Wednesday, March 31, 2004

Far too nice.

the weather, that is. It's a beautiful day outside, and I'm stuck doing academic English for the whole of it. I'm also still feeling wiped out. I don't know, it's as if I have no energy whatsoever to do anything. I feel like sleeping, but at the same time, I don't. Oh, I'm just blabbing. Bollocks to it all.

Tuesday, March 30, 2004

Shit! It's only Tuesday!

...and I'm already knackered. Have spent the entire day with the nice but dim class, visiting Oxford. At least we had nice weather for it, and it went fairly well. Did all the usual tourist stuff, and threw in what I could remember about the city's history etc. Traipsed for bloody miles,though: My feet are stiff as buggery now. And I have another 2 hours of teaching ahead of me, before cycling home, getting myself some dinner, then collapsing into an exhausted heap on the floor.

My dreams of smoking are becoming more vivid. Last night, I could even smell the smoke, and I thought to myself,'Shit, there goes that resolution'. In waking life, however, I'm still nobly resisting. In fact, the only time I ever get a faint craving now is after I've drunk a couple of pints or a couple of glasses of wine, but it's a feeble affair. So why am I dreaming of cigarettes? As far as I can work out, it's some kind of anxiety dream, which (let's face it) is hardly surprising, considering my situation. And I'm generally aware of the folly of my situation.

Monday, March 29, 2004

Two depressing quotations.

'There is no such thing as society' - Margaret Thatcher, 1981

'We are all middle-class now' - Tony Blair, 1998


We had Angus' birthday party on saturday. He invited 15 or 16 of his closest friends. What joy - a house full of 5-6 year olds. Well, Angus enjoyed it anyway. And it was only 2 hours. here's a question, though: Why are young children so flatulent?

Friday, March 26, 2004

Blacker and blacker...

My home phone got cut off yesterday. i've got no money to pay for the fucking bill, which stands at well over �200, thanks to my darling wife, who has not paid for a fucking thing for the last six months, expecting me to pull money out of thin air to cover everything, and I've got other bills to pay that I can't, plus the fucking expense of hosting a party for a gang of caterwauling 6 year olds, I haven't got a decent pair of trousers to wear, my shoe leather is wearing thin, the screaming bout of eczema has still not succumbed to treatment, I feel ill and exhausted, every motherfucker is whining at me to do something for them, the levels of bureaucracy involved in my job have now attained idiotic levels, and now what?

My students, these people I sweat for, who I help to get their personal statemenmts just right, or to understand precisely how the grammar or structure work, complain about me.

I have seemed 'angry', and 'upset'. I 'am not helping them enough'.

You mean I'm not my usual, bubbly self? I push myself as hard as I can in class to be entertaining, to make the subject lively and thought-provoking and useful.

This is the first time I have been criticised for my teaching since early on in my teaching career.

What a bunch of fucking ingrates. Total fucking cunts. Whiny bunch of pock-marked, sag-shouldered, dreary-minded, dull-witted, knuckle-dragging fuckwits.

Fuck them all. Fuck all the bastards screaming for money, fuck all the demands for a piece of me, fuck every fucking one.

Thursday, March 25, 2004

only a few more hours.

Then i can go home. i have done absolutely fuck all this afternoon. I can't be arsed to mark these bloddy exams, or the essays I got from my advanced class on Tuesday. Instead, I've helped one of my fellow teachers, opera singer, teacher, and all-round party person Gill Tunley, design an invite for a night out next thursday. She wanted to embellish it with a boring picture of an italian restaurant or a slice of pizza or something, but I suggested this. Then this one, and also this. In the end we did all three versions.

A day when...

....people are walking round with faces like slapped arses. I don't know, everyone seems to be in terminal miserable mood today, myself included. I do, however, feel bloody horrible: a combination of mild illness, a series of late nights and a bottle of wine last night, plus the background despair regarding my finances. I sloped into town this morning to get stuff for Angus' birthday party, taking place on saturday. He keeps inviting more and more children - God knows where we're going to put them. I think I'll get them doing the conga, snaking through one door and out the other in a perpetual circle. As they pass the food, I'll just hurl some at them and hope they swallow. Apparently, one of the children has a nut and lactose allergy, so I suppose I'll have to be careful and try not to kill him.

