If things go well…
…then, on Friday afternoon, I’m en route towards London!
Finally, I run with arms outstretched towards the Capital, which I have never yet seen but heard and read so much about. Of course, I’m not staying for long; just an insufficient two days: I’m right at the start of the semester!! I’m devoting only a few lines to it, but only I know how I’d been yearning to go there for a visit..
I go to wish my friend a happy birthday, though both he and I know that this is but a pretext for me to finally go there. He did invite me before but I had not been able to liberate myself then.. Besides this, I’m also planning to visit somewhere else in the not too distant future; but I better hang onto it until it’s confirmed. I am like that. Blah..
Tonight, I did a very strange thing. Well, something a bit stranger than usual or perhaps strange in its obvious lack of strangeness usually attributed to me. When my seminar ended, I joined the others for the (now customary end-of-seminar-aint-we-glad-of-it) drinks, though I had, like yesterday, only a coke. The barmaid now keeps giving me anxious glances, as if she fears for my stability of mind. I’m in a pub, after all..
As usual, I hardly knew most of the others, though their faces now start becoming very familiar. Why, even the barmaid recognised me (and she perhaps thinks of me as this odd guy who would rather drink anything else except a beer), so…
But after leaving the others – one of my friends was stating matter-of-factly how she planned on staying there till 11pm (and it was still 5-ish!) and the others were in no hurry – I set out with the intention of returning to my flat. But instead of turning into the road that leads to my accommodations ( a mere 5 minutes’ walk from uni), I decided to walk straight on, just on a whim. It was raining slightly, with a few drops sporadically wetting my face as I glanced up at the billowing clouds. We never had billowing clouds in Mauritius; we just had nice fluffly clouds (unless it was cyclone season or just a plain rainy day, in which case, the clouds would be dark and ominous and heavy-looking, but never billowing…interestingly, just looking at a dark cloud on a rainy day once gave me a headache, but that’s another story). Now that am here, a whole set of words start crystallising around me as meaning seeps into them. I have learnt so many english words but rarely do I think that some of them are so much charged with local/contextual meaning. I was commenting to someone the other day how I’ve had to revise my notion of ‘cold’ and ‘warmth’. One the one hand, you have so many cultural, linguistic and social differences; but on the other, you can’t help noticing how similar people are, everwhere…
What would I not give to make that suspicious old lady clutching at her bag in a paranoid fashion that –
a) I am not a thug because I happen to be of a different colour and appearance and that
b) my ancestral culture has taught me to give utmost respect to elders!
Second observation, while my (lack of) accent has not betrayed me much yet, my particular use of words have attracted the attentions of a few (they have not revealed it, but I have seen the questions marks on their nose and eye-brows, which makes me a very sick man :p). Today, I sat next to someone in the pub – a new friend – whose only consistent word in EVERY sentence was ‘fuck’ (and we talked for about 15 to 20 minutes or so), which is normal to him and the others around him.
In our seminars, which are usually quite vocal and animated, swear words (well no longer considered as swearing now) come out amidst serious literary critique. But I do not have the same ease with this particular colloquial aspect of the language I speak, even though it has started changing considerably from my very first week in the UK. But, some people seem surprised to hear me speak such a clean (!) English, devoid mostly of colloquialism; back home, such informality with the language would have earned me censure and disapproval. Back home, language is placed on a pedestal. I am reminded of the olden times in Britain when attempts were made to ‘purify’ and ‘preserve’ the English language and not allowing it to be ‘perverted’ or ‘contaminated’ by new additions.
Today, one of my new acquaintances asked me where I was from: when I told her, she looked very surprised since she’d thought I was from some other part of the UK, like many of the students themselves.. She had just been inquiring from which region I came from, obviously intrigued by my own trademark English accent.
I sometimes explain, to those interested in knowing, how English is almost never spoken on the streets back home; Creole and French are used for daily/private/personal/social interactions. Knowledge of English is restricted mostly to the written form though most educated people would claim to have mastery over the oral as well..Only a few mad persons like yours truly would ever venture to speak out in English in public; even then, it would be seen as a sign of ostentation; as if I were showing off. So, here, I’m enjoying this immersion into the English language; and it is such a living language (like our creole) that is always being added to and reinvented. A few months ago, some of the expressions I hear or use daily would have seemed like Chinese to me..
