URSABLOG: Resolute Hope


New Year’s Eve has always been a funny time of the year for me. As a young man in England it meant drinking as much as possible as quickly as possible, and then moving in for the killer kiss with any available girl at midnight. If you were lucky and the girl was as drunk as you, then you were away. If not, you moved on until you hit lucky, or were sick, or in some cases both; cause and effect were often hard to seperate.


Later on it became more of a period of reflection and resolve. It was a good time to look back on what had been achieved, what had gone wrong, what had been lost, but without making predictions. The older I get, the more I feel that the future is resolutely unpredictable. Mainly it was a time of New Year resolutions.


Many resolutions however are doomed before they even start. I have made some this year, but I can assure you that none of them involve doing more exercise, or giving up either drinking and smoking. Exercise is out: I cracked a vertebrae after recently falling out of an overhead storage space in my flat and onto the kitchen floor, and my bike was stolen a few weeks ago. As for quitting drinking and smoking it is the wrong time of the year to even try. I enjoy them both too much, and whilst this may not be in the spirit of these self-improving times, if I take that cigarette, or drink that extra glass of wine, I will soon feel useless, spineless, and grind to a halt under the pressure of self-induced failure.


My resolutions therefore involve changing and improving the environment around me rather than trying to change myself; in this my fiftieth year I find this approach more rewarding and permanent.


Over Christmas I read abiography of Constantine Cavafyby Robert Liddell. It turns out that Cavafy publishedThe God Abandons Antony, a favourite poem of mine, when he was around the age I am now. It was a sort of watershed for him, between his life as a gatherer of knowledge, experience, emotion and the time when he fed off these to finally become the great poet that he was.


When suddenly, at midnight, you hear

an invisible procession going by

with exquisite music, voices,

don’t mourn your luck that’s failing now,

work gone wrong, your plans

all proving deceptive — don’t mourn them uselessly.

As one long prepared, and graced with courage,

say goodbye to her, the Alexandria that is leaving.

Above all, don’t fool yourself, don’t say

it was a dream, your ears deceived you:

don’t degrade yourself with empty hopes like these.


I can be in my flat in Athens and hear noisy, singing parties passing under my window – not exactly exquisite but you know what I mean. I can become melancholy because my plans have not worked out the way I wanted, but also because I too have sung under other people’s windows on my way home. The poem finishes:


As one long prepared, and graced with courage,

as is right for you who proved worthy of this kind of city,

go firmly to the window

and listen with deep emotion, but not

with the whining, the pleas of a coward;

listen — your final delectation — to the voices,

to the exquisite music of that strange procession,

and say goodbye to her, to the Alexandria you are losing.


In a way it is a perfect New Year poem, saying goodbye to the hopes and the failures of the year past, not whining, but sincerely, with my soul. But as one long prepared, although not necessarily graced with abundant courage, I can move into the new year, like Cavafy, work for the best that is yet to come.


On that note I would like to wish you all the best in the New Year, filled with health, happiness, success and love. And even if your plans don’t work out, or your luck does not run well, nevertheless I sincerely wish that the best is yet to come for you too.

Simon Ward