To say how quickly it has come around is surely the mother of all clichés – but it has, hasn’t it? Or, as the years pass, does time become compressed?
One thing is for certain –there’s no stopping it.
Meaning that December 25, arriving as it does with the screaming subtlety of a Scud missile, now only serves to give me the heebie-jeebies while I wonder dolorously how many I have left in the bank.
As further portent of the final curtain that awaits me, this summer’s festive season is getting underway with seminal figures from politics, sport and the arts having given up the ghost. Legends departed, they coloured my youth, they informed my understanding of the world, and they will be forever synonymous with a whole slab of personal history. Boot Hill, everybody’s ultimate destination, has in 2014 found a place of repose for the good and the great E G Whitlam (Gough’s 1972 win was my first election), for the magic dragon, Reg Gasnier (he opened my eyes to the art of footy) and for the undecided Jim Keays (if only I could have got my hair to go like his).
The trio’s passing has forced me to enter that unforgiving room of mirrors. I might still kid myself into posing as a hipster in my swashbuckling prime, but my attitudes and everything I do suggest otherwise, dude.
For a start, I’ve taken up golf with a few other old farts and look forward for days ahead to my weekly afternoon of happy hacking and convivial ales at the nineteenth; the lists of songs and performers’ names on the current pop charts (I know they’re not called that any more, but bear with me) might as well be Linear B inscriptions from Knossos for all the sense they make to me (and for all I care); tablets and iThingies hold not the slightest appeal (what exactly is it that all of those zombies walking around staring at their palms are communicating?); and as for tatts – well, they are now about as iconoclastic as wallpaper, and why so many young people disfigure themselves like that is beyond me.
So if my opting out of all things ‘now’ seems perverse and typically reactionary, I can assure you that there is guile in my grumpiness.
It harks back to a character that I came upon in a forgotten novel … I think it was by Graham Greene. This bloke had found himself in what we might now refer to as his ‘bucket list’ years and, like most of us of a similar vintage, he was not looking forward to the end of his allotted days with any degree of wild enthusiasm. So he hit upon what suddenly appears to me a brainwave that, if not foolproof, is at least worth considering.
He reasoned that time flies at warp speed when you are enjoying yourself or totally immersed in stimulating activity. To counter this, he decided to commit himself to only pursuing boring pastimes – the ultimate was doing nothing whatsoever – in order to lengthen the hours. The Catch 22, of course, is that, by its very nature, boredom is … well … boring (and as Yossarian dryly observed, ‘that’s some catch’).
The saving grace of Christmas week is that it is invariably boring in itself, so there is some payback for the undue haste with which it lobs. As well as the mawkish hypocrisy of religious observances, there is way too much eating of other people’s weird food (whoever came up with the idea of the ‘bring a plate’ party should be condemned to a lifetime of store-bought hummus); sweaty relatives with revolting children pull into the driveway only to confirm your reasoning for putting five-hundred miles between you and them in the first place; you can’t get a park even in Mullum; and there’s not a damned thing on TV! (Not that there ever is, I suppose.)
As the Everest of ennui, nothing is more mind-numbingly awful than Carols by Candlelight, so, by rights, I should plonk myself down in front of the box when it’s on, with a cask of De Bortoli as painkiller. But not even I am that masochistic.
I’ll probably opt for an old favourite, Spartacus or Jaws, maybe, to see me through all the joy.
Have a good one.