A life-changing encounter with Mr Baseball Bat

That first autumnal chill arrived early this year: I felt it, with depressingly little surprise, in August. As I write this, the weather is pleasant enough but, round the back of the Hovel, on its sunless side, we are beginning to feel as if we are on the dark side of the moon. Soon, it will be time to brace ourselves for winter.

When you have a home of your own - especially one with a working fireplace, children and a cat - you can look forward to winter. Four years in to life at the Hovel, with no prospect of release until the youngest child turns 18 or I win the Lottery, I find myself hating and fearing the winter more and more with each passing season. How people who are homeless manage, I can't imagine.

There are far fewer of them on the streets round here, these days. Even the couple of drunks, a man and a woman who used to sit on the doorstep next to mine every afternoon doing the crossword, have disappeared. I happen to know that the economy has not picked up, social services spending has not been bountifully increased and they haven't all suddenly got jobs, so they can't have all found homes.

What has happened to them? Is there something horrible going on that we don't know about?

Season's greetings

One gets more sensitive to the seasons as one gets older - or at least I do. It's the smell in the air that does it. It reminds one of all the days in one's life that one has smelled that particular smell, the kind produced only once a year. By the time you get to my age, you are, on any given day, in effect experiencing a chord with 40-odd different notes in it - an assonant, melancholic jumble.

For some reason, the sensation is strongest in autumn and spring. In spring, this is fine. However, only those who can curl up in front of a fire, secure in the knowledge that they won't be evicted, can appreciate the autumn. And I imagine that fewer and fewer people are feeling secure these days.

I read a piece in the Guardian by Zoe Williams which points out that the chief executive of Serco was paid more than £3m last year, while the minimum rate for its electricians is equivalent to a little over £10,000 a year. It made me feel physically ill, a toxic combination of hatred, impotence and despair.

Can I just say how much I HATE this government - its hypocrisy, its blindness, its unbelievable cowardice, selfishness, stupidity and meanness? I feel even sicker when I contemplate it than I did when Thatcher was in power. Can we not have a revolution?

The atmosphere is curdling and is driving people slightly mad. There was a fight outside in the street yesterday: someone in a G-Wiz had aggravated the man in the Lexus behind him - I gather there was some confusion about indicating - who then got out of the car, carrying a baseball bat. This is the man in the Lexus, not the man in the G-Wiz. You can't fit a baseball bat in a G-Wiz once there's someone in it. I have been a
passenger in one, my nose smeared against the windscreen, and have never been so scared in my life. That there is at least one man driving around London with a baseball bat in the passenger well of his Lexus is terrifying. There's only one purpose for which he can be doing it: to scare or even beat the hell out of someone whose driving displeases him.

Somehow, one has the feeling that it is not any minute deviation from the protocols of the highway code that enrages Mr Baseball Bat. It is any driving behaviour that prevents Mr Baseball Bat from getting around in a screaming hurry. I looked out of the window and got ready to call the police, dying also to tell Mr Baseball Bat that he was, at this precise moment, the biggest tosser on God's earth, but reluctant to do so in case he battered my door down and clubbed me to death.

Bunking off

At which point, I decided that the only thing for me to do was either to start drinking in the afternoon - you know, really make a go of it - or to bunk off to see a film.

I haven't done this in years, but now that the youngest child is going to secondary school and no longer needs to be picked up, I am free in the afternoons (and boy, do I miss the daily chat with the kids after school).

I recommend this. You remember every film that you sneak off to see on your own in the afternoon far more vividly than all the others. You have your own private screening room, you can sit in any seat you like and you don't have to buy popcorn.

I saw TrollHunter. It cheered me up immensely.

Nicholas Lezard is a literary critic for the Guardian and also writes for the Independent. He writes the Down and Out in London column for the New Statesman.

This article first appeared in the 26 September 2011 issue of the New Statesman, The fifty people who matter