New beginnings, old endings

Every once in a while there is a wrench. Some small thing is pulled from your world and you know, just know, that things – the things that remain – will never be quite the same again. This particular instantaneous understanding occurred yesterday when I spotted a snake on the water butt. Not what one expects when living in sunny Brighton, but then, Brighton rarely delivers what one expects. This particular snake, however, held great symbolic significance. It has remained on the same spot on a particular shelf for quite some time, harmlessly coiled at the bottom of a bottle, covered in alcohol of some sort or another. Not the most palatable of spectacles, but when Si reached a particular stage of drunkenness, out the snake wine would come. In the words of several film noir, the snake was original, only the wine had been changed to protect the innocent.
At the time of writing, the snake has departed.
When I returned from my day’s thrills yesterday, Si mentioned that the previous night things had ‘got a bit out of hand’ – this out-of-handness included the smashing of the bottle somewhere in the street, and Si’s running down the road with the snake between his teeth. Definitely the end of the snake.
To me, the snake epitomised Si’s wanderlust, it was the symbol of his travels, and the promise of yet more peripatetic years. This morning we drove through the countryside to Gatwick, the roof off, music blaring. It was 4.30am. We arrived. He got out. He’ll soon be gone.

Or watch here
Si had gone from being an acquaintance to a friend to a landlord to a lodger to a very good friend. He is one of the gentlest souls I know, and one from whom I could learn a lot. He has decided, and rightly so, I think, that his future lies not in Brighton, but in Africa. He has a soul too big for a little village by the sea. It needs the expanse of a continent to encompass it.
The destruction of the snake is the clearest indication I can think of that Si has reached closure with one part of his journey, and is now embarking on the next leg. It’ll be the most difficult journey he’s ever undertaken, but the rewards will be great.
I wish him the best of luck, and the greatest happiness that this world can afford him. He deserves it. Sadly, he leaves my life just that little bit poorer.

One more time around?

It’s been a strange few weeks, as they say. Interesting in a chinese sense but, I think, ultimately rewarding.

I say I think because no-one can ever predict what will occur, but the signs are positive. All manner of self-destructive, self-distracting behaviour ceases now. Has already ceased. The energy I have been dissipating, squandering, casting onto the rocky ground, will now be directed, focused, efficient. There is much to be done. New decisions to be made. New journeys to undertake,

I write this on the train, as I journey towards lunch, towards minutiae such as a new library card – a statement of intent, perhaps? It’s hard to know what path unfolds before me, which direction of the several which shall be on offer I shall take. But it’s not direction that counts, it’s the manner in which you take each step. And I choose firmly forward.

There are several things which demand my attention, but where their variety once was a hindrance, it now serves as a filip, a bolster, an incentive to organisation.

This, I concur, is neither the most interesting nor the most poetic of pieces I have written, but that’s ok by me. Validation, after all, is internal.

There is an interesting adjunct to all this, however. It all revolves around one issue, one person, one relationship. I truly have no idea whether this time around, for it is a second chance, we can make it work. There are many problems which we, in the strange euphoria which surrounds a re-uniting of two individuals who fractured massively and comprehensively, are conveniently forgetting. They will be discussed, and they will be problems again, no doubt … but ultimately the approach will this time different. On this we are both adamant.

Second times around are fraught with danger, but also present opportunities, not least for the bond that is repaired being stronger than before, the desire to succeed stronger than before, and the very presence of the obstacles which will be presented by all and sundry … incentives.

But first we must negotiate some particularly tricky minefields. Carefully. Slowly. Deliberately. savouring every pitfall exposed and device defused along the way.

And yet it must never be forgotten that new beginnings necessarily follow on from, or in certain circumstances overlap with, endings, that they can be voluntary and involuntary, welcome and unwelcome. This is perhaps more than usually pertinent seeing as the train journey mentioned above happened a week before. That is to say that I write now with a sense of hindsight which I could not have mustered then.

But what to say? What to write?

Yesterday’s three-post blogarama notwithstanding, I am strangely subdued in terms of wordsmithery. I wouldn’t exactly say I am suffering from writer’s block, more lexical laziness, and as I try to tap this into my screen (I can barely call the manner in which I insert words into this document typing at the best of times, and this is not exactly the best of times, as I feel as if I am trying to swim through molasses … the world of words is dark, turgid and restricting) I find I’m having trouble putting one word after the other.

I have no posts to rival Release the inner slut, or even Cartesian, moi … but how ought I respond? How does this relate to the world outside words? When in a lull, does one try to write one’s way out of it, try to force the words out, squeeze the prose until the pips squeak, so to speak?

Or does one simply shut the notebook?

You’re godknows?

Where did I leave things yesterday … ah yes, lacking the heart to continue.

