Time passes slower when you’ve lost direction. You spend it dawdling, looking for a missing path or a new way forward, or better yet, pretending that you’ve not actually lost your way. Head down, determined, you plow on foolishly, but no matter how far you drive into the woods, you cannot escape that nagging feeling that there’s something you need to be doing.
As the rain falls on your head, you use it to straighten out your scruffball of a haircut. Gotta look smart, gotta be polite, shake the creases out of your shirt, keep your head down, keep going. Manners are everything in our culture. One must keep up appearances even in the stormiest weather.
The world has spent much of its time mourning the death of manners this year. Gallons of tears were shed in tribute to the former CIA operative whose blooded hands could be excused in exchange for the quiet dignity with which he held his shoulders. So too there was wailing for his moral successor, and for the loss of the days when the Republican Party was rational in its cruelty. It’s alright though, for soon Bush and McCain and their entire generation will be indicted in the singed history books for lighting the planet on fire.
This was the wrong year, a year distracted and ill-afforded. It might feel like a year lost, stuck in the mud of memory. Yet we’d be wise not to brush it under the carpet, whereunder would it lay as the ruins of a chance.
The rain falls, constant and predictable,
until it can no longer hold its form
There was a chance, but the dust upon it grew thicker by the day, disfigured slowly in national distraction until it appeared as little more than a mirage in a creeping desert. How quickly they rushed in to share with Steve Smith his Nile Crocodile tears, how heartily they worried about Edgelord CK’s alleged missing millions but never his victims, and how they trembled at the possibility that their au pair might not be able to come and raise their children for them next year –
Did you hear John Redwood got knighted? (for services to entropy?) –
It’s still better, child, than Chaos with Ed Miliband, as he flashes you a tease of hope behind his Cheshire food bank smile, beaming always toward re-election. This borough will be rotten soon enough, and then and only then will we be free to draw the hunting horn.
Deep within his volcanic lair, Lance Armstrong prepares another comeback…
With a creek and a snap, It collapses
Cut loose, it melts and drifts, roll, roll, bleaching as it goes
This year I’ve been feeling like I’m walking more and more on shaky ground. My plans lie ever closer to the present, or else ever further from reality. I’m nervous in public. I cross the road to avoid another Free Timmy Yaksley-Lemon wildcat demonstration – it’s heading for the Mosque – and I spend the rest of the day angry at being made to feel uncomfortable in my own neighbourhood by these sauced Spode wannabes. Can it ever really be mine again, after that. Those who might be my grandparents are on the next flight out of here, after all, and they’ve press-ganged anti-terror laws for those – far braver than I – who dared stand in the way of a jumbo jet so that my cousins might be spared. The coward Javid has a list, he’s checking it twice. If you wanna stay, you’ve gotta pay.
Our advocates in Parliament would sooner road trip with Timmy than entertain the thought that life has lost another sense of certainty over the past twelve months. They’ll throw us another over-kneaded Brexit metaphor, the galleries will howl and feast upon it for days, and another chance goes begging – Leave and Remain both mired in flag-obsessed vanity.
It gently breaks its gait upon the lagoon wall.
It’s a rippling, calming sound, harks to the artworks of paradise,
and lulls you into thinking that everything is, as ever, fine
How’s life? I’m asked. Exactly the same, and worse off for it. It’s been a fallow year, but the soil is still exhausted. The days they get longer and shorter, freeze, thaw, freeze, thaw, weakening my resolve every day. I guess they call that aging. I could get my hi-vis on and declare war on the world, but I’d just as soon get tagged and shamed as yet more evidence as to how millennials have ruined the hardworking person. I will live to regret throwing that mouldy avocado at Macron. Where are your manners, Ant?
And I wonder if it’s too late for me to change tack, get a little house on a hillside, and do that which I do best, that which I was trained to do, to stay out of the way.
It was unthinkable that the levees would break,
but the lagoon now begs to be free. Calm no more.
I could spend a bit more time dousing my thoughts with gasoline, and spend my excess wealth on a hardback Crimes of Grindelwald screenplay. I could stan the celebrity who’s out there every day shouting for the end of single-use plastic, live from his tax-haven jet commute that embosses a Godzilla footprint in the Earth’s ragged crust. I could watch Black Mirror every week and talk about it like it’s profound at dinner parties. I could at last get my driving license and spend every moment awake or asleep behind a door, ceding the streets to the vultures and the vulnerable, ever-multiplying both. I could let every year be the wrong year, by doing the right thing.
In any case, it’s just a few silly islands. People should not be living there anyway, on vulnerable volcanic rims jutting ever so delicately above a raging sea. We found the islanders new homes when we nuked their atolls (we did, didn’t we?) we can do it again (DIDN’T WE??)
The trick isn’t working. It cannot fill the spaces in my mind where hope once lay. The fallow year makes my heart tick uncomfortably, as if it’s already too late, as if ghosts of Christmases past are gnawing on my brain, reviewing each and every year one by one and maybe it is too late and the off-ramp is disappearing too fast behind me and my friends and family living and dead who once believed in me whisper
– you’re a fraud and a failure –
but their voices are fake, just impressions I make, and there is no U-turn for the road is blocked with the detritus of those who wish to delay our lurkinglooming crisis and ineedtocurlupandhidebutalsoletitoutandscream
DON’T LET THIS PRESENT BECOME OUR FUTURE
I juggle my breathing. I’ve got it, I think. One, two, three, four, five – breathe out, tap your shoulder.
I’m ok now. Back to normal. I look around, to check that the coast is clear. I hope nobody saw through that window into how my mind really works. Get your head back down, and carry on, remember to be charming, and remember when people ask how you are to say “good, thanks.”
“And the rain falls on the wrong year, and it won’t leave you alone.”