I suppose it’s the opposite if you’re a lighthouse keeper or a taxidermist: when you’ve stopped shining beams over choppy seas or stuffing somebody’s favourite penguin ready for an afterlife on the mantelpiece, you can relax and have a cup of tea and watch reruns of Tenko on a channel so far down the list of channels that you’re the only viewer and they can’t wait for you to go to bed and then they can turn off the transmitters.
See what I mean? I only meant to mention a couple of jobs that weren’t writing and I’ve ended up riffing on unusual occupations and trying to build a couple of images that might resonate a little. Everything is grist to that language mill. How can this fit into a story, you ask yourself? Or a poem? Or a column?
So you can imagine how my mind was going into overload a little while ago at Sheffield Arena, that unglamorous shed where, years ago, I used to take my two daughters to watch the basketball and my son to watch the wrestling.
I was standing in the cavernous main hall clutching a slip of paper that allowed me to have a jab that would help to keep me safe from the terrible virus that has knocked us all for six.
The rows of seats are still there, untouched for months. That row might be where we sat to watch enormous people flattened on an unforgiving canvas by equally enormous people.
That row might be where we watched slam dunk after slam dunk. And now I’m standing next to my wife and we’re called forward and the writer in me is saying ‘‘Remember all of this, Ian. Take mental notes because there isn’t really time to take physical notes.’’
And I’m gazing around, head almost going in a full circle like an owl’s because I want to imprint all of this on my mind. I knew I would be emotional and I am; tears prickle my eyes and I feel like any minute I’m going to start properly blubbering.
My wife points out that I’m wearing my mask inside out and I store that moment of reality away as we are called forward. Can a few minutes behind a couple of screens be described as beautiful? I think they can.
Here we are, my wife and I, two people in their 60s who have done their very best to stay optimistic as the virus raged around them and we’re about to roll up our sleeves and get our arms filled with hope for a better future. What a moment.
I keep trying not to cry. I look up at the Arena’s empty seats and I imagine myself coming back with my grandchildren to the wrestling and the basketball and writing a poem that starts with me pointing to the floor of the arena and saying ‘That’s where your grandma and me had
That’s a good first line for a poem, I reckon. I roll my sleeve down.
And there’s the second line.