Wednesday, March 24, 2004


My father has given me his classical guitar, having obviously decided that he's never going to master it. He's only had it for about twenty five years. Really, it's an ancient thing. He also gave me some 'How to..' Guide books for the thing, replete with songs like 'The streets of London' and Carpenters classics. Why he thinks I am going to pick it up, I don't know. It's not as if I've suddenly evinced a desire to be musical: The last instrument I blew in anger was a recorder at school, doing 'London's Burning' and 'Good King Wenceslas'. Badly. Nevertheless, I think I'll give it a go, simply for the challenge of doing it. And you never know, it might come in useful if I get kicked out of my house and have to start busking for a living.

Tuesday, March 23, 2004

tuesday afternoon

I have just been forced to go and buy myself a large coffee. My afternoon group are so ploddy that I almost fell asleep on them. I suspect they wouldn't have noticed if I had. Incidentally, this is only the eighth coffee I've had in over two years.

Now that's depressing....

....I have just found out, thanks to the education supplement of the Guardian, that Vicki Entwistle, who plays Janice Battersby in Coronation Street, is actually six months younger than me.


One thing else to say regarding the whole giving up smoking thing. I have found that all my bad habits - smoking, drinking, throwing money at fruit machines, being a cynical bastard etc. - are all tangled up with each other, because of the way that certain behaviours reinforce each other. I go to the pub. I have a drink. I always smoke when I drink. I parch my thrat because of the smoke. I drink more. I smoke more. I get drunk....and so on, until I'm lying penniless in the gutter the next day, having caught some unspeakable disease and eaten a kebab from a converted ambulance along the way. Breaking the cycle is tricky, but once one bit has gone, other trends seem to follow.

Monday, March 22, 2004

On how not to smoke.

I was going to write a comment in your guestbook regarding the whole smoking thing, and giving up, or rather, not being a smoker anymore. There's some problem with it, so I'll write an open letter here instead. Maybe it'll help someone else too.

I must start by saying that I could, at any moment, choose to pick up a fag and take a long, good drag on the damn thing. However, I can equally choose to take a drag of nothing but clean air. How, you may ask, am I going about being a non-smoker, despite dreams where I'm puffing away? Well, I'm not entirely sure myself, but here are my scattered ideas on the topic.

Firstly, do not deal in negatives or abstracts. When we talk of 'giving up', of 'not doing something', we are immediately casting our actions into a negative light, into the sense of abstention. This negativeness, this absence, by its very nature, is impossible to define, and therefore hard to keep to. Instead, it should be regarded as something we choose to do, which is save money, breathe clean air, be fatter, or whatever; It should never be something we do not do. Likewise, abstract notions of being healthier, living longer, and regaining a sense of smell do not really stand up to the rushing sense of relief when you take a that first puff of nicotine. Being abstract, they lack the reality of the rush. You have to learn that the rush itself is also an illusion, albeit one with an immediate presence.

When you start to see it as this, you realise that the desire for a fag is an illusion. This in itself brings about interesting notions of what reality is anyway. After 24 hours, there is no more nicotine in your system - all that is left is a mental craving. Since the mind is nothing more than an evanescent dance of electrical impulses flowing along particular neural networks, it therefore follows that the craving is also an evanescent thing.

My first real craving came after 48 hours, then after 72, then a week, then a month. I'm still waiting for the next one. On each occasion I had a craving, however, I realised the impulse would pass after five minutes or so. I go and do something else until the impulse has gone.

Chewing gum, patches, plastic cigarettes etc are USELESS. They are, like the behaviour of craving a fag, illusions. All they do is reinforce behaviour - in this case, a bad habit. You are not merely attempting to leave smoking behind: You are also trying to divest yourself of a pattern of behaviour. Remember, also, that some bastard is making money out of you buying these products. Not only that, by buying them you are effectively saying to yourself 'I have no choice in this matter. I must rely on others to beat it.', thereby ensuring that, at some point, you will fail, and you fall into a cycle of smoking, giving up, smoking, giving up.

