Sunday, October 29, 2006
It seemed a pity to waste a sunny day so I took the metro to Seaburn and walked the four and a bit miles along the beach and the riverbank to St Peter's. Watching the yachts circling each other out at sea made me think back to those long Sundays sitting on the sea wall in Siracusa, wandering narrow streets lined with leaning, biscuit-coloured palazzi that crumbled like stale cake, listening to the World Service by my front door as the sun went down over the Ionian Sea, oil tankers crowding the horizon on the way up the coast to the refineries at Augusta. Sunderland's not quite so exotic, but it'll do for now.
Before that, I'm off to the seaside.
Friday, October 27, 2006
Luckily, big things had happened in the morning. A letter came about an interview for an ESOL teaching job, then I found out I'd got a month's worth of paid work on Monday and Wednesday evenings at the place where I've been working voluntarily. Add on the three and a half days I'm putting in at Newcastle College and I should be rolling in the cash come Christmas.
Tuesday, October 24, 2006
So now I'm working there every Monday for the forseeable future, plus I'm continuing with the registers on Tuesdays, Wednesdays and Thursday afternoons. It'll be a squeeze now I've just got a three day weekend to rest up in, I'm sure, but hopefully I'll manage to last as long as Christmas.
Sunday, October 22, 2006
My first go at gardening wasn't half bad at all. I grew asters and marigolds from seed, got four or five courgettes, more basil and sage leaves than I knew what to do with, a plastic container full of spring onions, and I haven't had to buy a single tomato since I came back from China. This morning I noticed that, thanks to global warming, even the plants I stuck in the corner of the garden as an experiment have turned out all right. In fact, the only things that failed were the garlic bulbs I tried to grow in pots in the greenhouse. I might have another go at those next year, if I haven't stumbled across another hobby by then.
Thursday, October 19, 2006
In retrospect, I should have known what was coming. I'd touched on some examples of her recent selfishness - such as emailing me a couple of weeks ago to moan that she was really down, had realised that she was losing something special and just wanted to be in my arms; then following it up the very next day with a brief message informing me that she was now in a "really good mood" because she'd solved the problem at work that had apparently been the sole cause of her depression. I was trying to caution not antagonise her, to show how her more thoughtless actions affect others, and could affect her in the future. As my email was friendly and non-judgemental I naively imagined she would be big enough to at least listen to my point of view.
Her response was swift. She never loved me - why else would she have allowed me to go to China? As proof, she was always happy to see me go because she could finally have her own space. Conveniently enough, she neglected to mention that this was space in which she started an affair with her brother's married best friend, which is obviously the very best kind of space a person can have. Next up, I was the selfish one, damned because I hadn't offered to go back to the Czech Republic with her. As the temporary boyfriend was still juggling her, his wife and children for a full three weeks after I returned from China to hear that our marriage was dead and her flight home had already been booked, I'm slightly baffled by her revisionism.
But not really baffled, of course. It's much easier to project blame than to dwell on the consequences of our own actions. Nor does any of it particularly matter - whether she loved me or not is wholly immaterial as far as I'm concerned. Despite the disastrous end to our short-lived marriage, it would be immature and pig-headed of me to obliterate the good times we shared together. If she wants to do so, then that's a matter for her alone.
It's sad that it had to end like this but I'm only very fleetingly angry and not at all bitter. In the couple of dozen emails and two phone calls we've exchanged since she left she has never once expressed any kind of regret or understanding (I did get a text message twenty minutes after I told her that I'd found out about the affair with a few easily-typed platitudes - you are the best man I've ever met, I didn't deserve you), only self-pity and requests for help with tax forms and translations for her new job. Enough is enough: my life is better without her; we have no more ties, only the memories.
Wednesday, October 18, 2006
Monday, October 16, 2006
The weekend was obscured by the shadow of that relationship; I felt the extent to which I'd grown accustomed to living with someone, sharing touches and feelings, knowing that they're always there. On the occasions when my shoulder isn't killing me, I feel the loss of those things rather than the absence of Katka herself, though perhaps the two are really bound together. Fortunately, both can be replaced.
Friday, October 13, 2006
Autumn has arrived, bringing crisp, chilly air and pale blue skies. I drove down to Durham with my brother this morning. After a quick look inside the cathedral we walked along the riverbank and up to the Durham Light Infantry Museum, re-treading old footsteps every inch of the way.
