And so it ends. The worst year of my adult life is drawing to a close.
I received a Christmas card the other day, and written inside it was a simple message, hoping that next year is altogether better for me than this one has been. And I frowned, reading it, and pursed my lips, because this year has been a killer.
If you know me, you probably know how bad this year has been, in pretty much every aspect of my life. I won't go into details, because much of what hurt most is very personal, and as for the rest, well, let's just say that that game isn't over yet, and while justice remains to be done it's best to remain silent; the truth can out afterwards.
I don't have many regrets, as most of the things that went to Hell had never been in my control, but I regret hurting someone I loved very much, and I regret missing a wedding in the summer, and most of all I regret saying nothing when I should have said something, which isn't something I get to say all that often. And I guess most of all I'm going to miss Paul and Kathleen.
But yeah, I'm glad it's over. Let's leave it at that for now.
But the thing is, and I really can't stress this enough, if this year plunged me into darkness, it wasn't a darkness without candles, and there were a host of them.
Just taking the most obvious examples, and using codenames where convention dictates: Louise, the Kittybrewster, Laura, Nicola, Rose, NMRBoy, Z, the greatest Senior Student of them all, the Ginger Beast, Herself, Jeff Tutor, the Angel, Bertie, the Guard, Barry, the Priest, David, the Chief, the Supervisor, the Secretary, the Detective, Dave, Madam, the Doctor, the Master, the Author, the Director, the Producer, the Solicitors, the 126, Anna, Emma, Pavel, Sam, Gareth and Alex, Jess, Joanne, Betty, Kathryn, Birgitta, Renate, Lucy and Dara, Claire and Anthony, Alison, Heinrich, Amy, Beth, Bev the Lege, Ashley, Jen, Hannah, Lucy, Fliss, Claire, Holly, Hayley, Kaye, Mr and Mrs Spice, Technically Rachel and the Cheesemonger, Mr Kitchentable, L.A.F.F., Becktoria and Andrew, Katherine and Rob, Natalie, Edel, Louise, Martin, Tom, Siobhan, Sonya, Sasha, Laura, Blaithin, Satu, Steve, Doug and Lara, Josh and Clare, Denise, Rachel, Bronagh, Claire, Edward, Rob, Seb, Kevina, Mauraid, Bernard, Seb, Helen, Helen, Mr Kan, Sandra, Ruth, Ed, Rachel, Kieron, Sharon, Alan, Colum, and all the Clan, of course, especially Clare's brigade, and Ivor.
And that's by no means all of those who've shone out this year. I owe you all. You're all magnificent.
When you get down to it, I'm incredibly lucky, like that merry fiddler I've told youse about in the past, I guess.
And there were some great moments, too. Some of them, well, are guessable enough, and are included in my epic farewell to Manchester halls, if you know where to look, but there were others too. That engagement a few days ago, for starters, not to mention those in the summer and the autumn, both of which still have me smiling... News of Finn, of Ariane, and of Muireann... Meeting Amelia... Other babies on the way too, two in February and one in March that I know of... Seeing all my nephews and nieces in one room... Gently trundling to London on the Megabus, whether to buy embarrassingly loud boots or to to spend a day with Louise... Hearing of Laura and Rose's heroics... Watching an eight months' pregnant woman make Van Morrison's 'Crazy Love' sound even better than he ever did... 'Cyrano De Bergerac'... Seeing the Turners for my first time in the National Gallery... AJ's first goal for Everton... Brighton, and thereabouts... Liam on the webcam the other day... It goes on, really.
Even today's been nice too, in a cosily unspectacular way. I went into town this afternoon, picking up a memory stick so I can actually shift my work about properly. Tea then, and the best pint all year - in Mulligan's, predictably - where I sat and read in comfortable silence. On then to admire the huge Italian crib in the Pro-Cathedral, and then mass. And then a five mile walk home through blustering wind and spattering rain, just because I could.
I guess as the worst year of my adult life goes, it's not been that bad. I may have learned how to hate, but I've learned a lot of other things besides.
Bring on 2007. And a Happy New Year to you, both readers.