It may be nearly the 10th of January, but it still needs to be said.
I spent the new year, like a lot of people, on the beach at Copacabana, listening to samba, watching the fireworks and people throwing gladioli into the water for the spirit that is said to live there. Everyone wears white. It feels like a lot more hopeful a way to start the new year than getting hammered in the freezing cold and dark, waking up with the hangover from hell as I did on January 1 every other year in London since time began.
Apart from the surreal (and somehow dirty-looking) sight of Christmas trees and decorations in the lead-up to December 25, I barely noticed it was that time of year at all. Which, being apart from loved ones aside, is probably the best way to deal with Christmas in my opinion.
Since then, most Brazilians take a slow start to the new year despite having to go back to work generally on Jan 3 and working the week in between. Lots of English classes have been cancelled though thankfully I’ve been busier with journalism work.
In a strange twist of fate, Amy Winehouse, the epitome of car crash celebrity that dominated my previous employment, has been staying in Rio in a hotel almost opposite my house. I’ve seen the clusters of journalists outside day after day, and could not bring myself to join them. It’s funny how irrelevant it all begins to seem. I can imagine how people like my parents feel, being perpetually pelted with this stuff about people whose identity they’re not really sure of. Reading the News of the World, which is now not possible for free online from Brazil (or anywhere for that matter) is a strange experience. All I can think of when I do it is the deals that have been struck behind the scenes and the money that has changed hands, as agents set up false romances, paparazzi false photo shoots, and a process which must at times seem almost incomprehensible to those outside of it unfurls.
Even when I’m trying to contact potential interviewees here in faltering Portuguese, not sure if I’m going about things the “right” way, at least having a genuine interest in what they’ve got to say helps. It’s not that process of week after week having to drum up interest in perfectly dull people such as Cheryl Cole. The process of journalism becomes weirdly easier out here than it was in the comfort of the city I’ve lived all my life.
The Christmas period did bring a wave of homesickness, and vows to come home, which now it approaches seem harder to justify. As it’s turned out, the prediction that nothing would change hasn’t been true – there have been births, deaths, life changing events in the lives of people I love. Even the barman of my former local changed pubs. But London is still there as it was, without hills giving way to the ocean, without blue skies, with it’s middle class property-prices-and-school-fees obsessed folks sucking the joy and spontaneity out of everything. While occasionally writing features for the Daily Mail on the horror and indignity of shopping at Lidl since the recession.
My jury is still out on the timing of my return, though it’s worth bearing in mind that even my former neighbour Ronnie Biggs went home eventually.