A new year always makes us feel full of expectation that things will change for the better. As you progress through the previous year and get towards the end, there is a mental and physical countdown towards the Christmas festivities: buying in food, presents, decorating the tree etc and after that another countdown to the very end of the year. Then, one minute you are at 11.59pm on 31 December, awaiting that stroke of midnight, raising glasses to the future, hugging friends and family and the next you are jettisoned into a new year and it is 00.01 am on 1 January: a whole new year ahead of you. Like a Time Lord, that minute between being at the end of one year and the beginning of the next is very disorientating and makes you feel that you ought to embrace the new year with a new you. I am sure that is why people make new year resolutions, otherwise they could surely try to give up smoking/start a diet/exercise more/donate more to charity (or whatever people resolve to do) in June or in October or on the May Day bank holiday.
I suppose I always hope that Greg is miraculously going to stop drinking overnight, which, I know, is a physical impossibilty as he is clinically dependent on drinking and cannot suddenly go without alcohol without serious medical implications. He would have to be weaned off it slowly with drugs, as has happened several times before in the past when he has been hospitalised. And so I start a new year with much looking the same, if not worse than before.
At Christmas, I tried to keep things jolly for Kay's and my Mum's sakes. Kay and I decorated the hall, the stairs, the lounge and the kitchen with tinsel and baubles and trees. Everything sparkled in the glow of the house and contrasted with the frosty, snowy weather outside. I bought copious amounts of food (estimating the feeding of the five thousand) and we chomped our way though turkey and five vegetables on Christmas Day, Boxing Day and several days thereafter. There were platters of chocolates, nuts, dates, more chocolates. We groaned and ate, ate and groaned. (I've put on a good half-stone to prove it!) We watched films on TV and tried to be jolly.
But Greg had other plans. He continued his drinking regime, seemingly not impressed that it was Chrismas or that Kay and my mother (or, God forbid, me)might want something different of him just for once. He spent most of the Christmas days, dressed in a dressing gown, his legs bare and covered in sores or yesterday's spilled tomato soup that he had heated up for himself. He made no effort to wash or comb his hair. On Christmas Day morning he opened his presents with us all in the lounge and then passed out on the sofa where he stayed until lunchtime. I meanwhile had been slaving away cooking the turkey, the five vegetables, the starter, the dessert and all the trimmings. I woke him about 20 minutes before lunch and suggested he might get freshened up (euphemism for "have a wash for once in your life") and dressed. Just as I was about to serve up the starter he sat down at the table - in his dressing gown, bare sore legs and clearly he had not washed either. I asked him to please make an effort, just for Christmas lunch and you would have thought I had asked him to recite the 17 x multiplication table naked in Trafalgar Square. He shouted and ranted that I was being unreasonable and he continued to shout and rant all though the starter and into the main course. He had no appetite and most of his meals ended up in the bin. He flaked out asleep on the sofa for most of the rest of the day, only participating to rant and rage when I asked him if he wanted any supper. Apparently I was making a fuss in asking him that simple question and he did not want a fuss. The remainder of the Christmas days followed a similar pattern, so that Kay, my mother and I tried not to engage in any conversation with him for fear of setting him off. My mother would even ostensibly steer the conversation away from any controversial subjects when she saw Greg's temper rising and sometimes it worked.
I tried to be the all-singing, all-dancing act to make things good for Kay and my mother. Kay is an owl and likes to stay up late to watch films on TV; my mother on the other hand is a lark and wakes at the crack of dawn, so I found myself forcing myself out of bed to bring my mother her early morning tea in bed (despite her entreaties for me to have a lie-in) and I stayed up long after the call of duty (on one occasion until 3am) to keep Kay company in the late evenings. One night, however,I was so exhausted, I promised myself a lie-in, took a tablet to help me sleep and withdrew at midnight to the spare bedroom with the dog. At around 6am, Snoopy nudged me awake. I groaned and told him to lie back on his bed. Thankfully, he did and I went off to sleep again. At 6.45am he nudged me awake again. Drowsily I invited him to jump up on the bed beside me. As he settled down alongside me, I was vaguely aware that he was trembling. In my half-sleep, I imagined he must be cold, so I reached for his blanket on the floor and covered him over. But still he trembled and at some point in my subconsciousnes, I realised this was not right and sat bolt upright in bed. As I went to open the bedroom door, he made a noise and ejected the entire liquid contents of his bowels onto my cream-coloured bedroom carpet. As we went down the four flights of stairs to the kitchen he offloaded another two dollops of liquid mush all over the floor and yet another lot in the garden. I was awake by that point and far from thoughts of making the first cup of tea, I was up to my armpits in disinfectant, carpet shampoo, soapy suds and kitchen towel. Not the best job to wake up to or at any other time for that matter. I was just feeling pleased with myself a good half an hour later when I had cleaned all that up, when Snoopy decided to vomit in two different places as well. Poor thing had obviously eaten something dodgy to be emptying out from both ends. I am pleased to say that, after that, he made a quick recovery and has been fine since. Not so my carpet unfortunately: I shall have to get in an industrial carpet cleaner at some stage in the next few days.
So now it is a new year - the end of a decade - twenty ten or two thousand and ten (however you prefer to say it). The expectation of new life, changes, sweep-clean. Out with the old; in with the new. My hopes soar, as always, to hope for better things, good health, wealth and success, but looking at Greg, I see an old man, wizened by the alcohol, in physical agony, too apathetic to eat, wash or take medication, on the brink of another medical crisis. His sole drive is to maintain the level of alcohol in his system for fear of withdrawal symptoms. His consumption now teeters on about 1.5 bottles a day (about a litre) of whisky despite his promises a few weeks ago to reduce from the one bottle he was on). So he is moving in the wrong direction ever further away from abstinence and from good health and ultimately from me. And somehow already on this fourth day into the new year, I just know this year is going to be tough.