29 April 2016

Sometimes is Snows in April

My ankle gave out on me while running: it was a metaphor. This year we have pushed and pushed and not made progress one way or another. I gained all the weight back. I couldn't sleep and then I slept too much.


25 April 2016

Half of the way

Yesterday, as we trudged up Vicarage Road to St Peter's, it struck me that Naomi will be nine soon. Almost ten, almost eleven, almost eighteen. She's moody now, like me, annoying her mother in the same way I annoy her mother. She doesn't want to go to church, but does because she has to. She sits with her legs crossed, thinking. I put my arm around her because I want her to be close to me.

Mia needed to be held yesterday, just while her mother cleaned her boot. I held her and it was awkward because she is too big to be held now. She will be five.

On our hike, which Naomi didn't want to be on until she did, we talked about Justin Beiber song lyrics. We talked about teenage things, about love and who they liked. I saw a man struggling with a pram and thought that I would never do that again. I had already done my time.

Now they cook for themselves, and make pancakes. Naomi says that I have too much white hair. Yes, I say, let's make a pact and never grow up, you and me. Let everyone else grow up and we'll stay young and happy and carefree. They laugh and ride off on bicycles. Mia too, now: go on, I say, and then immediately, please stay, I'm sorry, don't go.


23 April 2016


Now, spring comes to Birmingham in fits and starts. I've been waiting to write something. I want to come to that moment, when I can make some sense of the last month, but it's never quite what I want. I lost and gained weight. People came and went. I taught. The girls were home from school, and I took my pagan communion at St Peter's several times. Yoko and I stood around in silence in different places. The girls went back to school; Mia cried loudly and demanded things while I scowled. Mei lost her hearing for a while. Naomi worked on a presentation about guinea pigs.

I've been writing too, working on a book, a special issue of a journal, an edited collection, a couple of book chapters and an article with a friend about the use of scripture to justify violence. I've been writing an application for a prize that requires me to say something about how influential I've become, but I'm not very influential at all, it turns out. I wrote a blog post for another site. I wrote references for students. 

Writing a book is an insufferable experience, surrounded by insufferable phrases like, 'I'm working on a book' or 'I'm writing a book' or 'I was working on my book yesterday.' People say, Oh yeah? I'm thinking of writing a book too, and you want to say in response, You have no idea what you're talking about. I'm submerged in a collection of ideas that I'm not sure is right, that I'm not confident is right, but I'm thirty one thousand five hundred and eight words in now: I can't turn back. The only way out of a book is to write it, and every day you write it you feel like you failed that day because it's still not finished, regardless of how well you did. I wrote four thousand good words when I only intended to write three and I felt remarkably unsettled. I walked home, ignoring my ringing phone in my jeans.

I wrote for four days at the Quaker retreat centre I go to sometimes. I wrote and wrote and wrote, more than ten percent of the book at the end of the time, but when I got on my bike and rode home on Thursday evening, the hill on Bristol Road felt like too much to handle. Like I couldn't get up it. I wanted to sit on the pavement, and just stop. Not say anything or do anything or decide anything for the rest of the night. I saw a man at the top of Victoria Road doing this once, with a beer. Just sat there. Yes. Let me be that person, please. 

The man at the gym at the check-in desk, to whom I pour out my heart sometimes, looks at me like I'm mad. 'Body builders must have eating disorders, it's an inevitable result of trying to take that much control, right?' I'm wearing flourscent yellow shorts. I take my work too seriously. I come home and I can't make any decision about anything. The girls run round and round and round and I sit in the middle of it. I've been writing and writing and writing. I'm writing about writing. I got up this morning at 2:30 and I was writing. 

09 April 2016


I asked the taxi driver about Ganesha: could he protect me as well, a sweaty fat white man. He could, of course, but don't you have your own god? Aren't you a Christian? No, I said, I'm not. I'm not anymore.

29 March 2016

Let go and let god

When we bought a car in November 2008, it was kind of necessary failure. I had thought, when we packed up our things and moved from Niigata that summer, that somehow we would be okay riding the buses around the Milton Keynes roundabouts. They were so regular, the buses, almost two an hour or so and we only had to walk up out of the estate we were in to the main road and stand waiting for it. We could walk to the large Tesco too, I said, on the path which was very safe, pushing the pram, which had been the stroller in Japan, looping the bags on the handle while Naomi rode happily looking forward. It had made perfect sense.

We left Niigata in a rush: after three months of moving and building our life there, it was suddenly aborted: the letter came through that I had been accepted to the Open University, a mythical place in a mystical place, and we decided to go, just like that. It made sense: my PhD would be paid and Yoko could stay at home with Naomi, something that had been taken away from her in a rush to return to work and back to a life of smart skirts and blouses, after a year of caring only and solely for Nana.

This year marked, in many ways, the year I grew up and my time on the road, a time that I realised, as I walked to the train station in Oxford this last week, the day getting longer and starting to stretch out, was coming to an end. How this time on the road began, as I think back on it, doesn’t make any sense. We had been newly married and then had Naomi and acquired so many things. We had settled and Yoko was working and I was working, and our little three person family had, for all intents and purposes, been a success despite the surprise of Naomi coming.

And then we moved. The refrigerator and bed were sent to Yoko’s parents, we sold everything, and got on with life without thinking about it.

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