If you've ever dealt with builders, you have no idea how I feel right now.
Oh, you think so, do you? How about three months to finish a two-week job? How about a month without a boiler – in November? How about a constant stream of promises that all will be fixed and then... nothing. Like I said, even if you've dealt with builders, you have no idea how I've been feeling. Strangely, what three months of builder-related torture has made me realise is that art is such a vital thing. Is this a desperate grasping at a straw to find something to write about on New Year's Eve? No.
I think it was in the bottom of the pit of despair, at the beginning of December when there were still holes in the house and no end in sight, that I saw the tiniest ray of light. As I stood in the kitchen, feeling like a French general the morning after the battle of Agincourt and surveying a not dissimilar scene, I realised how vital art is in our lives.
I'd seen an evening of new writing at Bradford's Theatre in the Mill the previous week and that night was going to see Me and My Girl at Sheffield's Crucible. I had the fortune to have a guided tour of the Northern Art Prize exhibition with the curator and had a chance to study a book of photography from North Yorkshire-based Joe Cornish and I realised that, no matter how bad things got at home – and they would get worse before they got better – art was something on to which I could cling. No matter how bad a job the builders did – or indeed, didn't do – the thing that saved me from a Michael Douglas Falling Down moment, was the art that I was able to enjoy.
I am not about to try sum up what art is in a 500 word column. However, one thing art does for me is hold up a magic mirror that somehow strips away the ugliness – stress, builders, a house that could fall down at any moment – to show the deep beauty of life.
Why is this appropriate now? Well, the house might still fall down and I am taking no joy in doing the work I paid the builders for during the Christmas break – nor in fixing the bodge jobs they committed on my house – yet somehow I have a sense of optimism.
How? Excellent question. Mainly it's because I've just finished compiling the Yorkshire artistic highlights for the coming months which you can see on the back page of today's Culture.
Sunjeev Sahota's Ours Are The Streets is a brilliant, brave novel from a first-time writer of whom we will hear much more in the future. Sanjida O'Connell's sweeping, epic new novel Sugar Island is a fantastically beautiful work of literature. In February, David Hockney's largest work is coming to York and a whole season of David Hare plays is coming to Sheffield.
All will reflect the beauty of life, and the ugliness of the builders "work" will be pushed to the back of my mind. Here's to a great New Year.