Tuesday, 29 December 2009

10 years – what a decade

With little more than two days left of this year, it's difficult not to be drawn into all the backward looking that accompanies this time of any year. And while this is an annual event, the end of a decades gives it yet more than its usual interest.

It's not been the best of decades in so many ways – 9/11, Afghanistan, Iraq ...

And that's just for starters. We in the UK could begin by mourning the demise of Labour's promised "ethical foreign policy", which if it wasn't actually stillborn, died the moment Tony Blair was blinded by the lights of Washington DC.

Oh, there's been plenty to depress and even some to cheer. But you can read all about that elsewhere. For those of you who choose to spend time here, I doubt you do it to replicate what can be found in rather larger web fora.

The last 10 years, for me, have been a period of transformation – of growth. It was the time when, finally, I started an adolescent experience, moving away from all that had held me so firmly in place until my late thirties.

All my previous life, I'd let someone else do my core thinking for me – or giving me a 'manifesto'; a purpose: religion first, then theatre (I couldn't do it for fun, it had to be an all-or-nothing lifestyle thing) and then politics.

Finally, in the last 10 years, I've broken away from all that. It's royally pissed off some acquaintances, but I feel all the better for it. It might have started essentially as a sexual liberation – a liberation from the repression of my upbringing, but it touched so many other aspects of my life.

And with the breakthrough in thinking has come things such as an explosion in my vocabulary. I remember standing on a remote beach in Ireland, watching as a layer of fine sand was blown over the beach proper, for all the world like a sort of magic carpet. I stood there, transfixed, and desperate to find the words to describe what I was seeing to myself. When they came, it was like a damn burst.

Then there was photography: something I'd never really considered, even in my more artistic days. Out of the mists of my distant past emerged an eye – an innate ability to see pictures and know, without conscious thought, what I wanted to capture.

Then there was food, and the beginning of an understanding of culinary pleasure, A beginning too, of learning the skills that allow me to express that pleasure.

A beginning of an end to the anti-European attitudes of my family: a discovery of feeling at home on the Continent: perhaps even more at home than in the UK. First efforts to learn other languages – now I can read Asterix in German at least.

How extraordinary: a decade that seems to have been so short – and yet also so long. It seems a lifetime ago that I stood and watched the fireworks on that millennium night.

And here I am – changed almost beyond my own recognition of myself. Not all for the good, perhaps, but generally so, I think.

How has the last decade been like for you?

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