More memories yesterday afternoon. At a loose end after a late morning trip to the cinema, I took the metro out to the coast at South Shields. Walking along the sand, I retraced part of the route I used to jog along before I went to Japan for the first time, the place by the rocks where I played boules with Myung-hee and my parents in the boiling summer just after I got back from Sicily, and the bit of sand where Katka and I stretched out by our bikes a few weeks before I left for China. Was that really only four months ago?
I don't regret going to China one little bit. If I'd gone back to the Czech Republic instead, I'd probably still be married now, but it would only have delayed the inevitable by a few months, a year at most. I think she'd already cheated on me once before then, though I didn't know it that day by the sea; I'm sure she'd have done it again, and I would've ended up wasting an important part of my life.
I don't spend very much time thinking about any of this. Honestly.
Tuesday, October 10, 2006
I always knew how insecure she was, but I trusted her to resist the temptation of drunkenly following up on a few kind words and a bit of attention. What really stung was not her cheating but the sheer extent of her immaturity and selfishness: from the moment she arrived back in the Czech Republic at the beginning of July I ceased to exist as a person, let alone as a husband. I noticed the change immediately - no more phone calls, only five or six short, semi-glacial replies to my emails in the whole six weeks she was back home - but, at the time, I was just happy she was enjoying herself...
This hurt me deeply, of course, but it also helps. It makes it so much easier to let go.
Sunday, October 08, 2006
We set at half past eight yesterday morning, and were starting up the side of Scafell Pike, England's highest mountain, around four hours later. Unfortunately, the clouds came down quicker than we could go up, so that by the time we'd reached the top visibility was down to around twenty metres, and the wind, rain and steam-like gusts of cloud were almost knocking us sideways. Still, for the half minute or so that we were absolutely alone at the rocky summit, we were indisputably the highest, and very likely the coldest and wettest, men in England.
After a long breakfast this morning, we drove north and hiked around the edge of Loweswater. Back for more when spring comes.
Friday, October 06, 2006
Thursday, October 05, 2006
Wednesday, October 04, 2006
And then we were walking out of the shabby, deserted airport and into a black and yellow taxi, bumping along dirt roads, rounding people and cows and auto-rickshaws. It remains scorched into my mind: the baking heat, the beggars pressed up against the windows, the menacing pandemonium of it all. We both had exactly the same thought: What the hell have we done?
Hell was the street between our hotel and the train station, lined on both sides with open fronted shacks. Small fires burnt here and there, naked children ran along the edge of what passed for the road, hunched women stared at us through exhausted, vacant eyes.
Thankfully, things got better after that.
Tuesday, October 03, 2006
Monday, October 02, 2006
Sometimes I think I'm really ok, but then I walk into somewhere as simple as a dentist's surgery and am immediately struck by the thought that last time I was here I was with Katka, or she was waiting for me back at home, or we'd just eaten dinner. I felt that in the three or four weeks before last Monday, of course, but it didn't have the stamp of finality back then.
I'd been watching a documentary on Albert Speer and the Nuremburg Trials right before I read that email last week. I wonder how long my mind will continue to associate the two events? Funnily enough, I often joked that some of her opinions were a bit fascist, and her infidelity does seem like a fairly final solution.
Good news: easyJet have emailed me a £25 voucher. Ironically, it's an apology for them cancelling Katka's flight home at the beginning of July. She had to re-book and wait twenty-four hours. Shame it wasn't a couple of months...
Sunday, October 01, 2006
Everything else I did this week seems utterly irrelevant, though there was a little new growth among the carnage that followed Monday night. The temporary job went well, and my ESOL teaching career is slowly taking shape. On Thursday I found out that I may well be getting my first paid work from the place I currently volunteer at. The following morning I had a phone call asking if I'd be interested in applying for another position, this time teaching people from settled immigrant communities who don't have enough English to hold down decent jobs.
And I need to give this a try. I crave normality, and I think I have done to varying extents for at least the last year and a half. Despite its many attractions, I've had enough of moving around. I feel a need in me to settle somewhere, to feel my feet are firmly rooted in the ground. I guess that's why I was so eager to get married - I have this terror of ending up like Jay Gatsby, thinking that I can just reach out and grasp something only to find it's already silently slipped away.
I'm still jogging - every day except two for over three weeks now - I read whenever I can concentrate, and I'm listening to stuff that I'd neglected for too long - David Bowie, Al Green...it reminds me that there were a lot of things I never got round to doing with Katka. I don't want that to sentence to be misconstrued: I could have done no more at the time given the circumstances that prevailed, Katka being Katka and me being me. There are no what ifs.
Life isn't easy, but I don't suppose that's a bad thing. We learn and re-evaluate, we recover and move on. Eventually.