The champagne was poured, the buffet mostly devoured, ‘Articulate’ pushed to the side. As the London fireworks whirled and whizzed and burst and boomed on our tv screen, we stopped singing Auld Lang Syne and joined together in one long Conga. Turning my oxygen machine up to maximum, I joined the line, as it snaked around my downstairs. After a decade of often being too poorly to celebrate with my friends or even make it to midnight, it feels extra special on the years that I can. And even more wonderful, when I’m well enough for a little Conga!
For the past twenty years, I’ve celebrated the arrival of most new years with the same university friends. As carefree students or on the first rungs of the career ladder, we’d meet together in draughty bunkhouses, drink cheap wine, and count down to midnight on our unsynchronized watches. When we started to soften with age, the bunkhouses were replaced by heated cottages, the wine was slightly more expensive, and the radio told us when to start cheering. Later still, as we bought homes of our own, we’d take it in turns to host in our own abodes; Jools Holland and fizz helping us ring in the next chapter. I loved those new year trips from my life before Pulmonary Hypertension. The wintery hikes to ward off the hangovers, the special New Year’s Day dinners, the countless games of taboo and cups of tea. I was there each and every time. Even after a bustling December in a Primary school, and a lively Christmas with family, I’d still have plenty of energy and enthusiasm for a few days of revelries with old friends.
But since developing PH, new year is suddenly no longer promised. Coming so soon after the Xmas celebrations, my body is often too exhausted from that big day, to stay awake for the midnight chimes, let alone with company. So for the past decade, although Phil and I make plans to meet our friends as usual, we never know if we can join them, or for how long, until the last day of December itself. To give myself the best chance of being well by the 31st, as soon as Boxing Day passes, I spend the next near week on the sofa. Sleeping and snoozing, resting and recovering. Doing absolutely nothing, in hope that the fatigue and weakness and breathlessness will lessen, and my body will magic up enough energy coins to allow us company for a little while. Some years I’m well enough, some years I’m not. Some years we get to excitedly message “we’re coming!”, some years we have to send last minute apologies and I’m in my own bed by 9pm. And even on those special occasions, when I’m well enough to go, we never know how much of the celebrations I’m going to be able to join in with. One time I fell asleep long before the bells, a few times I’ve stayed well long enough to enjoy a New Year’s Day scoot too. One year I had to lie on the sofa throughout the dancing and cheering, other years I’m up there singing and swinging with everyone else. I never take hugging my friends whilst Big Ben tolls, for granted.
So, as we never know if my body is going to be well on the last day of the year, for the past nine celebrations, we’ve felt unable to host the party. Until this year. This year, feeling stronger than I’ve felt since becoming ill, we decided to gamble that my body would be miraculously recovered, and thus volunteered our new pad for the meet-up. And invited everyone to stay for three days! I had such a brilliant time. My favourite new year in a long long time. As well as the drinks and feasts and chats and laughs and games games games; we cycled and scootered through the exciting tunnels and big puddles of the Monsal Trail; and admired the views of our new home and town after hiking to our nearest summit. It was busy, it was non-stop, it was exhausting. But gees it was brilliant fun. It made my heart sing. A perfect start to the new year.
As we ate chocolates rewards and huddled for photos on the summit of Eccles Pike on their last day, I thanked thanked thanked my wonderful body for once again surpassing all my hopes. For the first time in a decade I’d been there for all of the New Year celebrations. I’d joined in everything, not missed a moment. Incredible, bloomin’ incredible. The last few days have been spent snoozing on the sofa, and treating my awesome body to the last of the marzipan fruits. But the recovery days are worth it. It was a great start to 2023! 🙂