In the latest issue:

Botanic Macaroni

Steven Shapin

What made the Vikings tick?

Tom Shippey

In the Lab

Rupert Beale

Will there be a Brexit deal?

Anand Menon

Short Cuts: Under New Management

Rory Scothorne

Out-Tissoted

Bridget Alsdorf

Sarah Moss

Blake Morrison

Poem: ‘Country Music’

Ange Mlinko

On the Trail of Garibaldi

Tim Parks

Art Lessons

Peter Campbell

You’ll like it when you get there

Tom Crewe

Early Kermode

Stefan Collini

‘The Vanishing Half’

Joanna Biggs

At the Movies: ‘The Truth’

Michael Wood

The Suitcase: Part Two

Frances Stonor Saunders

Poem: ‘Siri U’

Jorie Graham

Diary: Getting into Esports

John Lanchester

Close
Close

The gradual disappearance of one
familiar face after another,
to Manchester, or Ibiza,
or the ominous-sounding ‘New Zealand’,
fills the screen with ghosts,
who seem to exist in happier times.

The reason for their absence,
on holiday, or honeymoon, or merely
‘steering clear of the Filth’
in Southend or the Algarve,
seems fair enough at the time
and the story carries on without them.

But when, after long months
of nobody mentioning their name,
they have failed to return to their duties
or contact their families,
we begin to suspect
that we may never see them again.

Over the years, their angry little world
has replaced itself many times,
while only a few stock characters
have stuck it out like the rest of us,
no longer available
for the more exciting plot-lines.

We have learnt to live with the fact
that anyone is liable to disappear,
then turn up later looking older and tired
in the hospital drama next door,
with some incurable disease
and no memory of their former lives.

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