It is the most appalling time of the year. Grey, dull, miserable, cold, depressing, grim. You get up in the dark. You arrive home in the dark. Payday is weeks away. You are broke. If you’d had any foresight last June, then you’d have booked a ten day getaway in the Canaries or Morocco, or somewhere with some winter sunshine (purely for the Vitamin D – with my blue-hued, milk bottle legs I wouldn’t ever contemplate doing something foolish like sunbathing.)
You’ve got to struggle through it though. By the end of January the days will be drawing out. It might still be deathly cold, but the extra sunlight allows you to escape that feeling that you are living in twilight zone of existential misery.
Having said all that, I still prefer January to November. In January the despair is predictable and expected. Bizarrely enough it can be somewhat enjoyable. Everyone else is experiencing the exact same feelings of poverty and glumness. There can be a sense of gloomy solidarity. We’re all in this chain gang together. November is worse as you still have the autumnal hangover. The longer, warmer days are so much closer in your memory. The looming winter yawns in front of you like a bottomless tar pit. January is getting to the end of the journey though. Come February there will some optimistic movement in nature.
To rub salt in the wound of my winter woes I had a driving lesson on Saturday. My usual instructor Attila (not his real name) had called in sick. Perhaps he was genuinely unwell. Or perhaps he was emotionally unprepared for the death defying rollercoaster that a drive with me probably entails. I choose to believe he was poorly.
His replacement Vlad (also a pseudonym) was one of those irritating people that is extremely patient and vocal. As I lumbered along the road in the neon lit hatchback, that announces that I am a learner driver from five hundred metres, he kept up an insanely irritating stream of gentle encouragement and instruction. Each time I avoided mowing down an innocent bystander he sounded breathlessly excited and happy. It was wildly irritating.
I am not somebody who can absorb multiple instructions simultaneously. When Atiila barks an order at me I can absorb it. More that one and I start to panic. Seeing as driving involves being aware of many factors I suspect that Vlad’s constant stream of instruction might one day be useful. Not right now though. At the moment it is just annoying. I sincerely hope Attila hasn’t fired me as a student. His dictatorial instructing style is more my style.
After the lesson I crossed the city to the train station and boarded the locomotive to Limerick. The following morning was to be my triumphant return to the world of Catholicism. It had been over five years since I have stepped inside a church, for a reason other than to admire the architecture. The last time I was a member of the congregation was in November 2011 for a wedding. The time prior to that was January 2003 for a funeral – said funeral being the reason I am back at church now – an anniversary mass.
I wore my Doctor Marten boots and a smart shirt. I kept a demure and pious look on my face throughout. I denounced Satan when asked to (renewal of baptismal vows was part of yesterday’s ceremony). And I took communion. I didn’t see any reason not to. I may be an atheist but I participated respectfully in yesterday’s performance so I thought it only good and proper to engage fully in the show of piety.
After the Mass it was off to the Cornstore – a smart city centre restaurant (Thomas Street) where the food is tasty, the décor snazzy, the service friendly and the prices fairly reasonable. I had a fillet steak.
Bloody. In pepper sauce. Some seasonal greens and chunky chips.
Back on the train to Dublin then, to continue my January.