There is no such state as 'giving up'.

Likewise, always, always, always remember that we have the gift of choice. We are who we are, what we are and where we are because of our choices. You and I chose, at some stage, to smoke; Now, we choose to be people who have no need for the weed.

This is just stuff that's occurred to me, and I'm sure there are others who have written more eloquently on the subject, and I could ceratinly say a lot more. hope it's of use to you, anyway.

I just love Mondays!

Not. Especially when I have to cover some lead swinging git's class. Nice bunch of students, but very pissed off at having different teachers cover their lessons.

Saturday, March 20, 2004

The Weather Project

Yesterday (Friday) was wet, windy and miserable. Just the right weather, then, to grab a train from Reading to London, then a tube from Paddington to King�s Cross, then another train to Cambridge, to attend a seminar on the Cambridge Advanced Exam in English. The rain chased me all the way from home, and only petered out as the train pulled into the station. It�s the first time I�ve ever been there. As we travelled, I wondered if the view out of the window would have been recognisable to the characters in E M Forster�s The Longest Journey. I managed to find my way without difficulty to the seminar, which proved to be fairly useful. It was also interesting enough for me to avoid falling asleep during it. The best bit was the video of a pair of clowns doing the speaking exam, one Swedish, one Swiss. They�d obviously been hoiked out of class and told to pretend to be doing the exam. The examiner (called the interlocutor � which, incidentally, I found out how to pronounce correctly � the stress falls on the �loc�) succeeded in looking like not just a miserable bastard but also mad as a hatful of stoats. Best bit was the dialogue between these two guys when doing task 3, which is basically talking about a set of pictures and ranking them in some way. It was like Sam Beckett on a really shit day. The examiner had asked them to look at pictures of various rescues, and what skills would be required for each, then which would be the most newsworthy. The dialogue went a bit like this:
Swiss: Well, this one, it shows, er, a helicopter.
Swede: Yes. We have these in my country.
Swiss: Me too, it�s pretty normal.
Swede: yes, it�s normal. There are lots of rescues.
Swiss: Yes.
Swede: And you need some skills for it..
Swiss:..skills, yes�..Then there is this�.ahhh�.
Swede: Ummmm�yes. What do you think?
Swiss: There�s a bird being cleaned
Swede: I think maybe it can be dirty.
Swiss: Yes, they�re cleaning it.
Swede: Yes, for this too you need many skills.
Swiss: Oh yes.
Et Cetera, Et Cetera. What amazed me was that after several minutes of frankly piss-poor communication, these two apparently passed! Gave me hope for my group, anyway.
On the way back, I discovered a shop selling Turkish goodies and bought some sucuk for Nur. I would have bought more stuff, but I didn�t have much money on me. Once on the train, I began plotting my way home, then realised that, as I had bought a cheap train ticket, I wouldn�t be able to cross London and get on a train home until after the rush hour. This meant that I�d have to kick my heels there for 45 minutes or so. I wondered what I could do with myself, then had a fantastic idea. I�d go and see The Weather Project at the Tate Modern. I�d been promising myself that I�d go and see this installation for the last six months, and now was a prime opportunity. Besides, it was my last chance: It�s being dismantled tomorrow. So, after I got to King�s Cross, I bought a single to Blackfriars, and plunged into the underground scrum of the rush hour. What always fascinates me about a typical tube train compartment is how it is a distillation of what London is: Its crabbiness, its diversity, its cosmopolitanism, its febrile, restless spirit, all rest within.
I got out at Blackfriars, then made my way to the embankment. By now, it was dark, and I saw in front of me the Millennium Bridge with all its lights shimmering. Indeed, all London was lit up in its finery. After all, it was a Friday night and time to play. Even the weather seemed suddenly milder. I reached the bridge, and saw St Pauls. A whole troop of people were crossing, either going towards the cathedral of God on the one side or the cathedral of Art on the other, but they were strangely silent, spirits crossing the river in some holy act or other. I reached the Tate, went in, and duly had my gob smacked by the Weather Project. It truly is a magnificent, and magnificently simple, installation. That a few lights, a bit of fake smoke, a screen and some mirrors can be so impressive is quite something. The fake sun (or rather, half-sun: The mirrors make it appear to be whole) hangs at one end of the turbine hall. There are mirrors on the roof, creating even greater depth. There is a bit of smoke and the air appears to shimmer. That�s it. But! The effect is incredible. The nearest this approaches to is when I first went into Aya Sofya in 1994. The latter will always beat any experience I have with things made by humans, but this experience was damn good. I stayed there about half and hour or so. There was quite a party atmosphere within. People were lying on the floor, staring up at their own reflections. Some were trying to spell out words with their bodies. Some people were basking in the glows of the fake sun, even though it was pretty cold. Couples hugged each other. A few people were asleep. One group were even having a champagne picnic. I stared up at the ceiling too, and saw myself, standing, small, a huge shadow cast behind me.
Afterwards, I walked back along the South Bank towards Waterloo. The weather was mild, and I enjoyed the parade of boats and buildings as I passed. I really, really need to bring Nur to London on a night like that. By the time I finally managed to get home, I was knackered.

