After a damn good knees up at the winter solstice, the Ancient Celts would return to their homes and hope to last beyond the forthcoming ‘Famine Months’. Spring would have seemed a long way away, and with food and fuel dwindling, late winter would see a dramatic increase of disease and starvation.
The first of the Famine Months was known as Anagantios, which roughly translates as ‘stay at home’ – wise counsel in the depths of the winter and certainly a sentiment shared by
modern man on a cold January morning. To the Celts, Anagantios was a time to simply hunker down, keep warm and survive.
I don’t get too reflective as a rule, but 2016 has certainly tested that resolve. Nevertheless, it is hard to simply put the year to bed – not least when the repercussions from it have yet to unravel. And as the Celts would have been only too aware, the seasons keep rolling regardless of Man’s sentiment.
So perhaps it might be sensible for me to focus on a few positive aspects of the past year. And just as mashing all the negatives together can conjure an annus horriblis, so throwing a few pleasant chords in the air can create a rather happy tune.
2016 was a year of firsts. I saw my first ring ouzel and whimbrel – both on Eggardon Hill, a short wing-beat away from our cottage. I ‘twitched’ a Pallas’ leaf warbler, though it had been present for a month and was only a few miles from home and en route to somewhere else. Most special though was meeting Chris for our annual hobby fix on Morden Bog in April, and having a red-footed falcon join the hawking hobbies. In fact, at one point, I had three different species of falcon in binocular view at the same moment as one of the local peregrines caused a stir.
I fished a bit, though not as much as I might have liked.
I had my first set of 6 native
reptile species in a day – and got to handle smooth snakes as part of some reptile training.
Rivers Run was published in May and has sold pretty well (especially to non-anglers), and I have had some truly lovely emails and messages from complete strangers as a result.
BBC CountryFile Magazine let me write about trees every month, and have now found room for me to scribble about flowers. Fallon’s angler continues to grow and improves with every issue. And a couple of new projects promise enormous excitement should they come off – my fingers are tightly crossed.
So yes – things (for me at least) could be an awful lot worse, and though I’m sitting at my desk with my hat and an extra jumper on, I certainly hope to make it through the Famine Months. This year at least.
Happy New Year everyone!