‘It’s a funny thing, it seems that just before daylight is the darkest hour’… Ry Cooder.
There is a seldom used word, in old English, that describes the act of lying awake before dawn and worrying, and although the darkest hour doesn’t actually occur just before dawn, it certainly seems to be the time when many of us are haunted by our troubles, uncompleted tasks, unpaid bills and the indiscretions of the night before.
Uhtceare, from oot (the restless hour before dawn) and ceare, pronounced key-are-a (meaning care and sorrow) succinctly describes my post Brexs**t state forcing me to toss, turn and eavesdrop on bin men, milkmen and the recently ejected detritus of the city’s nightclubs returning to the warmth of their unwashed sheets.
When boisterous, blustering, buffoonish Boris rocked up in carefree Kernow on the big red bus, with a big fat lie on its side, he wasn’t promoting the London Olympics. Armed with a Ginsters pasty, a pint of Tribute and a liberal sprinkling of fairy dust, he peddled the, barely believable, fantasy of unlimited export opportunities for Cornish Yarg, Rhodda’s Clotted Cream and the delights of a Stargazey Pie unfettered by the common fisheries policy.
No longer blinded by the blarney, we realise that despite what Govey’s wife told him, the fishing industry makes up a mere 0.5% of GDP, with agriculture an equally paltry 0.52%. In contrast, the drinks industry – where I work – while never going to threaten the service industry at 70% – still accounts for some £46 billion, but rather than being ring-fenced and protected, is routinely milked as an economic cash cow that’s becoming rather emaciated and increasingly unsteady on it’s hooves.
A catastrophic cocktail of low investment, decreased margins, spiralling costs, a weak pound, and a necessity to stockpile to absorb a possible ‘no deal’ are making the pips squeak. Pubs, bars, hotels and restaurants are closing at an alarming rate and an inability to pass on, ever rising, costs to a consumer that still thinks that a fiver for a bottle of wine is a bit too steep and you begin to understand that Brexit is a three-year headache that’s about to turn into a four year migraine! Oh, and Ginsters will not be relocating to Singapore anytime soon.
As the Maybot snuggles up to Jezza, while Nigel Farage hides in the wardrobe, I hope they have been pondering the real human cost of this unmitigated disaster while restlessly awaiting the dawns early light.
However, it is not the parlous state of the nation that disturbs my reverie this morning, but a sharp and severe pain in the chest – rather than the arse. As it increases, I begin to feel a little worried, and decide to walk around in the hope of dislodging any stubborn remnants of last nights carbonara. My chilly dawn wanderings disturb the VOR who after googling my symptoms insists that I put on some clothes and go straight to the hospital, without passing Go or trousering £200.
‘The bomb in the baby carriage was wired to the radio’… Paul Simon
I wash up in A&E with the flotsam and jetsam of the night before and descend into one of Dante’s circles of hell. An assortment of the drunk and disaffected, in various stages of inebriation and consciousness, litter the furniture – that one of their more voluble number is threatening to smash up if it wasn’t bolted to the floor.
Recognising my name, I step into an anteroom which smells of sweat and stale urine to recount my sorry tale, before being sent back out into the gladiatorial arena armed only with an information leaflet.
An ECG later finds me in a corridor – where patients are lying on beds awaiting other beds – in a sorely underfunded and overstretched system. A tired Thai nurse, who may soon be deported, asks for the details of my next of kin, and as the doors of an adjacent service lift part, I catch a glimpse of my grey shaded self in the industrial light of it’s internal mirrors and wonder if this is how it ends?
I don Peter Seller’s ‘bright nightgown’ – whose open back provides a much needed giggle for the exhausted staff – as the VOR returns and my mood becomes less black, although when I tell her I’m cold it reminds me of the last words of the teenage, mid western, farm boy crying out for his mama in so many war movies. Unable to lie down, I sit forlornly, struggling to preserve my modesty, as I wait for a series of tests and urge the VOR to go home and walk our dog who will be wondering where we are.
The CAT scan is a distinctly odd experience, and as the dye is pumped through my veins there is a warm sensation, together with a strong, rather undignified urge to evacuate the bowels – perhaps that explains the backless gown? The results show that thankfully, rather like Fergal Sharkey, I have a good heart.
Consequently, I have embarked upon a winnowing and decided to close my business and slow down – although the VOR informs me that I cannot keep saying that I’ve cheated death to everyone who calls to ask after my well being. Little does she know that as a result of disengaging from the tyranny of social media, my phone usage is down by 43%, so it seems that, like Cher, I can turn back time!
It’s a beautiful spring day as I pass an old wino singing into a microphone on a bridge across the harbour. Struggling to make out the notes – which impinge ever so fleetingly upon the melody – I conclude that it’s Neil Diamond’s ‘Forever in Blue Jeans’. Pausing for thought, I realise that I have been given a gift, well not exactly a gift, but a warning and it’s the warning that is the gift.
Here’s to a good nights sleep!
‘Money talks, but it don’t sing and dance and it don’t walk. As long as I can have you here with me, I’d much rather be. Forever in blue jeans babe’