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Sunday, June 17, 2007

Low Place Like Home

Due to various stuffs, I haven't blogged in a good long while, so a fair bit has been going on. I guess.

1- Return to the Hood. At long last. Almost a year after my return to Scotland, I have finally made it back to big, bad Leith Walk. I am actually home. It is weird. I am not sure how I feel yet. Well, no. I am. I am relishing my space again. I am walking round naked. Bathing with the bathroom door open. Watching The Daily Show on a daily basis. Getting up at a civil hour, instead of the 5.20am madness I was enduring in Roslin. I get to shop for the stuff I want. Go to bed late, and make long distance phonecalls. However, I also get to worry about tax. The price of milk. How much electricity I'm burning. Whether I have enough clean clothes for the next 24 hours. All normal stuff, but all stuff that, to some degree, I haven't had to worry so much about in the last 3.75 years. Even in Japan, when I was living alone, none of it felt that real, there was some sort of diminished responsibility at work on my persona. It feels real here. I'm also without a housemate, the first time I've lived alone in Edinburgh. I am sometimes loving it, sometimes wishing I had someone to bounce things off at the end of the day. It's mostly good, though.

2-Tsujino-san. This old Japanese guy at school just now. He's just the best. He is no more significant an ojiisan than any of the other old guys I encountered out in Japan, except that he decided to come to Edinburgh to study English. Excited to meet with someone I knew would be impressed at my (rapidly diminishing) grasp of the Japanese language, I bounced into the student lounge last Monday morning, walked up to him, and introduced myself in my most polite Japanese. Never missing a beat, he gave me his best English introduction. "Bless", thinks me, "He wants to do it in English". The next day, I enquired, in Japanese again, how he had enjoyed himself at his host's granddaughter's third birthday party. A shocked look came across his face, and he took a couple of steps backward. "Why...?", he stammered, "How...?". Smiling, and shaking my head with the false modesty I had become used to displaying in Japan, I started to explain that I had lived there for three years, but that really, my Japanese wasn't all that great. He stopped me. No, no. He wanted to know how I had known about the birthday party, and I had to explain (in English) that his host had told me about it in a recent phone conversation. Bit of a wake up call! Not all Japanese people care that you can utter a few phrases (badly) in their native tongue. I felt suitably reprimanded, even though dear old Tsujino-san had never intended to show me up like that. It wasn't embarrasing or anything. It was actually refreshing to encounter someone Japanese who didn't give a damn that I could hold a basic conversation with them. But it was a timely reminder not to get ahead of myself. And not to pigeon-hole Japanese people.

3- Iris Murdoch: I am reading the biography of her written by her husband, John Bayley. It's the most beautiful, unsentimental love story I have ever encountered. She was not perfect. And because she knew this, and John knew this, she became perfect to him. I came across this particular passage:

"And so married life began. And the joys of solitude. No contradiction was involved. The one went perfectly with the other. To feel oneself held and cherished and accompanied, and yet to be alone. To be closely and physically entiwned, and yet feel solitude's friendly presence, as warm and undesolating as contiguity itself."

This just blows me away. Expanding it to any close relationship you care to imagine between humans, I feel like this is truly what it means to know another person absolutely, and be totally ok with not talking to, or even being with them 24/7. I have sometimes felt with some relationships (whether they are with friends, lovers or parents) that there is some sort of expectation to always talk, always know what the other is thinking, always know where they are, who they're with and what they're doing. I have a hard time giving myself over completely like that, but part of me felt like it was necessary. But really, it's not. I think what Bayley said perfectly captured the thoughts floating in my head, but which I was unable to pin down. I wonder now how many people are lucky enough to find someone with whom they feel comfortable enough to let solitude enter the relationship. I think that these days, too many people are afraid of being alone, and so they constantly push at each other to share everything, to talk constantly. When they wake up feeling alone, even though their partner is lying beside them, they take it as a bad sign. I wonder how many marriages, or friendships or whatever, would be made better by each person embracing this feeling of solitude rather than running from it. It's a difficult line of thought to unravel. And I think there's a danger of taking 'solitude' too literally here. But I like the idea of being so at one with another person that I don't feel afraid when I sense them withdrawing into themselves for a time. It's something I have felt with one or two very close friendships I've had.

4- Lack of summer. It was someting stupid like 10 degress yesterday. We are about to come across the longest day of the year, and we are still getting 10 degree days. This country sucks. No wonder the entire population is miserable.

5- Andy. I just found this guy, he works at my school. We don't see each other so much during the week, but always go out on Friday after work for a few drinks. He is an exellent conversationalist, and looks like a less-wacky version of Russel Brand. He tried to brainwash me with SNP politics last Friday there, but I was sort of tipsy by then, and was just nodding in the right places, and making noises of disagreement in others. He bakes. He drinks Bailey's. And he wears Converse trainers with second-hand suits. Sadly, I have to say goodbye to my new friend this week, as he's jetting off to Italy to be with his girlfriend over there. Friday afternoons won't be the same again!

Today I went out for a walk down to Ocean Terminal (a big mall, located right on the shore). I wandered, bought a book, and spent too much money on Marks & Spencer food. I am now stuffed full of chicken supreme, profiteroles and orange and raspeberry juice. Tomorrow is Monday. I didn't even mention the ridiculous shape my professional life is in. It's just too awful to waste time writing about it here.

Umm.... Joe are you happy now?

1 comment:

Josef said...

Joe is happy! A few points:

A - I have now seen the word "profiterole" enough times that I feel compelled to ask - What in gosh-darned heck is a profiterole?

B - You think YOUR professional life is a mess! Still unemployed as ever, and I doubt my forthcoming diploma is going to affect that much.

C - IT IS 30+ AT ALL TIMES HERE. I AM MELTY.

D - Dunno. Need some new shoes. Maybe some converse ones to go with my second-hand suits. I don't do high-tops though, and require an interesting colour. Purple shoes are hard to come by here, and my old ones are fulla holes.

E - Girls are awesome. Dancing is cool, too. If the two can somehow be combined, it is something truly special. Add in some Back to the Future, and... holy shit, baby.

Love and pumpkin muffins.