One of my Christmas presents this year was a ticket to go and watch Wolves (my team) playing Sheffield Wednesday at Hillsborough on Bank Holiday Monday, 2nd January. In spite of the lingering suspicion that really this was just a ploy by my Sheffield Wednesday supporting friend to have someone to accompany him to the game on a grim January day, I decided to embrace the opportunity to spend some quality time with someone I don't see anything like enough of during the year.
The plan was to leave early enough to have the time to have a nice lunch in my friend's favourite cafe by the ground. Get your timings wrong, and you won't be able to get a seat, so a prompt departure was essential. We left Nottingham a little after 11am, but somewhere on the M1, at the point where the road splits for Meadowhall, traffic suddenly ground to a halt. For the next 30 minutes or so, we made very little progress at all and tried not to get annoyed at some of the idiot drivers who let their impatience get the better of them and spend their time trying to push their way through the traffic. We had plenty of time, but the cafe was starting to look optimistic.
I have a general philosophy when I'm stuck in traffic that, no matter how inconvenient it might seem for me, there's probably someone up ahead who is having a much worse day than me. And so it proved.
After a little while, we could see the lights of the emergency vehicles ahead, and as we filtered into a single lane of traffic, we saw that there were a couple of fire engines and police cars, but apparently no ambulances on site. There had been a collision between a car and a reasonably large camper van and, as we drew closer, we could see that the front seats of the car contained two bodies, partially covered by plastic sheeting that had slipped down a bit and was sitting on their chests. Presumably, they were corpses and the ambulances attending the scene had taken away anyone who still needed medical attention.
It was a sobering sight, to say the least. As we headed on north towards the ground, it was impossible not to think that those two people had got up this morning, chatted about when they needed to set off in order to reach their destination and then headed up the motorway later on that morning.... exactly the same as us and exactly the same as every other car on the road. They were never going to reach their destination and, for the people close to them, 2017 has got off to the worst possible start.
We didn't get a seat in the cafe, and were forced to have an (excellent) tray of Sheffield fish cake, chips, gravy and scraps before enduring a fairly uneventful 0-0 draw on a cold afternoon in early January. But you know what? We'd both been given a fairly hefty dose of perspective that morning.
Here's to better things ahead for everyone in 2017.
Life is short, my friends. Hold the people you hold dear close.
We drink, we sing on the state we're in if it leads to another year.