Janus in the Vatican: an image from Wikipedia
Janus in the Vatican: an image from Wikipedia

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 Pyrenees: always there.  The constant backdrop round here
The Pyrenees: always there. The constant backdrop round here

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.

Ripon Canal in spring (Nigel Homer, geograph.org.uk via Wikimedia Commons)
Ripon Canal in spring (Nigel Homer, geograph.org.uk via Wikimedia Commons)

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.

Thwaite in the Yorkshire Dales  (David Dunford, geograph.org.uk. via Wikimedia Commons)
Thwaite in the Yorkshire Dales (David Dunford, geograph.org.uk. via Wikimedia Commons)

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.

14 thoughts on “Janus”

  1. Janus says : ” Sursum corda ! ” …

    Best wishes for a lovely French Christmas and a happy new year here, there … and everywhere !


  2. Hello Margaret! Best wishes for Christmas and the New Year to Malcolm you and your family. Changing life friends or place is exciting.You live in a so beautiful landscape in Yorkshire “God’s own Country” as it is said on my teacup! But good luck for making packing! I’m surrounded by boxes and empty cupboards sideboards and bookcases! It isn’t unpleasant, it’s a little as beginning a new life. En avant! Courage!


    1. And happy Christmas to you too! When do you move? Please let me know if you need any help packing. It’s quite fun…. for other people. Also.. we have some books for you. See you after Christmas, especially if I can help.


    1. I know you’re right. But I’ve just come back from that concert, with so many friends as fellow-singers and more in the audience, all getting merry on the vin chaud afterwards. That was hard. But this time next year, all will be well. Thanks for your encoragement.


  3. Merry Christmas and a very healthy, happy NewYear to you and Malcolm – that view of the countryside really looks beautiful and very tempting – you do move to a special place – all the very best, AnnAxxx


  4. It must be so difficult… There are many wonderful things about being here and about being back in England. It’s hard to make a choice between two great places! In any case, I hope that you will enjoy the rest of your time in Ariege and will have a smooth transition back to life in England. (What lovely countryside over there too.) Happy Holidays to you and your family!


    1. Well, it IS hard. But what a privilege to have problems like these, eh? We’ve had a truly wonderful experience, having the chance to be integrated into day-to-day French life. And I hope some at least of these friendships will withstand the years and the distance. Thank you for your good wishes, and I hope you too have a wonderful Christmas with your family.


  5. Janus is right to look forward and back but don’t forget to live in the ‘now’ Margaret. Living in different places means that you can merge the best traditions together – why can’t you enjoy the same walkers lunches in Ripon? At last Sunday’s dog meet we enjoyed winter’s Pimms and homebaked biscuits! And as for packing, I’ve lost count of the number of times we’ve done that but I now I have less clutter than most of my family because of it!

    Enjoy Christmas and the New Year.


    1. Winter Pimms? Now that sounds good. Oh yes, I intend to continue the French picnic tradition, but packing? That’s hard. I’m a hoarder. I still hanker after stuff with no commercial value that we reluctantly disposed of when we moved from Leeds in, er, 1997.


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