That time again. Wetter than average summers tend to burst tired but sharply defined fire into late September sycamore foliage, and so you arrive at your displacement from your nuclear family in a strange town, seeking quick and uneasy alliances while the trees smoulder and your parents fuss over your bags and boxes. All you really want is to transition (cross dissolve) to that shot of their rear number plate receding into the distance. Then you can deal with your first feelings that now it’s just you, or more precisely with the first stage of that process, because its conclusion is in the general scheme of things yet some years away. Leaflets, tours, corporate t-shirts, tents, supervised and risk assessed bar crawls. The road home is blurred and smeary.
You see someone in the street whose hair, clothes and gait put you in mind of someone you had contact with until recently. I often see from behind a figure that resembles my mother in later life. Diminutive stature, neck length grey hair and a determination to continue. This one has in the early morning a distracted gaze that suggests I’m mistaken. She was all about focus, which is likely why the filament expired so suddenly. Reaching into the drawer to discover that you’ve used the last spare bulb, you remark through your last mouthful of pizza that you meant to get more.
Contact is now more possible than at any time in the history of the planet, and yet somehow more difficult too. A lonely shroud hides your face and body from the person next to you in the food queue that you debated benefit culture and socialism with the night before. You lean past them awkwardly and your pulse quickens ever so slightly as you head for separate tables.
Since my last post, all of two years ago, study is back on the agenda after an absence of thirty years. Back through the turnstiles of a university library. The opportunity to look again at text analysis came fittingly enough in my mum’s garden last summer, to an email address I was about to bin off as it had turned into a spam repository. All in the timing. Or something. Teaching continues, to pay bills and keep me in contact with the passing on of subject knowledge that I still say is my only motivation for being in the profession. Over the last three decades that motivation has slipped steadily down the totem pole in the thinking of the management machine. If thinking it can be called.
Conventional wisdom and the Protestant work ethic have it that compartmentalisation is the template for success. Allow your empathy and your insecurities to bleed all over the compartments and flood them if you like, but don’t expect to accomplish very much. Fuck that though. Let’s not worry and let’s just see what remains. When I was down in London a few months ago I noticed the way that tree roots were bulging the perimeter wall and pavement in Tavistock Square, pushing at the lead-filled holes that held pre-war railings now rusting in the Serpentine. All propaganda, apparently. Not suitable for either munitions or aircraft production. Time runs at different speeds, according to calibration.
The severed head and shoulders of Virginia Woolf look out on the square, rain running down her face, down the faces of the freshers streaming past the windows of a neglected bar conscious of its business plan, down the window where Mum once had her morning caffeine in the context of the sea, dripping off those sycamore leaves that flicker above an old bath tub in her garden. Virginia’s head remembers the weight of those stones in her pocket and exhorts us to stay together for as long as we can.
OK. Drop me your CV if you want.