Blue: What 2018 has taught me

‘What have you learned, do you think?’ the book says.

‘Do you mind, I’m trying to have a bath!’

‘Now I know why you got that nickname at school,’ the book says.

‘Ha. Ha.’

‘So?’ the book says.

‘So what?’

‘What’ve you learned? What has 2018 taught you?’

‘Can’t we do this later?’

‘No time like the present! And anyway, I made coffee.’

The book and I look at each other. Cold currents are starting to form around my legs. There is no sign of the coffee.

‘Pass me a towel,’ I say, heaving myself dripping out of the bath.

‘So?’ the book says again.

‘I am old,’ I say, looking in the mirror.

‘I could have told you that,’ the book says. ‘This is news?’

‘I am old,’ I say again. ‘2018 has taught me that I am old.’ The book passes me a shirt, some clean underwear.

‘I was doing a lecture the other day, you know, motoring along, warming to my theme, and I mentioned Blue. I got a single nod in recognition.’

‘What, the band?’ the book says.

‘The album! What other Blue is there? Same thing happened when I mentioned the Clash. Joe Strummer. Even Withnail and I.’

‘Did you do your Camberwell Carrot impression? Your Richard E Grant? I love your Richard E Grant.’

‘You know, half the cast of that film are dead, now.’

‘I’ve seen you on more cheery form,’ the book says. It passes me a pair of jeans. ‘So you’re old. So what?’

‘People look through me at the shops. In queues. At parties. Young people. Even people the same age as me. Do you think it’s the baldness?’

‘They’ve been doing that for ages, let me tell you,’ the book says.

‘The thing is, I thought I had stopped being open, and I haven’t,’ I say. ‘I thought I was shutting down, you know, after what happened a couple of years ago. But the thing is, I haven’t at all. If anything I am more open now than ever. To others, to new books, new friends.’

‘Those are good things, aren’t they?’ the book says. ‘Where d’you keep your jumpers, by the way?’

‘But that’s what I am saying,’ I say. ‘Staying open, it’s… It’s not easy. Not at all. When people look through you or one student nods at your Blue reference. But I can’t help it. It’s painful. But I can’t help it. It’s what I do. Who I am, even. Even though it’s hard and no one is getting my Blue references. And discovering that has been what 2018 has taught me. I don’t know how else to say it.’

‘You haven’t even mentioned Brexit,’ the book says.

‘Don’t start.’

‘Or Trump.’

Please.’

‘Or social media. Are you open to that as well? I noticed you haven’t tweeted in a while.’

‘That’s the really interesting thing. As you are asking. Since logging off a few weeks ago I think I am coming to realise that I am not really designed for it. On one level I find it very hard to get interested in someone’s cake, or perfect children, or acceptance of the shortlist that they find themselves on. I kind of want to throw the laptop out of the window. The shouting, about you know what and you know who, well, that’s just the atmosphere, like water round a goldfish, to mix metaphors. It’s unavoidable. Even when you set out to avoid it.’

‘And this you call being open?’

‘But it is a kind of opening, you see. It really is. Let’s say you walk into the kitchen to make a cup of tea. What’s the first thing you do, switch Five Live on, or reach for the kettle?’

‘Five Live. Every time. They’re playing a blinder, don’t you think?’

‘Absolutely. But that isn’t the point. By not switching it on a new openness appears, in the silence, as I look out at the bird feeder, or the rain, or hang the washing. I listened to Blue the other day. Not while I was doing something else. I listened intentionally. All the way through. For the first time in years. And it was good, to coin a phrase.’

‘So basically, what 2018 has taught you is a confessional album of songs from 1971?’

‘If you put it like that, yes. I am rediscovering what was sitting there all along.’

12 Comments

  1. Boy, can I relate Anthony! Jerry.

    Ode to an IPad

    Bill Gates et al,
    You opened up the world to me
    And made me part of the global community,
    From now on, and for all time, who needs books or academia,
    When we’ve got your blessed Wikipedia.

    Smelly old philosophers are lilacs on my screen,
    Arsenic and warfarin, oceans of ice cream,
    Bombs and planes and hurricanes,
    Just a summer rain,
    Falling on a blasted hillside
    Far, far away.

    You tore down religion
    Buried superstition
    Banned feelings of contrition
    Torched imagination
    And twittered fabrication,
    All in the name of a better
    Set of rules, the
    Internet.

    In a single hour, with a simple box,
    I can climb K2 in just a pair of socks,
    I can view all the secrets in the world and keep it to myself,
    Or throw them up on Facebook instead of on a shelf.
    I can read every word of every book ever written with a pen,
    Joyce or Faulkner, Dickens and Tolstoy, Heaney, Malraux, Auden,
    But thanks to Google and to God, who needs such wordy company,
    I’ll drain their brains like Egypt’s kings, and store them there eternally!

    “Now why would anyone”
    Paddle a canoe or bake a bannock or fly a kite or kiss a wife
    Or hold a child or witness dawn or ponder life,
    When, with the merest touch of a finger, you can do it all,
    Just like Michelangelo, in your own private Sistine Chapel!

    I thank you Bill Gates et al,
    For the crook in my neck and the twist in my mind,
    For my memory gone like the flickering spark in a dead battery,
    Thanks for the myopia of my heart,
    The fibromyalgia of my soul,
    And for outsourcing my world to a Stone Age factory
    Lost in the smoke of Silicon Valley.

    And so, it has come to this,
    That by the dying light
    We crowd in caves
    Supported by our
    Misconceptions,
    Doodling on walls
    With the charred bones
    Of our enemies , drawing
    From memory, what
    We imagined life
    To be.

    But just this morning I awoke in 1984,
    The year when I got married, and so much more.
    It was a case of happenstance in the Apple Store,
    I had a chat with George Orwell,
    And what he said to me today
    Finally broke my spell!

    Instead I choose the Salley Gardens,
    On it I’ll stake my fate,
    I’m heading down a portage trail
    And off to Pinney Lake!
    I’ll soon be fishing there
    Along the rocky shore,
    For pike or trout or maybe eel,
    For anything that’s real,
    Where just to be and just to feel,
    Has real validity!

    Sure, I’ll bring you along Bill Gates
    And I’ll pack my iPad too, and
    When when I need an anchor
    There, I’ll find a use for you!

    Liked by 2 people

  2. and so, with dogged determination and some measure of luck, the traveler returns home, coming back to a place that only exists in his mind.

    But, he finds comfort there.

    I find comfort in your writing. Thanks and best wishes!

    Liked by 1 person

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