Pilgrimage is a ritual journey which carries with it our hopes, beliefs and much more and while few of us are tramping the old ways on New Year’s Day, many of us will have engaged in some sort of ritual behaviour over the holidays which expresses these same feelings. Lighting Hanukah candles, leaving biscuits out for Santa, listening to the Queen’s broadcast, or for our friends the O’Sullivans, building gingerbread houses with their young children.
Last night as we waited for the moment when, by tradition in our house, we pull on our boots and head out to share in the New Year fireworks display with thousands of other Londoners, we passed the time watching ‘Love Actually’ on TV. It is a film about the many kinds of love which glue our society together, and while the movie often errs on the side of sugary sentimentality, the interwoven narrative also carries a lot of true feeling.
Out on the mild December street as the countdown to midnight began, amongst the ever-thickening crowd, a small group – two men and one woman – stood expectantly next to us; one of the men, ‘Alex from Latvia’ whispering conspiratorially to the people around him. “I’m going to propose to my missus on the stroke of midnight – look” he pulled out a small black box from his pocket “I have the ring”. I had my camera slung around my neck and at the very moment the New Year arrived with a burst of colour in the sky above, I turned around and photographed true love in action. Down on one knee, went the groom-to-be, ring proffered towards his girl; the girl herself throwing up her hands in surprise and smiling with a beam of true happiness. (She said ‘yes’) This morning, as promised, I sent the pictures over to ‘Alex from Latvia’ and his bride-to-be; the visual record of their special moment, and I have little doubt that their very special proposal story will be told to their friends and family and that over the years its retelling will become part of their personal New Year ritual. And so it was that as the new decade dawned, the spirit of romance came out from behind the glass window of the TV set and into the streets of London, and we truly saw love, actually. Happy 2020!