Thursday, March 18, 2004

I am in a vile, black mood.

Decisions, decisions....

I was doing a class with my nice but dim group yesterday. I was teaching the third conditional and grammar relating to hypothesising about the past, stuff like �If Kennedy hadn�t gone to Dallas, perhaps he wouldn�t have been assassinated�, as if my Chinese, Japanese and Korean students knew or cared who Kennedy was. One exercise was relating to what would or wouldn�t happen now if we had or had not done something in the past, e.g. I wouldn�t know Haruko now if I hadn�t come to the UK, et cetera. While they got on with the exercise, I reflected on the decisions I have made in life, and which ones have led me to be right here, right now. Not instinctive, make or break stuff, but hard thought out ones. Now, I could count on my decision to accept a full-time post at the college; going further back, there�s the conclusion that I had to return to the UK, or even further, becoming a teacher in the first place. I followed the skein of decisions backwards, a pale line into the past, and whichever angle I came from, I arrived in the same place.

I was just over eleven years old.

It was spring term at my primary school: In fact, it was almost certainly at this time of year, when warm sun struggles with blustery wind and sudden rain. We�re talking a quarter of a century ago, which is really rather scary. My parents, my teacher (Mr. Jenkins, who wore a green corduroy jacket, had greased back hair and a booming voice, and smelt strange) and I were gathered to make a decision on my future. I had the opportunity to go to Reading Grammar school, in the middle of town, or go to Highdown, the local comprehensive about 200 metres up the road from me. I had done well in my exams � in fact, I had one of the best exam records in the county. All I had to do was sit a simple test and go for a basic interview. My elders clearly all wanted me to go, but my parents said, �It�s your decision�. As ever, they trusted me with a degree of responsibility over myself.

I thought it over.

Before I tell you my decision, can you guess? And do you think my parents should have pressured me to go to Reading, which regularly appears in the top five of lists of best schools in the country? Perhaps they should have coerced me more, saying �This decision is ours. You�re going there.� Sure, I�d probably have resented them for making me do something, but on reflection I�d be grateful, no?

I made up my mind.

I plumped for Highdown, the local comprehensive.

My reasons?

First, it was local; I wouldn�t have to do any travelling. Secondly, I was familiar with the area and the people � most of my peers, the kids I�d grown up with, would be going there. I would know hardly anyone at Reading. Familiarity with a situation, no matter how bad, is a powerful incentive, rather than take a leap into the unknown.

The main reason, however, the one that I gave to my family, was this: Reading Grammar did sports on Saturday mornings. I hated sports, and I certainly hated the idea of travelling halfway across the town on a Saturday morning just to miserably knock a muddy football around.

Now, I think, what if? What if I�d gone, where would that have led me? Don�t get me wrong, dear reader: I don�t usually indulge in speculating about the past, or past regrets: the moment has gone for good, and there�s no use whining about it. But I�m pretty sure my life would have been spectacularly different had I gone there.

Then again, I wouldn�t have what I have now, namely my beautiful wife and my fantastic son. Or thousands of pounds worth of debt.

