I remember thinking, when I was a child, how old Iíd be in the year 2000 if indeed I lasted as long as that. Here we are in that year and Iím not old at all. In the prime of life. Well, approaching middle age perhaps. How oneís perception shifts. My father says that old people are those who are at least ten years older than him. Heís been saying that for nearly thirty years now so itís wearing a bit thin.
The first day of the year 2000 was sunny and bright in the West Riding. The sky was blue all day until it became flecked and shaded with pastel greys and blues and pinks at dusk. My family and I (without the twelve year old who was in London at the Dome having watched the fireworks the previous midnight from a galleon moored at Tower Bridge on the Thames, lucky boy) walked up the Billing, the highest point in Rawdon. It wasnít one of those really clear days when you can see forever (or York Minster at least) but there at 750 feet we could see Leeds to the south, Calverley and Baildon to the west and Aireborough spread before us behind Leeds-Bradford airport. We had looked at the same panorama at midnight as fireworks lit up the sky and celebrations echoed along the valleys. It is the hills I missed so much during the years in which I didnít live in Yorkshire. The hills are friendly yet at the same time they have an ability to put one in oneís place. About right for New Yearís Day really. On New Yearís Eve Garry and his eldest brother climbed up Gordale Scar near Malham. They love the place, have been there together many times over the years so it was appropriate for them to be there as the calendar prepared to move from 1999 to 2000.
2000. MM. People seem to be calling the year two thousand rather than twenty hundred in line with previous practice. Twenty hundred doesnít sound quite right. But then neither does two thousand. I reckon weíll all stick with this two thousand business for a few years and then revert to the old practice - twenty fifteen, for example. We shall see.
So the year 2000 came in like a lamb here. Last autumn was very mild. We had some frosts in December and some light falls of snow too but as has become increasingly the norm winter seems likely again to be warm and wet. It was not like this in my childhood. It was quite usual to have frosts night after night. Snow fell and stayed, sometimes for weeks in the hedgerows and where it had been piled up by the edge of the paths and where it had drifted. My children hardly know sledging or ice on rivers and ponds. Whether it is global warming or simply a temporary change in the climate there is no doubt that the winters of the 1980s and 1990s have been milder than those of the Ď60s and Ď70s.
Shortly after Christmas we went to the pantomime in Harrogate. Oh yes we did. This year it was Jack and the Beanstalk which provided plenty of opportunity for jokes about genetically modified plants. It is an odd sort of entertainment is panto. Psychologists would have a field day. A principal boy who is in fact a girl dressed as a boy. A dame who is always a large unattractive man. Ugly sisters, men of course. The audience laughs at predictable awful jokes. The format is the same whatever the story. The story itself is well known and quite absurd. Seemingly little to recommend it. Except that it is great fun. And part of Christmas. In England.
At the Princess, our local pub in Rawdon, we had a millennium quiz. This consisted of twenty questions, each of two parts, on each of the last twenty centuries. For example question 17 (the seventeenth century) required the name of the ship in which the Pilgrims sailed to America and the name given by the native Americans to the area in which they landed. A week later a similar quiz was on the twentieth century. It has certainly been Americaís century. But perhaps England has some claim to the last thousand years.
So very best wishes to you all for a happy New Year. May God bless us all.
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