Singin’ The January Blues

Accordingly to some scientific formula where modern day happiness is presumably equal to having five minutes in which someone isn’t repeatedly slamming your face into a desk, we’ve just endured the most depressing day of the year – January 23rd, also now known as Blue Monday thanks to, I presume, Joy Division sponsorship – which is great, because no matter how wrist-slittingly awful it may have been at the time, it’s nice to get things like that out of the way, a bit like pulling a plaster off quickly, or accepting your lot in life early on. But then, undeniable science aside, surely singling out just one day in a month of pure unbridled misery is not unlike singling out one group of people on which to blame all of society’s ills. A bit like the Daily Mail and immigrants.

No, I think that if we’re going to be fair we need to join the approach enjoyed and encouraged by the newspapers and blame the month as a whole for the pitiful mess our lives appear to be. After all, look at the facts (sexism alert). This is January Jones, an actress. This is the best January you could ever, ever have. Some will have had this January, but most won’t have. QED: all other Januaries you have had are/will be utterly depressing by comparison.

To me January is like an opening act at a gig – you’ve all manner of things to look forward to later, but January is first on the bill and just something you have to endure before you start to get to the good stuff. Of course, for other types who read horoscopes, believe in angels, use crystals to try and fix electrical appliances and continually question gypsies as to why they can’t form adult relationships, January has far more significance than that – it’s the equivalent of setting your stall up for the year, with a good January heralding an equally good year, or a bad January signifying a further 11 months of abject suicide consideration.

Taxing Times

January also doesn’t help itself by being deadline month for all the self-employed to not only finally face up to the Sisyphean ordeal that is completing Self-Assessment, but also pay what’s owed by the final day of the month… or face penalties. If you’ve never had to fill in the online Self-Assessment form and push the button that calculates how many pounds of flesh HMRC are going to take, imagine if you will standing before an evil one-armed bandit machine and pulling the lever. From that moment onwards you are trapped, your fate sealed, your future happiness at the cold mechanical mercy of the machine. The drums spin interminably while the pain in your wallet tightens and the voice of Moira Stewart pumps out in the practiced drone of one used to delivering the worst possible news. Then, after what seems a lifetime, eventually and inevitably each drum begins to slow and stop, one at a time, settling on pound sign… pound sign… and… pound sign! But rather than winning, you’ve lost, lost to the tune of 20% (at least) of everything you’ve earned all year. Twenty percent. That’s the same as working five days and only being paid for four, every week, every month, every year.

Of course sensible people with accountants and Harry Rednapp (allegedly) never worry about all of this because, in the case of the former they’re organised and probably filed a return and paid it months ago and, whilst this is a credit to them, for the remainer of this paragraph they’ll be referred to as ‘cug smunts’. And in the case of the latter, as has been played out this very January, Harry doesn’t have to pay tax because he “writes like a two-year-old” and can barely “fill in a team sheet”, and as any idiot knows dog bank accounts in Monaco are not liable.

Ship Goes Down

But January isn’t all about shared misery it’s also a bastard on the individual scale – you try being an Italian cruise ship captain. One minute you’re showing off to a Russian ‘dancer’ and sailing too close to land just so you can high-five a mate, the next you’re responsible for €450-million of flotsam and jetsam and watery graves aplenty. Worse still, suddenly you’re suffering a chronic lack of balance that causes you to fall into a lifeboat at the very start of the evacuation, making your heroic attempt to personally lift all passengers to safety look instead like you thought you could just run away, row to shore and start a new life as an accident prone Dolmio puppet, never having to speak of the unpleasantness again.

But as if looking responsible for so much death and disaster wasn’t bad enough already, what must make this truly stick in the craw of Cap’n Schettino is the wildly unfair approach the press has taken to him, especially compared to the view they took of United Airlines’ Captain Sullenberger back in 2009 who also ended up sinking his ship, yet was labelled a hero. There’s just no consistency in the media.

Of course there’s far more to this story than I can cover here, so for a balanced photo report on the whole disaster that manages to blame not just the Captain but also Eastern Europeans and culminates with an image from the film Titanic captioned: “Pictures from when Concordia went down were reminiscent of the 1912 sinking of Titanic, recreated here by the 1997 James Cameron film” head to this Daily Mail link.

Tunnel. Light At. End of.

But the good news is that we’ve practically made it. January has mere days left in its hateful corpse and then we’re home and clear and thundering into the promised land of February. And those of us that have made it without succumbing to the misery mongering in the newspapers and going at our own necks with a rusty hacksaw can look forward to a month of unconfined joy. How much joy is unconfined joy? Well the newspapers have not mentioned anything potentially negative about Feb yet, or labelled it Fucked Up Feb, or anything, and this particular February has had to have an extra day added, which must be just to cope with all the extra joy, surely? Plus, the only actress I can find named February was born as just a torso, so no competition there. Yep, the January Blues are all played out and February things can only get better. I’m so optimistic I  might even book a cruise…

Published by stuartpritchard

Journalist, Editor, Lover and Fighter.

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