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Happy New Year

‘Did you have a good Christmas?’ is, of course, a perfectly valid question for people to ask at this time of year, but I’m guessing that almost all the replies turn out to be bland and superficial affirmatives that everything was fine and dandy, which is what we want to hear and makes everything so much easier.   It’s the same when we ask people how they are.  Most of the time, we do not actually want to know the true answer to either question. 

If the response to the health inquiry came back that actually I’m feeling terrible, suffering an array of physical and mental issues, the combination of which lead me to a state of unprecedented misery, there would presumably be an awkward pause, followed by some mumbling for the hope of improvement and a quick exit. 

Likewise, if I were to say that Christmas was a truly horrible combination of family argument, food poisoning and significant illness, it would probably stop the questioner in their tracks and bring a swift end to the conversation.  It’s just easier to say I’m fine and Christmas was great. 

I continue to find it difficult to relax completely when I am at home over the festive period, with a nagging sense that I really ought to be doing something more productive than sitting on the sofa watching every episode of Gavin and Stacey, on a nostalgic jaunt because the Christmas special had triggered memories that this was something I once enjoyed.  The whole of the first series back to back on New Year’s Day was probably taking indolence to a new level, particularly combined with the box of Maltesers and, later, the bag of dry roasted peanuts, that I consumed in the process. 

There were some genuine television highlights, not least the latest version of ‘A Christmas Carol’.  It doesn’t matter how often I see it, from Alastair Sim, via Michael Caine and the Muppets, to Guy Pearce, it gets me every time when they show that Tiny Tim might not make it.  It always feels like the perfect piece of melodrama for the season. 

Although I was disappointed that there wasn’t a decent adaptation of an Agatha Christie story this year, there was more than adequate compensation with Mark Gatiss and Steven Moffat’s version of Dracula, which is one of the best things I’ve seen for a long time, not least because there was a significant role for Radnor House pupil Lily Kakkar, who deserves huge credit for her performance.  The combination of horror and humour in the programme was irresistible and some of the plot twists were genuinely breathtaking, not least at the end of the second episode – though I’ll say no more for now in case you haven’t seen it yet.   

I am currently re-reading ‘The Time Traveller’s Guide to Restoration Britain’ by Dr Ian Mortimer because my Lower Sixth class are the studying seventeenth century social and economic history this term.  As the political philosopher Thomas Hobbes described in his book ‘Leviathan’, for the majority in the 1600s life was ‘solitary, poor, nasty, brutish and short’, with most dying from diseases that were then incurable or from complaints relating to their stomachs or teeth.  Yet, through all the various miseries there emerges a joy about life in the book that seems increasingly hard to find in the modern world. 

Forecasts for 2030 obviously need to be treated with a healthy degree of scepticism, but we were shown a film on Monday at our staff training day that suggested the most likely causes of death for younger people in the developed world by then will be depression and obesity.  It seems hard to reconcile that we have so much, as typified so clearly at Christmas, yet for so many it is not bringing them happiness or fulfilment.  This serves as a reminder to us all of the need to care about both ourselves and others in ways that encourage everyone’s physical and mental health. 

So how am I?  I’m living my best life, thank you very much, and enjoying every minute of it.  And how was my Christmas?  It was absolutely the very best it could have been, thank you very much for asking.  And what about 2020?  It’s already shaping up to be a cracker, so I send my very best wishes for a Happy New Year to you all!       

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