So,…. my hopefully still loyal/alive? readers… here is my first new column in over 2 years. Formerly the Saturday Column.. It is now back as ROSENGARDWORLD Hope you like it.
Last Sunday, I was just starting on my sixth single espresso at breakfast at Raouls, my local café in London’s Little Venice neighbourhood when I saw the headline on the front page of The Sunday Times. ‘JANUARY 24th: Tomorrow is the Most Depressing Day in the World.’ Scientist says. So that’s what scientists get up to when there’s nothing much going on in the lab I thought, if they have a bit of spare time between discovering DNA and the Atomic Bomb, they sit around thinking “What can I do today that will really add to human happiness? I know! I’ll invent a formula to calculate the most depressing day of the year!” At least that’s what Professor Cliff Arnall of Cardiff University announced yesterday, and of course, being a scientist, naturally he had devised a mathematical formula to prove it; I looked it over. It made sense to me, it was just like E=MCsquared only much more complicated. Here is Arnall’s Formula.
M X NA
Where W is Weather, (D) is Debt, (d) is monthly income, (T) is time since Christmas, (Q) is time since failed quit attempt (ie resolutions to give up smoking,drinking etc) (M) is low motivational level, NA is need to take action.
Now I am not usually influenced by this kind of thing, but when I turned on the BBC news and it was the second story of the day, after Iraq, I called British Airways reservations.
“I have to fly out of England. And I have to go now..”
I said “Where do you recommend?”
“Where do you want to go?”
Tracey the Reservations Adviser asked. “I have no idea.”
I said.”You choose, Surprise me.”
“Sir, you have to tell me where you want to go.” She said.
“No I don’t,” I said. “You are an adviser, advise me. I’ll go anywhere you like, I like surprises, I do this with waiters in restaurants all the time.. I hate menus.. but we have to hurry, I have to get to wherever I am going to by midnight tonight or it will be the Most Depressing Day of the Year and I will be stuck in it. You have read the paper haven’t you?”
“No, I don’t read the papers.” She said.
You must have had thousands of people calling, all desperate to get out in time “I suppose.” I said
“No, actually you are the first one.” she replied in a quiet calm voice; the kind of voice normally reserved for the passenger who sits down next to you on the bus to work and shouts ” YOU KILLED MY MOTHER IN LAW!!?”
Finally she said ” How about Stockholm?”
“ Tracey, I am trying to GET AWAY from depression not plunge headlong into it!” I said.
” Sweden?!! the last time anyone laughed in Sweden was in 1653! .What else have you got?”
“How about Thailand.?” She said. I am not making this up.. Fifteen minutes later I was booked on a flight leaving in two hours for Trieste.
At the airport the queue for security was only about two miles long. It was time to deploy my Secret Getting Through the Two Mile Long Queue at Airport Security which will make you Miss Your Plane Weapon.’ I sprung into action..
I walked up to a security guard.” Excuse me I wonder if you can help me? I have a problem. A leg problem actually. Well it’s really not my leg , it’s my big toe, I have a big toe problem. I cannot stand in long queues for more than a minute before I fall over,, can you help me through?.”
“Certainly Sir follow me.” He said.”
It’s called “Hallix Rigidus,” I said
remembering to limp after him… apparently it usually only affects Olympic athletes” I said,
15 seconds later he deposited me at the front of the line. I collected my bag from the X ray machine and headed for the gate trying to remember which leg I had started off limping on in case he was still looking.
Trieste?” I asked the attendant at the top of the steps.
“I certainly hope so.” She said.
“Good.” I said. “ Where is it?”
“Where is what Sir?” she asked.
“Trieste.” I said. “What country is it in? You see I booked in a hurry, to get out of the country before Black Monday tomorrow and I forgot to ask where it is.
She gave me the look that the reservations Adviser must have given me on the phone OK. just give me a clue then.” I said.
.”Italy.” she said.
“Italy?” I said “You’re quite sure are you?”
“Yes Sir I am quite sure.” She said.
“Not Slovenia?” I asked.
“No Sir Trieste is definitely in Italy. It has been for quite a while. Now if you will do your seat belt up?. Thank you.”
