There’s no real message in this post, more a stream of consciousness.
“Smile and the whole World smiles with you …”, thus sang Louis Armstrong and many others who covered the song. When you can’t, or don’t want to face the world, it’s not so easy to see who’s smiling.
The Sunday before Christmas I was smiling, I had a wonderful early morning drive to my old haunts where I picked up all the Christmas food on order at a farm shop that I used to do my weekly shopping. That’s 160 miles each way. Why do that ? Partly convenience of everything in one place and partly trust in the quality. They raise their own free range turkeys and I’ve never had a bad one yet. To be there when they opened at 9 am meant setting off at 6 am.
Nothing much to see on the way down that was mostly in darkness, the return journey was rather pleasant. For a short time on the morning after the Solstice there was bright sunshine. The Cotswold villages bathed in winter sun radiate warmth from that signature Cotswold stone. The village green bedecked with a small marquee and figures in red Santa hats supervising kids on ponies walking around the green as part of some charity event. I can always still envisage the shine and glint of marching Roman legions when I go through Cirencester.
I’d fully intended to bite the bullet and call the father to tell him I’d be down to do the usual Christmas – but I put it off for the umpteenth time this month.
The sore throat, cough and sneezing that’s waxed and waned for a month really came back during the afternoon. I do wonder if it’s partly psychosomatic that it laid me out for 3 days. Giving me the easy way out of avoiding going to see the father, even get out of calling him – I know it’s not fair, but I just don’t seem to be able to.
I did have an invitation to spend Christmas day with someone and their family that I would otherwise have taken up – it wasn’t fair to repay that generosity with germs.
I really couldn’t do much on Christmas Day. Partly the nasty cold and partly a recognition of the depression induced lethargy that’s turned my sleep patterns upside down in that I want to sleep all day and then, of course, can’t sleep at night and read the whole night through.
The good bit is that I’ve caught up on some serious reading. In 2017 Tim Shipman published ‘All Out War’, the inside story of the Brexit referendum. It was the Sunday Times book of the year – yeah, okay, Shipman is a Times journalist. I’d long since bought the followup, ‘Fall Out’ and it had sat unread on my Kindle for a long time. Barring a break to recharge the Kindle, I read it straight through. The Thick Of It has nothing on the real life events and exchanges told here – like the image of David Cameron using obscenities every third word face to face with Iain Duncan-Smith accusing him of betrayal after having failed to persuade him not to resign.
It doesn’t matter which side of the argument you lean, these are fascinating insights into how politics and politicians actually operate. Of course we know the outcome of each event described, yet Shipman still makes them gripping. I’m sure he thought back in 2015 that it would be a nice little project to write an inside account of the mechanics of the referendum. Little did he, or we, know just how insane it would all get. ‘Fall Out’ covers the time from the result of the referendum to early 2018. Armando Iannucci would never have got this approved as a script as no one would have considered it realistic. What we now know is that things were about to get really insane (consider that at this time, Boris had yet to resign as Foreign Secretary and everyone considered his political ambitions to be a busted flush) and book three is going to be a doozy. I’m really looking forward to it.
And that was my excitement for Christmas beyond the necessity of cooking something to eat.
So what did actually make me smile over Christmas ? I saw a reference to John Cooper Clarke go by and hunted out one of my favourites. This was from 1980, I knew the Bradford version of Beasley Street and where I live now is less than 10 miles away from Salford – I work with people who still sound like JCC. I knew these places, I knew the desperation. JCC’s poetry brings it all back.
And the smile ? The recognition that whilst I no longer physically live on or near the Beasley Streets of our times, I am much more likely now to visit the mental version of those dark foreboding pits. JCC wrote not just of a place, but a state of mind. And that’s where I’ve been at this Christmas.
Feeling rather shit mentally and physically. Recognising both will pass in their own time, that there are issues I’m burying when I should be dealing with them.
At some point, though not yet, I’ll be ready to go back to and take on board the song of hope from Leonard Cohen.
Ring the bells that still can ring
Forget your perfect offering
There is a crack, a crack in everything
That’s how the light gets in
(My favourite version, because I was there)