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It's easier to write once life has settled down, days blend into one another, work is good, life is good, receding into the cosiness of the burrow. I tried blogging in the meantime, and it works well for exciting voyages, or temporary visits - like my Edinburgh adventure. But once I am back home (yes, home it is, I know it, and yet it surprises me), once I am back home you can't expect me to carry a camera around all the time, and what is a pictureless blog? Never before had so many so little to say to so few.
My man keeps mentioning my salary - well, at least he mentioned it more times than I expected him too. I suppose neither of us expected I would be earning so much so quickly, still on my PhD. I know it's just for four months, but it means I can live happily for another four once my funding runs out. I was so oblivious to the contracted salary that first months' wages were a (pleasant) surprise. I have lived on 1000 p/m for so long, and so well, I look at anything extra as pure surplus, to be squirreled away.
My Canadian/Bulgarian friend spent four hours in Ikea today - and had to drive to Newcastle for it too - choosing tons of furniture with her flatmates, spending hunderds of pounds. And here I/we are, with the same old broken chest of drawers we've had for the last tw years, still vaguely discussing the possibility of getting a new one and finally being able to permanently see the bedroom floor, which otherwise is constantly covered with layers of discarded clothing. For I gradually moved away from caring for material things, could it be that I have gone too far? :o)
unpublished august 2009 It does feel Eastern, and strange in some way, the whole scene. The great big lump of Hala Tysiaclecia, a massive grey building in constant renovation hovers over us in the heavy air of a hot and stormy Sunday. The massive fountain, 100m accross, is surrounded by people, some sitting on the grass, some dipping their feet in water. On the hour the show starts, a hundred big and small water jets perform synchronised with music, all very well done. All watch attentively, but when the show is over there is not a single clap or smile.
unpublished august 2009 They know what they want. Having a decent job is not enough, with the inflated housing market, the pay inadequate as it is to the cost of living. Poland does not value young people is their conclusion. All they want is a simple, comfortable life. All they need to do is go abroad to get it. Earning 2000zl, with coffee at 8zl, the rent for their bed-sit at 1000zl, petrol at 5zl a litre - and these are the well-educated, bilingual people - is just not enough. There is a better, more just society in the North.
unpublished august 2009 It has been a while, and the cultural differences are starting to get to me. I have to keep asking Marta to be my cultural translator, in my own country! I can't remember. Is it ok to talk to people on the street? Should I address people as 'Sir' and 'Madam' even when they're my own age? Is it ok to ask people how much they earn? A stranger in my own land! An anthropologist of my own culture. But it's also easy to sink back, stop seeing the absurdities, the injustice, the disturbing undercurrents of conservatism.
unpublished august 2009 Life, they seem to say, can be good in Warsaw. There's work for those who want it, there's funding for those who know how to find it, there are opportunities. For them more than for me, Europe is a big place without barriers, criss-crossed with a network of useful institutions. East is just around the corner and to be explored with ease. It is worth investing in staying; I get such a strong feeling from them that Poland is in the middle of Europe, modern growing happy Europe, the dream of Western living has lost significance.
unpublished august 2009 "When the war borke out, my father took the bike down to his recruitment station in Kowno, but the Soviet invasion was complete by the time he got there. Fortunately he could prove he'd been born in what used to be Prussia before WWI, and was exchanged as a prisoner of war, as part of the Robbentrop-Molotov pact, and walked home. Had it not been for that, he would have been killed in Katyn, or sent to Syberia - the only Polish officers that survived that period, like Anders, were those who were jailed at the time.
Wake up around ten. Cuddle, cuddle. Get up (briefly). fix tea and toast, climb up bacl to bed, watch the Wire. Crunch crunch on toast, crumbs in the bed. Cuddle, cuddle, have sex. Get out of bed to make a pot of coffee. Climb back in, have coffee, watch the Wire. Cuddle. Get out, put some clothes on, go to the Cafe for lunch. Very tasty. Back to bed, watch more Wire. Climb out, do the shopping. Make and eat dinner. Back to bed, watch more Wire. Climb out, go to the pub, play crib. Back to bed. Perfect saturday.
I had this wonderful walk all planned when the hipohondriac Pole pulled out on me. Oh, I was so angry, but all things happen for a reason, and so I got a chance to catch up with the Mad Greek and his girl. The day was glorious, incredibly windy on Stanedge, with lingering mists making the landscape unfamiliar and for that even more beautiful. The woods were at their best, autumn sun streaming through coloured leaves. It was getting dark by the time we got back to town, and my face is still warm with the glow of this day.
