Dark candles.

Wish. Wash. Wishy, wishy. Wash, wash. Wishy washy wishy washy. Wish. Wash. Did you stand outside with a candle last night? I did, but I wish I hadn’t. After all that pretty pointless hand clapping and pan clanging that punctuated those warm Thursday nights last year and then that even less convincing Boris special edition clap for poor old Tom, this candle in the breeze vigil-a-thon was little more than a joke. Not that the virus and 126,000 plus dead people are a joke, far from it, but I can’t see how holding a candle at any time of the day is going to help anyone. Stand outside with a lit candle and what do you end up with? A slightly shorter candle.

You could be fooled into thinking we’ve come a long way in the last year, but that isn’t true. We sunk very quickly into a unknown low a year ago and we haven’t really gone anywhere at all since. The depressed have become more depressed, the selfish more selfish, the tired more tired, the lucky luckier, and the lazy even lazier. The dead are just dead and there isn’t a whole we can do about them; it’s sad, but was there ever a time when death wasn’t sad for someone? So, we light a candle not to change things or bring them back but because it makes us feel like we’re doing something, anything (Todd Rundgren had a point), even though we’re not doing anything at all except fooling ourselves. There are still posters in windows that say “THANKS NHS” or “SUPPORTING ALL KEY WORKERS” but I doubt many of those houses properly mean it anymore, if they ever did. Those posters are now curled at the edges and bleached by a summer sun that feels decades ago and they’re only still on display because someone can’t be bothered to take them down, and in that sense they have turned from tribute to idle insult; like those clueless arseholes who still have a big, battered red nose slapped on the front of their car from the 2003 Comic Relief campaign – being not bothered enough to remember they only pretended to bother the last time.

This country has wriggled its way into a great big hypocritical mess. We should all be stood outside our front doors frantically scratching ourselves in the vain hope that it will all go away. As individuals we are to varying degrees all complicit in the moral demise we have lured ourselves into; a mess that no number of candles will get us out of. A candle won’t make the NHS great again, or more crucially work properly in the first place. A candle won’t stop all those morons that clogged our parks and beaches and streets when they should have stayed at home. A candle won’t magically reverse the actions of all the wankers who thought it was their right to protest for their rights to do whatever they wanted, wherever they wanted, when they should have all kept their heads down. A candle won’t magic away the virus and a candle won’t do a Fantasia and send in bluebirds and squirrels to magically tidy us all up. Better to save your candles for a power cut.

Not only was yesterday a national day for cruelty towards candles it was also a national day of reflection. We were encouraged to sit still and reflect on what has gone before us or to share our thoughts and feelings so we could better understand what a big bunch of ineffective, contrary twats we are. We were asked to reflect like we’ve never reflected before. With added daffodils. We were asked to reflect the shit out of the sorry state we’ve found ourselves in and to reflect upon how we had found ourselves there by our own design. We should also have thought about how for every good, sensible soul we find we have ten others that are the opposite and so all that reflecting is simply pissing in the wind. Candles and reflection: it’s all so flimsy and futile and empty and, well, wishy washy. Boris has made it clear that we are going through our toughest time since World War II, but I bet they bounced back a lot better then without wasting their time reflecting too long on how their houses were now craters and how Tinkles the cat had been splattered across three post codes.

I made the mistake of mentioning the 8pm candle burning exercise to Wifey yesterday and so, hypocritical to a fault, I did kind of prop myself against the front door frame in a manly fashion last night while she sat on our little wall with a flame gently flickering in her hand. I felt I didn’t have a choice but to make a half-hearted show of solidarity because Wifey was doing it not to make herself feel better but because she works for the NHS and she felt it was the right thing to do, and after a year of consistently trying to do the right thing it would have seemed churlish to kick up a fuss. Ultimately it wasn’t worth it as we waited out there on our little terraced street and listened to the pins drop around us, not another human being in sight. Evidently our street had caught the zeitgeist and opted for EastEnders instead. It was bound to be a waste of time, this so-called vigil, a vigil that couldn’t possibly make anything better. We’re just damp flannels after all, caught in the wash and not much good for anything. I suspect that we’ll realise at some point that we have made the tragedy of 126,000 deaths appear somehow marginally less sad than the pitiful dead end of reflection and hand wringing we’ve chosen to inhabit as an alternative. As an escape route this is nothing but a dark tunnel that leads to nowhere good; a tunnel made even scarier when the candles start to flutter and choke. Candles always go out eventually, and they definitely never burn backwards.

G B Hewitt. 24.03.2021

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