1. Resolution


Hungover in the cow-fresh air,

we leave friends stuffing frosty cars with leftovers

and sleeping children.

In Castleton, the Castle pub

is mulled and mistletoed.

The Sheffield Pipe band

skirls, unlikely, past in kilts and dirks

to settle by the sign – we welcome pets

except elephants and goldfish.

The barman smiles at me.

The bandleader, spinning his mace;

the lovers in the Blue John shop;

the men in bright new scarves;

everybody smiles at me.

Everyone seems very happy.

In a while, I will remember

I am wearing a reindeer hat

with floppy antlers and a squashy nose.

We heave each other uphill to the castle.

Away in a manger distant as we climb,

and rook-calls close,

like tinsel and coal smoke in the thin cold air.

From garderobes and turrets

we rejoice in stone and wildness;

limestone cliffs and Mam Tor’s wrinkled fort.

Children marching down the slopes in time,

the Saints Come Marching In.

The kilted men, oblivious in the hill-foot square.

Glockenspiels and cornets glinting up,

culture squinting through a crow-filled tree.

We march down swinging arms and singing Wenceslas,

my antlers flapping.

The secret of happiness, then,

is silly hats and local distinctiveness, or

distinctive hats and local silliness.

There’s much to say for both.

This is going to be a fruitful year.

Quite possibly

I am learning the wrong lesson.