I was very underwhelmed when I saw Her in the lab, rather drab and pale, clumps of concrete sticking akwardly to the material, the whole creation sagging in a sad way. I was sceptical. But now She is up, now that her see-through form is filled with a manequin, and now that the wind makes the coral-like patterns of lungs move gently in the breeze like anemones, well, yes, I can see it, I see it's beauty, and I am inspired. And other people seem to be attracted as well. We'll have to find another thing to criticise.
When I get down to the green, She is still there.. Jen tells me observing Her is quite hypnotysing, and I can see why. She's grown on me, definately, and I will be sad to see her go - let's hope no-one takes a knife to her, or worse.. The group, on the other hand, was stressful, surprising, and exciting. I forgot my script of course, but was more prepared than I gave myself credit for. The Multilingual Girl breaking into tears because she could not find the location was a distraction. But all went well, a sunny, inspiring start.
The group this morning went really well, there were eight of us, the conversation flowed beautifully. I hope for more like this! After, I sat down on the green overlooking Herself and had a warm sandwich from a lovely cafe, all roasted veg and goats cheese. The sun was strong, intensifying the colours of the turning leaves. All was well and I was smiling, feeling extremely grateful for the job I have. If only I could find something for Him, so that our work-place phone conversations need no 'buts' any more, so that he's not sad in the evening.
The artists just crack me up. Well, it's not so much the artists, as much as the nanny/PA/manager horror of a woman, who manages to mess everything up - but she has it 'under control', somehow, from her office 200 miles down south. Anyway, first she pisses off a record store owner for taking his banner off without any conslutation - even though his phone number is right there on the bloody door; and then, when Herself gets 'damaged' they tell me I have to 'suspend the focus groups'!! As if they had anything to do with them at all!!
The groups, fortunately, are amazing. I was talking about them with my Canadian friend, and the results were a massive surprise to her, because what I can see emerging is a complete refusal to take personal responsibility. The issue of air pollution, which could be impacted on positively by buying this product, should be instead tackled by a) the council, b) the car producers, c) the government - as in 'if it's so good just put it in everything, like fluoride, and don't tell us'. Even though everyone is personally responsible for producing pollution, tackling it, somehow, is not their problem.
The basement is spartan but clean, dry walls keep the moisture and dust out; the boiler, over which Andy is leaning with a puzzled expression, looks like some discarded steam-punk robot, and certainly does not inspire trust. I am distracted by a pair of most ridiculous, high-heeled, bright red shiny shoes, which must have belonged to one of the previous tenants. They've clearly never been worn, and they're my size! How can I resist. I nearly fall over when I try and stand up, but the additional inches I acquire put an interesting sparkle in my man's eye.
So I wear them to the pub - having strategically painted the two toenails which peep out of the pinky-hole. Walking on autumnal roads is seriously challenging, and like a helpless female and hold on to my man's arm. Hilarious. I stop laughing when, at the bar, I hear a 'heeeelooo...!' from an obnoxious looking male. I trot, shocked, over to my man and demand the proprietary arm. Back home my knees, ankles and back all hurt; I hurl myself onto a chair. I mentally mark the shoes for ebay - no wonder they were abandoned in a cellar, evil things.
I have to say though, I don't remember being so tired in a long while. This morning I spent about 20mins composing an email, and I could physically feel my grey matter struggling with the conduction of thoughs/electrical impulses; it was like a mental equivalent of running in honey. I know some people work like this all the time, and honestly I'm not sure how they do this. However, and in spite of the 60h week, this is sooo much easier than facing your innermost fears and shortcomings month after month for 7 hours a day, writing a PhD.
So here I am, bleeding half past ten at night, sweating the small stuff - in spite of the very memorable biker's tattoo in American Dad! In my mind one email from 'above' which is not dipped in honey of praise; one tiny tiniest cock-up, not even that - one petite snag in the otherwise silky smooth work record - and I obsess. And I'm here, sleepy and tired, sending emails, showing my good will. I blame my parents. Got caught in a mad downpour, two minutes away from home - rain, hail, and wind. Not ready to put the bike away yet.
No more groups at 10am - people have barely had time to wake up properly, and when I sit them down on a comfy sofa in the cozy warmth and amber glow of the pub that's it, I've lost them, doze off. Such a cold, wintery day, I ate my mackrel standing around with my Canadian observer, eventful half an hour all told - we got interviewed thrice by various incarnations of the barbie doll, AND had a pack of sandwiches thrown at us by a bunch of 'young lads'. Plus, I met James Bond - in his more Indian, and tubbier, incarnation.
