The bittersweet tears of the first of London’s autumn rains drip down the window, as I stare at the computer screen staggered that I could type such scalding horseshit in a sentence. It is nonetheless autumn, which is edging ever nearer Christmas and will probably last for around three weeks before the world freezes for months and Nigel Lawson pops up to remind us how he told us all along global warming was a load of bollocks.
Autumn matters to me for a number of reasons. It signifies the beginning of the busy period in a social life that revolves around music and drinking, as bands from faraway places such as Bolton and Brighton simultaneously try their hand in the Big Smoke in order to shift a few festive units. It also signifies the darkening of days and that glorious moment where, once a year, I find out whether I’m going to go mental.
Every year around this time, the retirement of the sun from most of our days either triggers the joy of a man who basically really fucking hates the sun and all it stands for (heat, happiness and the continuation of life on Earth) or brings forth his more sunny colleague, who greets the fireball hiding with a mixture of horror and outrage. I don’t know which of these two clowns will inhabit my brain for the next few weeks; I don’t get to choose. They both show up, there’s a duel around mid-October and the winner spends until at least mid-December gloating over the vanquished corpse.
Sometimes it will be a happy autumn. I genuinely like rain, much as the fact stuns those very people who shower every morning yet greet outdoor water from above with terror, scattering to doorways as though it’s still the 80s and acid rain is still a real thing. Walking the streets of London in a downpour can, some autumns, be one of the joys of my life.
Other autumns I may hold my hand out to catch a few drops, squeeze them to death in fury and then punch the nearest lamp post just to ensure the last few water-based microorganisms have been extinguished. Even if I get to be an old man, punching inanimate objects will never get tired or seem futile, logic be damned.
Some autumns I will surround myself with friends in pubs, acting the way I always do in pubs, cracking imbecilic one-liners and behaving in ways best classed as ‘low-level hooligan’ for the amusement of others, all the while wanting to be anywhere but there. Anywhere but a pub; I know, I can barely believe I typed that either. Some autumns I’ll be watching the next big rock band at a toilet venue in Camden, watered-down Strongbow in my hand, one of my favourite pastimes, and spend the entire gig thinking of nothing more than a nice family-sized tub of aspirin and an ice-cold Jeff Buckley album to wash them down with.
Tonight I’m going to the pub with a group of people I know well, though they are still mostly in the realm of colleagues rather than friends. Nice people, pleasant bunch, and it’ll be fine. Yet if tonight was two weeks from now, I might either be gulping happily at my fourth pint of ruby red ale or putting on the type of rictus generally worn by a Carry On actor before the cameras stop rolling and he sprints for his second bottle of gin that afternoon.
There’s probably a clinical diagnosis to be had here, perhaps some pills to take, but being the type of bull-headed idiot who’d rather die of rectal cancer than let a nurse look up my hole – an average man, in other words – I prefer to soldier on until that special October snapping sound that alerts me to a decision. What will the fortune cookie say this year? ‘All clear’! That’s brilliant, that’s fantastic, I couldn’t be more oh wait no it just says ‘Run’, I wonder what that could mean?
Yes yes, just get on with it, I know. People have far worse lives etc. My issue, though, is that it could go either way. If I was a miserable bastard who couldn’t be around people, pets or anything with a pointed edge at least I’d know. But there’s a choice coming, and it’s not mine to control. Will this be the year I run screaming from the football at half time and find myself sitting on a bench in Regent’s Park the following afternoon with little idea how I got there? Or will this be the greatest run-up to Christmas since the year Bad Santa came out?
We’ll find out, in due course. This is the precipice. I sit and watch the autumn rain tumbling down the pane, each drop reflecting the fear in my eyes, safe in the everlasting knowledge that at least I can finish this bloody sentence however I like.