Did I know that
citizen in Flemish
anyway, it’s bürger in German.
It all makes sense now
why some cities end
end -bourg like
Strasbourg and why
some with -burg
Freiburg aha and
why, it feels good
to make burgers.
I remember when the word University looked like a big mountain and
I remember when you shouted me into doing this degree after looking at all the Linguistics books I’d borrowed from the Central Library in Edinburgh.
I remember emancipation from music school, a place that flung me into the sky, to blissful, heavenly heights, and threw me back down onto the ground.
I remember how desperate I was to break away from school and everything I used to do, to the point where I was convinced – encouraged to believe – and not entirely by my own hand, that I should change my image and even my own name, for the second time; because having an unusual Chinese name would be an oral obstacle to professional networking and to becoming a success.
I remember during the summer before the great move I had researched, extensively, all the societies I considered joining, even emailing some of them in advance in order to indicate and validate my existence as an enthusiastic, energised new student ready to make her mark in the student community and all that yada-yada.
I remember the day I moved out of home. We packed many, many bags into the car. I had curled my hair with rollers the previous night and my locks had scooped into curls that bounced like the dancers in the flirty fifties. I remember picking utensils from the kitchen in the old house; we were very selective of the number of knives, forks, chopsticks, plates and bowls. My spatula was made of pink rubber with a stainless steel handle. The chopping board was grass green. Continue reading
Edinburgh – 03.04.16
The clock reads 02:59AM and my train is at 07:33AM, but my mind continues to reel round between my temples the pages of music that I don’t know, and my heartbeat is running away. I have tried every corner of the bed. I’ve crooked my back into countless different angles, spread my arms out under the pillows, listened to the radio, gone to the toilet, drank water …
I was in a place where the wind cocooned my head, limbs and body like a giant spinning, unforgiving frenzy. Air was charging into my ears and whipping the fabric of the raincoat against my cheeks. It heaved and pushed the water, forward and upward, roaring out platoons of white waves that swamped the length of the shore. It even pierced the thin layer of water on the sand, impregnating it with galaxies and galaxies of bubbles. They obeyed the wind and performed their wild orbital dance, alone, in clusters, slaves to air and gravity.
The tiny doll in pink glasses and bubbly ringlets looked up at me from her chair, with eyes as bright as the light of summer waters. Her two dainty yet hasty hands fluttered at me. I obeyed and crouched down to face-level.
“Hm?” I said. Even closer! said her hands and eyes, so I leaned the side of my head towards her ready to receive the secret. A whispered gift. She moved forward to my ear and curled her hands into a hollow by my cheek. A few seconds of silence; I heard no whisper. Then, from the stillness came the quietest, softest, smallest kiss in the world.
A cherry-blossom petal had fallen and was floating on the water.
I want to congeal in a glass case a piece of paralysed Time. In this Time, I will freeze more time, and continue diving into its heart to unearth more sparkling seconds. I want to keep all the milliseconds of taste, emotion and movement, to preserve textures, smells, the angles of the cobbled streets and to dance the rise and fall of the road ahead.
Looking at this glass, admiring it like my own little taxidermic creature, I’d also like to glitter it with something called Joy and Freedom, which I’d describe as a warm weightlessness that overcomes me when I grasp the rhythmic, tonal complexity of a perfectly pronounced French word, fluid and honest in its execution, watch it grace my mouth and tongue and transport a fragment of ‘me’ into the atmosphere that will, at last, be understood and appreciated. Or when the humour and sweetness of friends combines with the delights of French food, Mozart’s Clarinet Quintet and a fruity coffee. Or when, on the way to class, you suddenly can’t help but stand up on the pedals of your bike and sing to yourself, and imagine the old bicycle wheels spinning in a stereo like a cassette tape. Continue reading
Madame K belongs in a French children’s book as angelic teacher and fairy godmother to the children. She speaks slow and articulate French, with an air of romance and gentle pride, that draws you into the language and her classical universe. Behind her rimless glasses her eyes shine wisdom and the mystery of a beautiful bygone era. None of us would question it if she procured from her leather briefcase a fabulous magic wand of ivory and gold. Continue reading