As I type there are seven boxes of books in the hall, waiting for a courier to come and take them away. These seven boxes represent a major archaeological dig currently being undertaken in the room I laughingly call my study. The carpet, I have (re)discovered, is a sort of pebble-dash bobble in fetching shades of brown. I hadn't seen it for some time.
Then there are the deadlines.
Then there is the washing.
There are at least five things I would rather be writing about here: Dancing on Ice; Christopher Hitchens; aging and memory; Mandy Patinkin; the Prime Minister's last few days and the idiotic media use of the word 'backflip' to mean 'he thought better of it and made the correct decision'.
But they will all have to wait .. except maybe Ampersand Duck's Twelve Things That Keep You Going meme. That I can do. Despair is always a danger for anyone, and here are twelve things (not counting assorted beloveds, who go without saying) that move me away from it, or it away from me:
* Music. For the bottom of the pit, Beethoven's late string quartets, which collude with the despair after the fashion of a chemical reaction and transform it into something else.
* Any cat, but particularly my own two, who must, no matter what, be fed, and warm, and have clean litter.
* The garden, which like the cats must be looked after and kept alive, and rewards me with some new and miraculous development every day. (I have made a radical breakthrough discovery regarding the science of gardening, which is that a garden will thrive if you feed and water it on a regular basis. Sometimes I astonish myself.)
* Making things: unnecessary cooking, an ambitious piece of knitting, collages.
* Puzzles -- word, number, visual, duzzen matter. Acrostics, sudoku or a jigsaw will all take you out of yourself.
* The sight of the sea, any sea in any weather.
* Semi-precious stones and rocks, which make brilliant meditative objects.
* Hot chocolate, made with Haigh's Gourmet Drinking Chocolate and a spoonful of Kangaroo Island honey from the only pure strain of Ligurian bees left in the world.
* The Zoo. ('I recommend a course of the larger animals. Don't let him think he is taking them medicinally.')
* Photo albums, though this can be a double-edged sword and is not recommended for the severely depressed or the truly desperate.
* Rainbow lorikeets, which my back garden is full of.