By John Clare
The Old Year's gone away
To nothingness and night:
We cannot find him all the day
Nor hear him in the night:
He left no footstep, mark or place
In either shade or sun:
The last year he'd a neighbour's face,
In this he's known by none.
All nothing everywhere:
Mists we on mornings see
Have more of substance when they're here
And more of form than he.
He was a friend by every fire,
In every cot and hall--
A guest to every heart's desire,
And now he's nought at all.
Old papers thrown away,
Old garments cast aside,
The talk of yesterday,
Are things identified;
But time once torn away
No voices can recall:
The eve of New Year's Day
Left the Old Year lost to all.
I tried to write a Things I Loved About The '00s post, but kept realizing that most things I was listing actually happened in the '90s. I must admit that this past decade was not my favorite -- not politically, not socially, not even in terms of entertainment, with the exception of the fact that I went to the U.K. three times and met a couple of wonderful people (and adopted a couple of wonderful cats). The Zeros started terribly for me in terms of personal/family drama and stress, then we had 9/11 and eight years of Bush, I lost the most wonderful job in the world when the company went under...I'm grateful that nothing really terrible happened to me personally, nor to most of the people I'm closest to, and on a couple of national issues we made some big strides, but I'm not feeling nostalgia for the decade, only for small moments that won't come again like taking my kids to Port Discovery and going to elementary school Halloween parties.
We were scheduled to go downtown for a tour of the U.S. Capitol, but freezing rain and a bit of snow early in the morning, plus a lack of local plows and forecast for icy rain all afternoon, convinced us to postpone; the forecasters said that people who could keep off D.C. roads should do so. Instead we stayed in the suburbs and went to see Sherlock Holmes, which I enjoyed very much. It wasn't a monumental event for me the way Avatar was, but I hadn't expected to like it all that much after the previews and a couple of reviews I'd read, so everything about it was a delightful surprise -- for one thing, I'm rarely moved by Robert Downey, Jr., and for another, I didn't realize that Rachel McAdams had such a meaty role. I'm only superficially familiar with Conan Doyle, so I had no particular expectations in terms of what sort of story should be told, and I appreciated this one.
Spoilers: The film didn't strike me as much of a Sherlock Holmes mystery -- more of a Dan Brown conspiracy theory set in the 1890s, with mystery villain whom I figured would turn out to be Moriarty and was only surprised that the big reveal didn't come earlier (I guess they were hedging their bets for the sequel). The secret society religious nonsense irritated me until Holmes and Watson were in the dead chemist's lab, at which point I figured that there would be a scientific explanation for everything rather than a mystical one, and as with Avatar, that made me very happy (I prefer my magic and particularly my spirituality solidly grounded in scientific fact -- what we understand about the Big Bang seems far more miraculous to me than the first chapters of Genesis). I loved getting to see so much of London, particularly the not-yet-finished Tower Bridge, though the lighting design seemed swiped right from the last Harry Potter movie -- lots of sepia-tone, lots of long dark shadows.
We laughed a lot, particularly at the "old married couple" subtext that Downey and Jude Law played up for all it was worth, Downey in particular...a bisexual Holmes distracted by jealousy over Watson's domestic life. Lord Blackwood was too over-the-top for my taste, the inventor of the gas chamber -- did he have to be a proto-Nazi as well as an occultist and serial killer? But I am willing to forgive everything, even the gratuitous explosions and immolations, because Rachel McAdams saved Parliament after being an equal in figuring out what needed to be done to disable the machine. I'm sorry she got knocked out midway through the bridge fight, but I can let that one go because Holmes let her go.
Here are some flowers from the Longwood Gardens conservatory:
Paul decided we should have a Hogmanay dinner, including cock-a-leekie soup, salmon, bread, and late-night chocolate pudding cake, then we watched the David Tennant-Patrick Stewart Hamlet, which was excellent even though I kept seeing Doctor Who as Hamlet, particularly in the scenes with the players and "To be or not to be." I loved Ophelia early on, rolling her eyes at Laertes and mocking Polonius right along with him, so it's too bad they had to make her disintegrate so quickly, and I rather liked Claudius until after the praying scene -- with Patrick Stewart playing both the past and present king, Hamlet's father came across as a less charismatic version of his brother. The script and the actress both seemed undecided whether Gertrude knew what Claudius had done; I often think I'd prefer a truly guilty Gertrude to a wavering one, so I wasn't crazy about her (she must know Claudius plans to kill Hamlet before he tries for the second time). As for Tennant, his energy is phenomenal and his ups and downs completely convincing; his grief for his father is vivid and he seems to feel betrayed when his father demands not just loyalty but bloody action from him. I need to watch it again after I have the Doctor cleared out of my head.
We couldn't see the blue moon, nor the partial eclipse -- icy rain all day and evening -- so we spent the last half hour of the year watching Dick Clark. Not the worst way to spend New Year's Eve. Best wishes for 2010!