We are who, what, and where we are largely due to the choices and decisions that we make, not anyone else. I�m still an EFL teacher because I like the job and I�m familiar with it, despite my horrible financial circumstances. I know I have to make a transition, but to what? In effect, I am manipulating my own situation, and I have noone else to blame other than myself.

Freedom of choice is a great thing, but there are times when it might be better if others make the choices for you.

I like to think that, somewhere in an alternate universe, there is another me, speculating what would have happened had he chosen to go to Highdown.

I bet the bastard is loaded.

Wednesday, March 17, 2004

Top o the morning to ye an begorrah to be sure...and other such bollocks.

Happy St Patricks day. I have always found it somewhat ironic that a day devoted to one of the dourest, po-faced, sanctimonious, overly-pious and undoubtedly sober saints of christianity has been warped into one enormous excuse for a piss-up. Cue plastic paddies rolling in bars from Camden to LA. Cue huge profits for brewers. Cue stupid parades in New York where 'Irishmen' who are about as Irish as my cat wear green and wave at each other, then get drunk and caterwaul fake songs about the Old Country. What a load of fucking bollocks.
I am, as you may surmise, not in a very good mood today.

Tuesday, March 16, 2004


I am 81% Evil Genius

I am pure evil. I lie awake at night devising schemes of world domination, and I will not rest until all living souls bend to my will.

Take the Evil Genius Test at
Right. that's the questionnaire out of the way....
By the way, returning to the roots of this blog, here's what I had for dinner last night, all of which, apart from the raki, I made myself.
Pilaf scented with cardomom and pepper
Sis Kofte , spiced up with chillis, pepper, cumin, turmeric and paprika
Coban Salatasi
Fresh coleslaw
home-baked pide bread
3 glasses raki

Tuesdays. Not as bad as wednesdays.

...but still crap enough. I got into work at 8.15: I'll still be here at 9.00 tonight.
Here's a list of what I have to do today;
1) Compile a questionnaire for the evening class students, in order to produce an analysis of attitides to current classes and intentions for the future.
2) Devise a curriculum for evening sessions for the coming academic year - it needs to be more generic than exam-centred, but LSE funding is such that exams are crucial. However, most evening students, in my experience, aren't reallt arsed about gaining qualifications.
3) Alter the current course information that we hand out to prospective punters regarding the evening courses.
4) Do further research on gaining more qualifications, and see what my boss has to say about it.
5) Chase up HR to see if I have Faculty approval to go to a seminar on the Cambridge Advanced Exam on friday, and if they'll stump up for the price of a train ticket.
6) Do a bit of translation work for a student.
7) Mark work from several different classes, including written work from advanced students - always a real bugger to do.
8)Write up lesson plans for today's and tomorrow's classes, then produce materials, perhaps write up a powerpoint presentation, scout down appropriate books, and make sure I've got enough stuff to entertain the buggers.
9) Read up on some research regarding the IELTS exam.
10) Arrange a retake schedule for those students on my Academic english class who have failed any assignments.
11) The reason I do this job: teach my classes.
I'm sure there's other stuff to do as well, but that's all relatively trivial. Then there is the enormous onus of all my personal business to conduct.
Woo-hoo. Don't I live a full and glamorous life? And I only earn �22,000.

Monday, March 15, 2004

Infamy!Infamy! They've all got it infamy!

Happy Ides of March to you all.
Well, I didn;t go out and get drunk as a pig after all. I went out briefly, then came home and got drunk as a pig, stayed up all night and played backgammon on the net. Unsurprisingly, I felt fucking horrible on saturday. Nur got back safely that night, then slept for much of the night and the following day. I succeeded in doing bugger all.
This is not good. I really, really need to sort out my finances and what I'm going to do in the near and far future. Now that one chapter of this year has, so to speak, ended, perhaps I can concentrate on what I really need to do now. I hope so, anyway. the trouble is, I really need Nur to help me: I need to feel her support, just in everyday sort of stuff, to help me through.

Friday, March 12, 2004


....a very nice weekend, one and all.

Nur comes back tomorrow. Good.
Angus is staying with his grandmother tonight. Excellent.
I am going out to get drunk as a pig tonight. Yay!

