18 March 2019

Feed me till I want no more

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The sun came out again this weekend. I walked up to St Peters in the morning alone, because the girls had all gone ahead for choir. For five or six days now, my thoughts have been searching for footing, like standing on solid ground after having been at sea for the day. You know now that things underneath you aren't moving, but you still project that they are, that they could be. I turn the corner and head up the hill. How have I spent so much money. Who will I direct my anger at now. I said, or have been saying, that life never presents you with a series of choices. It presents you with one choice at a time and you make that choice and then you find yourself at the accumulated end of those choices. I'm here now, in this place, but only because I didn't have a plan. This is the result of not having a plan.

It will take some time to accept, one imagines. I still can't sleep. I still wake up and eat in the middle of the night, and on Sunday too, like there's nothing coming. I want to sleep it off, whatever hangover this is. Whatever it is that I am trying to get over now, the parallel universes, all the versions of me that have proliferated like cracks on glass until they hit the edges. This is the end of what you would call my time on the road, I said a while back, and now it seems that this is indeed the case. I look around at the house and say it in my head.

Now to deal with the clutch on the car and my boots that need new soles. I ate too much again, there is nothing that can be done about that — Naomi made vegan cookies, it can't be helped. The kitchen counter needs to be redone, resealed, and I need to figure out how much money we've spent this month, although it probably matters less now that we are standing on solid ground, that the sway is imaginary. Brexit is on hold. We have the state pension and the house. I can work all the part-time work that I want now, there are no restrictions. Perhaps I can find some balance. Pull on my running shorts and head out to try again, another week. Acknowledging reality is the first part of any recovery plan. I should find the courage to climb on the scale and see the damage some time later this week. There's time to right any wrong now, don't worry.

13 March 2019

I have fought against it

Trip to Spain 2010

I was teaching when my Facebook messenger rang through, Yoko calling me in the middle of the day for some reason, and I laughed because I was talking then, just at that moment, about how social media had permeated our lives, how we were never able to get away from it. I looked down again and there was a picture of a package, a document shaped package with a return address from the Home Office, exactly eight weeks after I had sent the application in. Of course it would come today, I suddenly realised, of course today was the day.

Where does this story begin, my British story. It begins in 2002 maybe, when I was sleeping on the floor of Terminal Three in Heathrow, after I had I spent the week in Ireland with my sister and the day in London, wandering around and finally taking the underground back to the airport. I can still remember exactly where it was that I slept. Or maybe it starts in that second time we came back, when we flew in from Malaysia and there we were in queue at immigration on New Year's Eve and I wondered if the paperwork I had would be enough to get me into the country, my exhausted family behind me, another time we'd packed and sold everything. That night, when the girls and Yoko and her friend went on and I stayed back with our things, hired a car and stopped, on the way up the M1 to smoke a cigarillo at a Welcome Break. Maybe that is the beginning.

Everything is hard until it's not. I ran home from work and Yoko wasn't here and I texted and called and she came home finally with the package. Eight weeks, I told myself, and I opened it and read the first page, which said nothing, it said our Biometric Cards would come in a week. Yes, but where did it say we were successful, had we been successful. I turned the page and there, finally, was the sentence, Your application for indefinite leave to remain in the United Kingdom has been approved. There it is, there is the sentence. I pointed to it, and we pulled out our passports and took pictures with mobiles and I read the letter again. See, it was nothing. There it is, it's all done now. You did so many things wrong, didn't work all the loopholes you could have, didn't get reimbursed like you had thought, missed the chance to apply for numerous other jobs, didn't go to Finland when you could have, but now none of that matters. We took pictures and I read the lines to the kids, and we had dinner and it was over.

Where does it begin. Yoko and I are in Shibata and we've been arguing like young married people do with the baby there, and the email came saying I had won the PhD studentship — of course we couldn't say no to that. We were on the ferry with Naomi as a baby, pulling away from the port and I was thinking that I would be back in a few years. Of course I would be back, what else would I do. Or the night we left Milton Keynes for Malaysia in a taxi, a black van, down the M1. What did we think then. It was over then, wasn't it, or did I know that it wasn't.

The house on Victoria Road fell asleep and now, just now, wakes up like any other day. Someone will be crying again, and I will try to write and make my way up to the Plough to see Yoko and then have meetings at work and run home to trade-off the kids. I will now kick myself for the mistakes I made, for the things I should have known that I didn't know, the five thousand pound loophole that I missed, and work more and harder and feel guilty that we were okay in the end when so many other people weren't. I'll realise it all doesn't matter one day, I assume, whenever I realise the thing I've been trying to get has been here all along. When the girls wake up and I hug them and they tell me whatever it is they need to tell me. When the house is quiet before it is loud again, when I meet neighbours on the High Street and greet them. We were pretending until now, you can't see it, but we aren't pretending anymore.

11 March 2019

False summer

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We had a week of unseasonably warm weather, the summer in February. Warmth like this has been a reprieve in the past, but now, with the oceans full of plastic and slowing, I walked up to the high street under the cloudless sky and thought of a world without clouds. A friend of a friend came to visit and we had cake at the Lebanese restaurant. It was sweet and vegan and the children all sat together. We walked home from there and I forgot for a moment about everything, all the existential crises piling up, the visa, and Brexit, and climate change, the perfect set of fractal problems. None of these things are in line to resolve quickly.

I keep having the intention of working early in the morning, but the plan stalls somewhere on the way to the front room and my computer screen. Today, I fell asleep on the sofa, trying to meditate and then giving up at some point. The sun is coming up earlier, and that seems to be something. I could be running, of course, I could be doing something else. Instead, the children start to knock around upstairs and I wake with a start at seven fifteen to whatever new drama is unfolding in the house for a Monday morning. All you want is quiet until you have it — this seems to be the curse of having children.

Still, things continue on like there are no problems, or that the problems can be overcome, at least here, at least in white middle-class Birmingham. Yoko and I still meet every Wednesday morning for toast and coffee at the Plough and hold court in a way, the owners coming by to chat with us, or people from church, or whoever is about. It's a small universe of things and discussions about children and whatever work is being done on the church that is more or less expensive that you think it might be. Yoko and I speak in English and then back to Japanese to our own world inside of this other one. We can shuttle in and out to greet and chat and joke, and then back to whatever dark conversation in which I have netted us. The story of a house broken into, the rising temperatures. The nice racist people that are everywhere around us.

I run off at 12:10, hating myself in this fractal world, headed to the Buddhist Centre to meditate alone with whoever else is free on a Wednesday afternoon at one — a bunch of pensioners and former convicts living a halfway house nearby. I close my eyes on the mat and pretend to ignore the coughing and snoring behind me. What does it matter. I start to fall asleep too and look up at the Buddha, hand offering something to me and remember suddenly the reclining Buddha in Thailand. The bells ring and I get up and run off in the rain. The clouds came back, thankfully, although I think any reprieve isn't good. We need to suffer, don't we, to realise what we've done. I pull up my hood and run off. It's cold but I'll be warm in a minute.
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