The city is always rather desolate over Christmas and this desolation makes its streets seem murky and faintly unfamiliar, as if cast in a perpetual twilight. I did not trouble myself with the agency, as there is usually little work over the holiday. My wife, Polly, and her sister Claire went to their father’s house in Ayrshire for two weeks; Tori spent Christmas with her grandfather; I have no ken of my brother’s whereabouts; and my editor James is still exiled to his parents’ home in Norfolk. My wife’s lover, Callum, apparently finds it improper to live in my apartment when my wife is not there, and so he has scuttled off somewhere.
For most of the holiday I drank in the Crags, which over Christmas has a pleasant, abandoned atmosphere. When the students are in residence at Pollock Halls, the Crags heaves with sweaty, disorientated bodies, like a refugee camp in a disaster zone. I am long accustomed to spending Christmas day by myself, and I find that the best means of fritting away this empty time, when the world is shut down, is through chores. I spent Christmas day re-grouting some of the bathroom tiles. New Year is more draining, however, as one cannot avoid reflecting over the last year. One’s achievements suddenly seem so miserable – it is like arriving back at Go on the Monopoly board and finding that one has made hardly any money – and yet one is also aware that the coming year, like every year, will merely deliver the echo of a year lost in one’s youth. Preparing to traipse once again around the board, one knows that everything brought in by the new year will be a faint, muffled reiteration of things which have gone before.