Anyway, back to my bizarre antics. So, instead of returning home, I just went on and on and on…just straight on, trying to see what lay beyond the familiar geographical grid that my senses had grown used to. I walked past shops I’d visited before; I left the park behind; after some time, I reached a place that I’d never been before, but I couldn’t stop. Nor was I tired. I just kept on. I wasn’t really thinking or anything; occasionally, I would hum some snatches of a residual song in my head. It was very dark and though it was not exactly raining, it was the kind of windy/cloudy/damp weather that sometimes throws raindrops at your face without warning. My steps quickened and led me past three churches. It was a residential area. Still I didn’t stop. I wasn’t tired. The weather was cold, but my exertions kept me warm so that I’d started sweating. It thus balanced out everything and tiredness or stopping were only remote concepts floating about in my subconscious (perhaps).
It was, all in all, a very interesting walk. The fact that I live almost within the uni’s perimeter rather keeps me geographically positioned around itself. I usually don’t feel inclined to go north, because the general tendency, if you just stand still for a moment next to the uni’s main buildings, would be to find people moving, as a mass (if you watch carefully) south, towards the city centre. And I’ve been to the city centre so many times that it seems like a natural place to go to. I’ve been there today, even if it was to go to the chinese supermarket to glean some nice green and red chillies and some fresh coriander. I hesitated as to whether I ought to take other veggies but then decided not to waste money over things I knew would only be left to mould in the fridge. Will go to the Chinese supermarket some other day just for the veggies. Was rather in a hurry because of the rain and because I had a class..
I really ought to learn chinese. They always seem so verbose and eloquent in my presence; I wonder if they’re talking about me? I’m so modest! Almost subconsciously, I’d rather think that they are talking about me than actually discussing the latest popular chinese noodle or the merits of stainless steel woks or the irremediable breakdown of traditional values (these being middle-aged to old people we’re talking about here – I’m stereotyping!!!). Speaking of woks reminds me that I do need to get some decent fresh noodles for my stir fried noodle dish which I haven’t done for ages; since I’ve written this down, I should feel obliged to do it now.
Anyway, I just stopped at a random point and looked at my watch; I’d been walking at a fairly high speed (and almost without pausing, except at traffic lights and crossings) for more than an hour and a half! It had seemed hardly less than 15 minutes! I decided (I was in the middle of nowhere) to return, which I did, in a rather quicker pace than before.
So, here I am now. Just had some coffee and some warm buttered (or is margarine?) toast, incidentally waking up one or two of my unfortunate flatmates who probably thought they had obtained strategic places by choosing rooms next to the kitchen: Not!!!
Since I came here last of the last, I got the room everyone had disdained and rejected; it is the one nearest to the door, but I don’t mind. With the others mostly staying inside like recluse hermits who have relinquished the comforts and lures of material life, I don’t worry about hearing the doors bang often.
My nearest neighbour (the one who smuggles his girlfriend in on weekends, and now, also on weekdays) has the best bargain of all five of us: I have the Flat door to deal with; another has the toilet (*sigh* – I pity him; I really do, especially when I/others have to go at 2 or 3 am) to contend with; the other two are located on both sides of the kitchen (Haha! Hear me bang that pan!). He only has us to deal with (besides some sporadic singing outbreaks on my part).
While writing this, I’m also scribbling some notes about tomorrow’s long day of work (or so it should be…beware of Laziness Alert!)
Tomorrow, if I finish early, I’ll go and buy my ticket. 2hrs on a train are not that bad! Having to sit on a bus (from here to London) for nearly 8 hours is excrutiating! But I ought to try it…as a student, I must find economic ways of having fun while keeping my funds in control.
I had a nice day, though I’m still puzzled about certain things…like, why haven’t I had my hair cut yet? What is (or are, I suppose) the purpose of a bed? Is a desk or table a synonym for soul-mate? When am I going to cook the red lentils I bought today?
All these questions and yet more to be elucidated by Monsieur Poireau, le detective Belge…
Bonne Nuit a Tous.
Take Care Everyone..