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Bury St Edmunds columnist Nicola Miller tries to look on the bright side of things . . .




This is not the first attempt at this month’s column. The original, which I filed to the editor in a half-serious, half-not manner, simply said ‘ARRGGGHHH’ in 70-point font because, of late, it has felt as if the entire world has let out one loud, simultaneous primal scream.

And yet there’s a kind of ennui too, despite our febrile state.

Last night when my husband came to bed, he told me that ‘the film had finished’ and in my drowsiness, I heard this as ‘the world has finished’ and I wasn’t even alarmed. It seemed a logical endpoint to the utter madness of these times where every day feels like a particularly malevolent April 1st.

Nicola Miller
Nicola Miller

I think I have written before about my love/hate relationship with the children’s book character Pollyanna and her relentless ability to see the bright side in everything but I can’t exactly remember where or when because I don’t even know what day it is most of the time. Quite frankly it is a miracle I haven’t filed this to Railway Modeller Monthly such is my current level of befuddlement. But anyway, Pollyanna found a way of being ‘glad’ about everything, even paralysis, and so this month, in her annoying honour, I am channelling my own (jaundiced) version.

1 I am glad it is February because I am sick of jokes about January being endless.

2 I am glad nature is healing. One of my favourite things to see on a walk around the town is the progress of the plant growing out of the crumbling façade of Flex’s nightclub. If I squint, I can almost imagine I’m looking at one of those picturesque trees growing vertically from a rock face, painted by the Japanese School of the 19th century. If anyone can translate ‘the spirit of lockdown’ into kanji so we can mount a plaque, I’d be grateful.

Unannounced water features which turn up in the town are like a tribute to Venice
Unannounced water features which turn up in the town are like a tribute to Venice

3 I particularly appreciate the lovely water features that regularly spring up unannounced, turning the town centre into a tribute to old San Antonio or Venice. All we need to do is put out some chairs and tables along the length of the Woolhall Street rill and we can pretend we are somewhere else which, let’s face it, is the only travel most of us will achieve this year (sobs).

4 “I am glad I have had a chance to save money with the temporary closure of pubs and restaurants,” says nobody ever as we gorge ourselves on takeaways, home deliveries of meal kits and boxes of booze all delivered by increasingly wild-eyed postmen and Hermes couriers (and THANK YOU, delivery people, for all the ‘presents’ you bring me).

5 At the time of writing, it is Candlemas when we are equidistant between the longest night and the spring equinox. The sky is blue, the yearling blackbirds have started singing, and it smells like spring which makes me feel glad, but of course, our damn weather is the worst kind of gaslighter, so I remind myself not to get used to it. Tomorrow it will be -2 with skies greyer than a hedge of old man’s beard, and you’ll forget it is bin day, so you’ll have to run down the road in a scabby dressing gown with unshaved legs, garbage in tow.

6 And that leads us, even more excitingly, to GOING TO THE TIP DAY, a previously mundane activity that has taken on new meaning. Booking a recycling slot has never been so fraught with peril. Will they be full? When, in my massively busy life (LOL), might I fit it in? Who might I see there? I am even pleased to see people who ordinarily I can’t bear in a kind of a ‘Nevil Shute On the Beach only the cockroaches are left standing’ kind of way. This is quite startling for me, a world champion at Nursing Grudges.

7 I am glad of queues at the bakers that allow me to indulge my fantasies of living in a tiny town somewhere in France where this is normal behaviour; a place where the queue becomes part of the social and cultural life of the place you live in instead of a grim reminder that we live on Plague Island. And that brief chat at Woosters Bakery makes me feel glad for the opportunity to talk to someone who does not share a bed with me. It feels like a promise of a life that, one day, we’ll live again sans masks and fear.

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