24 January 2016


When we landed in Birmingham, it was raining. We got off the plane and stopped at the bathroom, as you do when you are a family travelling with small kids. There was no queue at immigration by the time we got there, and the border agent joked with the kids and they gave him a sweet, which he took and ate. Our bags had already come and the girls ran around the carousel, pointing and trying to pull them off. There was no one else to stop us and we walked out into the rain to the waiting Sikh men in black cabs, and then to our hotel where we had been parked. I worried for the ten days we were in the States that the car wouldn't start, but it did. We got home, and unpacked the basic things and then slept 18 hours, like we hadn't slept for a week.

When we came to Birmingham in 2014, I was rushed and pressured to put everything in place quickly, to right all the wrongs of having wandered off to Malaysia. I was terribly insecure: this wouldn't work out, would it. Famously, I rented our house in a morning, 2 hours. This and this and that, and we were settled. I wrote five module datasets that January too, and finished my book, and prepared for teaching, and filled out visa applications, and schools for the girls, and car insurance, and a car, and the list went on and on. There was a momentum though, the kind of momentum I can't remember now, the way I can't remember the heat of Malaysia or the bugs. Like it was all some dream.

Last night, I said goodnight to Yoko and fell asleep more quickly than I have in years. Yoko came to bed and I didn't hear her come to bed. The alarm goes off at 2:30 or 5:30 or 5:40 and I get dressed in the dark, and kiss all the girls goodbye and go. Where am I going today, who am I meeting today. I looked in the mirror as I was running and saw, for the first time, me as a father and husband, not as anything else. Fatter and older, but like the lines in my face had taken in a meaningful way.