Ode to January

January, with its terrible reputation as being the shittiest month of the year, is 11 days from being over.  Some will say good riddance to bad rubbish, others won’t care, and others will be happy it’s just over and done with. Does Blue Monday ring any bells, even alarm bells?  The concept of Blue Monday (the third Monday in January) appeared in 2005 during a press release from British travel firm, Sky Travel during a publicity stunt.  A formula described this specific Monday as being the gloomiest of the year.

How could this reputation come about?  Could it be that so many seem to start this month with a hangover?  Or at best, with a dry mouth, feeling slightly tired, and having a slightly delicate tummy?  Is the fact of going back to work after the celebrations of Christmas, and suffering the anti-climax that is January a cause?  A jolt back into a reality that we feel we no longer desire?  Is it because we feel guilty about making so many resolutions to better our lives and start anew as the new year begins, and then feel dreadful when we fail after just a couple of days?  Could the answer just be drinking slightly less and not giving a shit about the new year, and therefore an eventual new me?

Mind you, Dear Reader, the weather is usually not the best that one could wish for, but if it were 20°C outside with warm sunshine, then the climate change people would be up in arms.  Whatever we say, we will, somehow, somewhere, annoy a climate activist.  Am I a follower of Saint Greta?  Not really.  Am I just boorish and refuse to sort my rubbish?  No, but I’m not convinced either.  I have problems believing that if I don’t put an apple core in the compost bin that I will go to ecological hell for all eternity…

However, as you will see from the photos in the traditional end of the article gallery, there is light and shade and therefore sunlight, therefore sun…  In the ones taken after sundown, you won’t be able to see the sun, not because of a climate crisis but because the sun tends not to shine during the night.  Mind-blowing, I know.

So, after dissing January, I feel the need to defend it. Within 11 days I will have had my 51st birthday and will celebrate not being dead yet, and being the oldest that I have ever been!  Wouldn’t it be ironic if I snuffed it before then?  It would certainly be a shame.  With my children and wife, the plan is to have a pizza, film, and beer night!  Not the done thing to miss that!  During childhood, I would have the first of a long line of birthdays throughout the year.  Sometimes for Christmas, I would have a “big” present and be told that it was also for my birthday.  I don’t blame my parents at all, and this is not part of my childhood trauma.  I have a son who was born just before Christmas and find myself doing the same thing. He’s no more messed up than I am.  Differently messed up, but not because of that.  I have people in my family born on Christmas Day, some on Boxing Day, and someone born on the 27th of December.  Ah well, it could happen to anyone, and they all seem perfectly imperfect, just like me!

Welcome to 2023

First of all, Dear Reader, I wish you a very Happy New Year for 2023! May it be better than 2022 and may it bring you everything you need to continue your life journey. At this time of year, we all tend to look forwards and backwards, and it seems fitting that Janus, the two-faced god, gave his name to January. We look backwards to the preceding year to see what we can learn from our experiences, good or bad, and forwards to the new year with hope and an expectation of change.

2022 saw my first contact with Covid back in March. Not the most pleasant of experiences, and I think I gave it a 1 out of 5 rating… It saw the war in Ukraine, and our fears of Russia going mad and destroying the entire continent. This, despite prayer, seems to still be the case, except at the cost of so much human life. Roe v Wade was overturned in the US and hope was given to the Pro-life movement. It saw my first trip back to the UK since 2019, and it was wonderful being back and seeing family after such a long time. In the final days of the year, it saw the death of Pope Benedict XVI, one of the most misunderstood popes of these times. On a personal note, we were so worried about Molly, our family dog, and feared losing her in December. Fortunately, she is a lot better but it was a close shave. It might sound silly to some, how one can get so emotionally attached to an animal, but I swear I was writing her obituary in my mind and crying about the whole thing.

For Christmas this year, I am happy to report a total lack of drama, and on the contrary, think the whole shebang went off wonderfully. This was in part thanks to the visit of two of my nieces who came to spend this special time with us. One of the nieces even came to midnight mass with me and the next day, Christmas Day, the six of us were together for mass which just shows how special Christmas is. It just shows how the simplest of things can have so much meaning and how they can bring us such joy.

