Friday, January 09, 2009

Happy New Year (Slight Return)

Not sure why this has stuck in my memory.

I guess being back at work for a week is a milestone of sorts and makes you look back at the Christmas interlude with fondness and see it as a thing entire to itself. An ideal and an idyll. A little island of warm safety in the midst of a cold sea. A mnemonic antidote to the cruel, cold, credit crunch period that is now lying ahead of us naked and war-like, without the consolation of Christmas to offset its callous advance.

Despite my natural curmudgeonliness Christmas was good. Despite Tom being ill on Christmas Eve... Despite Ben having an asthma attack on New Year’s Eve and having to be taken to the local hospital in the neighbour’s car as ours refused to start... And despite Tom getting an eye infection on New Year’s Day that made his left eye swell up like a golf ball...

Yes despite all this Christmas was good. Cool pressies. Decent TV. Lego. A fab array of new DVD’s to choose from. Fantastic food. Quality family time. And a 10 day break from work.

But what sticks in my mind most of all is a lone walk I made to Sainsbury’s on New Year’s Day to pick up a prescription for Ben. Sainsbury’s wouldn’t necessarily have been my destination of choice except that it was New Year’s Day and they were the only place open.

Nothing momentous happened. I didn’t experience an epiphany or see coloured lights in the sky or get invited to a party by a semi naked Keeley Hawes.

The last of the daylight was leaving the sky. There was a grey blue fog over the outskirts of Leamington and yet the sky above was clear enough to see the pale start of a few early stars. I took a shortcut over some wasteland in the middle of The Shires industrial estate. There was very little traffic. I was surrounded on all sides by the strangely quiet behemoths of warehouses and out of town distribution centres. All their lights off. The car parks empty. Their thin miles of wire fencing locked tight and secure.

All industry shutdown for the day. Everybody at home. Or disappeared completely. It was easy walking through that blue darkness to imagine myself the only person left in the world.

All of this will I give to you; just bow down and worship me...

And then into Sainsbury’s. A pleasantly muted shopping experience. Just a few hardcore purchasers searching out a few post Christmas bargains. Half empty aisles. The ghost of Christmas humming carols to itself over the tannoys. Cut price chocolates. Half price toys. I had a punt. Got New Year’s Day pressies for the kids and for Karen while I was there. Got something for myself too. Why not? Start the year with a treat.

Checked out. Paid for my goods. The world seemed normal and yet not normal. Quietened. It was nice. I found myself half wishing it could always be like this. The panic and fury gone from people. The rush and the haste eradicated.

And then back home across the wasteland. Getting annoyed every time the headlights of a passing car illumined the road and the hedgerows ahead of me as they spoiled the illusion that I was the last man left on the planet. An oddly reassuring fantasy as I knew that it just wasn’t true and there was a loving family and a warn fire waiting for me at the end of my journey.

And that was it really.

Writing it all down above I feel like I should have been moving the piece towards some sort of earth shattering denouement, shaping it, moulding it with some final revelation in mind. But there just wasn’t one.

There wasn’t one.

And I’m still not sure why it has stuck in my memory... but I’m very happy that it’s there.

I’ll carry it with me for a little while longer.

20 comments:

Tristan said...

New Year's Day presents?! On top of Xmas presents? Hey, I'm moving into your house!

Steve said...

What can I say, old chap, we're going to penury and ruin with style...

Deirdre said...

How strange that post Christmas relaxed and quiet feeling out in the world is....I felt it too and like you wished that we could always have that 'lets just stand still, breathe and be happy' attitude....increase the peace...

Steve said...

Deirdre, it's all part of the Christmas experience for me... that standing still feeling doesn't really occur at any other time of the year. It's quite magical.

Rol said...

I often have those last man on earth fantasies, but then I'm an antisocial misanthrope.

I do prefer the ones where all the people have disappeared to the ones where I have to get rid of all the bodies.

Reluctant Blogger said...

I got all excited there and fully expected to find a semi-naked photo when I clicked on that link!

I love walking through the city when it is deserted - just love it. And yes, I engage in similar daydreams to you. I remember once being diverted to Stansted (a long time ago when it was a quiet airport anyway) and it was the middle of the night and my luggage was first off and as I walked through the terminal there was not a soul and it was like being in some sci-fi film - except no aliens leapt out and spewed green mucus at me.

It certainly sounds as if you had more than your fair share of childhood illness there! I'm glad the boys are now better and hope you are too soon.

Steve said...

Rol, but when you're the last man on the planet what else have you got to do with your time but dig huge communal graves with industrial digging machines?

Gina, if I ever I find a picture of a half naked Keeley Hawes I promise you'll be the second person to know about it! It seems this "last person alive" fantasy is a common one... I do wonder if, as Rol openly admits to being above, we're all at heart misanthropes who'd secretly like to see the rest of our species removed so that we can enjoy the planet in peace...!

Brother Tobias said...

Maybe your awareness was heightened by consciousness of the break drawing to a close. That wistful, fin de siecle, last day of the holidays, Antiques Roadshow and Last of the Summer Wine flavoured Sunday evening feeling felt by everyone who's happy at home and unfulfilled or stressed at work. But hey - the weekend's here again!

Steve said...

Brother T: exactly what you said. Nail on the head.

Maggie May said...

you live in London. sigh. seems very wonderful to me.

Steve said...

But, alas Maggie, a mystery to me as I live in Leamington Spa! ;-)

The Poet Laura-eate said...

Perhaps you also valued that hour on your own no matter how much you might love the Bloggertropolis tribe! But I know what you mean. Slightly surreal experiences also stick in the memory.

Sweet Cheeks said...

I love the unexpected quiet moment outside in the real world. Especially when the power goes out. It makes me wish for the simple days of long ago, before technology became so noisy!

katie said...

i wanna know what the new year's pressies were/are X

Steve said...

Laura, sometimes it takes a moment or two of solitude to appreciate what you've got...

Sweet Cheeks, I know what you mean - no cars, no pollution... but also no internet and no cinema... despite the world's problems I still think the good outweighs the bad.

Katie, a "20 questions" electronic gizmo for Ben, a Hungry Caterpillar for Tom and a box of chocolates for Karen.

Daisy said...

isn't it nice to have those precious moments...those times where sound, reality, the rush of the world doesn't exist? they are so few and far between...i'm glad you got one steve...seems to have sung deep to you...deeper than the words could convey...

Steve said...

Yes, Daisy, sometimes I lament the fact that such moments are so few and far between but actually their scarcity is part of their preciousness.

KAZ said...

I enjoyed reading about this experience.
I think it sounds much better than a semi naked Keeley Hawes.
But perhaps that's just me.

The Dotterel said...

Can I be third after Rol, please?

Steve said...

Kaz, I think we may have hit on the difference between the sexes. Me, I'd take a semi naked Keeley Hawes every time.

Dotterel, consider it done. Anyone else?