As the bus turns left from the East end of Princes Street, a macabre scene bleeds into one’s periphery like an incoming raincloud. The passengers look up out of the blindness of their touch-screens and crane their necks by the window-glass.
It can’t be. He was immortal…
They told me
Travelling is perfect
Even to the capital
of the death
One single purpose:
On Mont des Arts
Met the pads and the palms
of the man on a drum
with my wooden knuckles in the strings
the weather between
body corridor he
knows she knows
I know we know
doors speaking a coffee
thinking alive toilet is
have a pot of tea
Shedding the skin of the day;
Drinking the glitter from the window pane.
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
He was a lone traveller, a truly gentle man, who had nearly lost all his teeth. He sat at the back of the bus, hardly spoke, and often wandered away all by himself. When he did speak it was a dialect that nobody could understand.
Time: 02:30AM – 05:00AM
How refreshing it is to fly to a country that feels like home yet bewilders you at the same time. I am swallowed up in the population, the ginormous bureaucracy, unknown to billions of people and barred from social media. It is weirdly pleasant, especially after such a publicised and popularised fortnight in another place, to escape into this culture. It means that I don’t get carried away wallowing in the memories of this ‘success’ and that ‘achievement’, swimming in the blue aftermath of adrenaline-filled days, all mopey that it has come to an end. The last thing I want to do is self-indulge and forget about where I am and who I am with.
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 city is gleaming and I can hardly keep my eyes open for fear of the searing sunlight. The canals around most street corners are more like grand mirrors, upon which the rays hit, dance and blossom. Our refuge from this mighty star is found only between the skinny buildings, in the hose-pipe alleyways. We walk often on the road, for the pavement is thinned downed for one car to squeeze through, and we have fattened ourselves with violins and rucksacks on our shoulders.
At last! A winter that has the guts to eat away my skin, give me my first cold sore in years and push tears into my eyes as I move through the air. December, you were comfortable and tepid, but truly disappointing. I visited the Christmas Markets in a blazer jacket and scarf. There was neither ice nor snow, nor hail nor sleet. Not a shade of white in sight. The streets settled in bog-standard grey.
And look at Apeldoorn this morning…
Nina is keeping me company this fine evening.
People ask me how I am getting on here. It has been a month and the initial jitters have disappeared. I am no longer terrified of finding the right ‘Amphi’ (l’amphithéâtre’ =
lecture hall) in campus. I have made friendships from a range of different situations, on my corridor, meeting ERASMUS students, organised language tandem nights and classes. In lectures I can understand 50%, sometimes 70% of what the teacher is saying, which is often at such supersonic speed not even the French students can keep up, reassuring for me to some degree. But at least the lecturers I have this semester are decent oralists, all thoroughly engaging and rigorous. I record all of my classes and re-listen at home, which takes hours and is incredibly boring. Finally I am in France and I want to go out and meet the world but in fact I must do this in order to survive the year and enjoy any hope of passing my exams. Oh God. Continue reading