29 January 2014

Sinners in the hands of an angry god

All wicked men's pains and contrivance which they use to escape hell, while they continue to reject Christ, and so remain wicked men, do not secure them from hell one moment. Almost every natural man that hears of hell, flatters himself that he shall escape it; he depends upon himself for his own security; he flatters himself in what he has done, in what he is now doing, or what he intends to do.
At the end of War Lane, coming out of Harborne, there is a double roundabout that leads all the different directions our new life goes: one up Victoria Rd to the terrace house on the right, one up Tennal Rd towards the girls' school, and one down, Northfield Rd, toward the University. We walk through it in the morning, the girls and I, me pushing the bike and Naomi or Mei sitting on the back. I ride home through it in the evening and there is a small off-license, the War Lane Cellar, owned by Asians who advise me on real ale. Last week, Naomi wanted to go for a walk so we went, holding hands and going up War Lane after buying candy and Worthington's in a can.

Last week, in three days, £6,000 left my Lloyds account: part for the visas and part for the car. The feelings of panic kept coming at the same time every day, around one or two in the afternoon after I had worked the morning, and my mind wandered off to all the things left undone. When we went to Malaysia and when we came here the first time, I had put things off for months, particularly getting a car, afraid to spend the money, but this time I did it right away, not wanting to go on like I had in the past, putting off the inevitable. After I had paid the money for the car — after it was taken out in a second by a handheld debit card kiosk — and after I turned off the ring road in Kidderminster headed back toward Birmingham, I felt like I had finally not repeated a mistake of my past. Like I had learned something.

When the car insurance came through and, on Saturday, we gave our fingerprints and pictures at the post office in the city, the things left undone were minimal. I argued again with the tax office in Malaysia and with the HR at Nottingham, and on Tuesday I had completed the last thing I had worried about: moving the final bit of money from my account in Malaysia to my account here. Twenty-eight days from when we landed: less than a month.

Although Naomi cried and fought going to school, by the end of her first week, she had friends and homework, and I helped her make compound words while we all sat in the small reception room. Mei runs off to her classroom now, forgetting to hug me goodbye. Yoko's friends came one weekend, then mine this weekend. We do the things you do in Harborne on a Sunday: take a walk up to the High Street for coffee and cakes, the children running in front and behind.

For the first time in seven years, things appear stable: nothing to change or do except to do what I am doing now better. I can go home without the feeling of something undone, no problems to solve or institutions to fight for the time being. I cancelled all the job alerts I was receiving: I will be here for at least three years, I can stop thinking about the next step for a moment and think instead about something else, the things people think about when they are not constantly under threat.

The silence is a thing you could almost touch. Even today, after working all morning, I went out into the rain to smoke my pipe. I stood on the edge of the awning at the gym, looking out at the terrace houses of Bartley Green, the rain coming down in the gloomy way it does here. I remembered my father-in-law on the sofa, sitting outside before we moved, the feral dogs beyond the gate in the dark. Somehow, we are all the same people, in the same world.