You see, when I fell back into these ‘Running Man’ posts at the start of Lockdown #3, in January, I really didn’t anticipate the possibility that I could still be at it in mid-April*. It was quite simple initially, to write down the kind of moronic ‘chatter’ that goes on inside my head whilst the rest of my being is otherwise engaged, but I am quickly coming to the realisation that my sub-conscious is just as boring as the rest of me. The random thoughts that once flashed in and out have settled into the rut that my conscious mind has vacated due to a toxic mixture of herbal tea, boredom and rising damp. Somebody has pissed on my fireworks. The problem is that what has begun to make these running posts so difficult is at the same time what first made them feasible: Lockdown – initially it gave me a raison d’être, but ever since then it has searched out new ways of gumming up the works. What was once escape has become isolation. I am no longer looking inward or outward: most of the time I am just not looking.
My view of myself within the world has always been as something of an ‘outsider’. Not fundamentally different, just not quite the same. You know, the little cupcake that sinks whilst all the others rise. I am the semi-collapsed and chocolate-less amorphous malty blob in the packet of Maltesers: the dismembered legs in a bag of jelly babies. Three Lockdowns and many enforced months of watching the world drift by, just out of touch on the other side of a window, has merely made me realise that it is nothing new to me. This is how normally I view the world. I am a dislocated shoulder: I look like the other shoulder, but I don’t quite work like it. I can help you to tote that bale, but I won’t half grumble about it. Alan Bennett said of the late Russell Harty that his skill lay in saying – however indiscrete – what everybody else was thinking. I have found that it is not until after I have said what everybody else is thinking that I discover they are not. Just me.
My head is a sponge for ‘bad’: shame, regret, doubt – once it finds its way in there, it will never be released. It batters around like a stick in a candy floss** machine, getting bigger by the second, more and more swamped in goo, more and more difficult to swallow. I have had many years to get used to myself. I don’t have to like me, but I have little choice other than to live with me. Most of what is good about me is what makes me popular with the grandkids – I’m just not very good at the adult stuff. I do try to change the bad bits as best I can, but who can actually, fundamentally, change what they are? In the real world, Pinocchio would still be an oafish puppet and Geppetto would still be eating frozen meals for one. If I ever found myself conversing with a top-hatted grasshopper, I would seek help. I don’t need a talking insect to tell me that I should be better. I am fully conversant with the fact.
And it is at this point that my regular runs have begun to get troublesome. Like, I imagine, everybody else over the last few months, I have spent quite a lot of time looking in on myself: quite a lot of time trying to figure out how I would get on with me if I was somebody else. (I fear that if ever I was to attend a ‘Speed Dating’ session, I would find myself sitting at the table marked ‘Toilet Break’.) Sadly, I don’t have any more answers now than I did a year ago – although knowledge of ignorance must count for something. I just have much more time to ask the questions – and most of that time seems to be available whilst I’m running. Whether it’s a good thing or a bad thing, I am certainly ill-equipped to decide, but I’m fairly certain that unless I manage a prat-fall into a ditch soon, or rupture my spleen in a comically inept effort to sidestep an intransigent dog-walker, it is not terribly entertaining. I will try to buck myself up. After all, good times are just around the corner. In England, Boris has detailed his ‘road map’ to recovery, the ‘end’ is on the horizon and, honestly, I don’t think it can come soon enough…
*When the Government hopes we should begin to move towards some kind of normality.
**Cotton-Candy, I think, for those of you with the rather less fanciful US version of the English language at your fingertips.