So much of the conversation these days seems to be about anxiety. What kind of future is coming down the line? And January, never the most fun-filled of months, seems more particularly grim and anxious this year.
In our own work we face the loss of vendors’ street sales because of people working at home, with the added continuing ravages of the pandemic. It seems we need a fillip of a sound political kind, some thoughtfulness and some generosity to those struggling.
As if to cope with current anxieties I recently recreated for myself a list of anxious-ridden Januarys of my past, and concluded that January 1962 – 60 years ago – was probably the most anxiety-laden January I have ever had.
I started the year well in my reformatory, but after three months of well-behavedness I had the urge to kick over the traces. At the age of 15 going on 16 I decided to run away. A fellow inmate wanted to go as well, so one night while the place continued its business we absconded, as it is called.
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I planned the perfect exit that got us to a local station in time for the 7.25pm London train. And with my ability to imitate the posh vagaries of the privileged, I went looking for the ticket collector – never let the ticket collector come to you if you haven’t got a ticket – and asked for the train to be stopped. For I had left my wallet on a bench on the station platform, hadn’t I? I argued and argued, almost pulling the cord myself, which completely threw the ticket collector, and he told me to sort it out at Waterloo, the terminal station. Needless to say, due to my superb logistics we were in London about half an hour after they would have discovered our absence at the reformatory.
But some hours later I was sitting in a police cell having been apprehended after a major smash-up in a stolen sports car. Then the anxiety crept in, destroying the rest of my January. Police courts, prison cells, beatings, parents – in fact Mum, pouring her heart out to me as to what an abysmal failure I was to her. How I was shortening her life of 41 years and driving her to madness.