January 9th, 2015
|07:07 pm - The problem of good.|
I lack the philosophical tools for this, but the case in France made me think.
The Charlie Hebdo murders were wrong. Absolutely wrong, there is no questions of that.
Yet my mind hasn't been on that,, but the more abstract notion of goodness. More specifically, does goodness exist in the abstract? What is it? Like pornography 'we know it when we see it', but can it be defined at all? Theologians talk about the problem of evil, but surely then there is a problem with good?
Evil, as the character Ikonnikov in Grossman's Life and Fate writes, is not done in the name of evil, but in the name of good. So what is this 'good'?
There is good, as found in everyday kindness, affection, family. There is the common good where we do things to benefit everyone. We all want to think of the things we do as being good. What are our first experiences of 'good?' Our Mummies and Daddies tell us it is good to do certain things and so we do them. The child is told to share, the be gentle, to help around the house and she/he is rewarded by approbation. Do these instincts come spontaneously? Perhaps, but the child is amoral and must be guided. We all know how obnoxious a spoilt child is. Goodness is something to be trained.
But the child is told not to lie, and when she is given a present she does not like and says so she is told she has not been good because she has been rude. A boy sees his sister getting bullied and he goes and hits the bully. He has been bad, but in the name of good – protecting his sister.
There are too many compromises for good. In my youth I admired Tolstoy's ideals, how he tried to live a vision of pure Christianity. It is easy to try this in the abstract, but can we? The Gospel of St Matthew rather surprised me when I first read it, for in chapter 10 we find ““Do not suppose that I have come to bring peace to the earth. I did not come to bring peace, but a sword. 35For I have come to turn
“ ‘a man against his father,
a daughter against her mother,
a daughter-in-law against her mother-in-law—
36a man’s enemies will be the members of his own household.’c
37“Anyone who loves their father or mother more than me is not worthy of me; anyone who loves their son or daughter more than me is not worthy of me. 38Whoever does not take up their cross and follow me is not worthy of me.39Whoever finds their life will lose it, and whoever loses their life for my sake will find it.”
Strong words, completely contradicting what we are told about the importance of family, of compromise and so called Christian values. People who are good, inflexible in their values and beliefs, are exhausting. Impossible to love everyone as I suppose we would like to do, we do what can can to maintain social harmony. A person who gave all of his or her worldly wealth we do not value as a disinterestedly good person, but as a bit of a nutter. The societal norms are not being met.
What is goodness, except a means of imposing order on a formless, amoral and ultimately lonely and frightening universe? And what if those rules are as arbitrary as the chaos it is supposed to combat?
Perhaps it is no wonder we may get confused. This morning I was listening to a French guy who works at the UN talking about the importance of liberal democracy (that which we in the enlightened west consider to be 'Good' and where we have caused much bloodshed in its name in the Middle East, in charitable moods I think the wagers of war truly believed in this 'good') saying words to the effect of 'our lives may be endangered, but our democracy must never be', and somehow that makes me shiver, is any ideology worth a human life? What abstract good is worth dying or killing for? What is the difference between being killed for another country's democracy or being killed for offending the Prophet of Islam?
I don't like the word tolerance. It is a cold word, a clinical word, lacking the warmth of phrases like kindless, love, brotherhood. But these can be difficult to maintain, so perhaps the muted neutrality of tolerance is the best we can hope for, the only universal 'good' we can agree on.
December 30th, 2014
|05:47 pm - On being rich|
Probably the biggest thing I dislike about this country is the goldfish bowl aspect. Except for going to the souk where one may people watch happily for hours(an activity alas which taxi fares prohibit too often) it's not really a culture for a westerner, certainly not a female, to walk around in.
There is a most telling quote at then end of this article
"I thought back to the conversation I had with a fifteen-year old Russian girl in our compound, who was born in Jubail and has never left except for yearly holidays back to St. Petersburg. “I don’t like Russia,” she confided. “There are too many people, too many cars, and they are all scary. It’s not safe out there, you know?” She then excused herself to go to meet a friend, running down the street of this picturesque village, an ersatz version of safety, a mirage of the real world."
