21 February 2015

Now just a bit more

In 2005, that February, I bought both of the new Bright Eyes albums and put them on my iPod. It's ten years ago. I had moved to Niigata in September the year before, feeling like I had failed at my faith and I just wanted to be alone. I walked up and down the Shinano River in the middle of town, back and forth. Now, ten years later, I realise that this was one of the last times I was really free.

The day before Valentine's, I went to the city centre to give blood and buy pipe tobacco. I was working too, writing something in my head that I didn't realise I was writing. I got done early, sat in Starbucks and answered e-mails. I left and walked home, calling Yoko to say that I was coming home early and could pick up the kids. I stopped at Morrison's and bought flowers for Yoko and the girls. They put them in a bag, but walking home, I got caught in the rain on Harborne Park Road. When I finally got to the house, the roses were wet and I was wet too.

When you are in a place long enough, you remember things, or have memories of things in the same place. I've moved so much in the last couple of years that this surprises me. Things were different 14 months ago when we came here, when we came from Malaysia. I pass a building on the street and remember suddenly the first time I saw it. The smell of coffee just now, in the stove-top espresso maker, the perculator. That smell is from the past.

In Malaysia, there were these constant things that came up that I could write about, even if they didn't mean anything to me. I saw a package of Pall Mall tobacco at a store today and remembered that night I got drunk and started smoking someone else's cigarettes in the Commonwealth Club. I haven't been drunk like that in a year now — I look in the mirror and I realise that year-on-year I've gotten older, I keep the weight off, but I'm losing my hair.

England has been home now for almost five and half years, all the time considered. Even in Malaysia, England was home. We are three years and eleven months away from permanent residency, which sounds like a long time, but doesn't sound like a long time either. I've been in my job long enough to be let down and then lifted up. They promoted me once, not twice. On Friday morning, I sat in a circle with five students I am teaching, and we listened to an interview together. I suddenly realised I had a research group: I had put a research group together in this place with the resources around me. I challenged them and they challenged me back and we all left to have a think about things.

I go for a walk after making dinner and cleaning up. I'm going for a walk, to smoke my Valentine's pipe tobacco and think about things. A fat white man comes running up the hill behind me, fighting against himself and turns into the grounds of the church and the cemetery. I'm a bit light-headed and clouds are pink. Mia will be crying now, ready to go to bed, but she's almost done crying. More will happen this year, to be sure.