Life Theories

1984

It’s Friday night; reminiscent of early university times, but different in just about the right ways. It’s been quite a work intensive week, and I’m now home alone, doing a little steady work, with coffee and chocolate, and enjoying a terrific array of programmes on BBC4 about British synth-pop in the early 1980s [temporarily available]. In my head has always been potential energy: imagining clubbing nights and euphoric times, but possibility has always been more important than actuality. I’m bizarrely excited about the implications of this evening: lonely, but not too lonely; vulnerable, but not too vulnerable... there’s a careful balance to be reached between letting positives infiltrate my existence, and the right caution that nothing is taken for granted. My new academic axiom, I am ordered, is that ‘less is more’: from expertise to the voice, “Art indeed is long, but life is short.” Referentially, I shall say no more.

I am indebted to the lovely mayva for this, who helped me remember, amongst other things, that two inauspicious coins are two circles. Now, to find that same fulfilment in pen as John Donne, I strive to end where I begun.
  • Current Music
    Soft Cell: Say Hello, Wave Goodbye [BBC4 Synth Britannia]
Emotion

To Speak is a Sin



"We've been around forever
Look at us now together
Ordering drinks at the bar..."

The Autumn turns, and a new chapter has begun. It has been a period of transition marked by richness, absurdity, stupidity, and, somehow, sadness. There is no list of ingredients for happiness. I have tried understanding accomplishment in the past when my expectations were met, and now when expectations and reality seem miles apart. In which other avenues does contentment dwell? Which contracting forces inhibit and repel? Perhaps I represent a wider cross-section and am just left with a little longer to think about it. What exacerbates the problem is having, in some fashion, the components to inculcate myself of something stronger, but without the means to access, control, store, and benefit. Reasons to smile become rings of great wealth which tumble all too swiftly to rest upon the frail crust of magma before promptly sinking beneath the incessant cornucopia of rubble too dangerous to excavate. The only hope is that they are heading for the core.

The most important dynamics have changed so much that I am out of my depth. Less than one week into the tenure at Feltham, I was escaping back home amidst a myriad of worries that I'd moved from one disastrous mistake to another. Having undergone periods of more extreme public and private, facets which themselves now constitute the majority of my professional thought, what I have struggled to come to terms with is the way in which relationships change at close quarters. There are no barriers to hide behind; exposure is full and unrelenting. Facebook statuses, journal entries et al. will be received, scrutinised, and reacted to not (only) by friends from a distance, but those from neighbouring rooms. The consequences elevate to piercing eye-to-eye exposure. What needs to be carefully aligned is that everybody has a personalised use of communicative tools: while some are painfully self-whoring (what is more public emptiness than a public speech-act to say that there is nothing to say?), some are used to say precisely the things that cannot be said in person. This is why friendship with newcassell is particularly inspiring; he understands my boundaries. The only option then is to be private: say nothing, by which no response can be induced, and by which there can be no judgement. But even personal privacy does not protect the inner bounds of sovereignty. Some of my family events can be acquired through background means; I do not know what may be said about me behind my back, even in the same room. I have to face it that there is no control over dissemination any more.

It is important to highlight what becomes the more important issue: that this is based somewhat more on paranoia than substance. The crashing loss of control started 12 months ago, and it has never really been regained. Loss of sanctity leaves a weak shell of a person. Having enough confidence, enough control, makes this much less a problem. To fail in this, and to actively believe in unworthiness is a catching private process, and it manifests itself in ways not always evident. I do not confess to knowing the symptoms in others, other than to empathise outwardly with those who deal with it introvertedly.

Three years ago, I stood in long lines for the enrolment process at Edinburgh, watching almost everybody retrieve sheets from their bags of obscure scholarships and international sources of funding, while I was clearly the plum left to fund himself through the obscenely high tuition fees. Despite this, the 130 mile commute, and not meeting a soul for an entire year, I had faith in my abilities, and thrived on postgraduate research. By the end of that academic year, all the financial and social negatives were more than compensated for by landing the amazing post in Geneva. This year, I turn up at the Royal Holloway English office in July to find answers after 17 weeks of answerless insecurity, only to look like a total imbecile. At the beginning of this month, I landed a 12-month scholarship, which had me flying, for a weekend: perhaps it went with a rib. Faith has not continued over the years. Last Wednesday was the postgraduate introduction day, and one of the most poignant. I placed huge emphasis on this day in my head in a desperate attempt to avoid two more years of social ostracism. (The disparate nature of postgraduate research results in fewer and fewer chances to integrate). Even on the train heading to university, I felt Smeagle and Gollum fighting again. The initial meeting with my fellow colleagues was sporadically interjected with nerves; the later party saw a display of social awkwardness barely matched during Bristol days. The next two years may yet be spent poorer for the consequences of such weakness that I saw no power to overcome.

