Claire King


Ring Out the Old.

Posted on: December 30th, 2015 by Claire - 46 Comments

For me 2015 started with the itch of change: certain elements coming together at a certain time that made the status quo begin to seem unstable. It can be easy to brush this kind of itch off, I know, and get on with life as usual. But if you listen to it, if you try and understand what it’s telling you, if you face the fear and the risk that it implies, eventually you will reach a tipping point where change is inevitable.

Without going into the detail of what is behind all of this, suffice to say we reached that tipping point in the early summer. This was encouraging, because if you can seriously consider leaving a life in the south of France when the weather is perfect, the sky is blue and the first ripe delicious tomatoes are on the table, then you know your decision is made.

And so we started taking steps. One after another, at first slowly but taking us further and further from safety. From this life that to many people seems idyllic. From this house that has been home for 14 years, longer than any house I’ve ever lived in. The house our daughters were born to and grew up in. The mountain at our feet. The kitchen table a storybook we wrote.

Feeling full of energy

The house is up for sale now. We’re leaving. It’s scary and exciting and happy and sad. The last days of 2015 mark not only a year coming to an end but a chapter closing.

The Last Times have already started: Seeing people for the last time that we will likely never see again. The last time at a favourite place. The last time we will cook a certain meal, or walk a certain path. Some are clear cut, with tears and goodbyes. Others are vague, we know it may be the last time and we sense it all a little more keenly, just in case it is.

As we unpick this life we have inhabited, a light is cast upon it. A reflection of how we have lived. What we want to keep and what we don’t, what we want to guard as precious and what we want to change.

Some of this is physical – in preparing for the move we are having to be selective about what we take with us. It’s expensive to move – they charge you by the cubic metre – and we have accumulated, shamefully, so many things, so much stuff. We have an enormous cellar and we filled it over more than a decade with books we had no shelves for, building materials we had bought too much of, baby clothes I couldn’t bear to part with, clothes that used to fit me and never will again, scuba equipment from a life before children, VHS cassettes and LPs from the 80’s. The clear-out has started. We are now forced to discard, recycle and donate. It’s difficult but the release feels good.

Some of what we don’t want to keep is not physical. We don’t want to accumulate things anymore. My husband and I didn’t exchange Christmas gifts this year. Likewise, much of what we do want to hold on to is a way of life – the family values we have created together, the time we have made for ourselves.

Perhaps this time of introspection and reflection is why I’m feeling hesitant about social media at the moment. There’s a lot of noise out there. Some days a lot of anger. Others a lot of spite. Sometimes just noise for noise’s sake. And so many people trying to give the public impression that everything is perfect for them. It often feels to me like the extremes of emotions are posted online but that the reality of life rarely shows through. Rather than take a break from it all, I’m trying to filter out the noise now, down to the genuine exchanges, to the authentic, to what social media can be at its best.

Meanwhile I’m drafting out my third novel, a book which which reaches into the dark places inside myself where I keep the questions that I have never found answers to. I’m excited about this book, it’s going to be a cracker, but I’m also intrigued by the way it has decided to be written just at the time when I am turning a new page .

Finally, I’m ending this year in anguish. How can I not be preoccupied by the people flooded from their homes (and why this has happened), by the people who have fled for their lives and have no homes (and why we are not helping them more), by the disenfranchised and the poor and – on the other end of the spectrum – the self-serving powerful who do not use their status and their wealth for good, but to further bolster their own positions? Instead of just being a spectator, what can I do about all this?

I’m looking forward now. 2016 is ripe with promise.

Work-wise I will continue to split my time between writing and what I refer to as my day job, but after 14 years working for myself, in 2016 I am tying myself to a company which is determined to make real and sustainable change for the better. Maybe together we can make a real difference. Maybe – I hope – I can use my powers for good.

If everything goes well with our move we will be in a new home in the UK before winter is out. My daughters will be starting new schools (in English not French – they can’t wait!). We will reconnect with old friends and make new ones. My second novel will be out in the summer, which is a nerve wracking thing in itself. 2016 is already being fêted as an amazing year for fiction. Will my book find its place in amongst all those great contemporaries, or will it drown in the flood? Not much to do but wait and see.

And so to ring out the old and ring in the new* we’ve decided to reinvent our New Year’s Eve. We’re not going to stay up until twelve, filling the hours until the clock ticks over. It doesn’t work for us, I’m not sure it ever has. It puts too much emphasis on that moment at midnight as though it’s that which changes everything (even though in the UK there’s still an hour to go before the kisses and the fizz). We will say goodbye to this year, and this chapter of our lives, in our own way, in our own time, the four of us together, and then we will climb into our safe, warm beds and be glad of them.

