A year to live: Silent Night

Looking at the ‘Season of Goodwill’ through eyes with a year to live.

I love this time of year. The places where I walk are so quiet.


Nature itself can seem paused, like it's waiting for the light to return.
Nature itself seems paused, like it’s waiting for the light to return.
Most people are busy doing other things.
Most people are busy doing other things.

Daylight hours are short, as short as they’re going to get. Here in Northern Europe it’s dark most of the time. So I set off walking in the light today, knowing that by the time I return the sun will be well set.

And as I walk along silent pathways I contemplate this season of goodwill, this holiday season, this Solstice, this Christmas.
And as I walk along silent pathways I contemplate this season of goodwill, this holiday season, this Solstice, this Christmas.

Since I started looking at life as if I had a year to live a few weeks back much has changed. Our house has cleared, my work has simplified and I have been more at peace. So I’m well ready for the quietening down that always happens for us when most other people are having their Christmas.

DSC00895Because we don’t have Christmas, me and Sarah, and we never really have. During our first couple of years together we’d make a bit of an effort, each thinking the other probably expected it. But it was a relief for each of us to find that the other was happy to let all that go.

DSC00896It’s not that we don’t have candles and sparkly lights. We do. Because these are the darkling days and the long nights need spark and warming. And next Saturday we’ll be glad when it’s Solstice. Not in a pagan way, particularly, but because that’s when the world turns and the days begin to get brighter. So we’ll go to Sarah’s allotment and we’ll celebrate that with a bonfire.

DSC00897But no Christmas cards will be sent from here, and very few are received now. No gifts will be given or expected on the 25th and neither of us will be going anywhere for a Christmas meal.

DSC00899But that’s how it always is. So what difference does having a year to live make to this? Why have I included this walk in my ‘Year to live’ series of posts? Because I’m curious myself to see if it makes any difference to how I view this Christmas.

DSC00900Like, when I first sat contemplating my year to live I’d thought I would want to ‘settle my accounts.’ I thought this because many people do choose to do this and I’d read about it a couple of years back in an ‘End of life’ book, after we’d met the book’s authors.

But today as I contemplate ‘settling’ unresolved things I find that I certainly wouldn’t want to do so at Christmas and possibly won’t want to do so at all.

DSC00901Christmas always seemed a fraught time anyway for any families I’ve ever been in or near. So I wouldn’t want to make it even worse by going around ‘resolving’ things. And as I say, I’m increasingly feeling a desire to just let all of that stuff go anyway. The days are too few and too precious, with paths to be walked, books to be read, music to be listened to and the friends of now to be cherished.

OK, so would I just like to go round and see people I don’t normally go and see at Christmas, given it’s the last one? Well no. I long ago left that life and people would most likely be bewildered if I were to suddenly turn up in it again. And besides, I don’t feel like it. And more than ever that now means I won’t do it.

DSC00902Earlier in the walk I’d heard the usual songs coming out of the restaurants and bars on Allerton Road. Every year the same ones. Wizzard, Slade, Elton John Nat King Cole and that ridiculous one about the First World War – ‘Old Mr Churchill comes over here…’ – very seasonal. And at least they didn’t make me angry like they used to do. It’s the last time I’ll hear them after all.

Because it’s always been the repetitive nature of Christmas that’s most irritated me. Sometimes I’ve thought it might not be so bad if it were more like the Olympics or the World Cup and only came around every four years.DSC00904But this year I’m not particularly irritated. It still bewilders me that people will put themselves through this every year. I still feel sad that people with little or no money still feel the pressure to go along with it somehow and will still be paying for this Christmas by next Christmas. And of course I recognise the economic con of the continuously rising prices of ‘main’ presents like iPads and phones. The price of love, indeed.

But me not liking it, me living or dying isn’t going to make any difference to a society and an economy that have become so dependent on this Christmas thing. So why should I care? I let it all go.

DSC00907And I walk. Through the fading light of the year.