Socially and emotionally, events over recent times have caused a regression. Like for Marvell's mower, glimmers emerge - the richness of parties, meetups, tuition work, project works - all of which I am scared even to describe because it highlights hope that is refusing to manifest itself, hence frustration at enigmatic forces making complete things incomplete. I had the best night I can remember in a long time on Saturday night at the stunning Hylton Hotel in Cobham (for which I owe immense thanks to the legendary myatt). It reminds me of the moderately cool, witty, fun-loving, and slightly insane 25 year old that I would gladly wear on the outside as the majority, not the exception. Perhaps elucidating on that night would prove hugely beneficial; right now, I am just too weary of false hope. Wednesday could see my PhD topic, one of the very few things left to call my own, altered to a degree that it is not mine any more. I must find the strength, amidst everything else, to ensure I don't lose the fight for control altogether.

"To speak is a sin"
  • Current Music
    Pet Shop Boys: To Speak Is A Sin
Emotion

Discharged

Thank you immeasurably for the support. It has been a testing week, not least because it was difficult to make a firm diagnosis for Faye. She was kept afloat by some of the most powerful antibiotics available, but the source of the infection, or at least what was observable after the impact of the treatment, has remained evasive. The signs all point to the rare Toxic Shock Syndrome (approx. 20 diagnosed cases in the UK each year); this can, at worst, prove fatal. The positive news is that she is on the mend. She was discharged on Friday afternoon with a cocktail of 16 tablets per day. It's great just to have her home. This has hit the family quite hard. Failing to look after myself properly registered during visiting hours on Tuesday evening. From standing at the edge of Faye's bed, I fainted and crashed into the adjacent door of the bathroom. It was highly embarrassing, but fortunate that no children were visiting any of the other inpatients at that time; I was not there to cause any unnecessary worry. But it is a lesson to not neglect the self; you are no help to anybody if your own self is compromised. I had neither slept or nourished properly, and yet when physically fit, there is little reason to expect sudden weaknesses - but it only takes 90 seconds for a rapid turn.

With one calculated amendment, my parents managed to get away on their well-earned break, and I am keeping a watchful eye over Faye. It opens a little space, and I have scraped around with a mental scalpel to try and determine what this past week has brought. Various grades of frustration. My new PC developed a fault in the boot sequence that could not be fixed due to the contorted manufacturing settings. I lost some work, and newly uploaded pictures from Switzerland, in the reinstallation. Royal Holloway, meanwhile, who claim a 4 week decision on PhD applications, have said nothing in 14. A modicum of courage prompted me to enquire about any little snippets of information at all - even just when I might expect to hear a decision - a message which reached the English Department last Monday but has yielded nothing. If I wonder why my self-respect has dropped so far in 12 months that it is shaking hands with Satan, it might be because the one thing that I have dared to place hope in seems to ignore that I exist at all. If you don't have the tools to fight dirty, you end up the very dirt on someone else's shoe. All the ambitions that I used to think were right to have, and which the appointment in Switzerland encouraged, have fast eroded.

The most confusing thing is simplicity. There is a strange comfort in emptiness. I'm not so keen on initiating conversation any more; I have nothing worthy to say; I'm not a good person to know right now. I have tried to locate the incidents, episodes, pointers that used to orchestrate me, and manipulate them to conduct once again, but there is nothing. The ignition key turns, but the engine does not start. Hello? Is there anybody in there? Just nod if you can hear me. Is there anyone at home? Do I keep trying to force this unnatural practice, aware of what I could lose if I don't succeed, or succumb to the recess of isolated comfort that will stabilise once all my aspirations have finally died? I'm building a wall, a fine wall. Not so much to keep you out, More to keep me in. If the incidents, episodes, pointers no longer register, the predictions they wrought at the end of 2008 were astute enough: "you cannot just reclaim your life and everything within it as it was before. Some sacrifices have to be realised".
  • Current Music
    Rocket Empire: Simmer Down Jammie
Emotion

Patients

For those of you who know her, my youngest natural sister, Faye, was taken to the doctors this morning. By 4pm, she was in the intensive care unit at Sunderland Royal Hospital. From being unable to get any doctors called out today, she was attended by up to three at the unit. She has an untraceable infection, which, to me at least, with her other particular symptoms, looks a certain match for septicaemia, a blood poisoning form of meningitis. The seriousness is not yet unknown, but she has been admitted to an isolated side-room. The important thing is, that as of this evening, she is no longer critical, and is in the best place.

It is almost as if the family's health pot of stresses and strains have boiled over. My other sister, Fern, is also in a bad way, and this serious event not only overshadowed her, but also meant leaving young Zoe with her today, who was being a handful earlier. My dad is currently struggling with sciatica, which he contracted earlier this week. It's been hard seeing him contorted in the living room on an evening trying to find a comfortable way to get some sleep. My mum and dad were meant to be flying out for a special joint birthday holiday on Wednesday morning (I stress the word holiday only because their other trips to Spain normally involve so many other passengers that there is no less housework to do than at home, and I have a vested interest in this because the flights were my present to them both). Whether this now delays or ruins the holiday is unknown.