I don't know how much of it is cultural and how much is to do with wealth. Women have never played a public role in this society, even in public the veil is a visible reminder of the internal privacy in which they are kept. And as previously noted family and tribe are everything. Most people only socialise and have fun within the family sphere. When I talk to my girls about what they like about Riyadh, they answer 'it's safe'.
I suppose it is, crime is low and they never have to go outside, they have their cars and malls. They never have to deal with what I really want to deal with - life.
I miss Life. I miss seeing corpses on the metro in Moscow, I miss the pang of sympathy upon seeing the disabled beggers of Bucharest and the frisson of fear at the packs of dogs. I miss the grannies selling flowers all over Eastern Europe, I miss the markets of Japan, the bustle of the city. I even miss feeling annoyed at the drunks coming out of British pubs on Friday and Saturday! I miss just walking on the street without it being slightly taboo, fishing for change for the bus, avoiding dog poo. I miss dirt and hurly burly.
But it makes me reflect on wealth and why it has this deadening effect. Why is it when people get rich they want to isolate themselves. It makes me wonder when I see the nice identikit houses to which the middle classes of the UK aspire, although at least they are not gated, that is for the really rich. Why do the wealthy wish to keep life out? Obviously there are security elements but i simply cannot understand why someone would eschew real life for beige banality.
December 28th, 2014
|10:47 am - 2014 meme|
1. What did you do in 2014 that you'd never done before?
Went to a bunch of new nations, had a random guy give me his number, one night stand, lost friends due to politics, went to a camel show, flown on a 13 hour domestic flight, nearly got arrested at a political rally, stood for hours outside the Belorusian embassy in Moscow, visited a Buddhist temple, seriously considered jacking in a job with no notice, had jewellery custom made, worn a niqab, visited a death camp, visited Niagara falls, gambled, went to Tomsk, went to Kamchatka. I will be going to an embassy party!
2. Did you keep your new years' resolutions, and will you make more for next year?
Well, I worked hard and saved! But But then I spent it all. And I failed to read Das Kapital.
3. Did anyone close to you give birth?
A few friends
4. Did anyone close to you die?
Sergei Koshkovitch :(
5. What countries did you visit?
Russia and the UK (if they count), Spain, Belarus, Poland, Canada, the US, Saudi Arabia (I'm living there so I don't know if visit is the right word), Sri Lanka, Bahrain. It's been a record for new countries! And the airports at Doha and Beirut.
6. What would you like to have in 2015 that you lacked in 2014?
More money, calm, a boyfriend
7. What dates from 2014 will remain etched upon your memory, and why?
January, having fun with Mum in Barcelona, early March, when I was worried due to the invasion of Crimea and I saw my first arrest at a political rally and wondered what was with the Russia I loved. 22nd May, leaving Russia. End of August - Saudi.
8. What was your biggest achievement of the year?
9. What was your biggest failure?
Losing students, Spending too much, putting weight back on
10. Did you suffer illness or injury?
11. What was the best thing you bought?
Books and train tickets, a ticket to Sri Lanka and a trip to Bahrain.
12. Whose behavior merited celebration?
My chums :)
13. Whose behavior made you appalled and depressed?
Politicians. People who I thought were my friends learning to dislike me because they thought because I didn't like Putin I hated Russia.
14. Where did most of your money go?
books, travel, jewels
15. What did you get really, really, really excited about?
16. What song will always remind you of 2014?
Family of the Year - Hero (for the delightful film Boyhood, and the rare feeling of optimism in the summer), Blixa Bargeld - what if
17. Compared to this time last year, are you happier/sadder; fatter/thinner; richer/poorer?
c) About the same.
18. What do you wish you'd done more of?
Improving my mind, writing
19. What do you wish you'd done less of?
20. How did you spend Christmas?
Marking and then in a car to Bahrain where I drank and danced the night away :)
21. Did you fall in love in 2014?
I had my hopes up, but no.
22. How many one-night stands?
Two. One of which I had hoped wouldn't be...
