As Weaver has reminded us over on her blog, today, Monday, January 16th, is officially the most depressing day in the British calendar and perhaps the rest of northern Europe as well.
I initially thought that it was all about being at the arse-end of Christmas, when the credit card bills arrive and unlit decorations swing forlornly in the dark and chilly streets, but there seems to be some cosmological significance to the date, because Weaver sites instances of a depressing nature stretching as far back as the 14th century when, presumably, proper records started to be kept.
But here in the south of England, today is a bright and sunny day and there is a liberal coating of genuine frost on all the decorations which should have been taken down days ago to avert a year's-worth of bad luck for those who walk underneath them. As early as the year before last we were being warned about how ghastly 2012 was going to be, so a little extra ghastliness will probably go unnoticed by most people.
Whoever carried out the survey which claims that 'the British are the most optimistic people in Europe' has chosen today to announce the results, but I cannot help thinking that the timing for the announcement was sponsored by some covert government department, and that in itself shows a level of pessimism which appears to contradict the findings of the 'survey'. Our government has been trying to engender a 'spirit of the Blitz' type attitude toward the mess and hardship they have created for quite a while now, but they have conveniently forgotten the black-marketeering and pimping that went on as bombed rained on the towns and cities all the way through the 40s and 50s - having legalised it in the form of privatisation for departments which previously would have been controlling rationing.
Anyway, enough of this - today this post is all about reasons to be cheerful and, so far, the weather is the first. Oh yes, the Olympic Games are to be held here this time as well - should that make me happy? Well, no, actually.
It occurred to me last week that I have rather a lot of Portland stone to pick up from Portland soon, and because all the water-sports (stop sniggering, you boys) are being held off Portland and Weymouth, you will not be able to get in or out of the place for about 2 weeks in a few month's time, so I must remember to pick it up well in advance of the Olympics. The last time I went there (during the summer of 2011) an extra half an hour was added to the journey because they were busy spending billions of pounds of public money 're-generating' the road systems immediately in the vicinity, well in advance of the thousands of extra vehicles which will flood the area this year.
Every time I travel from Weymouth (Dorset) to Bath (Somerset - just) by car (or truck), I imagine the utter confusion of all the Continental lorry-drivers who arrive at these shores for the first time via the Weymouth Ferry.
They drive their huge trucks off the boat and through customs, then the first signs they see are warnings in French and English on the right-hand side of the road, telling them they should be on the other side whilst driving in England. Then they make their way past the marina and onto the by-pass, following signs for the North East and places like Blandford Forum, etc.
Then - without warning - all the signs disappear and the road becomes so narrow and twisty that they are convinced that they must have taken a wrong turning about 10 miles back.
This stretch of road between Weymouth and Warminster (via Shaftesbury), was designed for small horses and carts, and without demolishing about 15 very pretty, 17th century villages and estates, would be impossible to straighten out and widen to allow for the hundreds of juggernauts which travel on it every day. There is one village (forget the name) which was laid out by the vast manor house and grounds which have dominated it both physically and politically for about 300 years, and to get past that, drivers of 40 ton trucks have to negotiate about six 90% bends which are about the same width as the lorries they are driving. It is a very pretty route which I love to drive, but the signs in both directions saying "BEWARE - ONCOMING VEHICLES IN MIDDLE OF ROAD" are a little disconcerting, especially at night.
Yesterday, I went shooting clays for the first time in about a year, and the new girlfriend of my male friend came along as a guest, to shoot a shotgun for the first time in her life. I have only met this woman about 3 times, but I love her already. She has just my sort of humour, and in great measure. We sit in the pub and laugh so much that we can hardly breathe. She looks good too, which is always a bonus. Another reason to be cheerful.
As I tippy-toed around a vast pool of mud up on the farm where we shoot (worried about getting it all over the interior of the car later), I said, "You can tell I am not real countryman, can't you?"
She just said, "No, but you're a real c***". More laughter.