Well, we’ve finished all the mince pies and trundled in to the office armed with tins of sweets containing the last and least favourite sweets which even the kids wont touch (coffee toffees, spring surprise and anthrax ripple) to see what the new year has in store for us. Doubtless work will be just the same as it was before the break, but will there be anything new, beyond death and taxes?
In the UK, the latter promise is already fulfilled by the rise of VAT (for our American readers, think of it as a sort of cheese-eating surrender-monkey version of sales tax) from 17.5% to 20%. Coupled with increases in duty, all of which is needed to repair the gaping holes in the UKs finances caused by greedy bankers wallpapering their houses with fifty-pound notes, it now costs over a million pounds to fill up a lawnmower with petrol.
We’re only half a week into 2011, and they’re dropping like flies - the year has already seen off some quality members of the acting and musical professions in the shape of Pete Postlethwaite and Gerry Rafferty. Slightly less well known, but also having run down the curtains and joined the choir invisible this week are author Dick King-Smith who wrote “The Sheep-Pig” (but might have inspired a different kind of "Babe" if he hadn't had a double barrelled surname), and Mick Karn, who had been the bassist in 80’s band Japan. Just last month, Elizabeth Beresford “wombled” off, and Captain Beefheart joined the Magic Band in the sky. Even Nigel from the Archers fell off his roof yesterday!
Quite a few people, if they recognized Rafferty’s name, will have the tune of ‘Baker Street’ rattling round their heads. It’s a fine song about a heavy drinker who has plans to settle down, but never quite makes it. The Grumbler, a heavy drinker who has somehow never quite managed to settle down, prefers an earlier effort of Rafferty’s, as part of “Stealer’s Wheel”. Picture the undercover cop Mr. Orange, tied to a chair by Mr Blonde - who’s about to slice his ear off and douse him in petrol - and I’ve no doubt that the sound of “Stuck in the Middle with You” will stay with you for quite a while.
The most recent film I’ve seen with Pete Postlethwaite in is Inception - in which he plays Maurice Fischer, a dying man. Also, quite recently, Postlethwaite appeared as the head of a puritan family whose last words, having been fatally injured, set the eponymous character Solomon Kane off on his mission. The first time I remember seeing him, though, was in “Brassed Off” - where he takes the part of Danny the Bandleader who is, er, dying. There’s a pattern here - every time I can remember seeing this guy on screen he pegs out. Steven Spielberg called Pete “The best actor in the world” after he played “Roland Tembo” (A Headless Tommy Gunner) in the 357th Jurassic Park sequel and I have to agree with him. In fact, so convincingly have PP’s multiple demises been portrayed, That I suffered a repeated shock every time the fellow turned up in yet another film.
It makes you wonder who’s next - will Billy Connolly die in bed, exhausted by Pamela Stevenson’s newly minted energy courtesy of her successes in Strictly Come Dancing (and if he did, could he wish for a better exit)? Will Cliff Richard turn up at the Pearly Gates to find that they aren’t there after all and think to himself “Bugger, think of all those cocaine addled groupies I could have enjoyed”, or will God himself gaze down on Richard Dawkins and utter a rather satisfied “Sorry, you cant come to heaven, I simply don’t believe in you.”? Will Charlie the big-eared plant-conversing ecomentalist finally ascend what’s left of the throne? Who knows…
Anyway, what’s the point of all this uncharacteristic melancholy then? Well, my favourite window on the world, the BBC website, recently ran an article “Is working with your hands better than just with your head” which examines whether a shift to a more manual job might bring joy to the masses returning to office drudgery in the new year. It’s inconclusive, really, but I suspect there’s a lot to be said for it.
Which leads me to an inescapable conclusion. If you’re bored with your existence, quick, go and get a hand job - before its too late…