Our family can make things particularly difficult for ourselves. My dad faced suspension from his job earlier this year due to a minor incident, needless pedantry from a young upstart, and subsequently from his own mouth. My mum, meanwhile, has been exalting in some of the internal politics of this fostering business, and yesterday managed to ruin what, it turns out, would have been a perfect option for Zoe today. But sometimes, in the face of adversity, I can be proud. Since moving downstairs, I see worryingly little of Faye - only twice since returning back home on Thursday. She had been ill since Friday afternoon, and my mum started getting concerned last night. But this morning, they checked her and realised that something was seriously wrong. Her temperature had approached (hyper)pyrexic levels, and my dad would have done whatever necessary for her to receive medical attention.

Times like this make life all the more confusing. The degree of shock with these events can normally render one fairly stoic, but I question what will shake my stoicism at home? Was there a moment today when I feared the worst? Is this part of being an adult, and putting a brave face on things? I wouldn't be writing this at all if I did not care; of course I do. It has left a reaction, but a more hardened and gritted reaction than I expected. But today is not about me or my thoughts. I only learnt this evening, before my parents left again for the hospital, that Faye had been asking for me this afternoon. Thank goodness I got to see her, if only briefly. If I cannot find the right summary for what is going on inside, I can turn to fine evidence. Almost all of my favourite photos are with Faye; and given a history of anguish with body image, that is testimony that I can reach out and touch. My family place a lot of value on first-footing, but it was clear from 2008 that I was not the person to face that accolade, and I should not attempt it again.

[Out of context, but strangely relevant]. 'Cause I, Need time / My heart is numb, has no feeling / So while I'm still healing / Just try and have a little Patience.

Get well soon treasure.

  • Current Music
    Russell Watson: I Believe
Emotion

Hit and Miss

Amended from royalarbor.wordpress.com

It is a pleasure to report that our family is expecting a new arrival soon. It is keeping me busy as I am baring the brunt of the physical upheaval.

Bordeaux Red

My room has seen some great highs and lows. This picture, pleasingly, was taken in the very epicenter of positive times in 2003. It is hard to judge whether this red sky was at night or in the morning... but I will miss the wholesome view either way.

Collapse )
  • Current Music
    Erasure: Don't Suppose (Dreammaker, Heartbreaker) (Country Joe Mix)
Emotion

Past Times

I miss you. I miss me. I miss life.

My fascination with the act of writing, its methods and mechanisms, is no secret. It derives partly from studying the processes of an enigmatic private mind and private writer in Marvell in what is becoming a literary public sphere around him. No loose thread to my thesis is the idea that those seventeenth century years reflect our own to some degree. From little cheap pamphlets speaking to other pamphlets, with conversation and argument going about in print, we find a similar process happening, on a larger and more diverse scale, digitally. Where there is free comment to be had, it will be had; where there is free space to be had, it will be had; where there is the will to voice, voice will be spoken.

I often wonder to what degree Facebook has changed my approach to writing. I sit, as a disciple of Marvell, thinking "what is happening around me is a degree of publicity that the majority are comfortable with, but I am not". It forces me into a dilemma: on the one hand, to repel and distance myself against that which I dislike (even if I react to it differently in some cases to others), and to retain my privacy. It makes me want to avoid the sense of 'I'. On the other hand, there is the risk of losing out and falling behind in the instilled public methods and the public environs that govern socialization. It makes me want to join in, 'dad at the dance' style, and to try and self-fashion something for myself when everything else seems to be slipping away.

Today confirmed a long suspicion, when I reshaped my standard CV for the first time in two years and glanced at the proud statement heading the 'interests' section. The Knightmare group has been my identity, my nucleus, and I have seen it melt into cytoplasm. What life offered through that nucleus was a richness that has largely shined and occasionally sparkled, but perhaps did not expand and ignite as it should have done. These days, I write a thesis, to myself, and for myself. It is an insular, self-absorbing and has been a self-destructive process. Postgraduate study, even the long, cold return journeys to Edinburgh for scandalous tuition fees, I once embraced with pride and dignity. Yet, through time, place, and space, much of this has been stripped away, and this same activity leaves me feeling a waste of space. What is left of my identity; painfully little. This awkward dance in words is a confession that I feel the need for a glimpse of narcissism.

Not here. This little piece of the internet has more identity than me. I enjoy reading all friends' posts here; it reminds me of community, and an insecure self that was encircled enough to enjoy openness. What Facebook has shown me in particular is that documenting and publicizing mundane events is, more often than not, mind-numbingly boring. I want posts here to make a difference: to those who read them, and to me having written them. If I have achieved this across any of the spaces to which I contribute, then I am very glad. The compromise I have wanted to make is not to prostitute my life's mundanity in a public setting, but to construct something slightly different; a 'column' of some sort, which can combine thoughts and ideas with analysis and a more distant personal voice. I hope to write something, in contrast to my thesis, consciously not for me, something that might be read with a fair degree of interest. Perhaps I can make some of my research questions fit that bill. I would be delighted if anyone was interested in following this new space, offering ideas or suggestions for subjects to tackle.

