It's not been easy recently. We've had snow and ice making us cancel our Christmas travel plans and think very carefully about skidding to the corner shop. We've had job losses, redundancies and pay cuts. There's a VAT increase just round the corner, as well as all the usual tribulations of the New Year - the enormous winter gas bill, flu, grey skies and, if you're self-employed, settling up with the taxman. So is there anything to look forward to? Here are 10 good reasons to be cheerful.
1. Most people won't go back to work until 4 January. That means a short first week and a slightly shorter first month. Every little helps.
2. The children go back to school. We love them, we enjoy being with them - but how lovely it is to have time apart after all the frantic Christmas festivities.
3. Quite soon, you can take down all your Christmas decorations. Holly, paper chains, tinsel and Christmas lights are very lovely on 24 December, but look a bit tawdry and dishevelled by the New Year. Once all the decorations have gone, you won't need to be on your knees with a dustpan and brush every five minutes sweeping up all the pine needles; and, unless you live in some kind of stately home, your living room will suddenly seem twice the size.
4. The shortest day of the year - 21 December - has been and gone. Before long, the cruel excesses of winter will seem but a distant memory, and there will be spring flowers, blue skies and gambolling lambs.
5. There are two royal weddings in the offing. This is good news, whether or not you're a royalist, because we get an extra bank holiday on 29 April to celebrate William and Catherine, and their wedding will make Britain look all exciting to the rest of the world (it's always nice to be the centre of attention). With the huge amount of media coverage that's about to be thrown at us, we might even find out something about the incredibly nice Kate Middleton that we didn't already know (but don't hold your breath). No one seems to be giving out any information about the exact date when Zara Phillips and Mike Tindall will get married, but it should mean we get to see a few lovely dresses and hats in the papers instead of all the dreary Cameron-Clegg suits that get trotted out day after day now that there are hardly any women left in government.
6. It looks as if some of the Coalition's cuts are open to negotiation. So far, there have been dramatic U-turns on sport in schools and free books for children. There wasn't any kind of U-turn on student tuition fees, so it may be that you have to be under-18 to be spared. But we live in hope.
7. It's nearly Valentine's Day. Who knows what new romance is just round the corner?
8. 2011 may be the last year we can really enjoy ourselves. The London Olympic Games are happening in 2012, so that's going to be twelve months of arguments about spending, transport, ruined allotments and whether Britain has lost face - and endless repercussions for years afterwards about whether we should have won it in the first place . We should also make the most of 2011 because there is the much-touted belief in some circles that the world is going to end in 2012 - something to do with an ancient Mayan calendar. If that's the case, this may be the year that people live life to the full rather than life being, in the words of John Lennon, something that happens to you while you're busy making other plans.
9. You can now start planning (see above) your summer holiday. It always looks a bit sad if you flick through anything other than skiing brochures before Christmas, because people start suspecting that you're a creature of habit who always arranges next year's holiday the minute you get on the plane home. Now, though, you can indulge yourself. It doesn't really matter whether you book anything - the idea is to dream yourself away from the sleet, rain and ice of a British winter.
10. You can carry out some New Year's resolutions. If you only made really boring ones like 'lose weight', 'pay off credit card bill' and 'get fit', secretly destroy them and come up with some better ones, like 'have more fun', 'make new friends' and 'buy something lovely in the sales'. No one need know. That's the secret of New Year's resolutions (and, quite frankly, political pledges): don't make promises in public about anything you know you can't achieve.
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