23 August 2019

Misanthropy

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At the foot of Snowdon, the Pihlajas of Harborne set out with the kind of gusto that can only be felt when you're eight and looking up at a mountain you are about to climb with no concept of how hard climbing that mountain will actually be. I was Dad, in the way that I am really Dad sometimes, pointing at the map and making pronouncements like I know something about something — here, this way and then up that way and if you look, you can see there where the train goes up. Dad knows because Dad can read the map and look up and make sense of it in the landscape, like a magic trick. Dad might not know specifically, but Dad knows from experience, whatever it is, Dad knows, can know, he just needs to have a look then he will make his pronouncement. Just, everyone, quiet down for a moment.

Dad certainly has its limitations, it is without any doubt, an evolutionary ruse. What certainty, what truth — like foreign job postings that have been catching my eye in the way that they shouldn't now that we have indefinite leave to remain. Dad shouldn't be thinking like this, but Dad can't seem to help it, remembering a time of not Dad that comes when autumn comes, whatever that youthful, not Dad desire for radical change is and how it comes to be tied to the seasons. I went to Japan in the autumn. We came to the UK in the autumn. When I was doing my PhD, I called it Japanic, the feeling that I just wanted to drop everything and get my family on a plane and go back, find whatever wormhole I crawled through and go back — if you came one way, you must be able to go back. Now I have the same feelings about Sweden in silly ways when I'm standing in the Ikea food market and see the knäckebröd and the umlauts and think, Here I am in Brexit Britain, of all places.

I didn't know it, but climbing Snowdon on a Monday in August must be a typical Dad thought because when you look around yourself about forty five minutes into the hike, at about ten in the morning, there are people everywhere, Dad all around. With my penchant for apocalyptic thinking, I imagined this being compounded day after day and week after week, the millions of paper cups of coffee with their plastic lids sold at the halfway house and how much rubbish must be produced in one day, even if most times Dad does the right thing and throws it away, it still ends up somewhere. Perhaps this thought isn't typically Dad — it must not be because I saw Dad with cups on the trail — but the mechanism I use to take my mind off the uncertainty of the future, is very prototypical Dad, direct from the Dad Handbook: I'm short with the children and say things that I end up regretting when they ask, How much longer is it. You recognise the sorts of awful things Dad says when you hear some other Dad chastising their kid and you think, Jesus, Dad, he's 9, and then there you are, Dad yourself, expecting your own 8 year-old to press on, to have a realistic understanding of the abstract concept of time, something you yourself don't even really understand. Getting upset when they ask how much longer it will be. What’s wrong with Dad, what the hell is wrong with all of us.

We pressed on and at some point it rained and then was cold and then was sunny and then there it was, the very top and people going on in a single file line, like pilgrims headed to maybe kiss the stone I thought, or to ask for forgiveness, or to do whatever it is that you do at the top of a Welsh mountain. The kids ate at the edge and we took pictures and eventually, we had seen the top.

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