​Well, here we are in 2017 and I don’t know what to think, really.  2016 was the absolute pits, for the most part, so glad to see the back of it but I’ve never been a fan of the unknown and, for me, 2017 is like a rocket launch to the moon – who the hell knows where I’m going to land!  (Actually, I’ve just realized that today is/has been Friday, 13th … probably better that it went over my head.)  Back to my landing!   Perhaps I could go back in time and change a few wrong turns …  No, Hugh, I promise to remain positive at all times.
Since my last entry, we spent Christmas in Austria and it was as beautiful as I’d always dreamed it would be.  It had been 10 years since our last holiday in St Wolfgang – we went to the White Horse Inn every Summer, for many years, when the children were growing up – and I wasn’t sure how we would feel or what changes we would find; in fact, as it drew nearer, I wasn’t convinced of the merits of going away for Christmas at all.  Of course, I needn’t have worried.  It was magical to fly into Salzburg on Christmas Eve where, awaiting us, was our driver to take us to St Wolfgang.  He was holding a board with our name on it and looked strangely familiar.  I confirmed we were the said party but he kept looking past me and asked where ‘Mr Masson’ was?   I told him he was not with us and nor would he be in the future!  Did he not remember me?  His reply was, ‘Yes, but  more him’!  Becca and Manny were killing themselves laughing behind – as was I – and I, quickly, realized that this was Herr Benno!  I knew, then, that I had made the right decision; it was like coming home.   Herr Benno had been the face of the White Horse Inn, all these years ago, when we first went with Thompsons.  He was in charge of Reception and made no secret of the fact that he frowned upon any guest under the auspices of a holiday company but, moreover, children at the Weisses Rossl!  Suffice to say, as the years went by, we grew on him and he on us and we never forgot Herr Benno so…. here he was complete with his characteristic lack of tact.  Reassurance that, in a sense, the years just fall away and what is important remains.
We had never been to Austria in Winter but, predictably, the scenery was breathtaking.  Our balcony looked over the lake to the snow-capped mountains beyond whilst, to the left, was the beautiful pilgrimage church – dating back to the 11th century – around which the village of St Wolfgang was built.  That night – Christmas Eve – Becca and I walked up to the church for the Midnight Mass and it is something I shall never forget.  As the familiar church bells rang, the villagers flocked in their droves and we were lucky to find a pew.  It was freezing as we tried to commit to memory every last moment … It felt as though we were voyeurs; as though we were intruding on an intimate ceremony.  The congregation was one of local Austrians and, of course, the service was in German.  I felt they were aware that we were strangers amongst them but there was an unspoken welcome.  We were privileged to be there and we did our best to take part and sing the hymns in German.  My lasting memory, though, will be standing in the village square – after Midnight and, thus, now Christmas Day – looking up to the church spire from where a brass band played ‘Stille Nacht’.  I consider myself very lucky …
We had the best Christmas!  To waken every morning and look out over the lake to the snow-capped mountains would heal the soul.  All stress ebbed away and we totally relaxed secure in the knowledge that, for a week, we were in a bubble; we revisited old haunts and old memories and made peace.  St Wolfgang was like an old friend, as was Herr Benno, and we know, now, that we can go back whenever we need refuge.
Sadly, we had to come back on New Year’s Eve and, as I had been the day before, Manny was very sick.  I will have a lasting image of him hueying on the hard shoulder, en route to Salzburg airport, and then at the front of the plane.  I had given him a bag, just in case, but it would have been too much to ask that it didn’t burst!  The stroke of Midnight, then, found Manny in bed – accompanied by his bucket – whilst Becca and I flicked between watching my old friend, Cathy, on Alba TV and Lorraine Kelly, in Dundee, complete with one of Becca’s old beaus who was in the audience!  Drinks anyone?  Becca was bemoaning the lack of participation in our house …  Happy New Year!
I was about to go to bed – it is 1.46 am, as I write – but I found a miniature Schnaps in the fridge and that has given me the strength required to continue!  I don’t know why but, for as long as I can remember, I have always given myself lists of things to do, daily, in my head.  Does anyone else do that?  When it all goes to plan, it is a good thing; however, on days like today, when I haven’t completed said list, it is called OCD!  I don’t want to go to bed until I have finished this but, in reality, what difference would it make?  None whatsoever but I’m still here.
2017.  I remember, so clearly, the Millenium.  Where did these 17 years go and how much has changed?  So many are no longer with us …   I lost 2 people very dear to me just before Christmas and, once again, one is reminded how fragile life is.  One never knows what tomorrow will bring but life is like a book and one should cherish every page.  I have been very lucky and my book, to date, has a wealth of wonderful memories; memories which give me strength.  I wish the same for Becca and Manny whose security has been knocked for six over the past 5 years.  For that, I shall always be sad – and feel guilty – but 2017 is another page!    
I love to write and, when I embarked on this blog, I wasn’t really sure of a format.  I wrote a diary for years and have never been one to shy away from voicing my opinion.  Plenty to write about, then, but, in reality, I have avoided many issues close to home and to my heart.  The actions of the subconscious.  No more.
Does anyone like New Year?  Am I alone in dreading what may lie ahead?  I don’t think so.  I have always been prone to looking back but perhaps that is just because I had such a happy childhood; a happy past.  I met up with someone from that ‘happy past’, last night – Floss!  It is 27 years since we last met – and I had never met his wife, Debs.  Back in Edinburgh for his Aunt’s funeral, he had arranged to meet Tubby, Alison and I (yes, I know it should be ‘me’ but just doesn’t sound right!) in Whighams.  Tubby and he were at school together; I have known Tubby since school and Floss since university days and Alison … well, married to Tubby she, too, has known Floss since university.  Instantly recogniseable, it was lovely to see him again and Debs was just as I had imagined.  Once again, time just melts away and, clearly, the bond remains.  Never under-estimate the importance of shared history.
Talking of last night, I promised Julia that I would mention her and I always keep my promises.  Thank you for chauffeuring us back and forth – under the careful direction of your Dad, of course!   Your list of forthcoming social events is exhausting and only serves to remind me of my increasing age – relish every moment!  I hope, too, that Lulu Lemon was a success …
So … I think I have had a sense of humour bypass or perhaps it is because I am writing this way into the early hours.  On the other hand, perhaps it is just because it is January, I am unemployed, facing an impending divorce, legal fees and the prospect of nowhere to hang my works of art and photographs in my inevitable teepee!  No, we are ok.  It’s back!  I can laugh at my impending doom so it’s all going to fall into place – as Pop used to say.  There is a plan for every man – as he also used to say … 
‘… but the pathos and the gift of life is that we cannot know which will be our defining heartbreak, or our most victorious joy.’  
                                                            (Alexandra Fuller, ‘Cocktail Hour under the Tree of Forgetfulness’ )
This is Trish, signing off.