Let's get over this 'Blue Monday' nonsense for a start, though. Today is the day that is, apparently, the most depressing of the year - some combination of some random figures, multiplied by bollocks and lazy journalism, and hey presto, you get stuff like this in the Independent, which offers as a handy suggestion to beat those January blues:
10 Visit Australia (it's lighter).
Do you think if I could be in Australia right now, I'd be here? It's not really a choice that I find myself making particularly often. "Ooh, shall I pop down the Co-op and stand in a queue of miserable people tut-tutting at Littlejohn while they're waiting to buy a boiled ham, or shall I fly off to Australia? Well, I do love the Co-op so very much, so I'd better stay here for the time being, despite the fact that this entire existence sucks the life out of me, leaving a dessicated, gaunt shell of despair and anxiety behind, repeating the same actions, day after day, so much so that I could pretty much be replaced by an inflatable idiot who pressed a few buttons on a keyboard every now and then and no-one would bloody notice, except if a bit of air got let out when someone spiked me with a staple by accident" - do you know what I mean?
I find it interesting, as someone who's struggled with depression through the years, that people try to think of complicated things like depression or ennui as something that can be traced back to a set of ingredients - a certain day of the year being the most depressing of all, for some reason. It detaches people's experiences from themselves, and puts in a host of external forces, rather than the real causes. As ever, I might find it easy to think of it as evidence that our newspapers aren't just lazy but prefer to think of complicated things, like mental health, in terms of A causes B, forgetting C, D, E through to Z, because that is a simpler narrative, one that's more easily explained, one that can be neatly tied up and forgotten about. Feeling fed up today? It's probably because it's the first Monday in the month - nothing more than that. All those feelings of ennui, tedium and torpor aren't because there are real problems, real things you should be bothered about... it's all because of the day of the year. It's pseudo-astrology. And it's balls.
Culture, other than news culture, can actually be much better at depicting stuff like ennui, or gloom, or brooding disappointment. I think that might be because the event-focused news media are not especially good at getting to grips with complicated, long-term stuff. Books are good at this - I of course love Georges Perec's Un Homme Qui Dort, especially its second-person accusatory tone of self-mockery and the escape into nowhere at the end - but it's not just books. I'll get onto Wallander at some other point this week, as it's the most brilliantly dark, introspective thing that's been on TV for ages, but we'll stick with Sweden for a bit of Arctic shade. I was listening to the radio this morning and heard the majestic "The Day Before You Came" by Abba. If you've not experienced this wondrous thing before, it sounds like this:
Oh, isn't it? A life so nondescript, so bland and tedious, that the central character can't even remember the details and so has to assume that they must have been the way they always were, even if they weren't. A life so unchanging and so repetitive that one day runs into another, the details unimportant, like episodes of Dallas or Marilyn French books 'or something in that style'. Lovely. In literature we're always expecting the epiphany; in The Day Before You Came, it's the moment before the epiphany, the ennui before the storm, the gloom preceding the transformation. And there's something else too: a sense in which there is no happy ending; the sense, perhaps, of separation between the subject and their lover, and, perhaps, that this ennui is returning again, and that life is, once more, 'without aim'. That's great art. That's ennui, and tedium, and never-changing despair, reflected upon from the point of view of someone who has been through an epiphany, but has seen it fade away.
Compared to which, "Ooh, it's Monday the 13th, no wonder we're all feeling a bit shitty" isn't quite the same.
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