Writing Privacy

In keeping with the shift in intents and purposes, it has seemed best to jump ship. This was partly inspired by the awesome Lara King, a colleague of mine from Bristol days, whose developing career as a professional writer seems so much more fulfilling than my own right now. I like the format, the look, and the layout provided by Wordpress; it seems right for the task. It's useful having a space which does not prohibit, but which does not encroach on friends' lists. I would be delighted to provide a side-link to anybody's journal or site if they wanted a possible stream of random traffic. The second (and most recent) item is titled 'Crackpot Culture', and was written for the Geneva English Department magazine, Noted. It is particularly important to mention that here since the questionnaire took place on this space, facilitated by kind friends and readers.

Crackpot

It has been six weeks. Returning home as a full-time student has been as difficult as I imagined. It is not that I lack commitment to my research, but that the status, the income, and the locus for making research part of a respectable occupation has been taken away, and the shell of a PhD student that remains feels much more shallow now than it ever did before. Sadly, I am sure that my attitude towards my work would be much stronger if I had never known the difference that Geneva offered. Other academic matters haven't helped. The motivation to complete tasks I continue to receive from Geneva (and will do for some considerable time, due to the delays students are allowed before they are assessed for courses) is much reduced without income. Within three weeks of arriving back, I was grateful to pick up private tuition, which offers a little, but I clearly need work to operate and to feel some sense of dignity, whatever that may be. A temporary vacancy has been announced for a small shop in a local windy outlet centre, and I have my sights on that. It is called 'Past Times', which I thought had a nice association with the topics and themes around which everything else of late has centered. I wish everybody grateful thanks, much love, and all the best in these uncertain times.
  • Current Music
    James: Semaphore
Life Theories

Pendulum

My words will never be good enough. They do not deal with the situation; they do not settle the fractured complexities that harbour themselves; they don’t suffer the test of time; and they struggle to sit right for me. This is a pre-occupation that has refused to go away. I feel a great weight of expectation on my writing. I follow friends’ personal journals that have power and professional journals that inspire me, and I feel frustratingly left behind. Entries from the earlier years can sometimes embarrass me for a number of reasons, but that epideictic mode had a cathartic function, and it provoked interaction and response, wonderful comments from regular and occasionally anonymous readers. Now, every entry is approached with the same kind of principles that govern academic writing. There are strong precedents to this too.

Tara Brabazon has said recently that ‘All of us, including postgraduates, learn to write by writing’ (Times Higher Education). True indeed; when I started journaling in 2003, I was extremely concerned about the standard of my writing. I was to join an outstanding university after relatively weak exam performances and a year away from education. There had been massive improvements in my life at that time which showed that the part happiness plays in achievement cannot be underestimated, but still, I felt that there was plenty to say, to share and to describe. The positive academic start to university seemed largely indebted to the methods of expression and the wealth of creativity that had surfaced through writing in this precious coterie. With that, I notice that spontaneity seems to take over; perhaps that is how journaling can work at its optimum. In this case, however, it gave ground to carelessness and lack of attention to the aesthetics of writing. The confidence from the harmony found in writing from first year (harmony which never transferred itself into social skills), brought a crash in the second year, when my academic work seemed to suffer from the same kind of arbitrary spontaneity and carelessness. As third year approached, I started to feel the weight of responsibility: how was I going to continue beyond life at Bristol? I think the journal started to bear the dense responsibility for carving a life after Bristol, and the new preoccupations that would govern the indefinite next stage of life. I took my academic work so seriously that it became the top priority over journaling, and I have never looked back from that. But it has clearly showed me that writing is a behaviour. You may learn to write by writing, but in the same way that it is believed that ‘text-talk’ is leading to declining standards, one learns behaviourally whatever is practiced most often.

There are strange conundrums at play. A sister journal, royal_arbor, was created to attempt to split the two streams of consciousness that (I believed) co-existed. It is an experiment that has worked in stages, to some degree, but an chiastic amalgamation has uncomfortably manifested itself: a personal touch has entered my academic discourse, while an academic touch remains within my personal discourse. What has changed, altogether, is that while I have always at some point felt out of my depth at each level, the rustic academic methods have instilled themselves so deep within that it seems that they are all I know. Sometimes it pays to remind myself of the very ideology discovered in Geneva. Doctoral preparation, training to be an academic: this is not a profession that one can dissociate themselves from, but a way of life. I may wish for freedom and spontaneity to some degree, but they often seem such distant attributes. I may have to learn them anew, and it would scare me to compromise the stringent discipline that governs my writing now. I can spend several days writing, editing, and re-editing a single page; there is a single-minded drive for perfection. I would enjoy some of the facets of this discipline being applied to this journal. I admire the thought of every entry feeling special; where the language strikes the very best it can for every occasion. Practically, however, it is not possible. While these standards govern me, I think aggressively about method when the very idea of writing emerges. I seem to want my subjects clearly defined, as well as a framework which justifies the relevance of placing even random subjects together. This is something I can do, as demonstrated by the introductions written for the Features section of Noted (Spring 2008 and Autumn 2008 issues), finding ways to link all sorts together, but it takes scrupulous effort, and the end product is consciously a very different kind of achievement to the journal entries of old. More like ticking mental boxes rather than tipping mental poxes. Perhaps it portends an editor of collected essays in waiting (The Cambridge Companion to Andrew Marvell (!)); I’ll not hold my breath.

