Monday, September 26, 2005

Nevertheless

"Look at the ugliness around you!" said pH, like W Boson some time ago, giving me a lift on Saturday.
"I have chosen not to pay attention to it anymore. We eat, we sleep, we work, we read, we get together and we go out. We are avoided by locals, we can even avoid noticing the place." I replied.

I have been thinking about this exchange throughout the weekend. No, this is not the final word on the matter. "Ninety-five percent of everything is crap, after all", as Sensei once said. Let me then, once more, concentrate on the, say, 5% that matters here: intriguing, charming and sometimes beautiful images, most of them from the part of the Capital that "looks like a foreign country", as a silly silly young Outposter I have worked with once said.

Thus, here is my brief, unenthusiastic but affectionate photo song for the Outpost Capital.















Thursday, September 22, 2005

Equinox

For some days now, a fluorescent green praying mantis has been loitering on the shared patio in front of the house. A welcome presence, quiet and standing still, it looks like a piece of quirky design, maybe Spanish or something dreamt up by Tatlin. I closed the door behind me absent-minded on my way to the gym, expecting yet another balmy evening. But not. There was an almost cool, autumnal breeze instead, perhaps heralding the changing of seasons appropriately. The neighbourhood was calm and homely, through an open french window I peeked at a woman in her nightgown folding clothes into a drawer inside a Hammershøi-lit ugly bare bedroom. I arrived at the gym to find it eerily empty.

"Where's everyone?" I asked G52
"No idea. Maybe the changing weather", she said.

Tuesday, September 20, 2005

Killing time

For some time, I have been meaning to write about time. That we are all trapped inside time. That no look-ahead is afforded to us, even for five seconds. That we have to patiently go with the flow of time, while that inner voice inside us (is it inside our head? sometimes I locate it in my chest, I used to feel it originating from within my jaw when I was a kid) goes on screaming: what next? what's going to happen? yes or no?

I had too many opportunities to ponder on the matter last summer. A broken promise to send a text message (the sender having fallen asleep) resulting in three hours of sleeplessness that night. Being feverish and getting into a cab to catch a night flight back to the Outpost, only to realise 10 minutes later that the briefcase (containing passport, air tickets, memory stick, money, documents) that should be sitting on the lap had been left on the pavement where the cab was caught: endless long moments until safe retrieval. And so on, and so forth.

So, when Francis hails the in-between, he probably has only quiet and serene gaps in mind. Not waiting for operation outcomes, not spending days waiting for life-changing decisions on behalf of others, not fearing the worst during ungodly hours, not spending months in penury and joblessness, not waiting inside delayed aircraft to reach the beloved one, not spending years waiting for love. Judging from his examples (a pause between parts of the Gloria of Bach's Mass in B minor, a train trip), I believe this is the case.

The gaps between things can be indeed "life's most unappreciated pleasures". Or they can be tortuous ordeals.

As for the recently announced Die Ruinen von Athen II, who wants to read stuff like more tales of Athenian rudeness and calloussness? Or Outpost private-scratching? Or English penny-pinching? Sod that.

Thursday, September 15, 2005

@@

eleS was complaining a few days ago that having sat for, say, three hours, through a discussion among Outpost men, you would be left with absolutely no idea of what they had been talking about. It is true: discussions among them are primarily repeated reciprocations of teasing, commentary on text messages exchanged in real time and, maybe, minimal grunting remarks on football, cars, immigrants, women. Crucially, they make longish pauses to vigorously scratch their genitals in public. Actually, they systematically and openly do that, whether sitting down or walking from / to their car (they do not otherwise walk); eleS burst out laughing at a demonstration I gave her.

At this point I could tell you about the relentless, pompous and loud-mouthed know-all rant that a conversation among Compatrido men consists of, but that would be too boring. No conversation skills here, either.

Wednesday, September 14, 2005

Pictures from England

And now for something different.

The Grey Monument in Newcastle, dusk:


A notice in a cafe:


York Minster and York:


York delights: strawberry tart with creme patisserie. The strawberries were heartbreakingly delicious.

