Well the first couple of weeks were, anyway.
Then, around the middle of the month, I went under the knife for a long-deferred hip operation that became increasingly unavoidable and inevitable over the course of 2015. As an NHS patient, I had the enormous good fortune to have my case assigned to the rather swanky (and private) Montefiore Hospital – which, apart from the small detail of a major surgical procedure, was like spending two nights in a 5-star boutique hotel. By day 2 I was out of bed, up on crutches, and attempting to sketch a fish-eye view of my spacious and well-appointed temporary digs.
It also occurred to me that a drawing of my hand, with medical hardware and wristband attached, would evoke the moment and the circumstances as well as anything. Which it does, as far as I’m concerned.
Here’s another random sketchbook entry, signifying nothing. I had more time than usual for this type of mindless doodling during the house-bound days following my return home.
On the 20th, our daughter Chloë took her driving test, not for the first time. I was convinced she would pass, and prepared the following sketch, with which I intended to announce the glad tidings on social media. I left a blank area just above the date on the number plate, where the image would be completed with the word ‘Passed’. Unfortunately, as you can see, this had to be downgraded to ‘almost’. What do examiners know anyway, the fools?
On the 22nd – 23rd January, our Sam’s band Blood Sport played a dream 2-night residency at Café Oto, the painfully hip experimental music venue in Dalston, where they were supporting one of their musical heroes, Afrobeat pioneer Tony Allen. Under the circumstances, a little trepidation – not to say blind terror – would have been understandable, but they apparently rose to the occasion with aplomb, garnering a couple of cracking reviews into the bargain. They also now have the great man on speed-dial, with an invitation to look him up, ‘next time they’re in Paris’.
The gigs, which frustratingly I was unable to attend in my delicate post-operative condition, also served as a kind of informal launchpad for their new (actually very overdue) album, Axe To The Root, although the official release date was only a couple of days ago. It’s an excellent record, although I’m probably not the first person you’d turn to for an entirely unbiased opinion. It’s on Spotify anyway, so you can make your own mind up, should you care to have a listen.
Here’s a young lady playing her vinyl, the very material on which the aforementioned album has just been released (bang on-message, zeitgeist-wise), weilding a knife, entirely unlike the one I ‘went under’ in the opening paragraph. As far as I know.
24th January. And in a perfect world, I would have been boarding the easyjet flight to Geneva with my fellow ‘Sonneteers’ (Drawstrings passim) for our annual ski trip to La Clusaz. I had to drop out this year, for obvious reasons, but decided to uphold one cherished chalet tradition in absentia, namely my illustrated guest-book entry, in order to stay at least two-dimensionally involved. I emailed it to them in France, and a blank page has duly been reserved for a printed copy to be pasted in around this time next year. Hopefully, by a fully-rehabilitated moi.
31st January. Delivered Chloë to Heathrow where she joined around fifteen other young volunteers to fly, by a fantastically indirect route (via Dubai!), to Accra in Ghana, to embark on a three-month VSO/ICS (International Citizen Service) placement. A genuinely exciting prospect – which we’ll be following from home as avidly as social media will allow. Bon voyage!