New Year, New Challenges

I’m not a big believer in New Year’s resolutions. If you want to change something about yourself, just go ahead and do it — there’s no need to wait until January ticks around again.

This coming year I intend on setting myself a series of month-long challenges. Some I hope will turn into longer-term habits; some I’ll just be doing for a bit of fun or to experiment. As an added bonus, I should also have some regular material to write about!

Happy New Year Nev

For the first time ever, I spent New Years Eve on my own — laying on the sofa with a tub of pralines and cream Häagen-Dazs. I was recovering from my latest (and I’m determined for it to be my last) bout of tonsillitis. I watched the fireworks erupt over Edinburgh Castle from my living room window and then went to bed, very, very sober.

Spring to, er, “spring” soon

Here in Edinburgh, the nighttime temperatures are still well below freezing point, giving motorists a thick frost to scrape off their windscreens in the morning. The “thin ice” warning signs along the Union canal are almost obsolete: the patches of ice that do remain would struggle to support the weight of light waterfowl, nevermind that of a car.

I’m aware that this time last year the UK was still recovering from crippling snowstorms that paralysed the country. Indeed, the weather achieved what even the Blitz didn’t and stopped the bus services in London.

Nevertheless, I’m willing to go out on a limb and say that Spring is just around the corner. It’s almost light when I get up on the morning and almost still light when I leave the office. On average, Spring is arriving 11 days earlier than it did 35 years ago.


The past several days have been spent in a winter wonderland. For those of you who don’t know, some friends and I have been working our way through the alphabet of places to spend Hogmanay and New Year. This year was the 10th installment so we spent a few days down in Jedburgh in the Scottish Borders. Our base was the fabulously equipped Bairnkine Cottages a few miles outside Jedburgh where we were made to feel very welcome.

We saw the Bells in at a wonderful ceilidh in the Town Hall and then somehow made our way back through the snow to the cottages. The next couple of days were spent relaxing, building snowmen and igloos, and ferrying goods from our abandoned vehicles at the bottom of a hill, near the main road.

After a steady drive back up to Edinburgh on the Saturday we were a little taken aback to see the mostly city clear of snow – which we’d kind of gotten used to. It turns out that we needn’t have been too upset though: a further several inches fell overnight and covered the city once more.

It has been quite rare in recent history for Edinburgh to have snow laying for any length of time and as such I noticed a few things. Not being able to rely on the council, people will seemingly clear the pavements only to the edge of their property line and not one centimeter further. Messages in the snow are commonplace – usually obscene ones left on car windscreens but I did notice one helpful message informing the car owner that they had left their lights on. On a grander scale I witnessed a guy shoveling a Spanish message in the snow (with his scarf for the tilde in ñ) for his friend to photograph from their fourth-floor flat for use on a CD sleeve.

Pride of place has to go to this though. It was nice to see a little imagination and something a bit different on Rothesay Place: a snow Sphinx and mini-pyramid!