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January: The Most Maligned Month Of The Year

Posted 16.01.17  - Culture

It is a reasonable guess that right at this moment you are suffering an attack of existential gloom or ascetic self-flagellation as we slide, slug-like, from the excesses of Christmas and New Year into that most desperate of months, January. The month, lest we forget, that contains Blue Monday, officially the most depressing day of the year. What could be glummer?

If you think that, then you've been sold a pup. Had the wool pulled over your eyes. Been bamboozled. Duped. For there is no such thing as Blue Monday. Well, there is, the great New Order track, but the idea that the third Monday in the month of January is somehow more dispiriting than any other is pure pseudoscience. Blue Monday was part-created by a travel company a dozen years ago as a way of getting people to buy their holidays to the sun. Yet, in the manner of that saw about how if you tell a big lie often enough, people will start to believe it, we have now convinced ourselves that January is not only the worst time of the year, but contains the Monday Of The Black Abyss. Rubbish. January is a cool month. A fresh start, a clean slate, a chance to grab life by the throat (especially after all life did to us in 2016).

However, thanks to the myth of Blue Monday, most people are in the mood for self-denial. No Fun appears to be their motto. Great. This means there is more room for the rest of us to go out and play. Make a call to one of those hard-to-get-in-to restaurants that were snootily turning you away in December. Chances are they'll have tables to spare. Furthermore, you'll find special January menus designed to tempt the abstemious. Nowhere does this better than New York, and the city's buzzy Restaurant Week begins on 23rd January, featuring a blizzard of special fixed-price meals as well as tastings and classes. Closer to home, Newcastle does something similar from 16th January, and Birmingham's bargain blowouts begin on the 20th of the month.

January is a purple patch for cinemagoers, with the Golden Globes imminent (8 January) and plenty of time to catch up on the movies that will be up for Oscars - the nominees are announced 24th January (the actual ceremony is 26th February). Before then, we'll all be singing and dancing. Last year was depressing on many levels, and what did America do during the Depression? It gave us the escapist Hollywood musical, which returns in style with Oscar-bait La La Land (opens 13th January), starring Ryan Gosling and Emma Stone. Hand me my hat and cane.

The travel company that invented Blue Monday wasn't wrong about it being a good month to get away. For example, January is the best month to go skiing. Not only is it more snow-sure than December and the slopes less crowded than the nightmare of February half-term, but this month, prices hit a trough not repeated until Easter (very late this year, and melting snow might be an issue).

Or stay at home and actually embrace the season by getting out into that crisp, clean air. I always use one of the ever-reliable Christopher Somerville's excellent walking guides (he actually has one called The January Man, part-autobiography, part compendium of where to walk each month) and choose a ramble that ends at a pub with a pint of beer in front of a roaring fire. As therapeutic as a day on the beach, in my book. Just remember, there's no such thing as bad weather, just a bad choice of clothing.

Let's get over this obsession with 'blue' as a negative thing. None of us have 'the blues' the way BB King or Howlin' Wolf would have known them. Let's reclaim this much-maligned hue. In colour therapy, blue represents serenity and calm and is associated with the throat chakra. I'm not a great believer in such things, but it's not a bad excuse to treat your neck to a nice Turnbull & Asser blue tie, perhaps an indulgent silk gown, or a bow tie, say, navy with bold purple polka dots, or a flawlessly fitting blue shirt in a luxurious two-fold 200 weave. That should cheer you up, while keeping that throat chakra warm.

If you still aren't convinced, just remember this: January is to be celebrated because things get better as it goes along - with every flip of the calendar page, the days are getting longer. To paraphrase Game of Thrones: Spring is Coming.

Rob Ryan - Journalist and author of several historical novels

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