I hope the email which I sent to my MP this morning sounded more angry than pleading. We were having some wine at the Canadian's yesterday, and the moment The Cuts were mentioned an uncomfortable, worried silence fell, and as I sat there experiencing it I grew increasingly angry - it's not the rich who depend on public transport, NHS and schools! Yes, I do blame the banks. No, I don't believe in cuts without raising taxes. If we are all in it together, then let the burden spread for fuck sake! It's just started, and I'm already tired of it.
It's not fair to blame her for making her disability the pivotal issue in her life, for bringing each conversation topic, incessantly, back to her own issues, because managing a life with a chemical oversensitivity must have been, and must still be, a continuous battle both for her and her husband. However, it does not make speaking with her easy. Her husband firmly under the thumb, she became the sole conductor of the first half of the focus group, until I managed to wrestle the conversation away from her, to which she reacted by becoming quiet and sulky. Oh well.
My "to do" list is growing to unmanagable lengths, various pleading and threatening emails loom, and yet I'm unable to motivate myself to work over the weekend - since I started receiving a real salary. Funny how that works; being paid for the (large amount of) work I do during the week somehow justifies proper weekend's rest. It's a phenomenon often commented upon by recent graduates, the ecstasy of a guilt-free weekend, three hours of Mrs. Marples and not as much as a flutter. The trade-off is the Monday dread, unknown to PhDs, who dread every day without exception.
I'm off with a friend to wander in the Peak. I return refreshed, but not in the same way, not to the same extent as when it's just you and me my love. She's troubled at the moment, and gives me an earful of her marital troubles - and I'm happy to lend a sympathetic ear, but this is not the way I do walking in the Peak. I hardly see the scenery for her dramatic stories, and while glad I was able to make her feel better, I miss you, my love, and the peace and happiness we experience together.
The sky is the most beautiful shade of autumn blue, perhaps so striking through the contrast with the yellow autumn leaves. I am lucky with my two workrooms, both overlooking trees from the height of the second floor, the right hight to pretend I am actually working in a great big tree house, a good fantasy to engage in while scribbling. There was frost on the cars this morning, and on the blades of grass along the cycle path. I could only find one glove, so I had to keep swapping to prevent my fingers from freezing to the handlebars.
It's funny how people don't get it; the girl I walked with last Sunday couldn't hold back any longer and blurted out: but, surely, you can't wait to have a place of your own? My family thought I'd lost it when I told them I was moving in with my boyfriend and his dad, tree years ago now. We get along so well; my love stayed at home yesterday and his dad and my friends and I went to the pub. I'll miss him when he goes. I'm a bit scared to see how my love will do without him.
He's strong, opinionated - likable, but a bit of work. She in contrast comes accross quiet, retreated. My gut reaction was: she's retreating out of habit, and to avoid the hassle. As the group progressed, and she kept tacit, and he kept explaining everything to her like to a child, I started wondering if she's slightly demented, and what I'm seeing is an expression of love through over-protectiveness. But we chatted afterwards, and she was as lucid as you and I, and strong too, and my initial gut feeling was confirmed. I kissed her on both cheeks, the sweet woman.
It must be the thryroid hormones I'm taking, that's what I'm telling myself this morning as I brim with sadness and love. I met Megatron on my way down the hill, exchanged brief caresses; went back home and was stopped mid-stride on my second descent by the screachy one, running accross the road to meet me. We hugged, but when I said 'I have to go' it just stood there and meyowed after me, and I think my heart broke a little. I should have stayed, fed it cheese, gone to work later, avoid the breaking of the heart.
A young guy sits down next to me on the train, a triple sandwich and a coke appear on the table, and I notice he has a copy of 'Nuts' with him, airbrushed nipples staring right at me. Possible conversation scenarios run through my head. I keep glancing as he leafs through it; to my surprise it's mainly low-level football and celebrity gossip, usual tabloid style, with a few naked breasts thrown in for good measure. After a few minutes he puts the mag away, and pulls out an academic paper on laddish masculinities. Academic homework or legitimation device ?
Always wary of coming over , but ever less so, as I grow stronger in myself. His mother's visiting this time, and keeps him occupied, which gets me off the hook. Taking him out of the equation simplifies things, and we all get along well today, along the river, at the house, with Paul being sick all over his jacket, with running around in the park, just us two and a red scarf, how I hope he remembers this joy of playing with me in the future, I know he won't, soon I'll be a stranger to him, or perhaps worse.
The house was very spooky indeed, paper bats in the windows, false spider's webs everywhere. My eco side was pretty upset at this waste of plastic, my aesthetic side was enjoying the overall effect. There was a tender moment with my sister, when we were saying goodbye, she teared up a little bit and even though she did n't say anything, I think I know what she meant. Good times with my dad too, honest conversations in the pub, communication and equality, wish we had more time to spend this way, being away from home seemed to do him good.
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