Get Access to Print and Digital for $23.99 per year.
Subscribe for Full Access
August 2023 Issue [Readings]

Long Day’s Journal Into Night

From diary entries published in the Spring 2023 issue of The Dublin Review.

january 1, 2022

Once again—the second year, the third, the fourth?—the Christmas cards never got sent. I make some calls.

I call N. He is with his mum, first Christmas without his dad. Call C. Her father died just over a week ago, brain bleed. Call W. He is with his father, alone. I give up calling people after that. Text my cousin, whose wife has cancer. Happy New Year, I say to everyone. Happy New Year. Happy New Year.

I have decided to resign from my job.

january 13

Had a meeting with HR at work. They suggested a career break rather than resigning, to give me time to “arrange my affairs.” I said it might take me some time to arrange my affairs. I have never been good at arranging my affairs. At the end of the meeting, the HR person clarified that this would be an unpaid career break. I talked to my wife on the phone. She said an unpaid career break would indeed be a much better idea than actually resigning.

Not sure that I can even go through with a career break—it would mean letting down my colleagues, which I have done before.

march 3

Some years ago, my wife came across a Buddhist monk on YouTube, Venerable Nick. My wife loves Venerable Nick. To my shame, I have always been slightly mocking about Venerable Nick, regarding it as all a bit woo-woo. But my wife sends me a link to a Venerable Nick video in which he talks about nighttime routines. He recommends: having a shower; thinking thoughts of loving kindness toward yourself and others; according merit to the deceased and all those that have gone before; reflecting on the good things of the day and pondering what you might change; and finally, wrapping yourself in positive thoughts and thus “sleeping in a sea of merit.” I try having a shower before bed, to see if it works.

march 7

The shower thing isn’t working.

april 1

Accustomed now to seeing Zelensky in an olive green T-shirt and combat trousers. Good speechmaker.

I am now officially on unpaid leave.

april 13

Met X. for breakfast to talk about the possibility of working with him in a new business venture. We need the money. “But what can you actually do?” he asks.

june 6

Out running this morning at 5 am. A man was climbing over a high fence into a basement.

june 18

Have decided to join a gym. Have never ever been to a gym. Ever. Not once, in my whole life. But I need to maintain muscle mass, strength. I wish I had spent more time when I was younger keeping fit. My dad has always been incredibly fit, even post-Marines. Deaf, but fit.

july 5

Bought some new running socks.

july 6

Out on my bike, cycling to the park. Two men in T-shirts are striding along, and a woman in white heels and a white miniskirt is hurrying along in front of them; near the British Museum, a black car with tinted windows, window open, is billowing clouds of super-strength skunk; next, on Tottenham Court Road, a man is running in a dark tracksuit and balaclava, yelling and screaming at people; next, on Charlotte Street, a white van drives straight toward me, forcing me onto the pavement; then at the bandstand in the park, a man walks toward me, about two meters away, says nothing, pulls up a deck chair and watches me exercise. It is 5:30 am.

september 2

Early morning, scheduled gym induction with a man who did not turn up. It has taken me two months to organize an induction session at the gym. COVID, apparently. Eventually, someone called Gary turned up and reluctantly agreed to show me round. I explained to Gary that I had never been to a gym before. Gary was monosyllabic and obviously depressed. He just pointed at machines and said, “Lats, leg extension, pecs.”

september 28

Went to the gym. Pumping music, weird purply lights, and large muscled men sort of prowling around, staring at people. Really odd. Sinister. Absolutely hated it.

october 16

Getting out of bed, moved awkwardly and it was like something popping in my back. Extreme, massive, instant pain.

october 17

Daughter has started training at an MMA gym. She says she wants to know how to knock someone out, if she needs to. This means all the children are currently training in some kind of combat sport: older son is training in Krav Maga and kickboxing; younger son is training in Brazilian jiu-jitsu. My wife is not happy about it.

december 3

Ready for the end of the year, I start clearing out the back of my diary, where I keep lots of cuttings and notes and pieces of paper. I find three recipes, cut out from newspapers and magazines: a recipe for caponata, which I never made; a recipe for apricot ricotta cake, which I will never make; and a recipe for pasta con le sarde, which involves a fennel bulb.

If I buy the fennel then I might make pasta con le sarde.

I buy a bulb of fennel.

december 7

The fennel has rotted.

december 28

My wife sends me up into the loft to find some old albums to look at. It’ll be nice. The boys would love to see some of the old photos.

I am in the loft. I have been lunchtime drinking. I don’t drink much at all anymore. But it is Christmas. I am feeling good. Woozy. I realize that there’s a leak in the roof. The suitcases containing our photo albums are directly underneath the leak and have gotten soaked. And mice or rats have gotten in and eaten through what remains of our other boxes and bags. I consider not telling my wife. But she comes upstairs to check how I’m doing.

“Oh no,” she says.

“Oh yes,” I say. “This is typical. This is our life.”

“This is everyone’s life,” says my wife.

| View All Issues |

August 2023

“An unexpectedly excellent magazine that stands out amid a homogenized media landscape.” —the New York Times
Subscribe now