I am trying to think of anyone who had a happy, prosperous and serene 2017 and no one springs to mind. Come on, there must be someone. I know some people who had an appalling time, much worse than me, and I lost my home and my main source of income. Don’t tell me that’s a walk in the park. (Letters printed in this magazine expressing sympathy were greatly appreciated at this end.) If I tell you that paying off a ten-year tax bill was actually one of the year’s groovier moments maybe that will give you an idea.
Of course, if I had a girlfriend all this wouldn’t have been that much of a problem. I would be at her place or, if her place was my place too, our place. If we’d been kicked out of that, we’d be able to pool our resources and find somewhere else. Probably.
Or maybe we would be entering a vortex of despair and recrimination, our relationship fraying and disintegrating as the fierce and bitter winds of the world toss and buffet the frail bark of our love. Then there would be heartbreak to deal with on top of everything else. So maybe it is just as well that I’m single. It is important to look on the bright side. That’s what keeps me so cheery.
Still, 2017 took the piss, that’s what it did. The lack of companionship in bed makes me particularly cross with it. I used to think that a night not spent in the company of a beautiful woman was a night wasted and I still think that, only this time I prefer not to dwell on it. Basically, I had sex twice last year, and one of those times was a birthday present. I should also point out that I am told that I am good at it, but a fat lot of good that seems to be doing me. Are any of you lot getting the hint yet?
But my friends… oh man, have I been done proud by my friends. They have been righteous. Offers of places to stay have been coming in from all over the world, as far west as Los Angeles and as far east as Delhi. And these are serious offers, not grudging ones whose deeper meaning is that under no circumstances am I to show up with a suitcase and a meaningful glance at the sofa. There have been more than I can take up, and it is getting to the point where I feel I may be causing offence by not accepting them. However, there are only so many spaces one can occupy at the same time.
But one lives from moment to moment, out of a suitcase; or, if travelling light, my Slazenger cricket bag. This Christmas one of the presents I was given was a candle in the shape of a wine bottle, and I marvelled at the tactlessness involved: for a candle in the shape of a bottle of wine weighs as much as a bottle of wine, but with the significant handicap of not actually containing any wine and, as with space missions, minimising weight is a priority when one is in a condition like mine.
Then again, who can really imagine another’s life? The person who gave me this present actually has two homes, so her dilemma, had she been given a candle of her own, would have been which one to put it in. “Burn time 120 hours,” the label reads; I rarely live somewhere for 120 hours at a stretch these days.
I wonder, as we all do, what the new year will bring. I remember 2016 being pretty appalling – but that was a soothing back rub compared to 2017. If 2018 turns out to be worse again, then that’s going to be a bit of a problem. The nadir was actually yesterday, as I lay in sickness in my childhood bedroom, desperate for sleep, while my mother pounded on my door informing me, in a powerful and penetrating voice, of my many failings as a son, swear words included.
Rescue arrived in the shape of an invitation to Penge from K—, the one with the dog who loves me, as you may recall. I was spectacularly unwell but nothing short of actual death – a possibility, as yesterday was largely occupied by thoughts of self-immolation, and the best way to go about it – was going to keep me in East Finchley for a second longer. It will be some time, I fear, before I set foot in that place again.
It is quite a journey from Scottish rural splendour to Penge, but I have at least discovered the taproom of the Southey Brewing Co, which is the most Hovelly pub I have ever been to – a garage with some chairs, basically – and my new spiritual home. The beer is first-rate, too.
But travel beckons. I have gone from being a totally sedentary man to one who dots about all over the place. I even had a few days in Latvia last month – but that’s another story for another day. I seem – and this seems to be the ongoing theme for me – to have run out of space.
This article appears in the 03 Jan 2018 issue of the New Statesman, Young vs Old