And when we wake up in 2016, everything will change.


* Tennyson of course:

Ring out, wild bells, to the wild sky,
The flying cloud, the frosty light
The year is dying in the night;
Ring out, wild bells, and let him die.
Ring out the old, ring in the new,
Ring, happy bells, across the snow:
The year is going, let him go;
Ring out the false, ring in the true.
Ring out the grief that saps the mind,
For those that here we see no more,
Ring out the feud of rich and poor,
Ring in redress to all mankind.
Ring out a slowly dying cause,
And ancient forms of party strife;
Ring in the nobler modes of life,
With sweeter manners, purer laws.
Ring out the want, the care, the sin,
The faithless coldness of the times;
Ring out, ring out thy mournful rhymes,
But ring the fuller minstrel in.
Ring out false pride in place and blood,
The civic slander and the spite;
Ring in the love of truth and right,
Ring in the common love of good.
Ring out old shapes of foul disease,
Ring out the narrowing lust of gold;
Ring out the thousand wars of old,
Ring in the thousand years of peace.
Ring in the valiant man and free,
The larger heart the kindlier hand;
Ring out the darkness of the land,
Ring in the Christ that is to be.


46 Responses

  1. Lovely post, Claire. I wish you full enjoyment of your ‘Last times’ – and of your new ones.

    • Claire says:

      Thank you very much, Roz. It’s a very memorable time for all of us xxx

    • Alison Burke says:

      What a wonderful , bold brave way to face the future, an inspiration to me after a life time of being driven by events rather than the other way round. Long to hear more

      • Claire says:

        Thank you, Alison I think we are often so swept up in the general day to day of life, and of the change that happens to us, that making change ourselves takes a real conscious decision to step back and make fresh choices. And I do know that I’m very privileged to be able to make these changes, rather than be stuck in a situation as some people are. Looking forward to blogging our first few months back in the UK! x

  2. Sherri says:

    I am not good with change. I resist it even when I know in my heart it would be for the best. But I think 2016 may mean change for us too.

    I wish you all the best for yours. I hope the new things found and regained will more than compensate for the old things, not lost, but stored in your memory room and being a foundation for the rest of your lives. I hope the book does well for you – which it no doubt will if it is anywhere near as good as the last one – and that the yet-to-be-born book lives up to its promise. I hope the job works out.

    Good luck in the new adventure and congratulations for knowing that the time was right. I will think on that when our time for change becomes certain.

    Happy New Year xx

    • Claire says:

      Wishing you courage and luck, then, if you are about to grasp change too. I think we are all nervous and resistant to change, even when it clearly becomes the best course of action. After all, there’s so much uncertainty involved. But transforming ourselves or our lives in whatever way can often be so rewarding. Fingers crossed for you and thank you for all your good wishes. Happy 2016 to you too xxx

  3. Annecdotist says:

    Lovely moving post, Claire. Wishing you all the best with the coming year of change.

  4. steph says:

    lovely read with my coffee this morning…full of emotion and truth…almost brought me to tears but ended with hope and happiness. Claire…thank you for sharing, and for being ‘you’ …much love to you all and best of luck with the move xxxxx

  5. SallyZigmond says:

    I wish you and your family all the very best for 2016. I predict a brilliant year for you and all of us writers. I can’t wait for your novels number 2 and 3. They’re bound to be brilliant. I shall pre-order them when I can.

  6. Cornflower says:

    All the best to you and your family, Claire.

  7. Gabi says:

    I wish you all the best for your new adventure. May it bring what you wished for and maybe even surprize you with what you didn’t realize you were wishing for.
    I am in the same process, can fully relate. We are allready in our new home but will be bouncing back and forth until the summer. It’s exciting, frightening, thrilling and refeshing all in one. And also a little sad and exhausting at times. But it’s also comforting to know that the memories you take with you allways. And the people you are supposed to not part with shall return again when you least expect them to.
    Keep us posted how you do!

  8. Janet Mckenzie says:

    I feel conflictedly both sad at no more of a certain sort of French adventure, and exceeding happy at the prospect of all the Kings within much easier visiting reach.
    Vive la change!

  9. Claire says:

    Beautiful post and one that I really connect with. I’m not planning a house move next year but I am planning a major declutter and some significant changes in both work and lifestyle. Hope we can welcome you all home very soon. X

  10. Pete says:

    Definitely connect with this in so many ways especially the giving up of ‘things’. 2016 will need to be a year of changes for me too. Will be nice to see you back in the UK.

