Dimming of the day and the shifting solstice

Today should be the shortest day in what for us has been the longest year.

By tradition December 21 is dipped in darkness. The dimming of the day reaches a turning point and after that we see a slow swelling of the light.

Only this year tomorrow is the shortest day or the longest night. How very confusing. You carry a date round in your head for years, confident you have this one nailed: yes, shortest day, know the answer to that one. And then the day moves and becomes a buzzer-clang question on the TV quiz QI.

So if like me you are banking on your spirits lifting when someone turns the lights back on, you will have to wait another day.

Today should be the winter solstice with the latest dawn and the sun staying low in the sky. But this year we have been short-changed. Apparently this happens fairly often. It is because the 365 days of our year – plus an extra day every four years – does not “correspond exactly to the solar year of 365.2422 days” (today’s Daily Tory-graph: interesting article, worth a read, just stay away from the light-draining politics).

Thanks to this quirk of the calendar, the shortest day can fall between December 20 and December 23, although those two dates are rare, with a December 23 solstice last occurring in 1903 and not due around again until 2303. As an optimist I can confidently predict that my circumstances will have improved by 2303, so that is something to look forward to.

So it’s not today but tomorrow when we begin the trudge towards the summer solstice in June, when days are long and light. How cheerful the year seems as we tilt closest to the sun, the longer day lifting the spirits and opening up possibility.

That at least is the theory. This year was different as the longest days were filled with different sorts of shadows. It was around then I lost my job and shuffled on to this ledge.

Now plenty of people have had or are having a worse year, but for us 2015 has had little to recommend it. The freelance work has picked up a little lately, and that’s good, as I do love to go out and interview people. It gets me out of the house if nothing else.

Then there is the writing process, listening to the recorded conversation, making notes and then shaping a feature, giving the words a pleasing order.

It seems to be what I was born to do, but somewhere along the way other distractions occurred, enjoyable distractions such as editing and designing. But the interview is where it is at, the point of journalism for this born-again scribbler, along with blogging and writing columns.

But if the work doesn’t pick up, perhaps I shall have to do something else altogether. Last week I went into Leeds for what looked like a job interview but turned out to be merely registering for a recruitment agency. It was straightforward, not unpleasant but it was all blankly demeaning.

Maybe something will come of it, maybe it won’t. The challenge in this situation is that you want something to happen, but it needs to be the right sort of something, although sooner or later any sort of something may have to do.

There is always hope as we wave off the darkness and look towards the light. The thriller filled with politics and bullets is with my agent. My wife has read the book and enjoyed it, so I’ll say a secular prayer to that.

And we all have Christmas to enjoy or endure, or probably a stomach-popping meeting of the two. I feign grumpiness out of habit, but mostly like Christmas, one of few times we see all three of our offspring at the same time.

And you’re allowed to drink lots of wine and that has to be a plus. So I’ll raise my glass – or a mug emptied of morning tea – to a brighter day tomorrow.

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