Apparently today is “Blue Monday”, the most miserable day of the year. You can see why this might be. The Christmas season is well and truly over. Christmas coincides with the darkest time of the year, and consequently is all lit up to offset the effects of Seasonal Affective Disorder. But the lights have gone out, and now we are faced with at least another two months of winter. Perhaps longer. I haven’t seen any snowdrops yet. In Scotland, blizzards are not uncommon in April. If we have been let off lightly thus far, if this has been a preternaturally mild winter, we have the nagging sense that this might merely be the harbinger of imminent extreme weather events.
There are few feasts to offset the gloom. Granted Burns Night is next Saturday, but I’m not a fan of Burns suppers. The triad of Burns, Freemasonry, and Glasgow Rangers is not attractive to me. Mind you, I was born into that side of the west of Scotland’s great sectarian divide. The first football match I ever went to was at Ibrox. Rangers v Stirling Albion. My uncle had a brief word with the man at the gate and I was lifted over the turnstile. It was an introduction to the way the world works. You whisper some arcane formula under your breath and place an index finger against the side of your nose, and doors open, or turnstiles cease to be a barrier to you.
There is a story about a young lad in Glasgow being stopped and confronted by an aggressive man. “Are you a catholic or a protestant?” “I’m nothing.” “Aye, but are you a catholic nothing or a protestant nothing?” In that brief exchange lies all the tragedy of the Old Firm.
Rangers won 4 – 1.
(Parenthetically, the last football match I went to was in Brighton. Brighton and Hove Albion v Shrewsbury. I was in the directors’ box. Finger on the nose and Open Sesame again. Des Lynham, a great Brighton supporter, was there. Charming man. Bobby Zamora was man of the match. By an odd coincidence, as I recall, Brighton won 4 – 1.)
My Dad was a cop in Glasgow. He became as disillusioned with the Old Firm as I did, and just wanted to get out. He used to be on duty at the big matches at Ibrox, Parkhead, and Hampden, and he would smuggle me into some safe enclosure by the terraces. It was not uncommon that the gate at Hampden would exceed 135,000 souls. Then in 1971 a terrible event occurred at Ibrox, a crush, with the loss of 66 lives, and the days of football as a kind of Hajj were over.
So I’m not planning on attending any Burns Suppers or football matches. The next festival is St Valentine’s Day, but if I found myself either sending or receiving a card I would be gobsmacked. The RSNO are doing a Valentine’s concert on February 15th – with stuff like Khachaturian’s Adagio from Spartacus, Tchaikovsky’s Romeo and Juliet, the Adagietto from Mahler 5, and Ravel’s Bolero. So Classic FM. I’m not going, not because I’m a musical snob, but because I would feel exactly as I felt that day I visited Disneyland in Anaheim LA. I got there, decided I didn’t want a ride in a revolving teacup, and immediately left. I recounted this anecdote to a friend of mine who, wishing to change the subject, and perhaps imagining I have a bigger literary profile than I actually do, asked me when I was appearing on Desert Island Discs. I said that Lauren Laverne could not cast me away as I am cast away already. She said, “Oh fetch me my violin!”
So maybe it really is Blue Monday. But in fact I can’t complain. The real reason I’m not going to the Valentine’s gig is that two weeks today, if spared, I’m off to New Zealand. Emirates, Edinburgh – Dubai – Auckland. Greta would not approve. I’m not sure I approve either, but I’m going by request, to fulfil a task. So let it be.
Incidentally, Desert Island Discs-wise, I wonder which of my eight I would “save from the waves”?
Today, let it be the second movement of Honegger’s Second Symphony. Suitably dark, and dismal, and blue. Then, just when you are at your lowest, and for no apparent reason, a great sense of calmness and serenity is bestowed upon you.
Just for a moment. And then again, it’s gone. Back to auld claes an’ purritch.