I was on holiday the week before Christmas and the week after Christmas. It would appear that I might have even lost a tiny amount of weight, and some of my t-shirts seem to be less tight. It might not last, but for the moment I’m just going to enjoy it.

It was just so special to have time with my family and have them around me. I took the girls into Nantes to share some of my world with them, and believe it or not, I had a camera with me, so I might just have to share some of my world with you, too! The weather was abysmal, but on the last day before the return to work, the sun was out and I went into town to have some special Ian time, and just wonder the streets between confession, and missing the pub being open. It is likely, however, that I pop in this weekend to wish my friends a Happy New Year too!

Hello February

I hate you January.  What a month for depression, for shitty and pissy weather!  Christmas is a souvenir and we have all recovered from the hangovers from New Year’s Eve.  Why can’t the year start in mid-February or even in March?  You bring darkness and cold with you, and with Covid we’re not out all the time huddled together enjoying ourselves even if we have had three shots!

IJM Photography

February, on the other hand, sees days getting longer and slightly brighter, but with January’s rain still lingering like a hard to treat MST that you just can’t get rid of.  But the sun is starting to make an effort and poke its head through the clouds.  Sometimes it even manages it!  You can see daffodils growing and want to flower.  The hedgerows are green, but only with evergreen plants.  The blossoms have yet to come but won’t be long.  First is the blackthorn, which ironically has white blossom.  Nature seems to get its backside in gear during March.  But even now we have milder weather…

The French government, in its infinite wisdom, with only the very slightest whiff of irony, has decreed that from the 2nd of February, face coverings no longer need to be worn outside.  The French government, again, in its infinite wisdom, with only the very slightest whiff of irony, has also decreed that from the 16th of February we can stand at the bar to get drunk and no longer have to sit.  We can also go to nightclubs. Although not my scene at all, I could go if I so wished.  COVID isn’t over but it would appear that party time is starting once again.  A little later than in number 10, but starting anyway.  That there is an election in May and the fact that the governing party doesn’t want to look like party poopers has nothing to do with it.  Boris didn’t let it impede his partying.  Boris is also a self-righteous buffoon.  Don’t be like Boris.  I remember when Boris used to be a rather rotund Russian chap, fond of promoting vodka and heart surgery…  Those days are long gone…  But he certainly seems to have had more fun than Vladimir, which is not surprising when you’re not at all planning on invading Ukraine like you did in 2014… Keeping the peace? More like taking the peace!!

But let’s get back to France, Nantes, and photography, or rather me I, France, Nantes, and photography.  Since the beginning of the year, we have been granted our Friday afternoons off by the company I work for.  This allows me time to get off my rather large backside and go out and take some photographs.  Sometimes, I have my daughter with me, and sometimes I’m just on my own.  Like that, she doesn’t eat my cake!  SO, I walk around in the sunshine and feel alive again.  Don’t be jealous, this last week has been very rainy and depressing, but it should be fine tomorrow and next week looks OK.

I usually hang out in the centre of town but for the last couple of weekends, where it has been sunny, I walked along the river Loire in the infamous Hangar à Bananes which is lovely during the day, but not so much at 2am when the bars throw people out.  I’m not saying that it’s a magnet for crime, but I would say that during the day and early evening, it’s lovely!  Take from that what you will.  Far be it from me to infer insecurity where the city council says there isn’t any and we’ll fight it with culture.  You can lead a horse to culture, but you can’t make it drink unless it’s an Irish horse, which would make things easier.  And you don’t have to get a seat for your horse now.  It can drink at the bar without being judged. Wonderful isn’t it!

Right.  Time for the photo bit of the article.  You’ve been very patient and now you will be rewarded!  The photos are a mixture of the two weekends, and a mixture of colour and black and white photography.  It would be a shame to miss out on seeing the Jaune in the Grue Jaune.  And although you can get some beautiful images in the rain and even difficult light, it is so much more agreeable to not have to deal with it! The photos are taken on the Fuji X100f with its 35mm equivalent F2.0 lens, and the Fuji XT2 with its 16mm F2.8 lens.  I’ll let you have a look at the photos now.  Thanks for reading this far! I’ll leave the colour photos for another post. Let’s not get mixed up now… won’t be long. I’ll soon get it sorted.