23. What was your favourite TV program?
I didn't watch any tv. Game of Thrones I guess.
24. Do you hate anyone now that you didn't hate this time last year?
25. What was the best book you read?
Barracuda, The handmaid's tale, One Summer
26. What was your greatest musical discovery?
Discovering Blixa Bargeld's collaboration with Terho Teatro. The Kinks.
27. What did you want and get?
28. What did you want and not get?
29. What was your favourite film of this year?
Calvary. Boyhood. Grand Budapest Hotel.
30. What did you do on your birthday, and how old were you?
33 I was working but I went for a curry with my friend in the evening.
31.What one thing would have made your year immeasurably more satisfying?
32. How would you describe your personal fashion concept in 2014?
33. What kept you sane?
Concentrating on a happier future.
34. Which celebrity/public figure did you fancy the most?
35. What political issue stirred you the most?
Crimea, the Tory sell off of the NHS. Iron Dome and the Gaza shit.
36. Who did you miss?
37. Who was the best new person you met?
My new housemates here at the university.
38. Tell us a valuable life lesson you learned in 2014.
Take mental health over money.
39. Quote a song lyric that sums up your year:
Another year and then you'll be happy.
There have been a lot of highlights this year, but it's also been a year of emotional upheaval and bloody seismic shifts in my life.
My friendly, benevolent Russia showed her ugly side, I cannot say I like my new life in KSA much at all and I only hope I can last till June. I feel permanently on edge here and I hate the angry, sour person I am turning into. All my energy is concentrated on getting through the year.
I had some fun at a party in October with a guy but he has since been blowing cold so that's been a sadness lately.
One thankfulness is that my parents seem to be ok and my sister has a new job to enable her to spend more time with the kids. But I worry whenever I think of them.
Dreams of settling have seemed ever more elusive, I am gradually reconciling myself to the fact that stillness is going to be a pipe dream, maybe even forever and perhaps I should start looking at downsizing my life yet further.
I've got my beachball feeling again, where I am tossed on the waves and don't know what will happen - hoping only the sharks don't bite me nor the waves overpower and puncture me.
Current Mood: pensive
December 1st, 2014
|05:35 pm - Curiyiryuriosity|
There are a lot of cats around our compound, although lately I have seen rather fewer of them.
I don't know who or what has done away with them but a chat with my flatmate this evening has made me reflect that it was certainly not curiosity.
In most countries I have been in, students ask me questions about my experiences in other countries, about me, what I think of their country. I really don't have conversations like that with my students. I will sometimes talk about the world outside and they might listen with interest. But as I have previously noted what I may talk about is tres limitee. A lot of the girls are obsessed with their phones, with their friends. One girl in my class reads (and in English) but books are in short supply and no one seems to mind.
Views are parroted. The other day I asked students what they liked about Riyadh, I was told 'because it is safe for women', no comment. As I normally don't wear a scarf when I go out I am frequently stared at by a lot of men and it's not a comfortable sensation. Someone tried to squeeze my mammary in the souk the other day. It's harassment such as could happen anywhere but I would certainly not describe this as a particularly safe place for a woman. i felt safer in Moscow. But because they have drivers and never walk how could it occur to them otherwise?
They also said because it is a good place for Muslims. I can understand that, many of my colleagues are Muslims and have opted to live here because they want to live in a Muslim nation. But it doesn't tend to foster critical thinking. I was fascinated the other day by my colleague, a Londoner of Yemani descent, talking about the gym and modesty. She was talking about how she didn't want to see flesh in the gym, how the body was a temple and we had to make sure not everyone has visual access to it. We must not incite desire and how showing flesh in the (all female gym) could potentially be alluring for lesbians (!) and then in the next sentence went on to say how she only wore subtle makeup - but why is she wearing make up in an all female university? why does she make an effort to dress nicely if she doesn't want to attract people? At least to me it was contradictory. Saudi girls are taught their Islam is the only correct way and regional differences are just plain wrong. According to this lady most schools spend a more than a quarter of school time teaching religion http://saudiwoman.me/category/education-2/
And then you get stuff like this http://www.al-monitor.com/pulse/originals/2014/05/saudi-sharia-justice-1000-lashes-liberal-activist-bloggers.html#
Their faith is deeply held, but any questioning of any Saudi social more is considered questioning Islam.
