Whoa ho, and welcome to 2013, the year of the, well, what?
The Chinese always ascribe the year to some beastie or other
- rooster, snake, rat - and on January 1 everyone in China
says, ''whoa ho it's the year of the rooster/snake/rat,'' and
they make rooster/snake/rat noises (cockadoodle doo, hiss
hiss and gnaw gnaw respectively).
They then let off a few firecrackers because the Chinese just
love firecrackers before going back to making stuff to fill
our shopping malls and forgetting about the
rooster/snake/rat. My 2013 started as the year of the
When all the ships' hooters went off at midnight and the
drunks reeled from the makeshift post-quake pubs on to the
corner of London and Oxford Sts to hold hands and sing ''Old
Long Since'', in fake Scottish, an event that in former times
I made a point of never missing, I had already been in bed
for a couple of hours. I was dividing my resources between
snoring like a bronchitic bear and digesting a bellyful of
chicken, carrots and pinot that someone had given me for
doing them an inconsequential favour.
The pinot, that is. I bought the chicken and grew the
carrots. In consequence of the early night I woke up feeling
decidedly more chipper than I am used to feeling on the first
day of the year, took the dog out into the warm and sunny and
thought to myself that the prospects were looking bright as
the weather and perhaps 2013 was going to defy the precedent
of 13.1 billion years, or however long the boffins now say
the planet's been up and running, and become the year of the
blue bird of universal happiness (though blue seems a strange
colour for such a beastie.)
But, ha, of course. Ha, emphatically ha, Because on the way
back with the hot dog I stopped at the dairy for 20 gaspers
with which to celebrate having made only one new year's
resolution, which was to make no new year's resolutions, and
I found the proprietors of the dairy, who for the sake of
columnar neatness ought be Chinese, but aren't, busily adding
another monstrous wad of tax on to the already grossly
inflated price of my vice: 2013 was clearly, and not for the
first time, the year of the parson bird, with the parson in
question being a puritan.
H.L. Mencken, may his name be spoken with reverence, defined
puritanism as ''the haunting fear that someone somewhere may
be happy''. The ostensible aim of the tax increase is to
discourage me from smoking. Why? What on earth has it got to
do with anyone but me?
My smoking does no-one any harm and it does society a great
slab of good, not only by the extortionate tax that I hurl
into the national coffers - my weekly smoking bill now
exceeds my monthly electricity bill - but also because it
renders me less likely to add to the ever-growing ranks of
the elderly, who are all individually delightful but who
collectively are a drain on the national purse.
And so if anyone voluntarily opts to make himself less likely
to add to the ranks of those sans hair, sans eyes, sans
teeth, sans everything, he should be patted on the back, and
given a bottle of pinot for being such a selfless chap.
But no, nothing of the sort. The zeitgeist has decreed that
it is a moral duty to emulate the wizened centenarians of
Japan, including one who was in the paper last week for being
115. Poor old bugger.
So I grizzled my way through the first morning of the year
and when the phone rang shortly after lunch I almost bit it.
It was a friend ringing to ask if I'd seen her dog, who'd
done a runner. No, I said, but feeling the need to get out I
said I'd take a drive and look for her if she liked, and she
said yes please, so I loaded my dog into the car as bait and
drove down the road and turned left and there she was nosing
cheerfully round some dustbins - the dog, that is, rather
than the friend who rang. I called her dog and she leapt on
board and then I drove around for a bit so that it would seem
that I'd gone to great trouble to find her and then I might
be given a grateful bottle of pinot.
Well, actually, I didn't, though the thought did cross my
mind. I reunited dog and owner immediately and that reunion
was so touching and the relief so palpable, that I decided
that 2013 should be the year of the heroically-rescued dog. I
hope you have a happy one.
By Joe Bennett.