It is as we say in this household a case of letting the dog see the rabbit. My ever-optimistic wife believes that seeing the evil by bringing the slime to the surface is a necessary precursor to some kind of Golden Age, where everything will be rosy. I don't subscribe to such tosh, but even I – the grumpy, misanthropic pessimist she's hitched to – confess to a glimmer of optimism. However... even if the insurreckshun might rent the Republicans asunder, it's unlikely to be permanent. The initial rush of resignations is probably symptomatic only of a sinking ship, with representatives showing the kind of duplicity that Jean-Louis Trintignant portrayed so memorably in Bertolucci's masterful Il Conformiste, which readers of this page will know by now is my favourite film EVER. Someone rather more clever than the recent incumbent, someone more plausible and even more devious, will crawl out of the woodwork when the time comes. Cometh the hour, cometh the creep. There are still millions more out there ready to follow, millions more who won't just go away overnight.
Of course, little of this touches us here in the Land of Nod. But as goes the US, so goes the rest of the world. It will eventually wash up on these shores like flotsam from a shipwreck, but for now we have the luxury of watching events unfold from a distant dispassionate standpoint. Here, for the while, little changes at new year. The surtout la santé element of the standard, clichéd exchange of best wishes has rather more meaning in January 2021. Especially good health. When I went to Giselle's barn on Friday evening to buy the vegetables after her Yuletide holiday – which, of course, she stressed in the way of the martyr, is no real holiday for her, with so much to attend to inside her house and outside in her field and under her poly-tunnel – she told me that the plague has visited the EPHAD in Martel, which stands roughly for Old People's Home.
Virus schmirus. It's rather colder here than it was last year, cold enough in fact to make your nose drip and your ears ache, which is a cause for celebration since it will, as people remind you constantly, kill off some of the microbes that undermine that so-important bonne santé and the bestioles that attack next year's crops. Whether or not it will have any impact on the coronavirus remains to be seen. I'd bet that it won't, since the Spanish Flu lasted four years or so and these cyclical things tend to follow similar patterns. But neither cold nor virus stops the good ol' boys of Martel, the hunting fraternity no doubt. They were there on Saturday morning, hanging around outside the PMU, half of them masked, half of them not, clutching their cups of coffee in one hand and a cigarette in the other, probably discussing the next campaign of carnage against local wild boars.
In the supermarket, I recognise the usual suspects in spite of their masks. We're growing progressively more adept at recognising people from their eyes and the bridge of their noses. I smile at the cashiers, caged within their protective Perspex, but I'm not sure that they can spot my gesture between the top of my mask (which seems to be made from an old sheet in the style of my old mad mother) and the bottom of my John Lewis bonnet, which The Daughter has taught me to pull down below my eyebrows to make it clear that I am not a docker or a farm labourer, but rather a dedicated follower of fashion. The latter, of course, is lost anyway on the inhabitants of Nod.
My personal circumstances have changed since this time last year. I am now a broadcaster once more, this time at a local radio station that operates out of what's little more than a shack not far from the railway station at Biars-sur-Cère. It's the story of my career as a radio host really; I've come to specialise in a certain kind of fly-by-night operation reminiscent of the Wolfman character in American Graffiti, broadcasting from a hut with an aerial in the middle of nowhere. Decibel FM's mixing table was state-of-the-art back in 1995 and subject to bugs and glitches that keep you on your toes when you're in the studio. Still, I'm doing it anonymously in my prezidential nom de platine, so I can say and play what I like, be snide about hunters and the SNCF and make more gaffs than Dan Quayle, and no one apart from my friends Adrian and Darryn, who listen to local radio, will recognise the geezer with the funny French accent.
I'm not quite sure where this urge to expose myself to potential ridicule comes from. Certainly, my passion for music and my yearning to share it goes back to primary school days, when I'd invite my friend Bob Rainey round to spin singles on my dad's gramophone while we played along on tennis racquet guitars. Gerry Marsden's recent death also reminds me of the time in P5 when I sang 'How Do You Do It' in front of the class. Excruciatingly, I repeated it sometime later – this time with prototype heavy metal guitar riffs – with the Kinks' 'You Really Got Me'. Back by popular request: the clown with an air-guitar. It's the same kind of instinct, I suppose, that drives me to don the headphones and gabble into a microphone. And it's not that it's a breeze either: it's a 20-minute drive from here; it's more than a little nerve-wracking; and it's time-consuming to prepare an hour's show. But... preparing a show, gathering together and linking the raw material is such fun. Having read John Peel's autobiography, I can fully understand why he spent so much time in his music 'shed', preparing all those weekly shows for the Beeb.
So where was I? How did I get from Donald Trump to John Peel? I can't imagine, suffice to say that we all watched the most wonderful production of Chekhov's Uncle Vanya the other evening. Toby Jones as Vanya was brilliant and Aimee Lou Wood so sweet and poignant as Sonya that I yearned for Richard Armitage's Doctor Astrov to reciprocate her desperate ardour. It's all about ageing, unrequited love, disappointments and nostalgia, so it was right up my street. It was broadcast on BBC Four because it should have been playing live to packed houses at the Harold Pinter theatre in London. And that, of course, is another thing that's different about the new year, 2021 style.