We’re not quite done with it yet, but as good as. In a few more days we’ll be into a new year with fresh challenges. Are you glad to see the back of 2020, or were there some things about the year that surprised you and that you secretly quite liked? I have two different takes on the year; here are my offerings. Which one is closest to how you’ve been feeling about it all?
Exit 2020, by Eimear Bush
The reticent year slips away like a loner at a party.
Him by the back door, coat on, quietly sipping a shandy
While everyone else gets well-oiled, hale, hearty,
Drink flowing, he splits when they bring out the brandy.
He’s an awkward one, this year, pacing the wings,
Displeased by the part he plays, fluffing his lines,
Missing his cue, hopeful that next year brings
A more edifying production, something that shines,
Is a smash with the public, prompt shouts of ‘bravo!’
Palms red raw with clapping, four curtain calls,
A standing ovation and whoops for a fabulous show,
Encores petitioned from a public enthral.
But the year’s been a flop, he takes the stage door,
Extended run cancelled after only three months,
Abandoned by March, no greasepaint, no roar
Of the crowd. Instead, disaffected grunts
As it became clear this guy was a washout, a flop,
A fiasco, a dead duck, damp squib, a looser, a lemon.
So off you go, shoo, quit, don’t turn and stop,
You stole the year from us, good riddance you felon!
Wait a Minute!, by Eimear Bush
Hold on. Come back. I want to have a quick word. A quiet one.
It’s just, I can’t tell too many people, what with you being so
Unsuitable, and all that. It was never going to work out between us.
But it doesn’t mean I didn’t love you, or that I won’t think about you
When you’re gone. I know you were doing your best. I mean,
Those blue skies! Without any planes in them. And that air!
Clear waters in Venice. And all those events I didn’t have to go to,
Gatherings, small talk, chasing my tail. You let me write all day,
Sit up in bed in my dressing gown and eat toast at 3am
Listening to the World Service. Wine at 3pm (I exaggerate; or do I?).
You were so forgiving about the dust, greasy hair, that black tee-shirt (again),
Socks worn for four days, toothpaste on my jeans, me rolling off camera
During Pilates to lie on my back, spy shrivelled grapes under the sofa,
Watch cobweb fronds hang from the ceiling. Knock yourself out, you said,
This is your time, do as you want with it. You wiped whole weeks clean.
And you were romantic: the sunsets, the birdsong in the morning,
The daytime silence of the city, the gentle breath of ancient stone buildings
Air-brushed with evening sun. Books, you brought me books,
All those I’d been meaning to read. You said – go ahead, take your time,
Have that lie in, ditch the makeup, turn pages in the bath after breakfast.
Lounge, loaf, laze, loll, hang, chill, dawdle, recline, relax. Yield.
Apple, cheese, oatcakes and a can of Tennents for dinner – classy, you said,
Sounds just dandy! And we walked. Oh, did we walk. Edinburgh’s hills,
Parks, riverbanks, beaches, parched pathways, mud strewn lanes,
City streets with plastic gloves and facemasks in the gutter, people saying
Hello to one another, taking time. Given time. Time. You played with time.
Waltzed with it: fast, fast, slow. Stretched and condensed it. Gifted it.
Wrapped and ribboned it. Boxed it in a way we had never received it before.
We stepped around and stared at it. What is it? What do we do with it?
How do we feed it? Care for it? Nurture it? How long is it staying?
I’m scared of it! Sit with it, you said, sit with me. Watch, listen, think.
Then think again. I got used to it. Your tranquil company. Unobtrusive.
Restrained. Some might say restraining. Not me.
I needed a little clipping; of the wings, around the ear.
I hope I don’t forget about you, come this time next year.