I’m also both confused and intrigued by the psychology of space, a further conundrum. I had long preferred writing in the journal box to a word processing program, even with the added risk of losing work. It was always associated with the rich liberty of journal writing as opposed to the rigidity of academic work. Now, in fashion with the ingrained processes already detailed, the journal box has grown into a space to be scared of, a den of iniquity. Word now provides the white space of comfort, even though that too is tightly associated with academic writing. I made an attempt to combine this paradigmatic psychology of space by manually archiving the majority of entries before the temporary pause of the journal onto Word. The response was unusual, and predominantly aesthetic. I preferred some entries and comments neatly fitted into a document, while others seemed to sit better on the relatively conservative webpage. Nevertheless, if I want to find distant entries, I still tend to do this through the journal rather than the backup documents. The simultaneous archive I made of all the music featured in those entries has proven much more helpful. These investigations about the increasing difficulties in writing journal entries have yielded a number of answers. The polity of audience has been one; attempted respect to friendship has been another; changing priorities has been mentioned, but is perhaps more closely negotiated here to a mixture of changing lifestyle and behaviour; and I have added to these the semantics of the aesthetic and the psychology of space. Perhaps a renaissance of the fractal and all will be cured.

Listing all these, I find myself asking what Geneva has really done for me. Although I don’t necessarily see myself as a fiercely driven person, I have long been conscious of upholding the highest of standards, even and especially to my own detriment. The report I wrote on the Study Abroad Scheme for 2008/2009, one of my last professional duties under official employment, exceeded 20 pages. To feel myself writing this piece, I notice the rough mechanical edge to my thought where emotion once governed. Without a doubt, I have to push the limits of discomfort here to say that I am scared of suppressed emotions bent double over broken pride. I suggested above that one learns behaviourally whatever is practiced most often: for near 18 months that has been older, heavily academic company, combined with long periods of solitude in a fear-ridden and pain-filled living environment. I am glad for the awareness, but I will need help. My sense of achievement has either gone, or else is too high for comfort. It has not taken me long to find work, albeit only a few hours per week, and that has rescued some esteem from beyond the pale. Inevitably, it has landed on a Saturday, which threatens to restrict much social activity to learn the positive ways of life again as I need to do. What remains in the medium term is a choice between living with dearest friends and constant love to financial detriment, or recuperating financially with a career-orientated move elsewhere. Head and Heart are separated, which concerns me because my Head feels in charge. These are desperate times: the politics of what could become an age of survival are only beginning. This makes the task of justifying a resignation from a very respectable position even more daunting. The best summary I have been able to muster is that Geneva gave me something, and took twice as much away; I return half the man I was. I would gladly appreciate witness for or against; the trial continues to burn in the courtroom of my mind. ‘This author’ cannot deny the fact of the support, and hope, that exists even when it does not live.
  • Current Music
    Nightwish: The Poet and The Pendulum (Orchestral)
Emotion

First Light



Welcome, this Journal and Journey of mine, to 2009. Alone in a lonely office, in a great, but lonely country, a country whose values, strangely enough, I admire more than my dear homeland. As I begin to reflect on the beginning of the end of my inconsequential purpose on this day of Revolution, I have long understood the need for my homeland; there is no substitute for a sense of belonging. This is another year, and yet this space tells the story best. I called it Echoes after my favourite book, and sense many from the patchwork of last year; not because only 3 weeks have past, but some kind of Ascendance, some kind of augury. By accident, I came across the French language dubbed episode of 24 that has haunted my thought. Insipid, unmoving; it left the same aura of disappointment that has clouded my own period.

I am here with my narrow channel connecting me to the rest of the world, and yet to nobody; and a window reflecting the inside light with the darkness and cold outside. I could be all-powerful, and yet am powerless. It is a World of Extremes and Opposites. While I mean nothing, for the place of words that could be worthless and reach nowhere, I embody those extremes and opposites. It is shameful that guilt and loneliness has been let in, wiping away confidence and unlocking worry. If regression comes with the economy, that would not be unfair - I've had a grand share of good fortune since the founding of this space, no matter what I think I've lost. But I waited here tonight to watch the inauguration ceremony: and I'm moved by the very real rhetoric, and the very real spirit. For the first time in a long time, I might leave this office, believing that the long walk home might just be a little lighter, and that I might smile.

(i who have died am alive again today
and this is our son's birthday; this is the birth
day of life and love and wings: and of the gay
great happening
illimitably earth)

Anybody who reads this, I would love to hear from you. If you could spare a few seconds to leave just a few words, they will bolster me for very much longer. Love and Peace for Ever and Ever.
  • Current Music
    Amethystium: Opaque
Life Theories

PatchWork II

[In text, not paratext]. [Amended 01/01/09 21:30] There are times when each new entry gets harder to write. It has been three years since any kind of end-of-year eulogy, and this year, in a sad sense, presents the opportunity better than any other to date. Indeed, whether 'eulogy' is the right word, I am not sure, but there are many to thank, and still much to be thankful for that takes this closer to eulogy than elegy. Writing outside the neutral - about highly positive or negative events - still demands a perfectly poised tone to feel right within the webspacial spheres in which it disseminates. Given the work I do, I struggle to even think in such libertine, random patterns any more, even though spontaneity always seemed once upon a time to bring out the most creative form of thought. To collect together all the positives would be a hideous misrepresentation of the year. To collect all the negatives, on the other hand (many of which have already been listed in this journal in some form), would not only defeat the ambiance I am trying to uphold, but also negate the great fortune I have today of seeing a positive future ahead and not a bitterly sad one - something I owe more to others than anything I could offer myself. As ever, I offer my gracious thanks for indulging anything I have to say in this space.

