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What is it about this time of year that causes so much stress? Is it the incessant commercialism? The shops crowded with ignorant and stupid people, all bustling around with nary a mind for anyone else, laden with bags full of lead that careen off my kneecaps at regular intervals.

Or maybe it’s more to do with the calendar, the advent of another year looming into view, for who doesn’t already have plans in January. We do. As you tick off the days of December you suddenly realise you’ve not seen this person or that couple, and that appointment you re-scheduled a couple of months back is in danger of getting in the road of your ‘quick’ catchup with some old school friends. But you’ve got too many things to do, it’s not like you are sitting around doing nothing.

So you make plans. You cram in, lunches, drinks, nights out, shopping trips or whatever it takes to ensure that we can end the year, or at least get to Christmas, safe in the knowledge that we’ve seen everyone we need to see.

Question: Why the NEED? Will they disown you if you don’t see them? Will they find out that you saw everyone else but them? Are they having the exact same thoughts?

Then you spend the next few weeks in a blur. You rush around in a state of befuddlement never quite sure which pub you are in, which shop you simply must visit before Saturday, and what time you said you’d meet your Dad so you could help him with Mum’s gift (no Mum, not you… I’m generalising…). Your calendar is suddenly full and when you do stop to rest you feel guilty because, surely, you should be doing SOMETHING!

At a time when friends and family should be the priority we find ourselves scheduling them in…

“no no we can’t see you then, but there’s a slot free on Tuesday, how does that sound?”

At least that’s what it feels like.

Two of my best mates work in the same city as me, less than a 15 minute walk away. Yet I never seem to have the time or inclination to meet them. Why is that? Despite my feelings about them, and how much they mean to me, I seem to treat them as an inconvenience or just something that needs to be dealt with. How horrible is that?!

For the record then: Stuart, Bill, fancy a drink sometime? I’m free the Thursday after Christmas….

After a year dominated by awful events I already know what one of my resolutions will be for 2006. I just hope I can fit it into my schedule.