Why New Year is a time to let old ghosts lie

Scrooged ghostIt’s at this point in January – a few days into the month, waking up to grey morning light and coming home in funereal darkness – that I traditionally bin my New Year’s resolutions. Giving up Cadbury’s Whole Nut seems impossible; going for brisk walks seems too much effort; cutting down on my eBay impulse purchases is just completely out of the question.

But there are some things that should last beyond January 8th, and one of my resolutions is still going strong. It’s the resolution to – if you will allow me a fridge magnet sentiment -‘live in the now’.

I was lucky enough to spend New Year with the beautiful Badger in Budapest, a city of ghosts and shadows that’s uncommonly eerie to be wandering around late at night. We visited the Jewish ghetto and while walking past the Glass House, Badger wondered aloud whether buildings could remember the terrible things that had happened inside them, and whether ghosts a manifestation of  the house playing back recorded impressions. I think this is called the ‘Stone Tape’ theory, made popular by Nigel ‘Quatermass’ Kneale in the 1970s in a BBC play (see below for a clip – no sniggering at the special effects).

It was thinking about the Stone Tape theory, and then reading Sarah Rayne’s excellent Tower Of Silence over the holidays (why is she not a mega-million selling author? There’s no justice in the world) that prompted me to make the ‘living in the now’ vow. In Tower of Silence, all the characters are restrained by the ghosts of their past and either forced to relive their private disasters, or suppress their trauma until it eats them from the inside. While I’m pretty certain I’ll not get eaten by vultures in India like Selina March’s childhood friends, I’m not taking any risks.

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