It’s strangely warm, this New Year’s Day, with the shameless sun reflecting off the white chalk cliffs. I pull off first my coat and then my jumper as we march along the rough-cut concrete path beneath pale promontories.
We are not alone on this jovial pilgrimage, not to any particular destination, but simply for the sake of the journey. Fathers and daughters speed by on cycles. Toddlers wobble on brand-new scooters, baptising them in chalk-dust puddles. Elderly couples saunter, hand in hand, pausing for coffee and cake. It seems that the whole world has joined us here beneath the cliffs, to celebrate the first of the year in their own ways.
A vast whiteness extends beyond the cliffs to the sea itself, bright beyond glistening, painful to look at, but doubtlessly there – an empty page to my right, as far as the eye dares to look.
To my left is my best friend, my constant companion, through adventures as grand as years abroad and as small as this perfect winter’s stroll. We squint into the blinding future, making plans – as ever – hand in hand.
2016 was in every way a year of transition. More than we could have ever imagined, we watched momentary decisions transform our futures – sometimes for better, and sometimes for worse.
At the arbitrary end, it’s pleasing to know that amidst of all the confusion and chaos of the year, we have found bright, hopeful things worth holding onto:
We moved into a little flat by the sea, in an ever-changing yet essentially kind city of art and music and madness. I started writing for a living, surrounded by inspiring individuals. We chased adventure with the ones we love, on snow-capped Welsh mountains and in slate-grey Northern lakes.
We saw the many faces of this green and grey and pleasant land, and reassured ourselves that in spite of all its sham and drudgery, it is still a beautiful world.
In stark contrast to last year’s big move, 2017 is all about starting where we are. We have found our feet on this stony Sussex shoreline, and we’re once again ready to chart a wild and wonderful course.
We seal our pact with a toast in the little town of Rottingdean, in a pub that’s just the darker side of twee, bedecked with chandeliers and strange taxidermy. Victorian by name and nature, it seems a fitting scene in which to step from the past firmly into our future.