The Fluid Passing of Time

22 December 2021

My three-year-old has trouble with pronouns. The cat gets the worst of it. He will chase her around the house, picking her up whenever he has her outmanoeuvred, which is surprisingly often. She is very patient. A disgruntled meow is generally the worst he will get, whereas if the rest of us were to do the same blood would, no doubt, be shed.

“Could you put her down, please? I don’t think she likes it.”

Meow.

“He does like it daddy.”

Meow.

“I don’t think she does and also, she’s a she not a he.”

“No daddy, he’s a he.”

There’s a glint in his eye and a cheek in his grin that tells me that he is aware of his mistake, but is going to double down regardless. Everyone at the moment is a he. People, cats, dinosaurs, elephants; he is at least consistent. The reading I’ve done recently indicates that generation alpha is supposed to be more aware of gender identity, but I guess you can’t believe everything on the internet.

He is also workshopping a rather fluid understanding of the passage of time. Everything before today is yesterday. His birthday in January: Yesterday. The last time we saw Grandpa, which was about two weeks ago: Yesterday. His last covid test: Yesterday. Which was yesterday, his consistency serving him well on occasion.

Unlike his inflexible pronoun usage, I think we can all probably relate a little to his simplified timekeeping. Now more than ever periods like months and years seem somewhat arbitrary and fluid. February of this year, for example, is widely agreed to have lasted at least six or seven weeks. That time between September and November when it seemed like things maybe-just-maybe were starting to get back to normal, was, in fact, just three days or so. One of covid’s many side effects is a three-year-old-ification of time.

As such it makes looking back at the year all the more difficult. Remembering just when things happened, and whether they fall into this calendar year, is an exercise in surprise and frustration. So many things that I could have sworn happened this year turned out to be last and visa-versa that I would not be horrifically surprised if some of them hadn’t happened yet. You know when we ran out of petrol, and there were queues of cars outside garages snaking up high streets up and down the country? If you told me that occurred in April 2022 I would probably believe you.

Of course, this makes taking the effort to mark the passage of time more edifying and useful. Music can often be the lighthouse in the storm, and that’s keenly felt at the moment. Looking at the songs that I’ve listened to the most this year, two themes roughly come into focus: a weary, somewhat sarcastic anger represented by bands like Dry Cleaning and Black Country, New Road; and optimistic escapism, which possibly explains why Wet Leg have resonated so much.

It is interesting to think that–except for some very patient artists who have sat on their material for upwards of a year–the pandemic has fundamentally shaped and moulded what we’ve heard this year. Whether the songs are about it or not, whether the recording process was done in isolation or not, or whether it was delayed by nine months so it come out alongside a tour or not. Art responds to the situation it was created in, and we, as an audience, react based on the situation we receive it in. A title like “We’re all alone in this together” hits different now, even though Dave’s album doesn’t count the pandemic amongst its many themes.

My favourite songs of the year can be found here. Maybe you’ll happen upon something you’ve not come across yet. You can also listen below using a player I’ve put together that lets everyone hear the same thing at the same time. If I’ve missed something obvious, feel free to hit the “Plus” button and queue it up.

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