'Tis the season for looking back and reviewing the events of the last year. Newspapers like reviews of the year because they fill pages during a quiet spell (and because they can be compiled in advance giving journalists a bit of extra time off over Christmas). Bloggers like reviews of the year for, I suspect, much the same reasons. And, by the looks of the A4 inkjet missives that fall out of Christmas cards these days, an awful lot of other people like reviews of the year too. Why write letters or send emails to friends and family during the year when you can sum up the whole 12 months in a couple of sides of close-set text littered with thumbnail photos of smiling relatives?
From what I've read over Christmas, other people's reviews of the year tend to revolve around the same few topics: a) Achievements: "Emily (11) earnt her Girl Guide petkeeping badge and passed her Grade 3 trombone exam, Ben (13) is captain of the school rugby team (he scored three tries against St Bridgets!) and Jemima (16) got seventeen As in her GCSEs but then left school to take up a multi-million pound modelling contract etc etc etc" b) Holidays: "In May we went hillclimbing in the Andes (Ross was so resourceful when our passports were stolen), then in July we spent three weeks mountain biking round the vineyards of Southern France, and our October short-break in Shanghai was simply divine etc etc etc" c) Hobbies: "We both love our church hall salsa lessons, Barry's model train layout goes from strength to strength, and I've started quilting for African orphans and now have nearly enough patchwork squares for half a blanket etc etc etc" d) Jobs: "I was delighted to be promoted to Chief Administrative Officer in January but then the company went into liquidation and so I've spent most of the rest of the year at home watching Countdown etc etc etc" e) Illness: "My aches and pains got worse this year, just like last year and the ten years before that, and then I had to spend the whole of August in hospital, and I've not been the same since etc etc etc" f) Deaths: "Uncle Michael was taken from us in February (the funeral was very sad but it was lovely to meet so many of the family), then cousin Joan passed away in April, etc etc etc"
I don't send out a letter in my Christmas cards, much to the disappointment of some of the recipients. "Do write and tell us how you're getting on" they urge, as if I should somehow feel guilty for not matching their annual letter with a full list of revelations of my own. But I have nothing to tell them. I have no prodigious offspring with Pony Club certificates to gloat over, neither did I venture any further abroad than a day trip to Paris. I've not taken up ballroom dancing or some other thrilling hobby, and my job ticks over much the same as ever. I remain fit and well (apart from the post-Christmas cold I'm currently sniffling through) and there haven't been any deaths in my world this year, unexpected or otherwise. My Christmas letter, had I sent it, would have amounted to the one line "Same as ever, thanks". It might not satisfy my inquisitive correspondents but, quite frankly, it sounds bloody good to me.