  11. Naomi Frisby says:

    Great post. Good luck, Claire. 2015 bought unexpected changes for us too. Decluttering before we moved was one of the best things I’ve ever done, I can’t believe how long I’d held on to some of that stuff.

    Hope the transition to the new goes smoothly.

    • Claire says:

      Thanks Naomi. I have to say that clearing out books is possibly the hardest thing (although all those albums I saved up hard for as a teenager also give me pause) but logically I know lugging them around with me makes no sense. Happy new year! x

  12. Marisa Birns says:

    Change is scary, however, I have found that when it happens to me, it is also wonderful.

    As it will be for you. I have a really good feeling about 2016. I, too, don’t wait until the last strike of the clock to toast the new.

    Happy New Year to you and your lovely family. xx

  13. Mike Clarke says:

    Great post, including many points on which I profoundly agree (social media’s failure to live up to its potential, New Year’s Eve — always one of my least favourite nights, etc).

    I’ve been through similar (although probably not quite as major) life changes in the last few years — not always caused by voluntary decisions. I’m sure you won’t regret your choices — there are so many new experiences to try and life is there to enjoy as many as you can.

    • Claire says:

      Thanks, Mike. I absolutely agree, so much to do and see in life…and not enough time. And as for New Year’s Eve, much as I love symbols and ceremonies, I do think it needs a rethink, it’s a rubbish night for so many (despite what people say on Facebook :))

  14. Marcus Speh says:

    Dear Claire, excited to read about those changes you’re about to make & all the best for 2016! Cheers from Berlin, Marcus

  15. Super post. Thank you, Claire. It’s helped clear my thinking a bit on our own way forward. All the best to you and your family for your new life. Greetings from Vienna.

  16. What a beautiful and moving post, Claire. Having seen you in those surroundings you all love so much I can understand what a wrench it must be to leave. But having also met your lovely family, I know you’ll be happy wherever you go. You know what’s important and you’re so right that it’s not things! Bonheur et santé xx

  17. What an evocative post. But yes, when you first get that itch, you bat it away, but it keeps coming back and then actively nags you.

    Sorry to see you leave la belle France, but bonne chance with your move, wherever you end up, and with Book 3.

  18. Marina Sofia says:

    It’s always a bittersweet moment to say goodbye to one place and move to another, especially when it’s a country you are saying goodbye to. We too will be moving back to the UK this summer and I am already tearful about the ‘last times’. Wishing you all the best with your move and a very good 2016 – looking forward to your next novel!

  19. Echo all the above comments – lovely post Claire & much I too can relate to; while the decluttering can be nostalgic -heartbreaking at times- it is ultimately very cathartic. Wishing you and your family a smooth move and happy next chapter… and have to say Book 3 sounds a corker already☺ Happy New Year x

  20. What a great post, Claire. Lots of resonances with me. We’re on the move too, husband and I didn’t exchange gifts for the same reasons and we don’t stay up to see in the new year (sacrilege in Scotland). I wish you and the family well in your new life and you in your new job and writing. Change – taking the ‘road less travelled’ is what a good life is all about. You only regret the things you don’t do. Here’s to your exciting new year.

    • Claire says:

      Thank you, Anne, and it’s lovely to know that you share some of the sentiment and experiences as us right now. And you’re so right: One of my favourite quotes, that really struck a chord with me when I first read it 17 years ago – and still does today – was this from Sydney J Harris:

      “Regret for the things we did can be tempered by time; it is regret for the things we did not do that is inconsolable.”

  21. A beautiful post, I very much hope 2016 takes you to where you need to be. It seems you’re very much on your way! Good luck with the novel, it will swim for sure. Mx

    • Claire says:

      Thanks so much, Margot. We have now fit, I hope, the most complicated pieces of the puzzle, which made the last six months all somewhat of a worry, but that now leaves us with filling in the rest of the picture, which I am hoping will be fun. We have a rough idea what it looks like, but it will be a lovely surprise when it’s finally completed!

      And thanks for wishing the novel luck. It helps! xx

  22. Katie Willis says:

    Good luck to you and your family on your new adventure, Claire. It takes courage to start afresh. You have an adventurous spirit. Thank you for this post. It’s made me ponder a fair amount on courage and expectation. For me this Christmas was very important. It was a celebration preceding what will be a challenging year of surgery and recovery. I hope I can be every bit as courageous as you.

    • Claire says:

      Thank you Katie, I am sure you will be at least and surely more courageous that me. Wishing you strength and positivity and above all good health over the coming year. xxx

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