When he was a boy, my now elderly uncle dived into the Manchester Ship Canal – foolhardy enough, given its fulfilled capacity to encapsulate every dead cat, supermarket trolley and dog turd in Lancashire – intending to swim beneath two heavily laden barges and appear, merman-like, at the far bank: a swim-suited hero, dripping in glory and excrement. Sadly, he merely surfaced, gasping lightly, between the two giant steel hulls as they prepared to clang together like two giant cymbals. He dived straight back down and, luckily, did eventually re-emerge, a floundering wreck, on the other side, from where he was dragged by all of his mates, who left him stinking and retching on the tow-path, whilst they went off in pursuit of his unimpressed girlfriend.
Sadly, the space between the point from which you depart and that at which you arrive is not always the one in which you would seek to find yourself. Such, I find, is the space between Christmas and New Year – or, more correctly, on this particular turn of the carousel, between the sterile disappointment of Covid Non-Christmas and the high hopes and possibilities presented by the New Year ahead.
At this stage, I wonder how many of us truly believe that, by this time next year, things will really have returned to normal, that when the New Year shame-facedly sneaks its way in without its usual fanfare of fireworks, inappropriate touching and vomiting, it will actually point the way towards a brighter future and not just more of the same? Much, much more of the same. Here we are, lodged in the space between what has been and what is to come. Trapped in a turmoil of Hope and Fear: hope that the vaccine will work and fear that it will not. Everything else seems to hinge upon this one thing. We are stranded in the hinterland that lies between what has been and what will be, without ever really touching on what is now. We are frozen in the very millisecond before Basil Fawlty attempts to use his guest’s nipple as a light switch, before Del Boy falls through the pub hatch, before Jones starts to panic: we see it coming, but we are helpless to stop it.
You see, it has just occurred to me that whilst most ‘creative writing’ tells of a journey – either real or metaphorical – mine largely involves being stuck in the station waiting room with only a homeless man and his dog for company, yesterday’s papers and a coin that doesn’t fit any of the slots available: permanently stranded between departure and arrival, clutching my super-saver ticket as it slowly ticks around to ‘invalid’ and the photo on my railcard grows ever-more to resemble a startled refugee from reality. I am the Man of the Moment!
I have to schedule most of my posts through December: I get the opportunity to write very little and to read even less and, for that, I apologise. Things should return to normal now in the New Year – and for that I also apologise. I strongly suspect that what I write will continue to depart a few hundred yards beyond the station platform and arrive with me still in the lavatory. I’m looking forward to it.
Have a brilliant New Year everyone. I’ll see you on the other side.