As the Lockdown continues, the Irish are at least grateful for the imported content widely available on streaming TV services - not least the lengthy box sets that keep the family entertained for days
One of the reasons I have up until now avoided watching box sets is because of the number of 'seasons' they tend to run for. The word makes me a little uneasy. I'm convinced the term 'series' is never used because nobody knows what the correct plural form of 'series' actually is. So they came up with seasons, which evokes the image of being sedentary for a very, very long time. On the sofa, quaffing wine or beer or whatever your chosen poison is, as the sun goes round the earth and the moon does its cycle and the tides go in and out, week after week, month after month, and all the while, the rest of the world is doing its thing. Only now, the rest of the world is doing nothing. Except watching box sets. So I don't feel too guilty about it.
Like many people in Ireland, I recently started watching Ozark on Netflix. And can I just start off by saying that if this whole pandemic business is God's way of rounding us all up before Judgment Day then I'm feeling a bit better about my chances after viewing just one season. There is not one soul in that unholy show worthy of deliverance or salvation. Badasses to a man, woman, and child, any faith you might have had in humanity is washed up on the lake shores and God help the Missouri Tourist Board. Could you imagine setting something as sinister as this on the shores of Glendalough, where a missing sheep sparks a nationwide search?
A bad turn
But I was enjoying seeing mankind go down the plughole until a bit of trouble blew in heading into season two. We had done a box-set binge from Thursday, right through the weekend, took a break on the Sunday (just in case the Good Lord was watching us watching them) before Monday arrived and things took a pretty bad turn.
It began when my wife wouldn't allow me to get a bottle of wine because it was "only Monday."
But this pandemic has rendered all days equal, I say. Every day is like Sunday. Every day is silent and grey. (I always knew Morrissey was a prophet. But we'll just leave out the 'Armageddon – come, Armageddon!' line for now.)
Well, you don't need wine to watch a box set. I do need wine to watch this box set though. Why? You wouldn't understand. Try me. Well, it helps me. With what? With the, you know, the feelings of fear and foreboding as I watch humankind take its last gasp and slide into a watery grave in the Ozarks. It's only a show, she says, have cocoa.
But things were about to get worse. Much worse.
Suspicious phone calls from the gardai
Early the next morning the phone rings and a woman introduces herself as Deirdre from the local Garda Station. I've never had a call from a garda ever, and up until this Ozark box set started, my conscience was pure as the driven snow. What did I do? Where did it all go wrong? What about my children? No, says Deirdre, we're calling around to make sure you all have face masks as it's now compulsory to have them. There's four of you in the house, is that right? Then she gives my address. That's right. But we've only the one face mask. Well, we can drop some around later, she says kindly.
I put the phone down and thought how nice of the local gardai. Then it occurred to me that it was odd that they had my address and knew how many of us were in the house. So I rang them. No, it wasn't us, the garda says. No Deirdre here and we're not making any calls about face masks, it's some sort of hoax.
So then I got spooked. Who was it? The cartel? I got a flashback of that scene from Ozark with the barrel of acid and given a problem shared is a problem halved, I told my wife about the call. And she got spooked and using the same logic told the twins and they got spooked. So in theory, the problem was now quartered and should have been a lot easier to deal with. But that night nobody felt safe in their beds.
My wife slept in the room next to the twins so she could be closer to them. I slept on the top floor to be further away. Every bump, bang, or squeak had me at the window, peeping through the side of the blind with one eye until dawn. So delusional was I by then, I couldn't be sure if the postman was friend or foe.
A terrible hoax
Turned out this woman had made similar calls around the area. You have to ask why. Why Lord? Is there not enough out there to fear? The invisible enemy. The enemy on the TV. The enemy who knows where you live. The enemies of God. The enemy of my enemy, who is my friend. Can this possibly get any worse? And if I'm not being paranoid, will that voice forbidding me my wine on a Monday night please stop!
There was a piece in the Irish Independent recently from a lady who argued very eloquently about why she intends to drink her wine every night and has no plans to give it up. Boredom, worry, fear, and longing for the simple things she used to enjoy has meant that her day has been depleted of anything worthwhile. Apart from the few glasses of plonk at the end of it. She orders the wine to her door and has a stash of 12 bottles at a time. And until things get back to normal, that's her plan.
But what drives it really? This indifference and heedlessness. Is it really about coping? No. I'll tell you what it's about, it's about that longing for a moment of oblivion. Of bloody abandon. It's not about merriment, indulgence, reward, habit, coping, or anything like that. It's about that refuge in the darkness of the box set and the booze. For a time. Just for a time. It's about being able to shut it all out, write your own script in the folds of the imagination, create a new dream, and replay so the future is bright.
The light that never goes out
Because there is a light and it never goes out. Just like Morrissey said. It's still a great world out there and just because we don't appear much in it anymore the stars do and their light shines down on us every night. There is light in the glint of the kids' eyes and light on the screen of the phone that glows in the dark when a friend sends a message. There is light in the windows of homes all around the neighbourhood. There is the little red light on the stereo when the music comes on and soothes the soul. And there is the light that bends and shines through the prism of glass at the base of the bottle.
So there is a light an it never goes out and if we didn't believe that, then we'd all be looting and pillaging and plotting and scheming, dissolving our enemies in barrels of acid, killing our uncles and fathers, drowning, shooting, stabbing and garotting and hanging out in strip bars – buying strip bars no less. And I can't wait to start watching Season 3.
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