Tuesday, September 13, 2005

Democracy and tanned buttocks

When I was younger, I was an optimist. I both thought and felt that the world would be gradually becoming, you know, a better place. I was an ecstatic spectator of the original Live Aid, after school. During the Velvet Revolution I was inebriated with joy: toppling tyranny non-violently was a real and valid option. The night Pink Floyd gave their Berlin Wall gig, I stayed up until late to witness the moment; I saw Rabbin and Arafat shake hands; the first time I saw a letter from South Africa with Mandela as its president on its stamp I fought hard to suppress tears. This seemingly unstoppable path to freedom, peace and justice was coupled in my mind with the, I then thought, irrepressible drive for tolerance and equal rights, for the final prevailing of healthy attitudes towards sex and relationships, for the defeat of prudism, abstentionism and sexual repression.

I was so completely out of synch with the rest of the world, it turns out.

While on holiday, in late August, I had a brief glimpse of such a utopia of tolerance in a tiny Greek island, which will remain unnamed. On its four beaches -- remember, the place was tiny -- I could see people in varying stages of nudity: swimming gear, partial swimming gear, no gear. Was this mingling disturbing? No. Did anyone seem to bother? No? Should anyone bother? Definitely not. Instead of the everywhere else customary segregation according to where you fasten your lycra and how much of it, we were all a motley bunch, mainly suntanned, as nobody went for the Victorian neck to toe sort of swim suit.

Before you pester me with questions about where this island is, a tip and a warning: if you are looking for tiny barren paradises of the Med, follow select Italians: usually they are the ones to discover them first. Then the locals arrive and make an utter guck of the place, sometimes followed by Attila the Hun (sorry, Cordia): Brits. Which brings me to the warning: one of the islanders told me that the aforementioned increasingly popular paradisical enclave of tolerance will feature deckchairs and umbrellas on its beaches come next year's season. So, decency and segregation (nudists will be alloted a place, surely) will once more defeat tolerance.

Before closing, in case you think I am exhibitionistic or biased: I rarely take anything but my top off in public.

Monday, September 12, 2005

Parentheses

I am back. I left behind British TV (maybe the best in the world, especially compared to local, American and other options), fried food, Kenco instant (non-)coffee, chicken with a mushroom soup sauce (if you don't know what this is, don't rush to find out), the bleakness and grandeur that Newcastle is, the 'severely depressed Prague' that York is (said Jod after examining the photos from there) and loads of work, only to get back to more work. In the meantime I went to the great pubs of York (there was this particularly good one, I can't remember the name), ate at more than decent curry places, got revealed as a 'brit-pop kid' by a younger colleague, finished Q (more on that when we talk books) and started The Poisonwood Bible (after Sensei's suggestion), I briefly walked in London (love for a place, like love for someone, has no logic), reaccustomed myself to the sight of the ever scantily clad Saturday night girls (some of them not unbefittingly so).

The highlight: I saw Theta the Cuttlefish, who once more proved to be a friend. What else is needed?

Friday, September 09, 2005

Old York

York is so unlike Newcastle: more orderly, cleaner, on a smaller scale, more boring: I am too young for the quaint cuteness it exudes. Give me some buzz, plase. Betty's tea rooms and cakes were exquisite, though.

A specialist (I don't know what you call the scientists studying floods, coasts, rivers and the like) told us that York is the UK's New Orleans waiting to happen: too much flooding too frequently. Which reminds me: where is the uprising, the rebellion, the insurrection? Hasn't the federal government of the United States criminally betrayed the people of Louisiana before and after the disaster? Ah, just the poor. Ok, then.

Back to York, I walked up the spiral of the 270-something narrow high stone steps to the top of the York Minster tower. I had to stop to catch my breath, it was also that it made me claustrophobic. The view from above was good. Pictures coming soon.

What else? Ah, yes. The room in my Bed-and-Breakfast is clean, cosy and comfortable. The staff are polite and smiling and not co-extensive to the family owning it. Wow. But, no shower gear in my room. So, I am taking baths. That's generally ok (after six years here, one gets used to the idea, if not the practice itself), but the prospect of washing my hair in there strikes me as, at least, unsavoury.

Tuesday, September 06, 2005

North Country boy

I am in Newcastle where, implausibly, the sun has been shining for three days straight.

A woman with bruises all over her face was walking next to me for something like sixty seconds last night. Very difficult minute. Very hard life. And the Christian churches continue to locate personal sin within the domain of consenting sex.

I had forgotten this country's dismal food, its vile coffee, the old smell of damp semi-cleanliness in its rented rooms. I had also forgotten how much I sometimes love this country.