Thursday, March 11, 2004

re: last post

Oops. missed France. Oh well.

nationalities i have taught

This looks better than a list.

create your own visited country map
or write about it on the open travel guide

Stupid joke.

A Chinese guy is on holiday in the UK. He's having a nice time, seeing all the sights and doing all the usual touristy stuff. One day, he notices he's a bit short on the old pounds and goes to the Bureau de Change. He's delighted when he sees the exchange rate: only nine yuan to the pound! He goes in, changes loads of money, comes out with a happy grin on his face and a bulging wallet. Off he goes to spend it all on tourist desirables, like plastic policemens hats, Olde Tea Shoppe toffees and so on.
A few days later, he realises he's low on funds again, so once more he heads off to the bureau de Change. This time however, the exchange rate isn't so good: He needs twenty-five yuan to get his mitts on a pound. Understandably annoyed, he demands to see the manager.
'What this?', he shouts. 'Few day ago, rate was nine yuan, one paun! Now this day, it twenty-fai yuan, one paun! What goin on here, eh?'
The manager shrugs his shoulders, and says, simply, 'Fluctuations, sir.'
Enraged, the Chinese tourist shouts, 'And Fluck you Engrish too!'

See? I told you it was stupid.


Nuff said, really. I went to the doctor regarding the eczema blotching up my body, and she gave me a prescription for various creams and salves to sort it out.
My Academic English Foundation class have just done their fourth assignment, namely doing presentations of graphs. Dear God in Heaven, it is hard to think of anything more life-destroyingly dull than having to sit in a darkened room while students trundle out pie charts of car ownership in the People's Republic of China, and drone on about 'great, very very big fructuations'. fifteen times.
And now for the evening class.

Wednesday, March 10, 2004

I'm still feeling strange, like I'm in some hinterland of the mind. This morning, as I woke, I felt a few moments of absolute despair when I summed up my current situation: Two recent bereavements, a sense of loneliness with Nur not being there, my ennui with my job, the sense that I might end up spending the next twenty years staring out of the same windows onto the same scene as I teach the same lesson to identikit students, and most of all, worst of all, our financial situation, which I haven't been able to do a thing with because of the past seven weeks of trauma. A spasm of suicidal desire went over me; How easy it would be to just reach for a bottle of pills and slip into a warm bath with a razor! But no, that's just another form of running away, of evading a situation rather than grapple with it and overcome it. It passed, but I just feel desolate at the moment.

Happy... smoking day!

Monday, March 08, 2004

The funeral: Friday, March the Fifth.

