I love Night Watch by Terry Pratchett. I love the story, the bittersweet twists of a man watching his own history unfold all over again. I love the world wearied character Sam Vimes has become. I love his rough morality, his honest, gritty, reluctant love for family and honour and his street ethics. I love his battle with alcohol, his ironic, derisive outlook. I love his demons. He makes me feel unlost.
I’ve said he’s my book hero before, the man I’d choose to meet and it’s the Sam in Night Watch that I’d want to meet. Or perhaps the one a few days after.
A few years ago someone said that my judgement was softened by being a bit more world wearied than other people. It was a compliment. Like telling your wife or husband you still love them even though they’ve gone grey. Words that say one thing and mean another. And it’s true. Experiences like ours change everything; you watch death, or cause death, or allow death and nothing – nothing – is ever the same again.
“You do the job that’s in front of you” says Sam. It’s an adequate description of life now. It’s all changed, it will never be the same. Ideals and aspirations and optimism are gone. I can’t hide behind ‘I had a bad birth experience’ or ‘I’ve always had depression’ any more. They were real once – they are real now – but they just don’t feature tangibly on the landscape. I caused death, I watched death, I allowed death and now I chew my cheek and I twist my lip and I draw in breath and choose not to drag out my demons or reach for the bottle. I spent too long saying ‘I am this way because’. It’s still true but I won’t explain myself any more. I’m past that. I am who I am.
I do the job in front of me. Some days it’s getting out of bed. Maybe you wouldn’t believe that now, 8 and 4 years on, healed and healing, smiling, sober, stoic. Some days it’s not screaming when I want a break. Some days it’s being good, doing well, trying to be outstanding.
But always, every day since Freddie died, we’ve done the job in front of us. And here we are. Here we are.