I don't think it's entirely that. They are children after all and children don't question things. Indeed I would hate to be a thinking Saudi woman, I would be frustrated every day of my life.
November 21st, 2014
|08:22 pm - Mother Russia vs the Magic Kingdom.|
I keep comparing the KSA, mostly unfavourably, to Russia. This is I think natural, I lived there for 3 years and I liked it, I do not like KSA. My job is absurd at best and I am counting down the 6 months till I can get the hell out of here.
But it has to be said they are not unalike in many ways.
1)Extreme weather. Extremes of heat and cold respectively.
2)A complete and utter inability to plan. In the Saudi instance, their history as desert people, nomads who did not know what one day would bring to the next. Their reliance was on the mercy of God. Even when I ask their students to bring their homework in it is always 'Inshallah'. Never definitely. Most of my colleagues interpret it as laziness. I feel it is a legacy of that time where who knew what the next day would bring. Unfortunately in a modern country which has developing infrastructure the ad hoc jigsaw approach isn't conducive to getting anything done. The whole country is being made up as it goes along as no one has ever before seen the need to think ahead.
For the Russians, living on hard land, they were at the mercy of God, the land owners, the Tsar or the state. poverty, and the despair of finding anything good in this life is etched deep in the Russian mentality. There is a veneer of prosperity but I think the events of this year will wipe it out. Why therefore plan and save? While this causes something I love about the Russians - a devil may care contempt for thinking about tomorrow, again this is not what we expect of a modern country. And I think it in part accounts for the mess they find themselves in atm.
3) A certain passivity, combined with a total lack of responsibility. This is related to the above point, taking charge of your own destiny? Playing an active role in the running of the country? Naaaah. let the wife/foreigner/Philippina maid/King/president deal with the crap.
4)A general contempt for the greater part of the population. Saudi society is deeply, deeply, deeply tribal. The saying is 'I against my brother, my brothers and I against my cousins, then my cousins and I against the world'. If someone does something wrong their their tribe is impugned or even out and out insulted. Most people will marry their cousins, in the past it was a means of preserving resources. Now it's about honour. And woe betide anyone who offends honour! For the Russians, again the weight of history. No one has ever been quite sure who they would be able to trust, either in the village or round the table in a tiny Moscow kitchen. Liberals are justifiably rather terrified of their co nationals. And the government has always been very good at promoting divide and rule.
5)A difficulty dealing with obscene wealth. the Saudis have something of an edge over the Russians, of 40 years or so. The country has externally modernised but people really have more money than they know what to do with. Saudis get paid 2500 rial a month for just being Saudi. Women can fly their hairdresser over from Paris for an hour and think nothing of it. The wealth of course does breed insensitivity. In Russia (or rather Moscow) there is wealth a plenty. If you can afford a flat in the centre of Moscow you are either a gangster or an ex one. But because of point 4 above, there is not much charity or kindness exhibited by the rich of either country. But then rich people are generally dicks anyway.
6)'I hate my country, even so it is the best in the world and you can't say anything against it. Foreigners are less important, are ignorant and not worth anything if they have brown skin'.
Saudis will criticise their country, because of the lack of freedom, because of the lack of things to do. But they are Muslims and are proud of the fiercely Muslim laws of the country. Their land contains Mecca and Medina and God rewarded them with oil and wealth. They are arrogant, they ostensibly hold to values of charity and mercy yet the mass ranks of foreign workers are treated like something that came from the back end of a dog.
Russians love Russia. they will attack it and wonder why you live there and are all trying to emigrate, but they will defend rodina to the death. Their religion bares more resemblance to romantic nationalism than to Christianity. Dare to offer a critique of Russia and you are automatically anti Russian (and God I got into some rows with people over my last year there!). It seems you cannot be anti Putin but pro Russian. And that is one reason I felt I had to leave.