Without doubt, I am ending the year in a state of repair (or perhaps disrepair). I am holding more comfortably one main meal per day now, and I carry more energy during the day. As soon as I hit the pillow, however, I have trouble moving myself from it. A far cry from I, when, more often than not, I defied my system with caffeine and adrenalin. It is years of dedication and neglect, albeit in the best sense of those terms, that has helped to inflict the predicaments of this year. Months of graft over the Autumn term with some strong discipline throughout December has offered me occasional spells of respite over the Christmas period, putting me in much lighter spirits. Having fallen with the economy, the hope for 2009, without doubt, is to come back stronger than ever.

I wrote recently about the element of the uncanny; coincidental connections with events and their recordings 3 years ago. I might have understood something similar at the turn of this year. Collapse ) Even when personal sanctity is redeemed, you cannot just reclaim your life and everything within it as it was before. Some sacrifices have to be realised.


One of my fondest recollections of the first Knightmare RPG shoot is being labelled Kiefer Sunderland. This sequences of events from '24' has revolved over and over in the mind, so chillingly close does it strike. I have kept using the word sacrifice, however misplaced, for this year. If there is to be experience through learning, it will pay me not to forget what has gone wrong. Especially given the economic climate, it is impossible to overlook the quality of the job I have had to give up. The repercussions of this are not yet though, I am fearful. My health has suffered; my sanity has wavered; my social skills have regressed (when I've spent long weekends talking to nobody but myself). Likely due to a combination of the previous, a dear relationship has suffered a breakdown. I move back home on January 31st, a move complicated by the prospect of my bedroom now being dedicated to our new prospective foster-child. Most of all, I've seen myself on the way to a dark place. During the summer, a Keith who, even rusty, outran a Blackpool tram along a 2 mile stretch of coast two years ago, struggled to drag himself home on an afternoon after more and more work was heaped onto the period that the rest of the department calls holiday. October sees me return from a medical trip to the UK to discover that my apartment had been broken into. It is one of the most bittersweet memories of the year; staying awake for the rest of the night to feel safe, and then coming straight back home, punching the air as I leapt from the Grand Central train that brought me home to Sunderland. I have grown happily accustomed to a private stoicism, much like my dad; one that has threatened to bomb on occasion, not least spending a night in tears earlier this month. I have not had a break since Blackpool 2006, and even that was not the easiest time, as I struggled to gather the finances together for the year ahead. This year has got harder and harder and harder, and all I have done, all I have continued to do is what my bosses have asked of me. The summer holidays were French, homework, marking, admin, research, and exam preparation, when I could not look after myself. These Christmas holidays have brought with them a conference paper to re-write (and deliver), proof-reading, a pile of student queries, the study-abroad scheme to profile, and a potential two essays to write for publication. Enough has been lost, and while January sees my end coincide with Kiefer S and Jack Bauer's re-emergence, it is time to realise that this kind of commitment where 'what needs to be done' takes all priority and precedence wreathes a tortured soul, and belongs in fiction.


Stuff of novels. I thought as much on February 11th. I had started the year knowing that friends would be important, but things started to drift quickly when I tried and failed to organise any kind of gathering around my birthday time. It was not an important occasion in any sense, but I had inquired with the premise that the opportunity for trips back to the UK may diminish as the year continues, and such occasions may become increasingly finite. In a bizarre stunt, which I had intended to quip as a final third, I put my embers of faith in springing surprise visits on two old and dear friends. The first, phenomenally, for all the rest of the year, was clearly meant to be. I had only the name of his work building and the office number, but with numbers circulating densely in and around the building, I was blessed to inflict the shock of his life in the entrance way. Had I arrived 60 seconds earlier or later, I would have had no chance. Never is there a more explosive personal reaction than when I encounter the awesome Ali Everett. I spent a happy hour with the good man, charging my emotional batteries every second. So nice it was too, now that I have mentioned the RPG, to be back in Manchester. Then followed a trip to London to spring a surprise on another dear friend who was certainly not expecting me. I do not feel, at the end of this year, anywhere near the 'epic' person I used to. Whether certain grim realities or priority changes have buried the inner 'romanticist' far away, whether it is a personality change in itself, or whether that kind of inner drive demands much more energy than I realised, and therefore is suffering from indifference while my health is dwindling, is all too difficult to say. Nevertheless, days like February 11th are the most fulfilling. February 14th saw the first trip to York since the camping trip, to catch up with an old charge from early NAGTY days; ironically enough, it was during the time of that trip that first communication with Samantha was established in the background. I remember this now: to sit down and reflect on the beautiful, winding details that blend and fuse together across past and present - it shows me why I named my primary icon 'life is a jigsaw'.


