How many of us resolve to “start the year as I intend to go on”? If we know ourselves well, we might anticipate failure of resolution at some point in the future – though perhaps that very anticipation sows the seeds of self-doubt that result in the inevitability of such failure. I do occasionally meet people who manage to screw their courage to the sticking-place and manage to follow through their intentions (running, dieting, rock-climbing, decorating the house, perish the thought) but they are few.
Nevertheless, it was my intention in the final week of 2017 to: 1) get a new poem under way, possibly to the point of completion or abandonment, each week; and 2) write on this site each week. No. 1 is purposeful enough, now that my collection Sax Burglar Blues seems to be going down well enough to warrant my thinking about another collection in due course. No. 2 is an attempt to put to rights my neglect of the site since it was set up in mid-2017 and to write some fresh prose each week, irrespective of the fact that the readership is likely to continue to be low.
On both counts I fell at the first hurdle. Happily for my self-respect, I can attribute the failure to illness. Not a post- NYE hangover but one of those strange lurgey beast that has attacked the body of almost everyone I have come across in the past few weeks: you wake with aching limbs, eyes that sting, a chest that feels like a cheese grater, and all energy is drained from your body as you drag yourself through the deadlong day. In my case, the beast was only passing, it seems. The luxury of additional hours of sleep, numerous cups of hot lemon and honey, the warmth and snugness of a Welsh wool blanket, all seem to have roused the troops in my immune system until they managed to see off the beast and send it on its way towards its next victim. (Who will be the first visitor to venture through the front door and fall foul of the beast lurking invisibly in the porch?)
Was this something of the purpose of the Mari Lwyd tradition in Wales? Did they lead the horse, the grey mare, through the streets with ritual song and greetings in order to fight off the invasive lurgies waiting to strike? No, there was something much darker, much more deeply seated within the communal psyche that Vernon Watkins explored in his Ballad of the Mari Lwyd. But perhaps I experienced a touch of it yesterday, the frustration that comes of being unable to rally yourself on the very first day of the year. Perhaps the trick now is to eliminate the sense of immediate failure and make sure that my intention is restored and acted upon: writing this is the first step. Now where is my poetry notebook?