Welcome to the Inbetween, time to dream, wallow and call in the new
The Queenager: Eleanor's Letter (December 26th 2023)
Just don't call the blissful time between Xmas and New Year the Gusset!!
Happy Boxing Day – always my favourite lunch of the year. Why is it that the Christmas meal tastes so much better cold with a really good salad and my little one’s cinnamon cookies? Something to do with the pressure being off and the flavours having had time to settle. Cold bread sauce with ham and cranberry jam is about as good as it gets!
I woke up this morning and the sun was streaming into my bedroom and the sky was blue; a good omen for all the festive dutiful stuff being over – a bright sunny start to the “inbetween”.
I love the lull between Christmas and New Year. The sagging of time when days run into each other and some kind of pyjama solves all sartorial requirements. When the house is full of chocolates and old Christmas pudding and brandy butter, the kids are home, we’re all pottering about doing not much. It’s proper hibernation, hunkering down as the year turns after the solstice. By the time we emerge after New Year the days will feel that bit longer again, the build to June 21st and the shortest night begins again.
But now in the fallow part of the year, with the feasting and wassailing done there is a sweet moment of pause. It’s the annual equivalent of the space between the in and the out breath, or when we float before sinking down. Or that half in, half out sense – like when I am standing on the steps of the pond, my legs and feet already in the cold water, torso, arms and hat still warm. A liminal point, a threshold. A tiny chunk of time to stop and take stock.
What were the best bits of 2023 for you? What is to come in 2024? What do we need to burn and get rid of before the year turns? What will do differently in the future?
I hosted a big family party on Saturday 23rd – we had our dining table and another trestle table, festooned with candles and flowers, 14 of us, friends and family, all generations gathered to eat potatoes and cream and Nigella’s quadruple chocolate cake. We went round the table remembering our highpoint of the year – and saying something we were looking forward to in 2024. Last year’s holidays featured prominently as high points; sitting in the sun eating lemon ice cream in the Italian lakes, said my niece, Negronis by the pool for my brother, a fortnight in a magical garden in Provence (my husband, we celebrated our 21st wedding anniversary there this year), for me finishing my book. Wow it was a slog. Like doing A levels, or Finals but for six months. Sitting down and whittling away at it. “Bird by Bird” as the great book on how to write puts it. Just start, write paragraph after paragraph. Keep going. Don’t give up till it is done. A good metaphor for any big project. You eat the elephant one chewy mouthful at a time. A bit like our wonderful Noon Morocco trip (read about it in the post below)
– another highlight of my year. Slow and steady we walked 25km in one day, cresting three 1500m passes. I can’t remember the last time I laughed so much or felt so held in sisterly love by a group of amazing women. If you’d like to know more read this recap: I am so looking forward to our Noon Ski and Jordan trips this year. (There are still a couple of places on both if you fancy coming and date for your diary, we’ve got a Noon retreat at Broughton Hall May 24th to 28th more details to come).
What else stands out? So many wonderful Queenager events, days in Wasing walking through the woods and swimming in the lake, sitting round the fire there on the short night of the summer solstice, faces lit by flames, beautiful music. Or my first visit where I braved the ice bath (with my long suffering husband). Also blissfuly was lying in the sunshine in Greece eating oregano crisps with my girls, bobbing around in the azure waters in sunhats for hours and climbing high up to the fort above Napthlion – and visiting the site of the ancient oracle at Delphi (I mediated high up above it, sat silent and cross-legged in the glade feeling full of light and an ancient pulsing). I also loved picnicking on the walls of Mycenae, above the cave with Agamemnon’s gold death mask, surrounded by yellow and pink spring flowers, the sea glinting in the distance near Tyrrins. My daughter telling us the stories and the myths (she was studying classics for A levels). My lowest point? Weeping all the way from Manchester to Milton Keynes after dropping her off at Uni, the full empty next, both girls gone. But the good news is that they come back – with adventures and friends to share.
And 2024? Well – next year is going to be a big one. My book comes out (exciting and terrifying), Noon continues to expand (f you are new to this newsletter there is also a website Noon.org.uk – home of the Queenager, stuffed with inspirational stories and expert advice on how to start a new chapter in midlife). The Queenager name and concept takes on a life of its own. It feels highly satisfying and almost incredible to me that an idea I dreamt up and manifested during lockdown (with the help of my amazing co-founder Claire, a kind of Queenager-fairy-godmother without whom none of it would have been possible) is now a reality. They say you have to ‘fake it to make it’ – I think by that they mean to get something off the ground you have to believe in it, act as if it is happening and finally, with luck and grit and application, it becomes a reality. I still can’t quite believe it! So I suppose that is what I am mulling and processing and anticipating in this slack part of the year. By slack I am thinking of the optimum point for kayaking when the tide is not going in or out, but just changing over, when the water does not pull us one way or the other, but lets us glide, free, for a magic chunk of time.
So that’s where we are right now – in the liminal space of the year’s threshold. The Inbetween (which my friend Tiff referred to as ‘the gusset’) I don’t like that so much. But whatever you call it, feel its gentle pull, its nudge towards rest and introspection – fallowing, wallowing, taking stock. Be still. Stop. Listen.
It’s a chance to re-orientate, to manifest, to pause, to dream. What could you pull into your life? What could you clear out to make space for something new and wonderful? What, as Claire once asked me, would you do if you weren’t afraid?
That is what the Inbetween is for. Pause. Dream. Don’t waste this precious slack moment by rushing about!
Much love and hope to see lots of you in 2024. Thanks for all your love and support! Happy Gusset! Enjoy your Inbetween.
By Eleanor Mills