‘January’, by George Mackay Brown

bowl of soupJanuary

6.1.1972

January is the month when for a morning or two you expect to wake up with a dry mouth at least.

January is the month when you observe, sadly, six of your seven good resolutions blow away on the cold wind.

January is the month when you dismantle – on a precise date, the sixth – the Christmas tree and give all those expensive Christmas cards to the children to scrawl on with their crayons.

January is the month when bills seem to seep through your letter box with pitiless monotony. The man who was as rich as Rockefeller on Christmas Eve is as poor now as a church mouse.

January is the month when you wait for the worst of the winter to fall, sleet and hail and snow out of the north-east. You kind of exist between an iron earth and a leaden sky.

January is the month when turkey and sauterne and tangerines are forgotten about for another eleven months. You are grateful for simple things – a fire, a bowl of soup, a piece of bread.

January is the month of Robbie Burns, that marvellous man whose memory has been ruined in great splurges of sentimentality and hogwash.

January is the month when you go through a box of tissue handkerchiefs a week.

January is the month of the double mask. It looks both ways, into the follies and delights of the past year, and into the nebulous hopes of what is to come. Either way, it tells you very little.

January is the month when you are appalled by the number of empty screwtops in your cupboard. Hopefully you order more malt, more sugar, more hops.

January used to be the month when the people of Orkney read books. Now we grow sick on a surfeit of television. Imagination in the north, which used to be most vivid at this time of year, slowly withers.

January is the month of rubber boots and bonnets and the mittens Aunty Bella knitted.

January is the month when bed is the most beautiful place of all. The eight o’clock news on the bedside wireless is a hateful sound. You rise and have to lay aside all those beautiful swathings of dream.

January is the month when the full moon is most glorious of all (though I think the stars have it, for December).

There is no month of the year quite like January. What is better than a walk along the west shore in that cold, silver air?

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