It’s easy to forget, in the long memory of a worse time, that there was something bright before it; it’s hard not to write a story where every single thing one does before things go wrong is the cause of what went wrong, joy into culpability and fun into guilt. As though bad ideas are never parties; as though parties are always harbingers. As though everything has to be something more than itself.
Passages like that are why I rarely publish memoir material: mine is always too overwrought, while Fitzgerald has the knack of pitching it just right, sat square in the gap in the mix between profound and mundane — words that move you, but which might nonetheless have been said aloud by someone thinking things through while sat across the table from you.
This is a brutal time of year, even if all times of year are brutal in their own way. No matter how much I try to convince myself that it’s good, actually, the sudden dark after daylight savings feels like an accounting of all the ways I have wasted time and gotten older.
(No, I’m not beating up on myself and my own writing, here — this is just a way for me to externalise thoughts about style. By trying to explain it to you, the imagined audience of this blog, I explain it to myself in a way that can’t be achieved by merely thinking about it, or by scribbling in a notebook. I remain one of those writers who writes less to share what they think about something, and more to discover it.)
I hate winter worse, mind you — but I’ll save my bitching about winter for when winter arrives. Meanwhile, autumn is at the door right now, tapping away at the glass with its miserable raindrop fingers, the fucker. In its hands, a message: telling me I can look forward to another three or four months of the world getting colder and darker. Four long months until I’ll start to notice the days stretching brighter once more, the first hints of spring, of light, of warmth.
It’s worse this year because I’m at home again after a few weeks of travel, of spending time with loved ones and/or with friends and colleagues in civilised places where things actually happen, or of travelling between such locations. Also because I’m in the midst of a period of intensive work which is quite unparallelled in my personal experience beyond that of getting my thesis finalised — yes, it really has been that relentless — and I want nothing more than to spend a few days wandering aimlessly around a large, interesting city with clement weather, a functioning public transport system and lots of vaguely interesting things to look at, and to not have to think about any deadlines, nor to write anything other than for my own pleasure, or pay attention to any form of news whatsoever.
But instead, I’m back home. Home, where trying to go for my regular Sunday climbing session meant twenty minutes waiting in the rain at an unsheltered stop for a bus whose diversion was unannounced on the stop and online, only to miss my connecting bus in town by literally thirty seconds. Home, where returning again from town by train involved boarding rolling stock nearly as old as I am, reeking of damp and mold, and literally pissing water from the roof. Home, where I’m surrounded by people who can’t wait for You-Know-What to magically make everything better, seemingly blind to the fact that You-Know-What is the final triumphant arson of the scumbags who fucked this place so badly the first time around, and who will glady do so again if it keeps them on their back-hander gravy-train for another few years.
Home, where you have to run just as fast as you can merely to stay still. Home, where even the air seems tired of itself, and the eaves of the houses seem to shrug in resignation. Home.
I’m tired of this place. Mostly I’m just tired — tired of my current workload, and tired of three years of enervating contextual uncertainty.
Look, I’m doing OK — this is not a cry for help, and hell knows I’m far better off and able to weather the coming winter than many. By this time next week I’ll be back in Scandinavia, about to start the final ten-day run of this period of work-schedule overload. The week ahead is busy, but the work is all paid, and paid well. I have the tools I need, the tickets for my travel, and the money to keep myself fed and functional.
But I also have my dreams. And recently, they’re all dreams of being somewhere other than here. That “here” is specific, referring to this neglected former pit-village between Sheffield and Rotherham — but it’s also something more general and abstract. I have outgrown my old sense of place, and I need to find a new one, elsewhere.
And I need to do so before I find myself staring down yet another autumn and winter, stuck at the literal and figurative end of the line.
This isn’t home any more. I don’t belong here now.
This is the kind of town / where everyone knows each other / and everyone hates that they know each other / and no one’s getting any younger.
From my bedroom window / I was anyone / every street I look upon / could be a runway…
“Disconnected” by Idlewild
Science fiction, science fact, and all that's in between …