The Cry of the Levithians

Posted on: January 24th, 2006 by robert No Comments

Today has been declared as the most depressing day of the year. Blue Monday - No shit Sherlock! Some harebrained psychologist has even devised an equation to prove it. Apparently, it's all to do with the country's motivation levels after Christmas. The influx of post-yuletide bills, the cold weather, perennial darkness, failed resolutions and a host of other arbitrary variables that are impossible to quantify are justifying the ludicrous claims. Generally speaking, the nation right now is at it's fattest, unhealthiest and most lethargic. Time then perhaps to think about a summer holiday? Of course and unsurprisingly, this pseudoscience nonsense has been sponsored by - yes, you guessed it, a travel firm.

It's hard to disagree though. With the prospect of no Bank Holidays until mid April, and the mid-winter malaise, there is, literally, no light on the horizon. I am single again too. I'm left thinking that love is a hoax. Or so I once read. In the ancient world love never existed. It was apparently invented by the troubodours. Well, shame on those troubodours for inventing something which brings as much despair as it does contentment.

GH gave me dinner at his new place on Friday. He's renting a room in a townhouse in Hanover Gardens in Oval, an oasis of affluence amongst austere surroundings of council blocks and dilapidated shop fronts. Jack Straw is his neighbour. I watched vaguely amused as the normally aloof GH morphed into something more akin to his young and hip, and faintly irritating, housemates (which he's nicknamed the corporate queens). Or maybe it was that third bottle of champagne, which come midnight had him confessing some out of character gossip about his nocturnal relations with one specific housemate.

The next day was spent whale watching – in the Thames! How peculiar we travel the world to glimpse, or fail to glimpse, other worldly wildlife in their natural exotic habitats, only to return to a grey London and spend a Saturday in January watching a 19 ft bottle-nose whale, usually encountered in the North Atlantic, splashing about along the House of Commons. It had swam into town having glided 40 miles up river. Within hours, families had lined the Thames embankment, more enraptured than their offspring at seeing the creature who the press nicknamed "Wally the Whale".

Everyone hoped the disoriented leviathan (a female as it turned out) would turn around and head for the open seas like a Disney film ending. Alas, they were wrong. Despite the best efforts of the British Diving Marine Life Rescue team, it went into convulsions and died while on a boat it had been pulled onto. We heard the news hours later via teletext having left our vantage point near Chelsea bridge thinking the rescue had been a success. The rest of the night was subdued and the passing of "Wally" only added to that lugubrious January state of mind.

According to The Times, it is not the first time a whale has swum up the Thames. On earlier occasions the natives weren't so sentimental. In 1240 chroniclers recorded "a beast of prodigious size" under London Bridge. The populace chased it upstream and harpooned it to death. A similar fate befell "a whale of very great bigness" that came up the Thames as far as greenwich in 1658. Even the 16ft minke whale spotted by Kew bridge in 1961 was seen as a menace and was left to die.

Peter Oborne in the Evening Standard said the absurd lengths we went to trying to save Wally (or Wilma as she posthumously became) may have given us a warm glow, but only at the expense of the poor animal, who was terrified by our scrabbling attentions. Yet while we all went gooey over her, we still "permit the remorseless destruction of her species on the high seas." On the contrary, said The Times, the whale brought a welcome dose of sentimentality. Westminster Council is waiving the fines incurred by those who parked up to help; the watering can which was used to hydrate the whale in the shallow waters has been auctioned at ebay and fetched £118,500 and the National History Museum has decided to take the remains with a view to exhibiting her reconstructed skeleton. Thanks to Wilma, London has displayed its kinder side. Which has to bring some joy surely?