21 November 2014


The Harborne High St in the cold, crisp air and the smell of pipe tobacco on my fingers, reminds me of the first week I was here, across the street from Cafe Nero, looking for a house to move into. Now, it all feels like home, like we have been through Christmas here once before. I'm sure that we have, in fact — the girls seem to know it like a phantom memory. 

There's something about being away from writing that makes it hard to write again, to find the entry point to the experience of the last month. It's gotten cold, and I've kept working out, running to work in the morning and then at home in the evening. My parents came and went and I drove to and from the airport with the sort of anticipation that doesn't seem to ever wear off. 

It's been a year now. Exactly a year ago.

05 November 2014


Last week, as I was on the train to Norwich, I flipped through this small moleskin notebook that I have had for years, one that I will always think will be more useful than it is. I was writing down what I ate, a practice I took up to make sure that I didn't start to put weight on after my successful three months at the Harborne gym. I left, I said, nearly 11 kgs on the floor there, jumping up and down and throwing balls against the wall. The letdown of stopping after three months was mitigated by my consequent membership at the Newman University gym, which is quite a bit smaller, but better equipped and with fewer people wandering around to make you uncomfortable.

Flipping through the notebook, I came across another list of food, from two or three years ago. My handwriting looked exactly the same, and the sorts of things I had eaten — small apple, ham, eggs, beans — were all the same. Somehow, I landed back where I started, doing the same thing, in the same clothes.

And then I arrived in Norwich and then the campus of UEA, a place that I was in 2012 to interpret for a group of Japanese nursing students. I stayed in the same lodge, the same room, more-or-less, looking out over the quad. The talk I gave went well, from what I could tell: everyone was polite, and afterwards, I had a quiet dinner with one of the many mentors in my life, who complained about the corporatisation of the university and the pressure we are all under now. I ordered a salad and wine, conscious that I would write it down later, but less obsessed than I have been — I am thin now, but I will be fat again, and then I will be thin again. I got a bit drunk, the way you do on an empty stomach, and we laughed and talked about the future, his in Germany or the Netherlands, and mine in the world somewhere too, Southeast Asia again for a time, certainly, then somewhere in Europe again after some time back in the UK. And then the ferries in Japan, with a motorbike, like Yoko's dad.

The next day, I got up and took the bus and then the train and landed at Liverpool Station, the station that feels the most like a London rail station should, at least in my mind. The weather was glorious and I walked down to the river, and across to the Tate, savouring it in the way that you do as an American in London, so far away from home. I looked at Rothko and then at the terrifying Bill Viola installation that reminded me of Chicago. I walked out and then up towards Euston, to Senate House to sit in the music reading room and work on my articles and book proposal and mark. And then the train to Birmingham, rushing past Hemel Hampstead and Milton Keynes and all the stations I have heard called out of years and years now. I'm sure, somewhere in the book, there is a note about London from the past too.