16 September 2015

Coming to port

The leaves change colours from the edges, but you can see the creep up and inevitably inwards. The girls started school in new uniforms, and the first day, Yoko and I took them all, walking back holding hands to the house. It's colder but not yet cold and I made a couple of fires with wood I bought from a man in Quinton. The night is coming more quickly, and you cannot sleep with the window open, under the duvet, because it is too cold now. The girls found an injured bird on the way home from school one day, and Yoko is nursing it back to health. I asked her what she wanted to do now that the kids are in school, and there was no answer. The passage of time is suddenly obvious: there are no children in the house in the morning. Just like that: a kind of empty nest.

This is the first year I have come back to the same university in the autumn to work full-time. At Middlesex, when I was working at the Trent Park campus in the middle of that forest reserve, there were two years that I went back to teach, but it was different. I rolled over all my teaching materials and instead of counting the hours that I had to teach, I felt like I wouldn't have enough time with the students. Only three hours a week for 11 weeks, less than that really. The term will be over before it begins if I'm not careful. 

I can't sleep again, getting up at three or four to tend to the part-time work that I have piled up around me suddenly. It's good work, work that doesn't take long — it's well-paid and takes the edge off the things I am afraid of, like paying whatever fees they will levy on us to stay in this country another year or two or three or twenty. I'm willing to pay, it turns out. Every little helps, the British supermarket says. I get paid to write feedback on MA essays and dissertations, something I am good at doing quickly, my only skill, I said to Yoko as a joke that wasn't really a joke. You copy this sentence here, write that there, praise this and criticise that and you're done. £45 or £35 or £100 in your pocket. The sun comes up and I run sometimes, or go to work, or the library, or stay at home. The kids go to school and come back.

The bicycle has also played a sort of soothing role in my life. After I had it fixed for £60 and bought new tyres for £20 and a kickstand for £3 and a mirror for £4, the thing rode like a dream. I float down through the university to Canon Hill Park and then up to Moseley, the whole way thinking that I would ride as slow as possible, like I was drunk. Like I was walking, or trotting along. Nothing to rush to or away from, and the boulevards, the wide ones that you find in Birmingham sometimes, lined with trees. All inviting, the leaves, like I said, with touches of red. I thought, as is a rare grace every now and then, this was what I wanted all along without knowing. The autumn in this country, on this bike. My 29 year-old body back under me, but with another four years in my head. Things only get better as you get older. At least some things. Mei and Mia hug and kiss me goodbye. I set out again: there's still more to do, of course.