The funeral went as well as can be expected. The weather stayed fair. I drove my mum and Nur there, the vast fields of graves in Henley road cemetery. It was a busy day: funerals were being stacked in a holding pattern, and groups of mourners shuffled in one end of the chapel, out the other, and gawped at the floral tributes belonging to each of their dead. My relatives arrived carload by carload; Darren and Dean, Julie & Archie, Belinda & Julie, Jim, James, Mick, Lisa and Gary, Sophie, Vicki, Samantha; My dad�s cousins and other distant relations, the Gallantry diaspora; Plus various friends of my grandfather and our family. The hearse waited in line, then pulled up in front of the chapel, followed by a limousine carrying dad, Nan, and Aunts Penny, Sue and Julie. A respectful silence, punctuated by discreet sniffling, then we respectfully trooped into the chapel, a small place with a Victorian feel. The wall which contained the entrance to the furnace was wood panelled, the furnace door itself inscribed with the motto �Resurgam� (I will rise again?). The priest, or whatever he was, led us briskly and dryly through a half-hour service, punctuated by some of Grandad�s favourite songs, some prayers for the dead, and a hymn. It was all rather arid, until my dad, Penny and Sophie got up to say their bits, and left plenty shedding a tear. It was only when the priest said �and now we commit Harry�s body�, and a cheap blue curtain swished across to hide the coffin�s absolutely final journey, that I felt a surge of emotion. The final track played: Morecambe & Wise�s �Bring Me Sunshine�. Apparently, my aunts had considered �Always Look on The Bright Side Of Life� at first, but then thought about the next funeral party to come in after ours, and decided against it. We duly shuffled out, quick dry handshake with the priest, then a look at the flowers. Smiles broke out with the sunshine, which now began to dominate the sky. I caught up with a few relatives I hadn�t seen in a while, introduced (or re-introduced) them to Nur, said a few polite things. Then we all drove off to Twyford, to the Coach and Horses Inn. It had been a favourite watering hole of Grandad, who was often driven there to get pissed, then poured into a taxi several hours later. It�s definitely an �Olde-Worlde� kind of place, all blackened beams at head-breaking height, horse brasses and dodgy tiled floors. The last time I�d been there was about 1991, when dad had bought round after round of Carlsberg Special Brew, a drink I have hated since I chucked my guts up on it when I was fifteen. We got in, then Nur remembered to turn her mobile phone back on. Almost immediately, a message flashed up.
�I hate this,�she said to mum. �I�m always afraid it�ll be a bad message about my mum.�
�Well, look at it, anyway, we�re here if it�s bad,� said my mum.
She opened the inbox.
Here�s the message, translated into English:
Big Sister, we�ve given our mum to the earth. We lost her at five o�clock this morning. May Allah give us forbearance.
Dead and buried the same day as my granddad.
Nur collapsed, weeping and trembling in the corner. Of course, we knew the end was near; That�s why Nur had been in Turkey in the first place. It was just the strange, sad aptness of the day. Mum got her into the toilet, while several people offered to get her drinks. After the initial shock, however, she rallied, especially when she saw the reaction of my family. Within half an hour, we had arranged a flight back to Istanbul for her and pressed the money for it into her hand, then bought her enough Southern Comfort to keep her safely anaesthetized till she got back to Turkey. I, who was supposed to get pissed with them all, now given the duty of driver for the day, then sat back and watched my family get magnificently drunk, largely on very, very generous measures of gin and tonic. They laughed, they shouted, they wept, they embraced and said how much they loved each other, they sang badly, and again and again, they told Nur the same thing: We are with you no matter what. You are family, and we will do whatever you need. We stand together no matter what. We know you are brave, leaving your family so far away to come here with Paul, and that is a quality we admire almost above all others.
Detached by my sobriety as I was, I have never truly felt the sense of unity within my own clan with quite so much force as I did that day.
Towards four o�clock, we tumbled out of the pub, and headed for Sue and Jim�s place, where the drinking and eating carried on at a frantic pace. I eventually had to virtually carry mum and Nur to the car, which stank of gin. Mum was, amazingly, actually slurring her words, something I don�t think I�ve ever experienced before. I dropped her off, then got Nur to bed, she complaining of having a bad stomach. I�m not surprised; she�d drunk the best part of half a bottle of whisky. I collected Angus from a friend�s house, and, as we walked under a mild and starry sky along the bridlepath, I tried to explain to him that his grandmother had died and that his mum had to go back to Turkey again.
�Awww� was his only response.�You mean that You are going to look after me again?�
I got him some dinner, then he said he felt sleepy, and he went upstairs and fell asleep next to Nur, taking up the racer�s position, head up, legs flung like someone sprinting, one arm to the face, another behind, that seems so typical of him.
I went to the pub, and had a drink or five for Grandad.

Thursday, March 04, 2004

grandfather at rest.

He was in a wicker coffin. Laid lightly over the top was a fine gauzy material, with a shimmering cross handstitched in gold. He was laid out in a white robe, a white girdle rope and a banded collar. His hands (white, grey) laid neatly, calmly over his stomach. His face: Lifelike, eyes closed, his brow slightly furrowed, as though he were thinking through a vexing question. The shape of his mouth was slightly strange. I think the undertakers had slightly overdone the packing, so that it now looked like he had a mouthful of food, or had been caught in mid-eructation. He looked dignified and determined, for all that. My first reaction was that he would open his eyes, put out a hand to me, speak to me in that wonderful warm Old Hampshire drawl and laugh, or, going into the realms of horror, grip my arm and deliver a terrible warning. But no, it was an empty house. I'm glad I've seen him one last time before we send him off tomorrow, but at the moment I'm all mixed up in my feelings: sorrow he's gone, happiness for his life and gentle death, genuine curiosity (part of the reason I wanted to see him in the chapel of rest), a strange fear. I don't know.

two things.

