We’ve all heard of Janus, the Roman god of beginnings, endings and transitions. He’s the one with two faces: the grizzled lived-in one looks back towards the past, while on the other side of his head is the younger version, looking with optimism and hope to the future. He puts himself about at this time of year, and indeed gives his name to January.
He’s been putting more energy at the moment however, into clambering inside our heads, mine and Malcolm’s. He’s got us at our own game, as we look both forwards and backwards at every moment
The grizzled half of my head is fully occupied in reminiscence. It doesn’t even try to understand why anyone would want to look at a future in England. It thinks about our walks, particularly our Sunday walks with our Laroque friends. What scenery! However characterful, green and lovely English scenery might be, nowhere is going to provide the snowy summits of the Pyrenees as a backdrop to every walk. And there’s something about those midday picnics too which I’m not expecting to see repeated at an English walker’s lunch spot. The aperitif that gets handed round, the bottle or two of wine, two or three home-made cakes, coffee and digestif….. And last Sunday, a mid-December Sunday, it was so warm that one of our number stripped off his tee-shirt to get the sun on his back.
The grizzled half of my head realises that tomorrow’s concert with the choir will be my last one ever and makes sure that my eyes mist over and my throat constricts as I try to follow the music. It points out that those summer evenings spent in our back yard over a leisurely meal and glass of wine are now things of the past. Those moments with friends, those trips to explore, discover and re-discover the area we’ve called home these last few years area are all but over. Grizzled Janus is holding all the cards when he’s in the mood. He knows very well that we’re finding it tough to say ‘Goodbye’ to all this.
But Janus has two equally potent faces. The young version is optimistic and cheerful. He points out that we’ve never fancied growing old, much less infirm in France, and this is the moment to get involved in life in Ripon, a community where we already feel comfortable, but where there is so much more still to discover. Much of what we most appreciate in France is available to us there too: wonderful walking scenery and an active community that welcomes people who want to join in. Theatre and concerts will be within easy reach and we’ll be able to mix small-town life with easy access to bigger towns too. And do you know what? I’m going to appreciate those English summers, if not the winters so much. I can’t be doing with those days when the temperature is in the high 30s: and I used to be a sun-worshipper. It’ll be good to return to speaking English and to understand most cultural references : though I expect we’re dreadfully out of touch.
Dear two-faced Janus, you’re a terribly mixed up sort of chap. We expect to be terribly mixed up too. We made a decision, and we believe it’s the right one. But we don’t think we’re going to get through the next few months without periods of excitement, periods of mourning, periods of confusion. Often all on the same day. It’s probably all going to be a bit exhausting….. and it might end in tears.