Sometimes life seems sort of rainy. I tend to choose these times to write a great deal. It’s a bit like eating chocolate – trying to run away from the moment you don’t like. As I don’t tend to fix my problems with chocolate or alcohol any more, at least I’m not fat, but it does mean that the many volumes of diaries I keep make it seem as if I’m a whinging misery-guts, constantly rabbitting on about things that will no doubt seem incredibly trivial even a year hence, never mind when my children discover them when I die, or when they start rooting through my things. I’ve started editing what I write about them, to avoid upsetting them in future.
You’d think if I spent that much time anticipating what might come next, I’d also avoid all sorts of other unpleasant situations – if it can go wrong, it will go wrong. But no, ever since I’ve had kids, I seem to just go “yeah, it’ll be fine, got to feed the baby now/go to playgroup/ change nappy”. That’s my definition of what matters. And so I reversed out of a parking space at the doctor’s surgery. Conrad had a chest infection, and had just found a big mound of mud to sit in while I put the freshly vaccinated Sebastian in the car. So I suppose as usual I was fairly focussed on getting home. There was a Range Rover parked behind me on the right, but a free space to reverse into. Only the car next to me was at an angle, so I had to reverse at an angle, and failed to appreciate this would get me too close to the Range Rover. A bit of touch parking ensued, but it was a gentle minor touch. I got out of the car to check if there were any marks. Couldn’t see anything, so I got back in the car and drove off. I remember thinking, hmmm, I didn’t check both angles – it hit the corner. Hmmm, there were lots of random people standing around. And then I thought “ah well, it’ll probably be fine”. And now I have something in the post from the police saying, I may be prosecuted for leaving the scene of an accident, failing to report an accident and careless driving. I’m kind of gobsmacked at the sledgehammer nature of the letter, but it was also quite obvious, if the driver wants to follow it up I suppose they can throw the book at you. If you drive a white Range Rover, you probably consider a squished insect to be a scratch. So now I have a theoretical possibility – if found guilty – of a maximum sentence of six months in jail. Which is the same as you get for killing someone in a crash caused by speeding. I spent most of last night awake, replaying every moment of every decision, every angle, every moral dimension of the situation. I didn’t really think I’d done anything wrong, and I still don’t, but presumably the guy can prove some sort of damage has been done. Maybe if I’d left him a note, just in case, he’d have been ok about it. Then again, maybe not.
It’s depressing. So I played some Christmas carols on the piano. O Little Town of Bethlehem is so nice. If things get really bad, I’ll sink into that awful place where I start looking up my favourite hymns on YouTube. They mostly make me cry, about nothing at all. It’s not as if I believe in all that God stuff, but hymns always make me cry. I cried at my wedding when we had Dear Lord and Father of Mankind. It was my favourite hymn at school, and I used to sing it, really badly, with my friend Kate next to me, and I missed her so much. Then of course there’s Be Thou My Vision, which is another tearjerker, probably just because it’s Irish and I find all things Irish kind of sad and emotional. The one that fairly obvious tops them all for most people is Abide With Me, or any of the other hymns that were played at my grandfather’s funeral. And then I start thinking about how life only gets more depressing as you get older. Death lurks for your friends, for your family. Illness makes life hard. There is no great redeemer, there is no victory to be won over death. We will all grow old, and lose even the capacity to imagine what it was like to have a young body, to be healthy, to have life ahead of us. There are so many things in life worse than some little misunderstanding in a car park, and so many things to be thankful for. I just can’t quite see them at the moment.