Here in the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland, where we have a single time zone - albeit that it is the best time zone, the one against which all others are measured - it has been 2004 for three hours and thirty-three minutes. The last New Year to make any impression on me was four years ago, the biggie. Apart from that, I have always seen the New Year as merely another holiday, an extension to Christmas, a bonus. In my adult life I have so far managed to avoid working in the gap between Boxing Day and New Year, not through any religious or ideological grounds, but because I am lazy.

So far in 2004 I have written a lengthy and detailed overview of 'Open All Hours', a television sitcom. I have polished up my writeup on 'Porridge', another television sitcom, although it is clearly an inferior piece of juvenalia. Outside it is dark, because it is night-time, and it is raining, because it is the nature of Wiltshire in December to be damp. The photograph on my homenode was taken a year and a month ago, and the puddles are still there. The water is different, though, because it was very hot in 2003, the hottest year on record. I was born in 1976, a famously hot year, but I grew up during the cold winters of 1977, 1978 and 1979 - a time when men still wore moustaches, life was that grim and cold - and I find the heat intolerable.

What is a puddle? It's a hole filled with rainwater. Is a hole by itself a puddle? No. Is a hole filled with milk a puddle? Yes, I suppose, but only in a qualified sense (it would be a 'puddle of milk', not simply a 'puddle'). Is a puddle filled with tapwater a puddle, unqualified? I suppose it is, although if one had seen the tapwater being poured into the hole one might call it a 'puddle of water'. Only a puddle filled with rainwater is a true puddle. As a human being and mammal I am very conscious of water.

What is it about the rainwater that makes a puddle a puddle? No single element of rainwater - its aerial descent, its temperature and consistency - veracify a puddle, merely the fact of it being rain. If the rainwater was decanted from a bottle, it would not be a puddle. It was be an artifical puddle, like the breasts of Playboy models. A silicone puddle that only works in still photographs. Over 2003 Playboy seems to have finally crossed the gap that separates photography from illustration. Where once Playboy's models were merely unusually bouyant, where once they were subdermally inhuman, now the photograph itself is artificial, a triumph for whichever Adobe employee wrote the smart blur filter. It is curious that I mentally associate the word 'puddle' with the words 'of blood', especially given that I have never actually seen enough blood to fill a puddle, notwithstanding that puddles come in different sizes.

What are the physical limits of a puddle? A deep puddle is a well, a wide puddle is a lake, or a crater, a narrow puddle is a moat. People describe the Atlantic as a 'pond' for comic effect, and a puddle is smaller than a pond. Whatever the properties of ponds and puddles, there are a lot of them out there, in the cold, rain-sodden night. How many will survive until mid-day on January 1st, 2004, let alone 2005? I cannot tell. And what of us? We are puddles, ourselves, we are holes in the ground filled in a particular way with special water. One day the rain will stop.