Saturday, September 30, 2006
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
Saturday, September 23, 2006
Thursday, September 21, 2006
Monday, September 18, 2006
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
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
Friday, September 08, 2006
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
Tuesday, September 05, 2006
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
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.