The stories that can keep us going through the darkness - Ian McMillan

We’ve all heard the probably apocryphal tale of the man who goes fishing with his dad and suddenly his wedding ring slips off his finger into the lake and sinks to the murky bottom where the scary creatures live.

Barnsley poet Ian McMillan

Of course he gets another ring but it’s not the same and he often thinks about the lost ring and pictures it still gleaming in its watery room.

Then, a few years later, he goes fishing with his dad again and he catches a fine trout which he takes home to cook and when he opens it up to fillet it (and you can guess what’s coming here) he finds the ring, there inside the fish, good as new.

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Well, a bit fish-stinky, but nothing that a good wash won’t cure. And this is one of those stories that never actually happens to anybody you know, but to a mate of a mate of a cousin. It’s a comforting story, though, because in these rickety and nerve-wracking times we need comforting stories.

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We had another knife quite a lot like it but this was her favourite knife; I guess lots of us have a favourite implement that we’d fall into deep mourning for if we lost.

My mother, for example, lost her favourite Yorkshire Pudding tins when we moved from one house to another in a different part of Darfield sometime in the early 1970s, and for a couple of weeks she had me and my dad and my brother walking the route between the old house and the new one searching for the lost tins like detectives looking for clues because my mother was convinced that somehow they’d fallen out of the removal van door.

After a few years my wife only mentioned the lost knife every now and then but the other afternoon as she was doing some gardening to pass the time she noticed something under some flowers. Now, it’s not as though she’s not been around that bit of the garden for years; she’s always in there.

You can guess what she noticed, hidden, as they say, in plain sight: the knife. It was a little duller and the handle was a but faded but it had been outside for 20 years and we’d all be dull if we’d been outside since the 90s.

It was a kind of small miracle, the kind we’re all wanting at the moment. Where had it been? Had it got buried somehow by accident, had it been poured out with a bowl of dishwater one hot summer afternoon?

We’ll never know but what counts is that what is lost can later be found. And stories like that can keep us all going through this dark tunnel.

Editor’s note: first and foremost - and rarely have I written down these words with more sincerity - I hope this finds you well.

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James Mitchinson