Just as we were about to land I realised why there was something wrong about going to Trieste. It was almost spelt exactly the same as the French word ‘Triste’
And that means ‘SAD’
This is not a good start, I said to myself. I fly away to escape from the Most Depressing Day of the Year and I end flying to a town called SAD As I walked into the terminal, a freezing icy wind nearly knocked me over. I looked up at the sky. But I couldn’t see the sky, only black stormy clouds.. It was three o clock in the afternoon. I took a taxi into Trieste..
The place was totally deserted and all along the water front was an industrial zone. Imagine an empty seaside town with dirty factories on a cold freezing windy Winter’s day. I think you have got the idea.
“ Stop the cab!” I shouted
I had seen a hotel called The Hotel JOLLY.
Clearly this was the only place I could stay in. It had to be a good omen. It wasn’t. “ So Roberto, where are all the bars, you know, the fun places, with lots of people?” I asked the concierge a large gloomy looking overweight young man in a blue uniform..“
“You know this is Trieste”. He said sadly. And spreading his hands said “Signor it’s Sunday. It’s January. It’s empty.”.He said.
“OK Roberto, but what about tomorrow? I asked.”
Tomorrow? “ he said, looking at me as if I was insane. “Tomorrow is 24 th January, THE MOST DEPRESSING DAY IN THE WORLD. Didn’t you know? Don’t they tell you in England?” He said. ”Yes I know. “ I said. “That’s why I left England! That’s why I am here in the first place! But I didn’t realise it was going to be DEPRESSING everywhere! I thought it was just in the UK.”
“No..NO it is everywhere.” He said “Even here in Trieste; here it will be extra Depressing I can assure you.” he said proudly… He smiled for the first time.
“I knew I should have read the whole story.” I said to myself, as I headed outside .into the Arctic blizzard that had just started up..
I had my fifteenth espresso of the day in an empty café on Pizza Unita. I then had a drink in an empty bar. Followed by dinner in an empty restaurant .
At midnight I sat in a.. yes you have guessed it.. totally empty nightclub that had a maximum capacity of at least two thousand. In the distance I saw a party of five people sitting at a table. A couple went onto the dance floor I was just planning ‘Escape From Trieste.’. (really. just.how depressing could London really be tomorrow..compared to this?) when my Jack Daniels was almost knocked out of my hand and a heavy thud shook my armchair.
One of the only five other people in the whole place had just sat on me. “ Hallo. I Irena.” The twentysomething plump brunette in a black mini skirt and high heels said. .
“ Look here Irena, I am English” I panted, as I struggled in vain to get out from underneath her. “ Tomorrow … not yet.” She said in a heavy accent. Good night yes Please?.”
I wriggled free and managed to get to my feet, leaving Irena firmly wedged into the chair
“Goodnight Irena.” I said. I headed for the elevator. The next day I stayed in bed for the whole day. It seemed like the only sensible thing to do.
That night I went out and bought a ticket for the opera at the Teatro Verdi and. funnily enough it was an opera by Verdi himself. As I don’t speak any Italian I can’t tell you what it was all about , but I do know one thing. It was very sad. I know that for two reasons. One: the husband killed his wife thinking she’d had an affair with his best friend the Duke of Warwick. This was a big mistake on his part. Because she hadn’t. and even I knew that; and Two: all around me old ladies in full length mink coats were sobbing their hearts out. Even the orchestra were in tears..
In the piazza outside they had made a small ice rink. Michael Jackson’s “Do IT! Do IT! Just Do IT!” blasted across the empty ice.
Little Christmas trees in plastic tubs with red ribbons lay on their sides all around the low wooden walls where the wind had blown them. I paid six Euros for a pair of skates and skated out onto the ice. And so, as the Piazza clock struck midnight,: on the Most Depressing Day of The Year, I was dancing in Trieste.
I lost my computer in 2003 and so lost my ‘circulation’ list that I had built up of 1000 loyal readers, fans,..OK my Mother! I had started a weekly column (after writing it in the Independent for a few years) for fun and sent it out globally by e mail: (The Saturday Column..although italways seemed to go out on a Wednesday.) Now I am starting to do it again. you can help by sending me e mail addresses of friends who might like a weekly chuckle. Peter.
Copyright Peter Rosengard 2005. All back columns including those that first appeared in The Independent 1993/1995, are now up on the site. Please see The Saturday Column Archive.