Well, it’s been a year since I last posted here. A year that has been awful for me personally, for half of the UK, for much of Europe, for half of the USA and for the world in general, if more particularly for fans of David Bowie and Prince.
But amid all the upheaval, strife and division, some things remain constant. Yes: the High Wycombe Salvation Army Brass Band is again at Marylebone Station. And yes, it is still playing out of tune. And yes, the same undimmable light still shines in the eyes of the Sally Army lady collecting coins under the destination board.
And as we near the end of 2016, some apsects of life and of the world appear as urecognizable as the brass band’s carols. With my family now divided and the country seemingly going through the same kind of separation I feel like everywhere I look there are irreconcilable differences between people who still have to work together to keep things going.
Being in the position of meeting predominantly remainer “truther”s in real life and predominantly leaver “post-truther”s online, I have strong sense of the alienation from each other that the two sides feel. It has been obvious for years that there is a large section of society that has no sense of being represented by representative democracy and used the opportunity of the June referendum to scream its outrage. It is perhaps only now becoming apparent how frightened those of us whose world-view has actually been represented fairly well by our minority-elected representatives (however much we complain about them) should be. We have much to lose, many long-suppressed fears to face and a desperate need to work out how to live in a new world that presently makes no sense to us; those who voted to tear down our Safe European Home may make themselves worse off in the short term by doing so but they have faith that they will be rewarded in the Brexit afterlife and find a world in which they feel more of a sense of belonging.
In my own life, I have many fears about the loss of people and comforts I had grown used to and – undoubtedly – taken for granted. The silent nights when I find myself completely alone can be terrifying and I know I have many changes to make to deal with my changed world. But I also understand why the others felt the need to pull that former existence apart and that they can see positives for the future. Those are the snowdrops I also have to look for through this winter.
Shortly before the trauma of separation I had spent two weeks in Canada on business. This was possibly the most disorienting period of time I have ever experienced, in which I felt more isolated, detached (possibly due to an almost complete lack of sleep), lost and – sadly, and in every sense – incompetent than I could have anticipated. Shortly after the trauma I found that I had failed in a significant work venture and, more disturbingly, that none of the colleagues who had been encouraging me in this venture had expected me to succeed anyway. As the mornings and evenings became ever darker, so did my little world. So now, with bleak midwinter only two weeks away, it’s time to make some effort to keep warm enough to reach the turn of the year and look for those snowdrops of hope.
Among the brass band’s curiously confused tunes there is one that stands out as not belonging to Christmas. Perhaps they’re not playing this at all – perhaps it’s just my imagination imposing some kind of order on the random notes – but it seems like a hymn I remember from childhood (and more recently from my brother-in-law’s wedding) is interloping:
No charger have I, and no sword by my side,
Yet still to adventure and battle I ride.
Though back into storyland giants have fled
And the knights are no more and the dragons are dead.
So, as we head into 2017, life and job have to be made to work. There is no giving up: the needs of my children are still my main responsibility, the success of other work ventures is still what I am paid to achieve … and there is no pretending that there are no more battles to fight.