Friday, December 30, 2016

Fog and Ice

The post-mortem having started in June, more than enough has already been said about the awfulness of 2016; and more than enough has probably been said in contrast in recent weeks as we desperately attempt to salvage something from the year; but every time we focus on the good – Sadiq Khan’s London Mayoral victory, the British Olympic team – more bad events that had momentarily slipped our minds – the Nice truck attack, the Orlando nightclub shooting – come swimming back into view.

It is undeniable - 2016 has been a terrible year: it started with the loss of our brightest lodestar who, having shone once more, shockingly fell from earth a couple of days later; and the year comes to a close, after a series of seismic political events, with the feeling that human decency is firmly out of favour. Unquestionably, it has been a year that is difficult to make sense of and, although I have had plenty of time on my hands over the Christmas break to read, listen, walk and reflect, I am no closer to having any idea what 2016 meant and what 2017 will bring. So, I stopped thinking too hard when out walking the dogs this week and, instead, enjoyed the weather and landscape on my doorstep.

I started my walk under a clear blue sky, tramping across fields as hard as iron under early morning frost on the way down to Wartling Wood, skirting Herstmonceux Castle on the way back and resting at the top of the ridge above Herstmonceux Place. There is some history between the two buildings: the 15th century moated castle was ransacked by its owners, the Hare-Naylor family, in 1777 to provide the interiors for their new country house over the hill at Herstmonceux Place. The castle won through in the end, however: in the 20th century, it was restored to its former splendour and the Georgian house suffered the ignominy of being divided into flats.

By the time of the final leg of my walk, up through Comphurst Wood to home, I was tired but bathed in warm December sunshine. I took this route each day this week and it felt good for the soul. That was until today: this morning the woods and fields were wreathed in a dense fog and the air was palpably icy on my face. I completed my usual circuit but the sun did not break through, the landscape remained unilluminated, and I returned cold and unsatisfied from a disorientating and claustrophobic walk. It was hard not to feel that this was a more fitting end to 2016. Happy New Year.

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