The concept of time has been an increasingly difficult one to come to grips with over the last nine months.
A president has found it impossible to accept his is up, Brexit negotiators appear determined to bend it with their approach to deadlines and the time businesses need to prepare while rugby referees have developed a bizarre idea about how long five seconds is when the ball is going nowhere at the back of a ruck.
The normal passage of time, daily, weekly, monthly and beyond, has been fractured by the absence or shifting of the regular landmarks in our life.
Working from home has meant the best way to judge time is by a morning Zoom meeting, Homes Under the Hammer, Big Bang Theory repeats, Government announcements, scheduled coronavirus press conferences (add on extra time for a late start if it is anything controversial or we are waiting to hear the details on leaked stories), the daily newsletter deadlines which define my day and Pointless – the sign it is almost time to knock off and move the yard or so from my desk to the sofa.
Throw in food, whatever entry has made it to the top of the far too long things to-do list drawn up to fill the early days of lockdown and a daily conversation across the time zones with Australia and the day is pretty much sorted.
At weekends, replace all that with a walk to Sainsbury’s, rugby on TV (very bizarre watching a match just down the road without being there) and plenty of procrastination at the laptop and another week has ticked by.
All this serves, hopefully, as astute observation on the bizarre changes to our lives over the past year rather than merely the latest excuse into why this blog has had a form of lockdown of its own.
Good intentions remain but the pandemic has had a strange affect on us all and somehow, after a day sat at a laptop writing as the main part of my job for the first time in more than 20 years, doing the same in the evening does not seem to have the same attraction as it has in the past.
Not that it has been ignored – the previous post from South America took a fair bit of time to compile (at more than 10,000 words, it was around 10 times longer than a standard post and was tweaked endlessly) ahead of being wrapped up with other posts in a Christmas present.
There are more posts about South America to come – eventually – and there’s a long list of notes, links and thoughts for a couple of posts in defence of journalists which had to set aside for a while as some digging around in the world of online comments was just too frustrating.
Accusations of clickbait are as polite as it gets. If only people bothered to learn what it means.
In the end, it became easier to pause, draw breath, work through some of the to-do list and put the blog on hold for a while.
It was meant to make a brief return a few weeks ago for this post, getting fully up to date with the A-Z trawl through my iPod. The video links were even dropped into the post.
Then somebody, somewhere, did something clever with a WordPress plugin and all you got when clicking on the site was a white page ad and an error message.
Would like to claim there was lots of technical research on my part, a few behind-the-scenes tweaks and all was well.
What actually happened was plenty of staring hopefully at the screen, Googling the error message, several more clicks over a few days in the hope it had sorted itself out and a few outings for the IT failsafe – turn everything off and back on and again.
In the end, it took a phone call to the Godfather of the Travel Marmot who took about 10 minutes to sort it all out, despite claiming it was something he did not really understand.
So instead of announcing a break in the blog, this post heralds a return for the A-Z which will be back in the new year, possibly with a few tweaks to the site and an actual writing plan for the coming months – courtesy of a break over Christmas, very rare when actually in the country.
Rather different, a lot cooler and considerably fewer insect bites than year ago.
Before that, there are the two traditional festive Travel Marmot posts – the Best of 2020 music article (which is turning up the odd surprise in the December recap of this year’s albums) and the New Year’s Day state of the nation piece.
It might even be written on New Year’s Day.
Just don’t hold me to that.
Before all that though, the last bit of housekeeping and catching up with the outstanding stretch of the A-Z from back when it was being listened to on long, sunlit government-mandated walks as an escape from working at home.
The stretch from The Magnetic Fields to The Dropkick Murphys was not the most inspiring selection, providing proof of how many songs The Beatles had beginning with I’ll and I’m – 11 so far and more to come.
We had a double hit of Paul Heaton – I’ll Be Your Shelter… by The Housemartins and I’ll Sail This Ship Alone by The Beautiful South – and two versions of I’m Not Down, The Clash’s original and a Thea Gilmore cover.
Given the time of year, there was nothing festive among the latest group of tracks but we did have The Pogues’ I’m A Man You Don’t Meet Every Day, sang by original bassist Cait O’Riordan who was supposed to sing the female part in A Fairytale of New York. If only she had not left the band.
Tenuous Christmas link, but we’ll take what we can get.