I find it common that January is negatively regarded, the word worn-out and flinched at by weary voices as days drearily drag on. Cold, dark and long were words commonly first thought of as connections to January.
Best capturing, especially for students, the unfriendly vibes January emits was the video sketch by Foil Arms and Hog, comedically reflecting societal thoughts in a “The months of the year have a party”. They covered the sobbing single in February, an all-too-familiar hope for academic achievement in September, a groovy-shirt loving July alcoholic and delighted, dancing, drunk representing December. And, of course, the angry, alcohol-hating, slightly tubby, January.
Not without justification. January is for the majority, a month of false dawns, shattered “new me” promises lying smashed on the floor. A time-period where lazily staying in, bodes better than daring challenge the outside air’s chill and clear superiority in acclimatising to weather conditions.
Plus, you actually have to face the fresh hell of a supermarket shop again because the leftover turkey supply has ran empty. But of greater urgency so has the once-eternal booze stock. You go to buy some, your skint because grandad, instead of money, got you a pair of socks. The same pair you tried pawning him off with on his birthday… Speaking of birthdays, those who have them curse their misfortune of being short-changed present-wise. Whilst parties become a tipsy and beer-belly self-conscious experience of déjà vu, the only sober words you can utter are “I’ll pay you back”.
As you guzzle a foruth shot down, as quickly as you would swallow skittles. Back at home, the dog has started pining at its lack of attention whilst the dishwasher’s constant gurgling signals its demand to be paid for all this overtime. Lecture notes are hastily scrawled and your quickly inkless pen thrown across the room in frustration.
Emails constantly ring your virtual doorbell as though they are acting on behalf of a nosy neighbour, inquiring into your chaotic life. They have the door slammed shut and we grant the dog’s wish to growl at those intrusive finger-tapping letterboxes, for some satisfaction, if anything. Remember, it is January.
However, a few days into February, I find myself longing for January again. Strange that. The lockdown lifestyle has influenced this. It started with the conclusion of the stay-at-home New Years Eve that was surprisingly good craic come midnight. And then, we entered (albeit, rather tipsily) 2021. Just like that. Some clock countdown in an audience-less tv studio.
A panicked extension of my left arm to ensure a swig of Rockshore (one of life’s constants). Arlene Foster quoting from reports of naughty schoolchildren while practising her finger-wagging in a mirror. The now departed Frank Lampard, putting fresh ink to a previously drafted letter of request for another transfer market splurge. Reassurance of my ‘attractiveness’ from a flirty (and definitely plutonic) friend.
This January, I also met people outdoors, rewatched the Derry Girls bake-off (seriously, who doesn’t love that episode?), flattered Sean Dyche immensely and stunningly, showered most days. I know. Shocker. Rather like the pleasantness ofserving a kind customer or the satisfaction of a solid biscuit-dunk (chocolate digestive, no contest) into a cup of tea, this 2021 January gave me lots of small bonuses too.
The football glamour of transfer goss, a heart-warming reminder of “normal” times by my order of printed photos with friends, a chuckle at Richard Osman’s written wit and Eva Wiseman’s delightfully dry list of small joys.
An unexpectedly fun snow day. The satisfaction of a cold beer hard-earned after my first week “back” (Really, all I did was click a few “Join” buttons on Microsoft Teams). Not being disappointed by my failure to adhere to the New Year Resolutions which I didn’t make for the precise purpose of avoiding said disappointment.
Taking time to physically draft these column ideas which had long lingered around my head when trying to sleep. Blissful serenity too, in the calm before the storm of deadlines that is semester two.
Dark, cold, long. Financially-frail, beer-belly exposed, six-pack dreams rudely awoken. It isn’t fair to characteristics and blame January for this. Similar to Severus Snape. We don’t really like him but can you really imagine life without him? January is a collection of days.
It is not the actions or peoplethat promised better dieting, encouraged dispensing of alcohol, shamed our bodies out into (bitterly cold) “keep fit” exercises or the annual force of piled-up office pressure. We have self-attached a bad reputation to it. When complaints arein fact, a daily ritual. In all walks and disciplines of life. January may feel long but December has an identical timeframe.
Remove Christmas giddiness and then try labelling December your favourite month.
For all the bad feeling toward it, imagine how much worse life could be without January. Liverpool supporters, no Virgil van Dijk signing, would that three-decade league title drought have ended? That new jacket, affordable without the January sale discount, eh?
Four weeks of well-written, relatable and witty opinion pieces wiped from existence? Donald Trump still the American president? That previous parkrun personal best or first couch to 5k run eternally eclipsed? One’s last pre-covid night out where photo-posing was uncomplicated by social distancing? Annual Six Nations hype of renewed Scottish optimism?
Akin to Gunter in Friends, mornings without orange juice and absent athletics, although January is berated, we would be lost without it. Like any other month in the year, January can also be whatever we want it to be. Clean and fresh were other words associated to it. Fresh start? Clean chances? Perhaps, after 2020, that is why I found personal escapism in the first thirty-one days of 2021.
As I prepare for my February frights ahead, I realise that our months, although just seasonal representations and phone calendar reminders, are personal. Some months, we have peace.
On others, we are vulnerable spooks in the wild, dodging gunshots and tripping over shaded twigs, desperate to see safety.
Happy new month all and good luck with whatever horrors or pleasures it shall bring. January isn’t everyone’s only month of dread.