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Home > Culture and Society

The Cruellest Month

12 January 2006

TS Eliot had some strange ideas about life. For example, he actually considered April to be the cruellest month. The reasons he gave for this were odd, mostly to do with an aversion to lilacs and the extraordinary notion that memory and desire should be kept well apart. Not a great masturbator, Eliot. Miserable old
bugger. So, for Eliot, April was the cruellest month. For everybody else, it's January.

Of course it is. No matter what wonderful things you might have planned for the year, January is but a melancholy stepping stone between the past and the future. It is the Monday morning of the year, when all you really want to do is pull the covers over your head and come up smiling in March, just in time for the clocks going forward. It's always been that way, since Gregorian calendar immemorial - but this week it was made official.

In a survey of 1,500 workers carried out by Office Angels, the country's leading provider of temporary skivvies, almost 75% agreed that the first day back after Christmas and New Year is the worst day of the year, even more of a drag than the first day after the summer or bank holiday weekends. Paul Jacobs, managing director of Office Angels and always ready with a nice quote for the Daily Mail, said: 'A pro-active start to the year will help employees feel good.' As will taking on a few temps, thus allowing you to 'focus on a fresh start and really think about what you want to achieve'.

Irritating PR-spin aside however, the first week in January is a genuine depression-spinner for a great many people. Take Tarachan over at suicidegirls.com. She wrote in her journal: 'Today is supposed to be the worst day of the year in terms of people being depressed. It's completely true - I can't ever remember feeling this bad. ...ever... Things need to change.' BikerBen couldn't agree more. 'I feel your pain too,' he wrote, before adding, 'At least you have a cool job... try being a careers adviser for a
while.' Finally, as the January gloom threatens to overtake him entirely, BikerBen says, 'I want to live in the sun and ride motorbikes'. Poor BikerBen.

The good news of course is that the worst day of the year is now
firmly behind us. The bad news is that Paul Jacobs may have got it completely wrong and Cliff Arnall, a health psychologist at Cardiff University, may be nearer to the truth. Arnall reckons that the worst day of this year is actually January 23rd. And sadly, his reasoning for this is quite convincing. Although pay day may be approaching, so is the realisation that payday will not cover the financial excesses of Christmas, as you were praying it would. On a similar theme, this is also the point in time when all the good intentions behind that list of resolutions have been shown to be sham, just like last year. Just like the year before. So with the flab still hanging over pants, the bills still unpaid and the worst, wettest weather of the year whipping at your saggy sad face, January 23rd will be a living hell. Especially if you have taxes to pay by the end of the month and you haven't so much as looked at the form they gave you it all of nine months ago.

It's kind of scary. Hopefully the Sun will be on hand to help us through that horrible day, just as they were on Tuesday - or 'Bluesday', as they rather cleverly dubbed it. On Tuesday they offered the nation a photograph of Abi Titmuss lying across a roulette table in a pair of lacy blue knickers, covering her Tupperware breasts with her left forearm, cleverly preventing the one nearest the camera from slipping into the pit of her other arm. It certainly cheered us up.

Not really.

Roll on April.

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