This was a piece I wrote for a Chelmsford writers’ group on the subject of “New Beginnings for the New Year” and with an allotment of 1,000 words.
New Beginnings for a New Year
New beginnings? Isn’t that a whatdoyoucallit? You can’t have old beginnings. I suppose you could say the beginning of the Hundred Years’ War is an old beginning now, but it was a new beginning when it began, which was the beginning of the Hundred Years’ War, I think. I mean, there’s only any point in saying anything if the opposite is possible. Like…what’s the opposite of two plus two is four? Four plus four is two? I was always better at English than Maths. Or is it two minus two is four? Or minus two plus minus two is minus four?
I suppose you could just about say that an old beginning is something that really is a beginning, but it’s been used before for other beginnings – like pawn to king four. Or pawn to queen four. Whereas WHITE: 1: RESIGNS would be original, I think. “It was a dark and a stormy night” would be an old beginning, then. Or if you started your novel with “In the beginning was the word”, which is a pretty silly statement because of course in the beginning of a story there’s a word, in this case “in”. Now that’s a point: if I remember rightly, copyright expires seventy-five years after the death of the author, but if the author of the Bible is God, is God dead? I believe theologians and philosophers are still arguing about it. The theologians say he is and the philosophers say he isn’t, if I recall rightly. In any case, even if he is dead, when did he die? That’s crucial if you’re quoting from the Bible without paying royalties.
I suppose someone must have thought this through because some gravestones have biblical quotes on. Mind you, I’m not sure who the action for breach of copyright would be against.
What about new endings? Well, obviously if a story or a football match or something is new, the ending will be new – except I suppose if it’s old hat it’s not new, like Manchester United scoring in surprisingly long injury time or a book ending with THE END just in case you were tempted to start reading it back to front in which case it would say DNE EHT. Esle gnihtemos yas dluow ti neht. Sorry, I got a bit carried away.
So let’s go back to the new beginning. I make that three hundred and ninety-five words, which isn’t bad considering. Four hundred and seven now. Four hundred and twelve.
There was a man in a Len Deighton spy story called Harvey Newbegin, an American. He was called Harvey Newbegin because he wasn’t. I don’t mean he was like The Man Who Never Was, except of course he was, because he was fictional whereas The Man Who Never Was was real. And Welsh, apparently. This Harvey Newbegin was an immigrant to the USA from some Baltic country, which explains why he chose to rename himself Harvey. Anyway, the hero pushed him under a bus, which made him Harvey Newend. I did mention that this wasn’t true, didn’t I? I mean it’s fiction, not that what I’m saying about Len Deighton’s book isn’t an accurate summary, though it’s years since I read it so it might not be.
Who said “In my end is my beginning?” Was it Eliot? Someone did say he was anal retentive, so that might be right.
Why do we want new beginnings for a new year anyway? The break-off point for the year is purely arbitrary. Up until the eighteenth century they began the new year in spring some time, not on 1st January at all, which plays havoc with dates, so for example if a Civil War battle was fought on 21st February 1645 according to accounts at the time, that’s actually 21st February 1644 to our way of thinking. No, 21st February 1646, I think. See? Chaos. What if the Royalists turned up on 21st February 1644 and the Parliamentarians on 21st February 1646? Could be a bit awkward for any Royalists commemorating their easy victory, but it would have kept the casualty figures down. That is, of course, if we were fixing the battle at a point on the map, which because of the earth’s rotation and the earth circling the sun, would be quite a long way in space from the same point on the map a year or two earlier, assuming no-one had moved the map. No – would it be at the same point in space because what goes round comes back? But then there’s the expansion of the universe to take into account, so that would mean the Parliamentarians turning up somewhere in deep space, which would be unfortunate, though how they’d get there I don’t know.
Did you know the rate of expansion of the universe is increasing? We’re all rushing apart faster and faster according to Stephen Hawking, which means that our feet are ageing slightly faster than our heads, which I’m not sure is true of me at all, though remembering when I last looked closely at my feet, maybe it is. But in Australia it’s the other way around. Old heads on young feet. With other bits in between.
Some people make resolutions at the New Year, but usually they aren’t new beginnings at all because they’re the same resolutions they made last year or the year before, like eating less or writing a novel. Or writing less and eating a novel. Personally I find Dickens indigestible.
Some people just go out, get drunk and sing badly. It’s usually not new beginnings in their songs, though, it’s bits in the middle or at the end that are new. Getting drunk is known as getting rat-arsed, though I don’t understand that at all. I have not observed that drunken people have small hairy arses, though some Welshmen have. And they had them before they got drunk. Not that I’m any kind of expert on Welsh backsides. Er…