I was also really put out by the rudeness of a young Russian woman on the platform of Colombo fort station. We were waiting for a train and a Sri Lankan chap began chatting. the Russian girl kept complaining about the train and at one point interrupted the (extremely nice) man with an idiotic remark about how under Stalin the person in charge of a late train would have been shot. I don't know if she thought about it but I did not dignify her with a reply and for the first time saw why people hate Russians - and I am always the person to defend them.
These are the main things. Others of course, both very patriarchal (though Russian women are allowed to exist independently, yet they are complicit in being kept down which makes it worse). The women of both nations live to be approved of by men. Both obsessed with sex (openly or covertly). Both chaotic nations (though in the light of Saudi Russia is like Switzerland).
There are more differences than similarities (the main one I miss is the Russian students actually have some respect for teachers and a genuine reverence for learning. and there is an anarchic streak to Russian culture which I miss) but it's funny how some of the fundamentals are the same between such different cultures.
September 5th, 2014
|02:34 pm - Not my happe time|
I must own I have been feeling a bit down this week. I don't know what I;m doing, nor do the students. I feel very restless and unsettled and I haven't really bonded with anyone. A lot of disperate personalities thrown together, last night there was an argument over semantics and that got uncomfortable quickly. I hate the restrictions on movement that I have and i haven't got used to it yet. I cannot say that I like this country. This half life.
And today, horrible news, my cat has been hit by a car and killed. No one's fault, the stupid cat never had much road sense but all of a sudden everything has come to the surface. I don't know what I was thinking coming to this stupid country (actually yes, money!). I feel lost and floating in a strange and vaguely hostile void. Actually, not hostile just profoundly indifferent and in its indifference, threatening. I don't know the language or the rules or have the influence to make them not matter. I still don't quite know whom I can trust here.Half of me thinks it has to get better, the other half just wants to do something stupid and deliberately get fired as a fuck you to the whole sodding place.
August 26th, 2014
|03:30 pm - In land o' sand|
Yesterday was a long, long day.
After the usual fitful and meloncholy last night I was dropped on the bus to London where I was sat with a group of youngsters who were full of plans for the bank holiday in London and discussing Richard Attenborough and coconut milk among other related topics.
Enjoyed a last cider at both Victoria and Heathrow (always best to be slightly drunk before a flight I feel) and set off via Lebanon.
Judging from my short stay at the airport I think I would like Lebanon. The pastries at the duty free looked ravishing and generally the area has a rich history of culture and elegance. And the airport bookshop sold both Richard Dawkins and a volume about the future of Zionism which considering the region astonished me.
The flight to Riyadh was mercifully boring considering we were flying over Syria. The airport was gracious with fountains and elegant windows resembling Islamic latticework. The bloke at the passport counter asked why I had bothered covering my hair at that stage! Then a long surreal journey along the motorway past petrol stations and half built Mosques with DESERT stretching out. Finally got to bed at 4 am!
August 22nd, 2014
In a very few days, a new adventure awaits me. Saudi Arabia. i applied for a job on spec and I got it, and as the pay is good and it's only for 9 months and I got so sick of all the flap doodle applying for a job in Korea involved I took it.
To say I don't know what to expect is an understatement. I will not be able to go out and do as I please, I won't be able to get a drink where and when I want it (though realistically it's not going to do me an iota of harm!). Interacting with strangers will be even stranger than usual, I will be in the expat bubble and as ex pats are frequently a rather odd bunch (I speak from experience here...) this will I suspect be a mixed blessing.
As always, I am intensely amused by concerned friends and family urging me to be careful. Of what? I am not going to import porn, booze or pork, I always keep a low profile when away and while the middle east is mad, in Riyadh the only concern I have is all consuming boredom.
I will bring books and notebooks and films (I hope they don't want to look at all the hard drives!). I want to get on with some painting and writing. I trust there will be internet and vpns. I can call upon my own resources and I hope this will make up for the lack of physical freedom.