Given the frequent air-travel over this year, especially the period where I was effectively homeless, and commuting between Geneva and London each week, Europe seems very much smaller than it did before. I doubt that any future European holiday will ever feel like the same kind of escape again. With no flights to the North of England after April, I have seen myself fly into Edinburgh, Manchester, East Midlands, London Luton, London Heathrow, and London City, with 5 different airlines, until flights started again into Newcastle just two weeks ago. It has been a joy to use London City for the majority of air travel with Swiss and the wonderful Air France, and fantastic to pass through the new Terminal 5 at Heathrow in both directions. This coincided with the end of the summer of French, and a call-to-arms which did threaten to cause a collapse, were it not for the interception of a few fine friends. While my research of late has seen me differentiate privacy from relatively synonymic terms like secrecy, solitude and so forth, I have learnt that community and friendship are more separate than I had believed. Trust seems to have been lost from the former and granted to the latter. And Facebook shows the complications between friendship and community. Where is the distinction between quantity and quality when members have hundreds of friends? Faint acquaintances, distant classmates, can sit within closest friends and family, with abandon. This list would represent one's individual 'community', and indeed, the 'mutual friends' item shows smaller communities, but it cannot realistically be more than a set of individuals, 'friends'. Thus, the world's prime networking website may not satisfy or benefit either community or friendship. But then, as with the developing ideology of seventeenth-century privacy, this is a separate entity, which an individual chooses to use, and then how to use it. I am so proud to see nationalities within my list including Bulgarian, Russian, Romanian, Brazilian, Finnish, Spanish, Japanese, American, Canadian, and, of course, Swiss: some of these I can only communicate with in French. More importantly, it is important to me to maintain the credibility of this list, and ensure that friendship continues to mean something. The Hope symbol lives on.


Given the need to resign, and the pending end of the academic career I had worked so hard to initiate, I had plenty to prove in the final months of this year in Geneva. The one credit I will offer myself is that I rose to that challenge, won round an understandably doubting supervisor, and have grafted myself both a possible future, and an ounce of self-respect after capitulating in what is, undoubtedly, for someone, a dream role. The early part of the year saw the Andrew Marvell course, a double book review, and my first conference presentation. Having completed the 9 weeks of French at levels between B2 [Higher Intermediate] and C1 [Lower Advanced] on the 'Cadre Européen', I spent September creating my course on Literature of the English Civil War, and submitted the first 15,000 words of the PhD, which was well received. I have taken part in my supervisor's Masters course and the Doctoral workshop; spearheaded the department's poorly organised Study Abroad scheme, interviewing the majority of our second year students; applied successfully for a history conference at Cambridge, and prepared work-in-progress to present at our workshop. The feedback for the English Civil War course was just fantastic, and made all the thought and dedication that went into it highly worthwhile. The number of people who turned up for the final class on Friday at 8:00am (which included a screening of Family Guy, PTV) was a terrific compliment. Without a doubt, it was a treat at the end of the year to meet the Premier League of experts in my field at the John Milton symposium. Early next year will see an reunion with Profs. John Morrill and Blair Worden at Selwyn College, the kind of event I could only have dreamed of this time last year, and it symbolises something important for me. Given the easy route I could have had out of Geneva, these past few months (around the intermittent circumstances) have proved to myself that I want this as a future. I am not a natural academic: the shameful congratulation I offer myself for this battle shows this, but it has been my natural survival instinct to turn to this for solace, and to work towards whatever will keep me going in that direction. What next year may bring is unknown, but I hope I can rediscover some of the creativity, energy, and passion of old. The best of the past could really help to blend a sweeter sense of future.


Amidst the lather of work, I have seen some of the best features of December: snow-topped Swiss mountains, flights in crystal skies, the hospitality of the family (who have been a saving grace this year), contact again with both aforementioned friends and a precious catch up with the rock that is malefact, time at home, and even the strange musing I always have around short walks in this part of the world, that there is no place like home. This year has been epic, no matter how much I try to play it down. Next year promises to be as potentially promising and healing as this year has been debilitating and destructive. There might be the potential for some rest, for a new member of the family, for a new move, to a new university and a new life. I'm ground down to the point where this all seems a little too good to be true right now. It's the best I can do to remain open-minded and pray to goodness that good luck, good health and good fortune spread around family and friends. I want to thank everyone that follows this journal, for providing a sense of audience that creates the (and my) raison d'etre, and for your support. As I began with the term paratext, I thank you for rich and plentiful comments throughout the year. I thank you for most this amazing day... for everything which is natural, which is infinite, which is Yes. Forever Love, Peace and Harmony, and a wonderful 2009.
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Emotion

Maranatha

It has felt like an almighty marathon. Even more so than the several consecutive days and nights battling to complete my Masters. In the traditions of the long-distance runner, I battled until the end. I am left with the the contradicting, antithetical symptoms of Thomas Wyatt: exhausted, yet restless; proud, yet unsatisfied; epic, yet stoic; accomplished, yet empty. From needing the time to fly, I have needed the time to pause. The marathon does not end; it cannot end. Every day of the calendar has looked like the next; I wish I could say that I've noticed anything other than the cold, apart from the occasional attempt at festivity which has not quite struck home. It might be enough to make my heart stop. But the office looks quite empty now. Soon KaM (and A.M.) will be moving on. Withered like my hopes, the grass? I wrote that and drew a representation on our board. The future is so uncertain. Yet Juliana comes, and she, what the sun does to the sea, does to my thoughts and me. My temporary office mate for one afternoon per week this term has been wonderful, and I am delighted that she will be staying on and taking the first year class in my place.

