I wrote, sitting in a bar, back before the new year started. It was a quiet place, barely illuminated by a weak winter sun, filtering in through a large window to the south. There were few people, each focused only on the thoughts and issues of their own lives. A blanket of silence enveloped us all.

I’m sat in the same bar, today, and it is a very different experience. While the light outside remains dull, the ceiling lamps inside are turned up and project a soft orange light. Every table is full. Conversation bubbles and hums, people stand against the bar, and the door regularly swings and thumps as people enter and leave. Being one of the only people here on their own, I catch occasional side-glances, brief and unspoken curiosity expressed by others. I know, from experience, that some people resent those that can visit bars on their own, and some admire them. I am certain that both views are fed by a mixture of personal fears and desires, unaddressed by the holder.

A five-piece band plays in the corner. One electrical instrument, a small portable keyboard, three acoustic instruments – drums, double bass and sax – and the vocalist. She sings of dreams and love and life, to people living those moments in their own. It is a light music, skipping and pulsing. They are old tunes, ones that survive the passage and pressures of time and change. They route directly from the ears to the feet, evidenced all around by those that unconsciously tap theirs under the table.

One of the barmaids comes over to say hello. She knows me from my brief visits to this place in the past months, recognising that I’m one of the few who doesn’t buy alcohol. It was her last shift, she says cheerfully, the previous evening. She’s here to celebrate, and a number of regulars and friends are on their way today. She expects to get very drunk. I laugh and smile, wishing her good luck. I compliment her looks, and I mean it, she really does look great. We chat for a few moments longer, before her easy popularity calls her to conversation elsewhere. She moves on with a happy wave and easy, sociable, smile.

I’m sat at a small table, as I was back before the new year, with my data slate, my comm, and a stim-drink. I could only half-hear the barman when I ordered it over the sounds of the band playing. He’s new, and although he’s friendly, he hasn’t acclimatised to projecting his voice over a bar’s background thrum. He will learn. I don’t know how the management do it, but all of their hires are unusually friendly, here. I like this place for the welcoming nature that the staff project. That and the communal solitude it usually offers. Today is different, but it is a welcome difference. It is evidence of a community, springing to life from their own hidden corners of the locale.

In reflection, I think back over the past month. How am I different in comparison to where I was at the start of the year? It is only a momentary analysis, rather than a fully fledged introspective dwelling.

I managed a month of food, exercise and spending routines, in the main. There was a slip-up on the last week, as my bike really started to sound unpleasant. I caught the transit into work all week. I’ve bought some grease to see if that will help reduce the grinding noise. Next up, I’ll buy some new cleaning chemicals, and give it a scrub down, then take it to the mechanic. A clean bike, I feel, gets a better service than a filthy one. Winter roads are hard on a bike, and servicing is needed regularly.

I’m pretty certain that I wont have the credits to cope with the cost, unfortunately. This might be a fairly hard month. But then, I managed January – the hardest of them all – sticking to my budget. So perhaps I can manage the shorter February, too, even accounting for the service.

At the start of February, I feel healthier than I did at the start of the year, and have affirmed that I can potentially manage a status quo on credits – if I can build up a fund to cope with the bigger costs like the service.

I haven’t cracked the social side of life again, though. I’m still alone far more often than I’m not. Well, alone more often that I want to be, anyway.

The weekend has been quiet. Another anti-social one. I stayed in and painted last night, but I’m happy with the results, and happy with the evening. This week it looks like there are at least three social events, possibly four, that I could visit. So I’m not feeling guilty about my weekend isolation, as long as I do actually get out during the week. I’m not sure the credits will stretch to all four events, on the necessarily tightened budget, but the options are actually there if I want them.

We will see.

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