On the whole I don't have a bad feeling about it. I am actually looking forward to going to a country where few are allowed to venture and i hope and pray i will be able to explore the desert and see the stars. It'll be fascinating to be away from home and experience a ways of life so ostentatiously not on the pattern of the west. I am a little nervous but i do feel it's the right move at the moment. Let's see.
July 5th, 2014
|11:17 pm - Summer 2014 part 2|
On my travels by bus and train, I generally wish I could alight at the pleasant and nondescript small towns and villages through which I pass. The small city of Osweicim in western Poland is one such place I would have liked to visit. It has many points of interest: a castle, many old churches, what looks to be a very attractive market place and a new shopping centre. I wanted to go because I did not want to go to the century old army barracks on the edge of town.
Engaged as I am in the agreeable task of uploading my holiday snaps onto facebook, yet I wanted to write more of a commentary on Auschwitz for it is not a place of pretty pictures. I could have taken many more than I did yet I felt I simply couldn't bring myself to perform my usual touristic voyeurism. Weeks after going it haunts me. I would not have gone but my parents, with whom I was meeting in Krakow, suggested it so I agreed out of interest rather than desire.
So we (my parents and I along with a Polish American family) drove in a comfy tour bus with our guide, a nice man who chatted with me about his upcoming trip to Scotland, watching a video about the place. The entrance was reassuringly bland, a car park, a visitor's centre with a few snack machines and even the gate to hell didn't look too threatening, my mother remarked how small it was in the flesh.( The world"s sickest joke?Collapse )
The interior of the barracks was actually quite warm because of course they had been built to house soldiers, though certainly the bunks were narrow and the canvas sacking bedding looking none too comfy. In all the rooms the usual pictures of the descrimination against the Jews, the rounding up of the Roma, and a quite horrifying map showing how far the ghastly cattle trucks travelled.( Painful geographyCollapse )
In this room was an urn of ashes, all that was preserved of 1.1 million souls. A man with a yarmulke was rapt, he caressed it, touched with with his forehead, gazed longingly at it, he would have climbed in if he could.
A whole room of mugshots, the earliest prisoners. The mother of the American family saw a photograph of a woman who shared a surname with her mother. For a moment I wondered if her ghost walked by.
Upstairs were personal effects. Hundreds of suitcases, glasses, fashionable ladies' shoes. I found it almost unbearably poignant that someone had thought to pack a cheese grater. Most awful of all were the broken dolls and other toys, the sight of which caused me almost physical anguish and which make me shudder just thinking of it.
( Read more...Collapse )
In another room, a whole wall full of women's hair, all braided in the manner I usually do my own. The hair was sold for 50 pfennigs a kilo. 50 pfennigs for however many murders make up a kilo of hair. 50 Pfennigs. The hair was used to make cloth. Analysis of said cloth shows traces of Zyklon B.
( a Kapo"s roomCollapse )
We moved on to block 11. This was where torture and executions were carried out. It felt chilly in there, the decor remains unchanged from the 40s. I was glad that the place was so full we couldn't linger.
Next door, block 10, was Mengele's lair. The windows are blocked off completely. It is closed to all, for which I am glad. Nothing would induce me to go in there. Nothing.
( Read more...Collapse )
And so we made our way round, I began feeling more ghosts at my back. Perhaps it was my fancy, I am unconvinced at the existence of the supernatural but I am certain that suffering permeates the ground and bricks. I could hear lorries driving by and began to want to run back outside.
( Read more...Collapse )
Our last stop was the one remaining gas chamber - converted to be a bomb shelter just before liberation. Hoess was hanged right by it. As we walked in I allowed myself to pause and think of the gloomy atmosphere, and then in the chamber itself I looked up and felt a wave of utter, utter terror, a kind of sympathetic revelation of what the souls must have realised when they became aware that it wasn't water coming from the shower heads. I literally couldn't stay in there and I ran outside sobbing. Later at Birkenau I found I couldn't stand too close to the demolished crematoria there.( what remains of the crematoriaCollapse )
mother meanwhile found it difficult to walk down the railway line
( the last thing many epople would ever have seenCollapse )
My parents both have difficulty walking. Throughout the whole tour I had a vision of us arriving. Mum, Dad, sister and my 2 nieces would have been taken immediately for the 'shower', if my brother and I had been 'lucky' we would have been put to work, but probably only to die more slowly.