The theme of the conference I will be speaking at next month is 'Change and Continuity', and this has become an intimately thriving feature of the month as self-reflection starts to come in. I cannot believe the parallels that work over time, showing (sometimes quite explicitly) what has remained the same and what has changed. Yesterday, I was blessed to reminisce over something I wrote two years ago that surpasses anything else I have ever written, in a powerful context of continuity. Today, in order to symbolize continuity and change combined, I added more "write-bytes" to the office whiteboard as leaving signals of my mind.

To then complicate this harmony further, this entry begins to form itself in my mind, which then fills, top to bottom, of this Thomas Wyatt effect. That is becoming something of a stock-epithet. It is not the first time such parallels have dominated my thought. When I trace the archival connection in this journal, I land here, Nirvana, from just over three years ago. The parallels from this entry are uncanny: A wonderful and relevant title; a wonderful description too. I have not felt in good control of my words recently; I've spoken about illness where I have not meant to; I have been reclusive; and I'm a little bit scared too. The most striking coincidence is that one of the last "write-bytes" I wrote on the whiteboard was the following: "Remember only this: a kiss may not be the truth, but it is what we wish were true". This is also, it turns out, from Steve Martin, L.A. Story, and features at the end of Enya's Exile. December mornings, being too late, and coming home. It is chilling how this reappears again, with a series of different resonances, three years later.

What is the meaning of this fascinating, and yet unsettling, coincidence? That I subconsciously recollect my own journal so well? That I subconsciously associate feelings and music together so congruently? That I anticipate the end of 'Exile'? By this time next year, I could be house-sharing again, recreating the very surroundings of 'Nirvana' from three years ago. With that recollection of the past, I am shown the element of change. I have enjoyed living on my own, with some of its fraught difficulties. I have battled through an experience in the stunning, if stubborn, Switzerland. There is continuity and change in the academic climb, which has, this term, reached some promising heights, and which was only just beginning three years ago under David Hopkins, who, incidentally, I saw just two weeks ago. A frighteningly small world, sometimes. I thought there may be no bigger world than language, but just last week I spotted a bizarre crossover between ekphrasis and Romeo and Juliet in the new edition of SPELL. I had made the same happen in my section introduction for January's edition of the departmental magazine, Noted. Now all these parallels in thought and word from three years ago emerge too.

I am not, as 'Nirvana' frets, a 'welcome exit': I am stunned that my supremely generous departmental colleagues here had a collection and got me a Swiss watch and a Jean-Jacques Goldman album, Singulier - his music being my only real deep connection with French since I arrived. I have grown very attached to my colleagues. Some of us followed Wednesday's small staff celebration by following on with a few drinks elsewhere. It took us down to the beautiful Bel-Air and seeing the classy illuminations that I would never have otherwise come across. It felt great, sociable, fun, and I even tried speaking in French. Without doubt I will leave here with an improved grasp of the language. It will be a bitter, bitter blow to leave them. At some point, no doubt I will look past the exhaustion and so forth at the high rewards that have come from the driving endeavour that has gone into this term and will continue into the break, and say that I could have found a way to survive this. Perhaps it is my growing fascination with privacy that has led me to asking questions in my head over and over again that encourage the very answers of uncertainty, that which will never be known: sometimes uncertainty is infinitely better than a straight answer.

In some ways, my resolve has got tougher, and in some ways, weaker. What has changed is time, circumstance, and, most importantly, experience. Strengths and weaknesses get reassessed, sometimes in the most stunning of circumstances. Independence, I learn, is not about building the tightest barriers of privacy and trying to handle everything myself. Rather, it is about knowing how to handle everything properly; who to turn to for help, and so forth. Are not the strongest people those who attract no attention to that very facet of themselves? I look no further than my supervisor and boss. He tells me that he is always very up-front about everything, and he, in his wonderful capacity as a human, is a strong man and absolutely always in control.

When, last night, I was told 'I am glad you were strong', it sent me into tears. It is in what part of me has seen as the most devastating show of weakness that I found my greatest strength. When I look at things in a different light, it is not so hard to believe. Deep down, yes, I can be strong. I look back, over these past months, and years, even. There is lots to be very proud of. I am even developing, slowly but surely, a Marvellian ambiguity. I could look back on this in three years time and be fooled as to who or what exactly I was talking about. With Marvell, as with his disciple: it's in my head, and I will never forget.

Là-bas
Faut du coeur et faut du courage
Mais tout est possible à mon âge
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