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"May your coming year be filled with magic and dreams and good madness. I hope you read some fine books and kiss someone who thinks you're wonderful, and don't forget to make some art - write or draw or build or sing or live as only you can. And I hope, somewhere in the next year, you surprise yourself." Neil Gaiman

This baby is now fifty years old. It's my first son, just a day or so old I think. So very, very new. New in all sorts of ways and not just for him because our lives made a major shift in focus of course. He turned us into new people.

New is such a momentary thing though isn't it? New one tiny fraction of a second and then not - development, change, circumstance ... onwards into the future.

So here we are at the beginning of an artificially created new year. Day one of a chunk of time we in the West - for lack of a better description, call 2024. And now that I look at that number I see that it's one of those weird numbers 2+2=4 - I'm sure there's a technical term. I wonder if it means something to numerologists.

Of course I had to look it up - and also of course I'm sure every numerologist has a different reading of its meaning - so just on the first one that came up on Google - those numbers add up to 8 which makes it "a good omen, the rainbow after a storm, and the promise of a brighter tomorrow." Which is a bit hard to believe considering the state of the world today. It went on - and on and on, so I gave up. Perhaps the strangest thing is that after all the thousands of years of human thought people can still believe such stuff. Supposedly educated people that is.

But back to the calendar year and just a brief aside on when calendars began. Back in the Bonze Age, they think, in the Middle East when writing began. Less formally - in Prehistoric times - the Neolithic - when they may have marked things like the solstices and equinoxes, the lunar phases. For us January 1 is our annual day of reckoning - well maybe our birthdays are too. How did we do last year? How can we improve on this?

"To new beginnings. To the pursuit of...somethingness." Cecelia Ahern

So I checked my 2023 resolutions and found, somewhat unsurprisingly, that small resolutions were kept and large ones not. Small ones - more or less kept - things like eat vegetarian once a week, go for four walks a week, write a minimum of five blogs a week and so on. Slightly larger but unimportant ones like the one that had me trying a dish I had never mastered or tried, once a month - pretty much a failure. I managed four - pork pies, crab apple jelly, lemon curd and polenta. Shall I try again?

Dine out locally once a month - failed completely. Have friends to dinner or lunch every two months - ditto. I think I managed two in the whole year. Also 3 long weekends away. Well there was one night for my 80th. Declutter the house - didn't even make start.

And yet, this morning I sat down with my new diary and wrote a new list of resolutions - well mostly in fact repeats of last year's. Why do I, do many, do it?

Well I do think it's a good thing to pause every now and then and consider ways of making one's life more fulfilling. I am too old to get hugely upset about what resolutions failed completely. The cooking ones are just a game really, so I can feel good about the ones I do achieve and just shrug about the others. The getting out and about ones are disappointing but certainly not the end of the world.

This year, however I really do think we need to decide whether to stay here in our lovely home for the long term or put more effort into finding a new one. Further from the centre, an upstairs that we don't have to use, another nearby suburb ...? And I really should declutter - starting with all the stuff I don't need on this computer.

New but not new - that's what today signifies because as Mary Wollstonecroft said: "The beginning is always today." I wonder if new babies, like my first grandchild - also very new in this picture, had any conscious thought about new. Her father, my younger son, certainly would have. To a baby, literally everything is new. Or is it? I guess after her first meal, her first sleep, her first dirty nappy, things become familiar, no longer new. She is 16 now and studying psychology, so maybe she knows the answer to this. I must ask.

One of my photo topics last year was new. I took lots of photographs, like this one of flowers and leaves beginning to bloom. It might have been spring, but here in Melbourne the seasons blend into each other. Most of our wattle trees boom in mid and late winter and yet I passed one yesterday which is flowering now. There is always something new in the natural world - good or bad, whether it be just a seasonal or life cycle newness or calamities such as climate change, destruction of environment, bushfires and so on. So far we and the natural world have adjusted, even if the calamity has caused the extinction of a whole species - the dinosaurs. Let us hope we can invent ways to adjust to the current threats.

And what about the world of food? This is supposed to be a foodie blog after all. Well there's always something new in the world of food, whether it be a new product on the supermarket shelf, like this favourite brand of pasta of mine, or a newly developed vegetable, like broccolini or qukes, or a new TikTok or Instagram fad or craze. New to us, but old elsewhere foods - how many more spice mixes are there to be discovered? A new book from Ottolenghi - surely there will be one soon? Even a new star chef to take his place. New restaurants, new foodie destinations, rediscovered wines. The possibilities are endless.

I shall try very hard in the coming year to find new things to talk about although I confess I sometimes repeat myself. They do say there is nothing new under the sun but that is such an obvious untruth. The world is full of new things, in every sphere of knowledge on the planet. I'll try to focus on food. Maybe I'll have another go at that list of foods I've never tried - Beef Wellington, Chicken Kiev, Soufflé ... So many.

I have a new desk calendar - last year's was pretty dreadful, so I have reverted to The Met and Impressionists and Post Impressionists. This is Monet's painting of the Parc Monçeau which is January 1st's offering.. Is it a gathering or merely a collection of people strolling through the park and watching the world go by, enjoying the sunshine? It was such a dreamlike time La Belle Epoque, was it not? Hazy dreamlike blissful moments in time. For Monet anyway.

My new diary is somewhat bleaker. This year I am trying out The Redstone Diary, an arty work which has a guest curator and a topic. This year the guest curator is Julian Barnes, a favourite author of mine, and the topic is family. I could not find another diary that tempted particularly - printed diaries are disappearing it seems to me. So I thought I would try something new. I suspect I shall not like a lot of the art, but I am sure it will make me think.

So far there have been two pictures both somewhat grim. The first from Edouard Vuillard - a post-impressionist, whose work I find intriguing, if not attractive. HIs muse was his mother and here she is completely dominating the scene, while his sister almost disappears into the wallpaper in a pose which reminds me of Alice in Wonderland after she had drunk the 'grow taller' potion. Disturbing in a rather sad way, but not nearly as disturbing as the one for the first week of the year - Mafia - a book cover. Family means connections, ties, obligations I suppose, and the Mafia certainly has those.

We shall see. A new way of looking at things. Vuillard apparently adored his mother, which is also slightly creepy. But look there are the remains of a meal on the table.

I shall try to see this as a challenge - not just the diary - but also the challenge of getting a meal on the table every day. Tonight, a stir fry of leftover ham. Hmm. We'll see. Stir fries are not really my star dish. But we shall have it with the remains of our latest Aldi wine discovery. A pinot grigio from Northern Victoria with the name of The Pond - which won Pinot Grigio of the year at the Melbourne International Wine Show - and three other medals as well. Nice, but I think I prefer their South Point version.


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21 feb
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"In my beginning is my end" - TS Eliot reflects in East Coker, part of his 4 Quartets well worth a look

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