Absolutely nothing happened on my trip back to Lyon from Bristol. It was as smooth as you could get for a trip that involved three trains and a passport control box. It should have been filmed as an advert for the perfect trip: nobody spoke to me, nobody delayed me, nobody walked into me, nobody shouted at me, nobody eyeballed me, nobody annoyed me.
The trains were on time to the second. I had ample leg room. The carriages smelt of roses. The toilets lavender. Even the passport guy simply waved me through. ‘There’s no need today sir. We don’t worry about such things here. Just relax and take in the spirit of the New Year.’
I finished my book, read Le Petit Prince, started Candide, did some French homework, read the papers, did a crossword, drank coffee, drank some wine, did some writing, did another crossword, went to the buffet car for a toastie, enjoyed the view, thought of the cosmos, and generally kicked back. I would have cracked world peace if the train hadn’t zoomed into Lyon.
I drifted off the train and into Place Carnot barely feeling the pavement below my feet. The Christmas market that had occupied the square before I left had now been ripped apart and left waiting collection by the binmen. A huge heap of crushed boxes, broken wood and soggy tinsel lay in the corner as a reminder that Christmas only happens once a year. Which is enough.
If it happened twice a year, we’d have given it up by now. Swept it into the landfill site centuries ago with all the toys and Christmas pudding. Waiting to come up with something else more meaningful to celebrate. And preferably in summer.
But Christmas once a year is good. We make the effort, enjoy ourselves and then ease back under the blanket of reality that is the New Year. A period I always enjoy. Nothing sparkles as brightly as the stars on a clear night in January. Clear of the Christmas fug, they look as beautiful as anything you’ll see. Diamonds in the sky. Just look up tonight and take a look. Happy New Year.