Dad didn't join mum and me at Birkenau as he had found the walking too much and I wished with my heart I could have joined him. Birkenau is an evil place. The chimney stacks make it seem doubly frightening
( Read more...Collapse )
And the interior of each barrack was oppressive
( the excuse for a dwelling place. Beds and toilet blockCollapse )
And so the tour ended. Dad was exchanging some pleasantries with the guide, who shed his serious face and became quite genial and we drove back to merciful normality.
The following day we went home. in the evening I went for a walk and realised something. In the fields close to home there were some wild flowers and lots of bees, Birkenau is covered with clover, vetch and other tempting bee food yet I did not see or hear a single insect. Mother noted there were no birds nesting in the long grass.
April 16th, 2014
|09:01 pm - Fractions|
Today, I received horrible confirmation of what I have suspected for several weeks but had been hoping was just the light in the bathroom. Near my forehead, peeping out admit what I thought was an unbroken sheen of brown, were several grey hairs.
Ok it's not the end of the world and you can't really see them unless you are a) me or b) looking very closely but it is making me feel old.
Some weeks ago, I had to have passport photos taken for a visa. The last time these were done my face was full and lineless. This time, having lost quite a bit of weight and being some years older, lines were more clearly visible. I looked even worse than one generally does in these pictures.
I will be a third of a century old this year. It seems somehow more significant than 30, a rather meaningless fraction. A full third.
I will have been menstruating (therefore biologically adult) for 23 years. I will have been a wearer of glasses for 20. It will have been 15 years since leaving school. 15 years of being a legal adult, being able to vote, have a bank account, do what the hell I please. Half of my adult life has been spent lived outside the UK – soon probably to be more than that as I plan to teach in Korea for a year to earn muchos money before going back to Uni, that's the plan anyway. Though my plans never quite go where I want them to. Hell I have even lived in Russia for 3 years and it's a shock to realise that things I did in Edinburgh are almost a decade ago when it only seem like yesterday.
And what have I done with my life? I compare myself to people I know from my past lives (which seem so divorced from my current reality) and people whom I admire and what have I got to show? I don't have a home of my own. I have never been in love. I have fancied people and been very fond of some sure (and even had sex with 2 of them) but feeling as though I wanted to be with someone forever? No. I still don't quite know what I want to do with the rest of my life, everything I do seems to be a stepping stone for something else, and I do so want a final destination.
But then I have been craving that for a long time already. Even before I began to be old.
When I was 9, I began middle school in Bury. One Sunday, I went to the playground in my village which is near the primary school in Ixworth and even though I had only been at my new school for a week or two I was overwhelmed with nostalgia. I knew even then there were people whom I would in all likelihood only see a few times again, if ever at all. I had the sense of leaving my old life behind and being set on course for something rather uncontrollable, a little frightening but also utterly inexorable. Ok as a 9 year old I would not have thought of it even remotely in those terms but I do remember thinking vividly 'is this the world I left behind?'
Sometimes on the metro in the mornings when I am trapped at interesting angles between people I remember there will come a time when all this is as unreal as primary school, as the endless grey days of middle school (where I can never remember the sun shining), as university, as all of my past lives. And then I feel a pang for the endless metro rides even as I am on them, I suppose fundamentally I am nostalgic in temperament.
I don't know if I will ever stop, it is the age we live in where there are no certainties. Countless people are in no better a position than I so I am not such a freak as I would have been in my parents' day And for every day I wish I could be still I know full well there would be an equivalent day that, were I not moving, I would resent it bitterly.
At least I am growing old. I am in pretty good health. For the first time in my adult life I am solvent so I have a few options. And we live in an age of hair dye if those naughty hairs decide to change colour again.
On second thoughts it would be rather brilliant if my hair matched my silver jewellery...