It’s not me, it’s you. Yet, despite you being the one leaving me, I’m not going to take it badly. I refuse for us to part on bad terms. At this stage in the game, I’ve got used to how you operate: you’re all full-on at the start of the year, promising me the world as if you’ll be with me forever, and sometimes you deliver. But, as the months slip by, I feel you disappearing through my fingers, becoming distant, and lately I could even go so far as to say you’ve been ghosting me. Then today, you announce that it’s over between us – for good. I can hear you… calling me a fool, telling me I ought to know by now, sighing and saying I’ll never learn. And, yes, I ought to have seen it coming; after all, it’s the same every time. It used to be painful, but (selfish as it may sound) I’ve learned to enjoy you while I have you, and, as sure as eggs is eggs, I know that at the stroke of midnight your replacement will appear and I’ll start over.
Tonight a few of us might reminisce fondly about you, and, should a less than complimentary story be told – perhaps one where things didn’t go so well between us – I’ll try and move the conversation along and smooth out any bumps, for, as you are not coming back, we might as well focus on the good times. So, as you sneak out the back door with a flash of scarf thrown jauntily over your shoulder, I shall take a moment to remember a few of our special times: month by month, place by place, person by person. An exercise, you might say, in ensuring that old acquaintance won’t be forgot.
Do you remember when I was getting to know you back in January, the day of the low sun and long shadows when E. and I walked Peffersands beach at Belhaven Bay under a pure, piercing blue sky, one that’s unique to winter? It was a day so cold that the frosted sand crunched under our feet. We played chicken, foolishly venturing onto thin shards of ice that coated the banks of the estuary where it met the sea. I knew then you were going to be a good one. In February, you delivered another extraordinary day, this time in Ireland, when I drove up to Scrabo Tower with P. and we looked down onto Strangford Lough at low tide and beyond to the Mourne Mountains. We spoke too soon of an early spring, tempting fate, you might say, for you were subdued in March with your dull, clouded skies. But you did bring me entertainment that month instead: drama at the Old Vic in Bristol, music at the Lyceum back in Edinburgh, a tapestry exhibition at the Botanics, and spoken word at the Poetry Library.
You blew hot and cold in April, making it hard to know where I stood. At the beginning of the month you followed me to Northumbria with snow, then you rallied, ending the month with a frisson of heat. Do you recall how particularly warm you were on Easter Sunday morning in Waverley Gardens? I shared a summer seat with a stranger, we sipped takeaway coffees under the pale green glow of willows bursting into life. I ought to remember my companion’s name, but it’s gone, though I’ve retained what he told me about the Ross Fountain that that we looked onto – gifted to Edinburgh after the Great Exhibition of 1862, he told me. Odd, what one remembers and what one forgets. My beloved Calton Hill I will never forget, it could feature every month, but I’ll choose to remember our time there in May, when the light begins to linger long. Those evenings when I left the flat after 9pm with K., we took the steep path past early shoots of foxgloves, snapping photographs of each other balanced on the cannon or perched on the west wall behind the old observatory with the sun blazing red as it died in the west. Sublime. During these months I thought you’d never leave me.
The truth is, I loved you most in summer – in June, driving through the Lake District on the longest day of the year; when I reached the reclaimed flat-land on the south side of Morecambe Bay I thought that the barn owl resting on a gatepost was waiting for me. You peaked in July, excelling yourself by bringing a baby – a baby! He wasn’t quite born into the carpark at the Royal Infirmary in Little France, but that’s where I met him, curled into a ball in his carrier, his face still in folds like a letter slipped from its envelope, E. and S. pale with exhaustion and wonder. On a trip to visit the same baby in August I took a scenic detour and up an East Lothian hill, Traprian Law, tramping in thick mist to count Exmoor ponies, fulfilling some sort of wager. We looked west, back over onto Edinburgh, in awe at the thunder and lightning closing in and bid farewell to thirteen wild horses. Even then, I didn’t contemplate you leaving me, why would I, for by September you were still attentive. You helped me time-travel back to my youth in Ireland as I paced the nun’s walk hugging the cliff under my old school in Portstewart telling tales to my Canadian visitors of idyllic teenage years and old forgotten years.
Just when did you begin to wane? Was it October, that night when we gathered to tell each other stories in a round straw-bale house in the wilds of Inverness-shire? No, you were still mine then, as you were in November on the evening of the Military Ball in the Great Hall. How you surprised me then – it’s not every St. Andrew’s Day one gets invited to dine at Edinburgh Castle. Of course, I accepted and before I knew it, I was sipping champagne with the Archbishop and dancing The Dashing White Sergeant with the Brigadier. Best of all, though, was tip-toeing home like Cinderella under a nail clipping of a moon, picking my way over iced cobblestones in a long swishing skirt, clicking heels, and triple-wrapped in gold chiffon. In retrospect, feeling like Cinderella might have been the sign – I should have known then that the clock was soon to strike midnight and it would all come to an end; but hope springs and one clings, and through December, cling on I did. However, by then the cracks had begun to appear. Why else would I have shed tears just two weeks ago at the Usher Hall when three hundred children sang, ‘Have Yourself A Merry Little Christmas’? I’m certain I wasn’t the only one leaking. And when K. played a solo – Leila on the electric guitar – I sobbed again. For that’s when I felt it: your leave taking; gathering the last of your offerings; buttoning your coat; securing your bootstraps; moving on.
Here’s the bottom line, 2019, you and I have made a lot of memories together and when tonight is over, I won’t ever see you again. You weren’t showy, you didn’t bring me fame, bestow fortune upon me, script high drama into my life, but you were solid, steady and reliable, and isn’t that more than enough? Goodbye 2019, it has been nice knowing you, and even though it has only been a year, breaking up is hard to do.
So long, E.