DSC00908Recognising that what’s important to me, precious to me, is this consciousness of now. This turning of the year. Recognising what is actually happening, treasuring the days, noticing them in detail. Like taking this photograph at 3:03pm, 50 minutes before the sun will set today. This coming week the days will get two minutes shorter than this one. Until we reach the shortest day next Saturday, just 7 hours and 20 minutes. Then they will start to get longer and lighter. This circle of life is what matters.

Because life is short.
Because life is short.
For us all.

And springtime will come.

Blossoms too early in this warm December.
Blossoms too early in this graveyard in this warm December. But more will come in the real Springtime.
All things must pass.
And all things must pass.

Looking at life as a year to live then, returns me to what matters. And, to an extent, to my own insignificance. I don’t say I won’t spend any of this year ranting about things I think are wrong. Ranting is too much in my nature for me to stop. But like the ‘quietening down of the rage to succeed’ that I’ve spoken about, I think there’s also a quietening down of the feeling that I should be trying so hard to change the things I don’t like. Most people manifestly do like Christmas, and so I’ll be wasting no more of my finite energy trying to change that clear though ridiculous fact.

I'll simply enjoy this walking on this timeless path.
I’ll simply enjoy this walking on this timeless path.
Refusing to be goaded by blatant displays of privilege.
Refusing to be goaded by blatant displays of privilege.
And ostentatious wealth.
And ostentatious wealth behind high walls.
I walk through the park as the sun sets.
I walk through the park as the sun sets.
And through the night streets...
And through the silent night streets…
Of sparkly lights.
Of sparkly lights.

And as I get close to home a mighty light, brighter than all others in the night sky, appears in the west.

Yes, it's the miracle of Christmastime.
Yes, it’s the miracle of Christmastime.

Find the rest of these posts by searching on ‘A year to live’ in the Search box above right.

And today’s walk, for walk fans, was more or less the ‘Lost Liverpool’ walk last done in August with historian friend Stephen Roberts.







Published by Ronnie

Writing about life, Liverpool and anything else that interests me. As well as working with others to make the world a fairer and kinder place: http://asenseofplace.com.

Join the Conversation


  1. Oddly enough, although I’ve always observed Christmas (as a mid-winter festival of friends and family, rather than a religious festival), this year circumstance means I’m not able to. I’m between jobs at the moment, and the car chose this moment to decide it needed a lot of work to become a functioning machine rather than an ornate hunk of silver metal sitting outside the house. I live in quite a rural location, and so rely on the car. I have now a got a functioning vehicle after three weeks of it being off the road, but I’m unable to afford to make it road legal by taxing it until the New Year.

    Which means that I’m going to have a very quiet and frugal Christmas. And you know? I’m rather looking forward to it. There are a lot of things I just can’t do right now because I don’t have the money or I can’t (legally) go anywhere. A whole week where I’m not expected anywhere and where I can do pretty much what I want. It’s oddly liberating…

    1. Love that, Robert ‘A whole week where I’m not expected anywhere and where I can do pretty much what I want.’ And who knows, if you enjoy your quiet week this year, and I suspect you will, maybe you’ll repeat it every year?

  2. I respect your wishes for your Christmas, but I would seriously miss on Christmas morning watching Betty’s grandson’s face when he sees and opens his presents.

    I can remember only too well as a child when my father made a lot of my Christmas toys, and good they were too, when my mum made everything for the Christmas meal , no supermarket rubbish in those days, everything tasted like food and not plastic, and they are the things i remember about Christmas not the money spinning jokes that we have now. So I consider my upbringing as very lucky. You do not need money to love someone, all that comes from the heart and what you feel and that is what’s important to me at Christmas time.

    Having said all that Ron, longwinded again, where is that building with the columns, I couldn’t work it out.

    1. Enjoy your Christmas Stan. As I said, most people like it. I don’t.

      And the building with the columns is what’s left of ‘Allerton’ (more about it at the link on the post). It’s now in the middle of Allerton Golf Course.

  3. Yes……if I could invite 3 people to dinner Karl Marx would be top of my list (after Neil for background acoustic music) and I would ask Karl one question ….Could you just run that by me again? The other would be Jacqueline Bisset.

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