Sitting in Oxford right now in one of those wanky coffee shops with pretentious staff who look permanently like they might cry and confess to being a porn star in a previous life. Trying to write the kind of essay that makes you wonder how academics have being able to get funding. ‘Development Studies needs to be a multi-disciplinary subject and one of those disciplines needs to be anthropology. Discuss.’ I assume it only became a subject once someone started writing about the actual people who bothered to act. You know the people who got their hands dirty. Sitting around mulling over the theories and strategies is so academic.
Working in Oxford teaching for the summer before Uni should start and I lose the plot. I don’t know if I am doing the right thing in many ways. I’m far more interested in cross cultural communication or the inability of people who should know better (politicians, journalists and development people) to get the point across clearly and succinctly.
Oxford is lovely. Small and twisty. And quiet and towny in the summer, packed with language students, tourists, townies and homeless people. Its held my attention so far. Or possibly its the job which is efficiently run and measured. That said, I can’t wait to get out and see something new. I am hoping to get to Croatia in the summer and Sarajevo with a Colombian friend called Claudia or maybe later with a girl called T. That all needs to be resolved asap. Its playing with me now and I won’t put up with it much longer despite the joys.
So basically I am sat here on a Sunday waiting for the world to go away. Wish it away for the day at least. Sleep might help. The hangover or tiredness from the night before doesn’t aid any application.
World Cup Final tonight. May the best team win.
Chronic remorse, as all the moralists are agreed, is a most undesirable sentiment. If you have behaved badly, repent, make what amends you can and address yourself to the task of behaving better next time. On no account brood over your wrongdoing. Rolling in the muck is not the best way of getting clean.
– Foreword by Aldous Huxley in Brave New World.
There is something comfortingly middling about Nottingham. It sits quietly middle of the Middle slightly to the east you may argue and definitively south of the North but not strident in its own location. It might possibly explain the perceived lack of accent in the city. It has missed out on the ugly drawl from Birmingham and certainly doesn’t have the distinctive cut of the Sheffield accent.
A lot of people have asked me where it is. I thought like that too for a long time. I had no connection with the city or the area of East Midlands. It was always on the wrong side of the country when we travelled as kids from Devon to Newcastle or later at University on the train to Sheffield. There simply were no signs for Nottingham on the roads I travelled. It existed in myths and TV dramas, a forested area which later, like Father Christmas didn’t exist at all. I discovered Milton Keynes recently too. Not to compare the places. (I almost said ‘cities’ there. I am not sure either come up to the mark).
So in short, Nottingham isn’t offensive or challenging in any way so far. It is yet to be defined maybe. The centre is built up and cluttered. Multi-storey car parks have refused to be moved while department stores meekly sit hidden away down alleys or under facades. Narrow streets wind round the ill-defined centre sloping off this way and that to nowhere in particular. Nottingham Castle fits the bill too. For it isn’t. It’s merely a stately mansion. And finding it in amongst the winds proved impossible this time while last time I couldn’t miss it.
I stayed in a good hostel and wandered the streets in my flippers looking at houses and people but I curiously can’t remember much about either. I took pictures to build an image for Basia and Milena but couldn’t find any shots to be proud of. And yet despite all this inertness, I found the man in the shop polite and clearly spoken. The hostel staff were almost cool. The landlords were ever so helpful and considerate. The bus driver told me where I needed to get off. A gentility overcame me. The hills that seemed too steep in any weather were smooth ascent, gentle on the calves. I was there before I broke sweat. There seemed too strikingly similar to here. But I was there and talking with the correct people.
I never waited to cross a road. Traffic was well-managed. Buses, trams and taxis paraded by with ease. Cars were seen in the distance approaching but never interfering or being noisy. There was no hustle and bustle on the pavements. I don’t really remember anyone there. The city has a vortex feeling about it. Life continuing without impacting on other people, cities or the world at large. It has a town feel to it. Kids worry and grow, get piercings and cut their hair and then become adults. It seemed devoid of ambition, hunger or strife.
I would be normally frustrated by all this lack of clamour. But I felt softly couched by it all. Some trick had been played on me. I was cuddled and taken care of. I knew it too. But didn’t fight it. The void was not within me. Am I being hoodwinked or placated by all that gentility. How I will feel in the near or far future? I simply don’t know. My restless nature might have found a pillow for now but for how long can I say? But for now, I am a fool.