I woke up on January 1 with my eyes blinking in the Parisian sunlight and the pain from the acute calcific tendinitis in my right shoulder permeating all the way down to my hand and up to the nape of my neck.
This inexplicable ailment had suddenly appeared in the early hours of New Year’s eve and the throbbing pain had reached a point where I decided to pay a dawn visit to the Emergencies Department at Hôtel-Dieu, France’s oldest hospital 1, which is a convenient stone’s throw away. The French capital’s hospitals, which are having to cope with massive funding cuts this year, do an admirable job of dealing with an incredibly wide variety of health-related problems. I saw staff smiling patiently at the morning’s assortment of homeless and destitute, for whom it is the only possible place to go for help when they are sick. Nurses and doctors literally running from ward to ward, staying calm in all circumstances, including the rare genuine—and occasionally messy—emergencies that had appeared. I was duly sent home with a couple of scary-looking X-rays that took all morning to produce, because the nurse who was assigned to the task was a complete novice, and the usual French prescription for about half a dozen assorted pain-killers. All this put me in just the right mood to reflect, as tradition requires, on lessons learnt from the past year and resolutions for the coming one.
Two thousand and nine was spent frantically criss-crossing the Altantic and frantically training at the gym. Indeed, some of my more thoughtful New York friends immediately—and rather cleverly—saw a likely connection between the massive amounts of whole unpasteurised milk I had drunk to get fitter and the calcium deposits in my shoulder: so resolution n° 1 will probably be to cut on the milk, so long as my doctors will let me hit the gym again as soon as my tendinitis clears, so that I can put the fifteen pounds or so that I have lost because of the tendinitis back on again.
My second resolution is to take more photographs: I really enjoyed taking all sorts of shots with my new iPhone 2.0—it actually has a pretty decent camera.
I actually have made quite a few more resolutions, but they are so trivial they hardly warrant mentioning here or, in some cases are far from trivial but still unmentionable. One of them is to read more. It will be fifty years tomorrow since the death of Camus, France’s last great writer. Last year the Prix Goncourt was won by a young lady called Marie Ndiaye, who then promptly got embroiled in a dispute with a M Raoult, a junior minister in the French government who looks like a butcher in the film Delikatessen, and was annoyed at some derogatory comments she made in a magazine about life in Paris being much less fun than in Berlin nowadays. I have yet to meet anyone who has even pretended to read Madame Ndiaye’s book, although I am told that she has a habit of beginning her sentences with “et”, so it is quite likely that I would rapidly toss her prize-winning book in the dustbin. Just as Mrs Thatcher said there was no such thing as society, so I say there is no such thing as contemporary literature in a country where it boils down to disagreements between the winner of the Prix Goncourt and a jumped-up street bully about the meaning of France’s “identity”.
But of course my main resolution for this year will be to try to moderate my tendency to overdo the Proustian sentence. I wish prosperity, wisdom and anything else they may desire to all my many, many readers the world over.