First, I got my new shed this morning. Now I just have to put it together.

Second, I went to see my grandfather at the chapel of rest. We're burying him tomorrow. I've seen plenty of bodies in my time, but not one of my my own family laid out before. Still trying to work out how I feel about it right now.

Wednesday, March 03, 2004

feel shit. i really, really don't want to teach today.

Tuesday, March 02, 2004

Back from the dead.

I just found a piece of writing by an old friend and flatmate of mine on Dave's ESL cafe. I emailed him straight away; He mailed back - which was an amazing occurence, as both he and I are lazy bastards when it comes to staying in contact, hence our not talking to each other for the past few years. There's something a little strange about rediscovering an old friend or contact after a long time, something of finding the dead come back to life. So what if we meet? It will be strange: A familiar face altered by time, circumstance and the abuse of alcohol. Our life experiences will be markedly different: will we actually have anything to say to each other?

Nationalities I have taught.

I was filling in a form earlier on, outlining my teaching experience, and the number of nationalities I've had in my class surprised me somewhat - and I'm not sure that I've even included all of them!
I have taught people from China, Japan, Korea, Russia, Taiwan, Poland, Czech Republic, Turkey, France, Germany, Kazakhstan, Iran, Iraq, Greece, Italy, Spain, Holland, Belgium, Denmark, Sweden, Finland, Portugal, Switzerland, Austria, Slovakia, Slovenia, Albania, Romania, Bulgaria, Hungary, Saudi Arabia, Kenya, Tanzania, Nigeria, Libya, Mexico, Brazil, Colombia, Venezuela, Argentina, Pakistan, India, Nepal, Thailand and the Phillipines.

Still not smoking.

Most of the cravings have gone away. It's only occasionally now, when I've had a beer, that I feel the odd urge. One bizarre side-effect, however, is that I've developed an eczema-like rash over one arm, my chest, and part of my back. I have eczema anyway (I was going to say, 'suffer', but that's bullshit - it's no great hardship. It'd be like saying Geri halliwel suffers from being ginger), but this is weird. Is my immune system playing silly buggers? it's only happened since I gave up, indeed only in the past 21/2 weeks. The only thing I can relate it to is not smoking, or possibly the weather, which has been cold and dry as a bone for about the same time.

Monday, March 01, 2004


...St. David's Day, Wales, and happy birthday to my mum and to Nur's mum. Sadly, it looks like it will be the latter's last. Nur phoned her family up last night, and they said that she isn't even moving or eating any more and is permanently on oxygen. I suspect that she may not last even tonight. Ours is a despondent house at the moment: My grandfather, Nur's mum and her father, my dad's wife, our's as though there is some vile, evil, black mind pitted against us at the moment. I don't know where or to whom I can turn. For the sake of everyone around me, I must be strong, yet where is the strength for me? I went a bit mental on friday night, shouting my head off and kicking things - I don't know why: just needed to vent, I suppose.
I saw my grandmother and a few of my aunts on saturday afternoon. They were organising the funeral, and I found them well, considering. Angus had a beautiful thought.
'Dad, I know how we can talk with great grandad'
'Well, we can blow up balloons and write messages on them and tie them on, then we let them go whoosh! in the air, then they go up, and great grandad, because he's up in the air, he can catch the messages and read them!'
'well, how does he answer?'
'He can't answer, he's dead, silly! But perhaps he can come in dreams'
The idea of letting go balloons with messages on seems like a charming thing to do - you let the message fly; then perhaps someone, anyone, might answer it.
Yesterday we had dinner with mum. Karen came round too, and like millions of people, we were stumped as to what to write on a little oblong of white card -the condolence card to go on a wreath. We didn't want anything glib, like 'sorely missed', or 'Now in Heaven' etc. I suggested 'Grandad, you were like a popular, fine red wine - frequently drunk', which made us both laugh like drains, but was a bit inappropriate. In the end, we settled for glib.