If there is one thing that exemplifies what it is to be British, then it is our innate fondness for joining a queue, regardless of what lies at the end of it. At the end of time, will we join a queue that snakes to the top of a cliff and then be invited to jump? It seems as likely a scenario as any.
Friendships, much like house plants, need the occasional spray with the water bottle of love and attention. I am good with the house plants since they have not evolved to the point where they are able to send me text messages or leave me voicemails. They just sit there and are relatively non-judgemental.
I’m not so good with friends.
I rotate and swing with force and for the first time in my life I successfully land a punch. God, I’ve never felt so alive. I am as a professional boxer, iron of fist but nimble of foot, ducking to my left before delivering the full force of my right hook into his pathetic, pudgy face. My clenched left then enters his plump midriff — no doubt the product of many years spent breakfasting on angel-dusted doughnuts.
On Monday morning when the sun came out, I felt good. The preceding week had been filled with news stories about a record-breaking event. This is how society likes to frame success, it is how we are raised. We must win at all costs, and there is no greater litmus test for winning than by breaking a record. So, why was today such a momentous one? Because by merely farting around for decades ignoring climate science, we were about to break a record in this country. Our inaction was going to bring about the record-detonating mother lode.
We begin as one must, with the usual apologies. I’m sorry for not posting anything for two (three?) months. That seems even worse now that I’ve said it.
My reasons are the following: I didn’t want to.
I began a long production run at work, during and at the end of which I am genuinely too burnt out to do anything useful, in a creative sense.
In fact, I have been mired in depression for the past couple of weeks.
Not a useful question. The depressive can rarely elucidate exactly why these faults of the mind appear, or where from.
I suppose if I had to guess, I would say that it’s because I was productively engaged in something, and then it ended. And the end of things always feel funereal once the excitement of it subsides.
But then I also think that it’s so silly to think that, and there must also be something else, some deeper reason for this slump.
The evenings now feature the sun on my back as I begin the long walk home after stepping off the train and I know that it’s wonderful and I must enjoy this fine weather, I just wonder how much longer it can continue — not the sun, which will burn out in about 5 billion years — but my life. When will I lose the ones I love? And if I don’t go first, how will I go on living?
The summer is no time to be preoccupied with death or loss. Everything is verdant green. The hubbub of life is all around. I must welcome myself back to it.
At the end of March, the Alpine Fellowship Poetry competition was brought to my attention, along with the words: “hey, you write stuff, you should definitely have a go at this”.
I was interested, though having some bitter familiarity with the Fellowship, I wasn’t sure I wanted to bring anything to the attention of their judging panel (or indeed, any judging panel). As my beloved and loyal readers will know, I don’t really write poetry, and I had the balance of a day to knock out a prize-winning poem before the submission deadline.
Going with your gut is not something I’m readily willing to do. I think it’s because a large part of my psyche is dedicated to just seeing what’s going to happen next, so instead of taking whatever decisive action my gut microbes are commanding, I sit and ponder what they are really trying to tell me, if anything.
This is how I came to be outside Cali airport, Colombia, in stifling heat, dressed in my winter clothes from London.
Note to reader: I started penning this — at a guess — sometime in August 2020, when the first wave of the coronavirus had begun to die down here in the UK and there was a collective feeling, I think, of having been through the wringer. A few times. I rediscovered it — as I usually do — unfinished, and recognised that yes, this is the process. We write a few words, and then we leave them alone. For several months. Then we open up the document again and we re-read what we wrote and decide if it’s time to do something about them yet, or not. Well, it was time, so here they are, wafting through the digital airwaves like an aerosolized pathogen.
There are some things you just shouldn’t say, but unfortunately I am often at a loss to know what they are until after they’ve been said.
As of the last official update, we were down to 15 deaths a day, which is proof, hopefully, that we now have COVID-19 under control (as the new government slogan would have it) and soon, the lockdown will have ended and we can all get back to some sort of relative normality without having to remain alert. This presumably means that we can all resume our aimless wandering while transfixed by our handheld rectangular screens of doom. There’s the real pandemic. Coronavirus might get you, but guess what? You’re dead already. Just continue curating an online version of yourself until you expire.
Until then, we would have to remain indoors, trying not to kill each other.
Last night during an ad break, I turned to my wife and suggested we convert to fundamentalist Mormon, move out to Utah and embrace polygamy.
I could blame this temporary abandonment of senses, unconvincingly, on Covid, but my absence of emotional intelligence would, I’m certain, supersede any perceived malevolence of certain microbes.
I feel it’s important to mention that there had been a segment about it on television, I hadn’t just plucked that one out of my arsenal of insensitivity, but there it was, a thing I shouldn’t have said, but did.
I was left alone to “think about my new wives” and that’s how I knew I shouldn’t have said it.
“What does this look like?”
The message flashed up on my phone and then a spinning circle appeared while a photo loaded in front of me.
I was dismayed to see that what popped up on screen next was a potty and its contents.
This is not unusual, I tell myself. It is part of the neurosis that crawls into the open wound of a parent’s emotional wellbeing.
For a very short time, I would attend graduate days. A graduate day, for the uninitiated, is an employment cattle market where one is graded on their relative attractiveness before either being pushed through a little door in a string bikini so that rich businessmen can get a better look at ‘the goods’, or else you go out another door where they strike you between the eyes with a bolt pistol. And then some other stuff happens and you end up on someone’s kitchen table.
Well, it’s not quite that, but it’s not far off.