Ever wonder how you got here? We don’t mean metaphysically, we mean historically. Think of all those decisions you took, some huge, some tiny. Some decisions are huge conduits from the past to now. They are motorways in the map of your life. Huge decisions from which a plethora of smaller and smaller decisions junction off. And off those smaller decisions, smaller ones still, until a huge one is stumbled upon again. All those uncountable decisions. Time feels inexorable but it isn’t. It’s a fragile weave, insubstantial decision linked and fused with another until the mesh of them becomes your history. The map of your life.
All of those choices. If you start to think of them it will drive you mad. Choice after choice. Linked into the path that leads you from when you were born till now, when you sat down with a cup of herbal tea to read this post.
What to study>Which university to go to>where to live>what pub to drink in>whether to go to the pub tonight>what time>what top to wear>whether to raise your eyebrow to that boy.
Smaller and smaller decisions until they start to get big again. Whether to get married>What job to do>how to make a difference to the world>how to spend your time>what web browser to install>what blog to read.
We used to picture these decisions, this map, as resembling the roots of a tree. A silent foundation, immutable. Things upon which we stand, hidden things, dirty even. Where every decision burrows us further and further into stolidity.
Nowadays we see the map of the mesh as lungs. The very core of us. And where the roots of a tree are solid and lasts long after the tree itself is chopped down, lungs are open to the air. The only part of us actually interacting, rather than reacting to, the outside world. A vulnerable mesh of tiny insubstantialality.
A mesh in which a single, tiny bad decision – which petrol pump to use, which numbers on a cash machine to press – is turned by the virus from a minor to major. From one of a million you’ve made to one of the last hundred.
We are locked up at home and our heart is breaking. More than that, less than that, we are bored. So bored. So very, very bored.
We started watching banged up abroad (from whence the amusing title of this post has come) and actually felt jealous of the Indonesian drug smugglers, the Colombian brawlers, the Spanish robbers. At least they had no Radio 4, or no relentless COVID briefings on the BBC News, half the screen red. At least they had novelty.
Whilst we wait for our lungs to congeal, and the blackness of our unknown bad decision to fester, we are locked down with Dettol, with herbal tea, and with our son’s discarded Cinnamon Whirls.
We queued up outside the Tesco, phrases like ‘It’s like the war’, ‘It’s like rationing’, ‘People don’t understand exponential mathematics’, ‘It’s like the Soviet Union’ swirling like the virus in the air. Queued up, had our trolley disinfected and were told to walk clockwise around the store. It took an hour to buy them and look what he has done: Taken a bite out the middle of each of them.
Even meshed among the boredom, the fear, the desire for the virus to stop our lungs, stop them completely, minor annoyance persists. We chose to get annoyed about this. Another uncountable decision. We got annoyed, snatched the whirls up and, despite our eldest’s protestations, said we were going to bin them to teach a lesson on waste. We didn’t believe he was going to eat them later, oh no, not on past evidence. Outside, by the bin, the wind blew our front door shut. Furious at the waste of the whirls; another decision. Tetchy, we knocked the front door knocker. The brass knocker that Just Eat, Deliveroo, and Amazon Prime delivery drivers have been knocking for weeks.