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6 January 2021

If there’s one good thing 2021 has to offer, it’s the return of romance in my life

I had really begun to think a 57-year-old slob with no money, a barely in-control wine habit and a problematic relationship with HMRC would hardly constitute a Catch, but there it is.

By Nicholas Lezard

Well, so much for 2020. I am writing these words on New Year’s Day so I can say that kind of thing, but I suppose you are sick of seeing those words, or words like them.

For me, the year is a novelty; whereas you, a few days in, are probably sick of it already. I have a nagging fear that 2021 is going to make 2020 look like a soothing back rub, but at least we won’t have to listen to Donald Trump any more. This has been one of the few good things about the past few weeks: the way his voice has got fainter  and fainter.

Meanwhile, here are some of the things I have to look forward to in 2021.

1. Mooching around a tiny flat with a freezing kitchen and wondering if I can afford a vacuum cleaner. Three months without one and the carpets are showing a surprising amount of dead leaves. I live two floors up. How did the leaves get there? Do the naughty leaf elves bring them up in the night? If so, how do they get past the chain I put on the door every night before bedtime?

2. An increasingly desperate financial situation. Plus ça change.

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3. The crescendo of braying cranks calling to defund the BBC or whatever bullshit idea they decide to latch on to next. I can’t say I’ve been happy to contemplate the triumph of loons, weirdos and obsessives like Claire Fox, Toby Young and the rest of them, because the best lack all conviction and the worst are full of passionate intensity… which brings us on to:

4. Will Nigel Farage go away? The hell he will. I gather his shtick is now going to be some kind of anti-lockdown posturing. This is the same bandwagon that Toby Young has hopped on to, along with Piers Corbyn, who also believes all sorts of insane things about climate change and contrails and what have you.

[see also: I will spend the festive season with a goose and a dog, and one of them makes me nervous]

But really, Toby, Nige, do you really want to be on the same side as Piers Corbyn? And by the same token, Piers, do you really want to be on the same side as Toby and Nige? Well, I suppose they’ve all thought this through, with all the mental and logical rigour which we have come to associate with them, and they’re happy with that, so who am I to carp?

You may argue, and you could well have a point, that this is a column which is supposed to concentrate on the vicissitudes of my day-to-day life rather than political matters; but I would argue in reply that their continued presence in the public life of the nation counts very much as a vicissitude of my day-to-day life. They, along with their cheerleaders, live, as the saying goes, rent-free in my head, and only so many walks along the seafront will mute their nonsense.

And over all this presides the bloated figure of our Prime Minister. I’ll say this for the coronavirus: at least it stopped us all from saying to ourselves, in a haunted voice, “Boris Johnson is my Prime Minister” all the time. Now we only say it when we take a break from considering the pandemic. Or Brexit. Arsenal’s 3-0 defeat at home to Aston Villa last November also had this to commend itself: it took my mind off the other terrible things that were going on at the time.

There is one very good thing that happened to me last year and still seems to be happening: the return of romance into my life. Those of you who are close readers might have picked up on one or two hints to this effect, and so I may as well make it official: ladies, I am afraid I am now Spoken For.

This has come as something of a surprise, to put it mildly. I had really begun to think that a 57-year-old slob with no money, a gut that looks as though it has been inflated by the brothers Montgolfier, a barely in-control wine habit and an ongoingly problematic relationship with HMRC would hardly constitute what the sane observer would call a Catch, but there it is.

She knows all about my failings because she reads this column; indeed, it was because of this column that she got in touch with me in the first place. And what is more, subsequent conversations, some of which have gone on late into the night and the small hours, have failed to provide even a shred of evidence that she is bonkers. One may question her judgement but that is not the same thing. And I really thought, after the last catastrophe, that That Was It, and had resigned myself to singlehood for the rest of my life. But you never know what the capricious goddess Fortuna has in store.

The amusing thing – and I have to admit that this is really rather a nice touch – is that she lives in Durham. Durham! It’s all right to travel to Durham, isn’t it? 

[see also: New Year’s resolutions are born of self-loathing. Why else would we be so desperate to change? ]

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This article appears in the 06 Jan 2021 issue of the New Statesman, Out of control