So I finished 2017 talking about how I need to have that real feel (The real feel), and opened 2018 like most years where I feel like breaking it down and keeping it basic (Ready to be like water?). Like a need to tune in and keep in touch with myself, then blow away in a gust anything complicated or just getting in the way to leave a clear road ahead to really get going.
It seems so much more evident to me at the moment as I get the impression of a certain degree of complication that is disorientating us so far this year, a feeling of driving down the road and dodging potholes in the tarmac. Roadworks are necessary to maintainence, yet I feel there are too many spanners being thrown so far in 2018. We are surrounded by false information and fake news, there are too many agendas from too many politicians. Our online data is at risk to the highest bidder. Essentially it won't stop my day to day, it won't hinder me driving, but we have to be aware of the potholes - car suspensions can only take so much.
I remember playing hockey for a team near Ferrara in Italy some years ago. I had to drive a good hour-and-a-quarter away from where I lived to make training during the week or home matches at weekends. The road I took was not a main highway and often badly lit and the area near Ferrara is reknowned for the fog it gets in the winter. I remember various times driving back late at night through fog banks. One minute I am cruising just fine and then without warning I would have to hit the brakes and slow right down to an almost crawl-my-way-through speed. Then it would clear as fast as it came and you could speed back up until it hit you again. My right foot would hover tapping between the accelerator and the brake pedals like it was instead banging on a kick bass drum. You couldn't get a rhythm, it was unnerving and just tiring, especially after a hard training session and having to drive all that way back again so late at night.
This winter seems to have been longer than usual so far, it seems we have been swamped in a deeper fog, an intense, disorientating mist of world issues leaving a clammy sense of media manipulation in our western world when for so long the finger was pointed at countries in the east like Russia and most recently, North Korea. This is no longer a case of the goodies and the baddies, if there ever was one, just ask George Orwell. It is like choosing a mobile phone contract - there are no good ones, you just have to pick the best out of a bad lot. It would be interesting to see Orwell interviewed on hs theories in these modern times of big brother.
When I was driving through the fog on those long training nights in Italy, I had to keep moving forward even at a creep if need be, slowly but surely, waiting for the relief of coming out of the fog at the other end. Driving through it was the hardest thing, but once I made it through, the drive was calm and clear. I could see all the lights, all the other cars, the white lines on the road and the road signs so much more clearly.
Last year I visited my Irish friend again in Dublin, Ireland at his family pub, John Kavanagh's - more popularly known as 'The Gravediggers', a nickname from the men who dug the graves in the Glasnevin Cemetary next to the pub who would pop in for a well-earned pint at the end of the working day - which has been in his family since 1833. There is so much nostalgia in there, yet is is so simple and almost untouched over the years - and there are certainly no imported Irish pub memorabilia, this is the real deal. Included in this simplicity, tucked in a corner is the old wooden table in the photo which I took on my last visit. I could sit there for hours catching up with my mate, supping on a picture postcard pint of Guinness (the best in the north of Dublin as any Taxi driver will tell you). But it is not so much the great pint (or 5...or more...) that I crave for now. It is the clarity and simplicity of that table.
How you can clearly see each grain, tracing them for its length like a river through a valley of nicks and cracks and smoothed-off splinters. It is sturdy and reliable after all those years and all those pints propped on it. It has no secrets, no false information, it is for everyone and has so many stories to tell, so much to share. It is kind to people. Many a person has sat at that table like me and quietly waited for the fog to settle, leaving just the cosy, dimmed glow of the bar.
Fog banks in many ways are just part of living, we just need to keep moving forward, we know the direction more or less. Sooner or later they will clear. Patience, the grey will pass and the pint of Guinness then goes down beautifully, because during the three-quarter pour, even that is swirling and foggy until it settles and then you can top up the final quarter.
Maybe I do crave a pint of the black stuff after all. C'mon, it is Sunday.