23 February 2015

Leaving


The early morning bus to London leaves at 4:45 from Hill Street in the centre of Birmingham. It's been a long time since I have been on a bus in this country. The last time was when I went to Newcastle for a conference. I think, at least. I don't remember.

I had been excited about the bus initially because of the WiFi, which worked brilliantly at first and then, as these things do, went away. I sat pushing connect again and again for about ten minutes, before giving up. I had said to Yoko as I showed off the £1 ticket and the website, ‘The bus has WiFi, so I can work,’ and she had said something about how it might be good if I spent some time not working. This sounds good in theory — not working — but I'm not sure I am capable of it, given how my work is really just thinking about things and writing down the interesting thoughts that come up. I suppose I could stop writing all of them down, but that seems like a waste.

In December, I stopped eating meat. It wasn't the first time — in college I became a vegetarian on a dare of sorts from a beautiful first-year Sri Lankan student in the Christian group I was leading. After I had gone to some talk about sexuality and the portrayal of women as meat and was saying, I'm not sure if I can keep eating meat, she looked sceptical: ‘Of course you can’t stop eating meat. Look at you.’ Indeed, this seemed impossible. I was probably eating meat at the time I said that I would stop. None-the-less, I gave it a go and held up for some six months. It caused a great deal of stress to my mother, I remember, at Thanksgiving, because I wanted some Quorn chicken nuggets, or something ridiculous. Suddenly I was better than everyone, a recurring theme in my life.

The WiFi taunts me some more. It’s connected it says. I click. It has not actually connected.

This time, I stopped eating meat for some different set of reasons, mostly about trying to ‘do less evil’ or some other nonsense, following a dumb conversation on Facebook. Say what you want about sentience, I said, but meat farming is one of the single worst things we are doing for the environment. This was true, in the way that stupid things young white hipsters say are true. Yes, of course, not eating meat is probably better for your body and for the environment. Fine, so is not wearing that shirt made god knows where and those leather shoes. Your belt is leather too, asshole.

Anyway, I stopped eating meat and it went fine: I was eating lentils and bread, and the kids had accepted it, but my body suddenly lost control of itself and I gained back some seven kilogrammes from the weight I lost at the end on 2014. It felt ridiculous that bread would do this to me, but the numbers didn’t lie, and despite running around like a madman, the weight kept pushing up. I felt awful, I looked awful, so I relented, finally, and had some chicken, thinking this would help solve things. Of course, it didn't, I just felt worse that I had both gained all the weight and also now was killing something, thinking it would make me sane. My weight stayed up, and I was angry now too.

All of January felt that way, a bit mad and manic as it usually does, although I’ve lost the extremes in my domesticity. To be fair, my talent as a writer or academic or theorist (which is what I really want to be, now that I'm edging into my mid-thirties) doesn't really justify being mad. Besides, there were things to do all month: I had some meetings the first week back and had to give a talk in London. I interviewed to become Reader, and after the interview knew immediately that of course no one had any real interest in making me Reader, but again, there was no time to be depressed: the kids needed to go to swimming, after all, and gymnastics. All I could manage was muttering under my breath in English and stepping out to take a walk and smoke. Where’s daddy? He's walking around the block, don't bother him, he's left his wallet.

Sure enough, the letter came two weeks later in February, stamped twice ‘Private & Confidential’, sitting on my computer keyboard on a Saturday morning. Yoko hugged me, but it was the sort of consolatory hug you have as partners after nine years, Sorry about that, you'll do better next time — we need to get the kids to the gym, put your coat on.

The Megabus WiFi page comes up. It asks me to accept the terms and conditions. Yes, of course I do, I tick and click. Nothing. The page reloads. Do you accept the terms and conditions? I just did. I tick and click. The exclamation mark appears above the WiFi bars. You don’t have Internet access. No shit.

In the end, I felt the Readership didn't matter: I didn't want it anyway, did I. Waiting three or four weeks helped. Yes, of course not, it’s not time yet, just let me get over it now and pretend that I didn't make a fool of myself in front of the top management of the university, all looking at me like a twelve-year old in an ill-fitting sport coat. I’ll get back to my bid writing and my mediocre teaching. Answer some reviewers commenters: everyone’s got the same criticism. You aren't really saying anything, are you.

February will be done soon enough. I get paid tomorrow and we’re finally going to get some help, Yoko and I. I ate a bit of chicken, and then told myself I can be a flexitarian, it’s okay: be an aspiring vegetarian. Vegetarians are hard to accept as they are so successful, healthy, and moral; aspiring vegetarians you can accept as failures like everyone else. I’m still feeling fat, but only when I think about how thin I've been in the past. I'm doing okay, actually: my thin jeans are fitting fine.

And the sun is coming up over London. I’ll give the WiFi another shot, but it doesn't really matter at this point, does it. I’m here in London. The million dollar Zone 2 homes outside the window. Maybe this is in my future. It’s okay to have dreams, isn't it. Just keep them realistic, okay. Don’t expect too much from your dad. He’s going for a walk now, give him a bit of space.

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