A quite delightfully non-specific way in which to end a post. Did I lack the heart to finish the post, or the heart to finish this strange, strange, journey that I embarked on several years ago?

Well, I think I know the answer to that one. On of the side-effects of having some surety in one’s decrepitude, that is, knowing (barring being really fucking unlucky) how one will fail and falter in this great game that they call life, is that these small crossroads take on a greater significance. What benefit if a man gains the whole world but loses his soul? I suppose it depends on the value one places on the soul. There are several things at work here, but I am beginning to understand that what I promised myself last year simply has to occur – actually write.

My point is simple. I have never written to the exclusion of everything else. I have always been teaching, preparing for classes, frankly wasting what precious time I have left. Yes, it’s true to say that there are some students who I may well have affected for the better. But it’s simply not enough.

I’ve been waiting long enough, but this most recent knockback, well, frankly, that’s that. Adios. So long and thanks for all the jolly exciting student feedback forms. This boat has well and truly sailed, and the amount of time I have wasted filling in application forms (let’s say about forty for four shortlists, at least one of which I was a shoe-in for) could have been far better spent doing something useful. I’ve been told I failed to make shortlist because the other candidates had more teaching experience than I. ok. Fine. Well it would be if one of the shortlisted candidates hadn’t been someone I had employed the year before, and another two loves I could have taught as undergrads. Another excuse was that I didn’t have broad enough teaching experience. That’s me, who’s been teaching for 22 years, 7 at university. Damn, you’re right. So narrow.

So. Fuck you. Message well and truly received and well and truly understood. I’d burn my degree certificates … if I knew where the fuck they were.

Yes, yes, I’m moaning, and yes, yes, I ought to have published more. But look. Most everything I’ve read published by postgrads before finishing or in the couple of years following has been pointless and frankly shit. It takes a few years to get your brain up to the next level. The academic world will have to live without my groundbreaking book on Bacon. Oh, and again, let’s be real here. My PhD contained roughly four things no-one had done before. Which is about average. It’s better written than most, but still fundamentally pointless. Check it out, up and to your left. Great insomnia cure!

So. Once more unto etc … (I’m so-ing on purpose now, ok?).

So that you know, should you actually be interested, I am currently editing my first kids’ book. Don’t ask me, I have no idea.

And hey, you know what, I’m going to post the prologue. Oh, and if anyone steals it, I’ll track you down, like Nigel, and suck out your soul. That’ll make a nice blog, mind.

Other than all of these exciting things, I have no clue. Not one. Hope you enjoy the ride.

PS. They’re always a disappointment, right?


As I listen to Michael Vaughan saying how important it is that England get off to a good start I can’t help but nod in gentle agreement. If you can make your bed while all around are soiling theirs.

So. I have moved. In fact, most everything has moved. It is Ginger, the recalcitrant cat himself, who has, as usual, summed up everything. A yowl, a prowl, a sulky sitting in the hallway without even so much as a swipe as I shimmy past. It is this strange, rather subdued mog which somewhat sums up exactly how I feel.

I am shell-shocked, startled, stupified, stultified …

It is as if everything has fallen apart, as if it has had its supports ripped from under it. And, of course, that is roughly what really happens when one leaves everything. When a relationship collapses, when you leave a flat which worked particularly well with your world, when work disintegrates and leaves you feeling flat and foolish, when your body continually cracks up, crumbles and breaks.

Two years I have spent in the same flat with the same flatmate with (pretty much) the same girl doing pretty much the same thing. Of course habits change, the world adjusts and stretches and contracts depending on the circumstances. Then, all of a sudden, the girl, the flat, the flatmate … all change … well, from girl to … from flatmate to … from flat to … plus ca change, mais bugger me, what the fuck is going on?

There are several problems with this whole situation. The main problem is the lack of closure, my apparent inability to stop nibbling at the brownies as they cool, to stop picking at my sores and then wondering why the blood flows.

I won’t explain everything. Why? Because there is too much history, too much ‘stuff’ to even consider trying to explain it. Each time I read it I would be adding tiny notes as I remembered some newness. I wouldn’t be able to stop myself from thinking what was being said as the words were read.

Traditionally, moving domicile is an exciting, even romantic occasion. A long, hard and frantic day of lugging boxes and packing vans and dropping sofas and scraping knuckles following a week or three of progressively less serene box-packing. The day ends and the music starts and the wine is opened and the pizza or Indian (why capital I and not p?) is unwrapped and you sit, tired but happy, munching, drinking, and thinking where you’re going to fuck each other first.

Not me. Days of boxes. The old flat still isn’t empty. No pizza, no wine, no ‘christening’ … not even my flat yet, as the previous tenant doesn’t move until thursday.

Stranger in a strange room. My possessions. My cat. My company. And yet unheimlich.