Chasing

2007 for me has been a year of chasing. I’ve chased the Royal Mail for non-delivery of parcels. I’ve chased insurance companies, online electronics stores, British Gas, the National Grid and Transco. I’ve ended up frustrated on the phone, hanging up, making a note to call again. I’ve not called, and ended up chasing myself to chase people, seemingly stuck in a Phyrric victory of to-do lists. It was, appropriately enough, or perhaps even because of this event, the year that I bought a flat with my brother. This ushered in the chasing of vendors, estate agents and solicitors; a whole new raft of people who were quick to take money and slow to provide service.

The world seemed to grow more restless. Al Gore chased down the causes of global warming, while the political parties in English responded to the change in climate and the never-there summer by chasing each other as far right of the centre as they could go. David Cameron renamed his party ‘David Cameron’s Conservative Party’ and then made speeches promising law, order and everything to Labour Party was summarily accused of failing at. Global politics seems to take a desperate air.

The years of idly sipping pints with publishing colleagues and wondering about where the next party would be were chased away by a promotion to Commissioning Editor. Cue a frantic chasing of authors to deliver on time, and a pressure from above, chasing me for reports and projects. I think that somewhere in there began the chasing after increasingly expensive material possessions, chasing after the increasingly rarefied night out or meal. In there, in that change, life took on a new aspect. In ‘The American Sublime’, Wallace Stevens talk about a search for this sublime, but he, bathetically, moves from a general in his pomp, knowing exactly how to stand, confident and cocksure, to a narrator who asks, almost feebly, ‘What wine to drink?/What bread to eat?’ There is more of that feeling with the bearings gone and the sure stance of the earlier twenties giving way to something much more nebulous. Perhaps too much introspection chips away at the columns and pillars. It is almost as if all of this frantic chasing is to do with the energy locked into surety now dissipating. Frantically, the crosshairs move over whatever they can, trying to make a lock and fire the missile that will make everything okay again.

Perhaps every year has a tone, has a cadence and a scent, a taste. It only takes a few seconds of the right song to bring you right back; a chorus here of there has you picturing yourself, either deciding on a new pair of jeans and a set of shades, or a sofa with a matching footstool. But a year of chasing must then have a tone of desperation, a cadence of longing, a scent of warm family scenes behind a sepia tint, the taste of cider in the park of a bottle of gin, and tonic water, with limes on a wooden chopping board in Bethnal Green.

Adapting to a more demanding role can be tough. Taper the frivolities and set them alight; now it is time to do the work, to finish your tasks, to prove that you’re not a shining example of the Peter Principle. So you try hard, and you succeed. But when you’re there, the longing itself is subject of a longing, the chasing is itself chased, harried out of its complacency and shocked back to pulsing life. It is the chasing things that you miss. Your year of chasing was your year of bustling activity, the only thing that could replace the way youth ebbs away, and takes with it the natural confidence of not knowing what the world can hold, of the salad days before the savoir faire and jaded realisations.

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