Saturday, September 30, 2006

The Weekend After the Week Before

This week has been hard, I can't pretend otherwise. I feel like a sea wall battered by waves that it was never designed to control: anger, bitterness, fear, vindictiveness and, above all, this horrible, horrible feeling of being alone, of having a space inside that might always remain empty. I cried while out jogging on Friday and mistook it for sweat - tears rolled down my cheeks like rain drops on a frosted windowpane.

I did some things that I'm not very proud of, but they were the only things that I could think of doing at the time. I can't say with any exactitude how I feel right now, only that I know I must be patient, and I know that I can't blame anyone else for what happens from now on in my life.

So I start by moving forwards; just tiny little steps at first. I called Katka and told her I forgive her, that I know she did only what she had to do. I refuse to carry any anger and bitterness with me, wherever I go from here.

Tomorrow is October. A whole new month. I'm sure I've always hated September: daddy long legs and the end of the summer. It doesn't help that Katka left so many things lying around. What do I do with the nail varnish and hair spray, or the half full box of tampons on the windowsill? I can hardly give them to the next girl. But it does help that when I look around the room I don't only see things that are intrinsically linked to her - this was also the place that my grandparents lived. My grandmother died six years ago, when I was in Korea. I remember coming into the darkened room on New Year's Eve to say goodbye to the empty space, fighting back the tears.

"You don't weep unless you've been happy first; tears always mean something enviable."

Last night in the pub I felt like I was back in a world of limitless opportunities, which I may or may not be able to take. The one constant I have is that you can never say never, and that you can't know what you'd do in a situation until you've been in that exact same thing. An example: on the morning of the day I met Katka I spent ten minutes explaining to someone all the reasons why I couldn't be bothered having any kind of relationship with anyone. Six months later I was married.

Tuesday, September 26, 2006

The End

Turmoil. I found out last night that Katka has been, and still is, seeing another man. Worse, I discovered it by reading an email that I was never meant to see. It's over. Irrevocably.

Saturday, September 23, 2006


The end of an instantly forgettable week. I'm starting a part time job on Monday - two and a half days a week at Newcastle College for a whole £6.25 an hour. I've already spent most of my first week's wage on a bus pass and a new jacket.

Thursday, September 21, 2006


I was all keyed-up to start work tomorrow - two weeks in an office at Newcastle College for a humongous £7 an hour - until the whole thing was cancelled by text message. While a part of me rejoices at the thought of more carefree afternoons and idle mornings spent exercising and reading the newspaper, another jabs accusations of laziness, time wasting and self-indulgence at my softened-up conscience. I've decided I have the temperament of a writer, just not the talent.

Monday, September 18, 2006

Around the Block Again

Increasingly, I feel that my life is a series of loops - big, small, stimulating or mundane, but always this dull sense of familiarity. Here I am single and living in Jarrow, re-reading my old books, looking for temporary work, traipsing up Westgate Road once a week. It frustrates me that I have to go back in order to go forward.

Tonight I was back at the ESOL centre in Newcastle, helping out with evening classes for refugees and migrant workers. It's liberating but strange being a volunteer in somebody else's lesson. Usually, I'm well-prepared and in control in the classroom; now I'm now just one more pair of hands, circling cramped tables and scurrying between the students and the photocopier. This is not very good for my huge teacher's ego. Or my feet.

Wednesday, September 13, 2006


The last day of sunshine: we drove south along the coast through the dead towns of the East Durham coalfield. At Seaham, the pit shafts had been replaced by orange-brick supermarkets and shoebox housing estates. Above the pebble-strewn beach there were more retirement homes than pubs, more parking spaces than people.

We didn't stay long.

Tuesday, September 12, 2006

St Mary's Lighthouse

Mid-September and the sun's still out. In Newcastle this is as sure a sign of abrupt climatic change as the shrinking of the polar ice cap. As if by decree, wobbly-bellied men stripped off to the waist and old-aged couples drove to coastal car parks to take the air, silently gazing out over the North Sea with the side windows rolled down an inch or two. Prolonging my latest health kick, I cycled the twenty-odd miles to St Mary's Lighthouse and back in the afternoon, climbed 137 spiralling steps to the top, and saw all the way along the coast from the white wind turbines at Blyth to the graphite-shaded pier escaping the north bank of the Tyne. I'm now attempting to douse my thighs.

Sunday, September 10, 2006

In The Country

I spent most of the weekend walking around stately homes and country estates. And, thanks to Heritage Open Days, it didn't cost me a bean.

Friday, September 08, 2006

Open Days

So we beat on, boats against the current...

I feel restless at home. I need to keep moving. On Wednesday afternoon I wandered around North Shields Fish Quay, climbing the steep stone steps for views of the concrete-coloured river and a warm pint in the Wooden Doll. Yesterday I went to the Roman fort at Segedunum, where I looked into lots of glass display cases and breezed round the baths and excavations. Today I spent the best part of the afternoon at Bowes Railway, touring workshops and old coal mine rolling stock. In between, I've written a few emails, uploaded loads of photos, filled in some forms so I can start my new, and as yet unpaid, job as an ESOL tutor for Newcastle Council, read the 500 odd pages of John Le Carre's The Constant Gardener, started jogging for the third time in four years, and done very little else of any consequence at all. As usual, I'm waiting. For what, I'm not yet sure.

Wednesday, September 06, 2006


Just back from the airport. Everywhere I look I see things that remind me of her. I feel a bit hollow, as if something's been scooped out of my insides. Other than that, it's just very difficult to say.

Tuesday, September 05, 2006

An End of Sorts

As I write Katka's things are folded neatly on the bed. Her suitcase is open on the floor. The last few days have been strange but, surprisingly or not, somehow positive. A bike ride over the river, a walk to the cinema, lots and lots of talking. Ultimately, what needs to happen will happen, even if it doesn't seem that way right now.

Saturday, September 02, 2006


Yesterday I went camping with Katka, my brother and Derek Wood, in some ways the most interesting of my acquaintances. Clouds and showers blew over our heads all day but we managed to have a good walk around the village and part of the lake followed by a drunken night's sleep relatively undisturbed by the fact that we'd mistakenly brought just a single two man tent for four people. A couple of times I caught myself thinking that this would be my last ever trip with Katka. I'm still prone to bouts of pointless sentimentality in spite of all the people and places I've left behind.

The rain came heavily this morning and looks like it might never stop. We drove home happy but silent, covered in midge bites.

Friday, September 01, 2006

The Long Goodbye

I arrived back in Newcastle at 1pm yesterday afternoon. Within ten minutes I found out that the face to face discussion I was expecting to have with Katka was, in reality, a fait accompli. Result: my marriage is now over.

The rain came everyday while I was in Shanghai, big thunderstorms on the first two days and then damp, clinging fog all Wednesday that made the big buildings of Pudong look like emasculated ghosts standing along the riverbank. I suppose I should have seen the ominous signs even then. Despite that, I liked the city much better second time round. The narrow pavements and leafy streets of the French Concession and the enjoyably ghastly Old Chinese Town made me feel like I was in a city with an identity of its own. After a while, I even began to like the fake watch touts and art student scammers on Nanjing Lu.

Things will be fine.