This journal is mostly public with some friends-only entries that will primarily be visible to my close real-life friends.
I'm currently in the process of importing my thousand-ish entries from my mammoth Diaryland journal which I have decided to abandon because it's not letting me archive my entries. Hopefully that would be done sooner rather than later.
The South of France, in my mind, was supposed to be a paradise of sea and sun: an inviting deep blue sea under an unfiltered sun, a clear pale blue sky, a heat that is almost unbearably hot. On the surface, the South of France was exactly that...except the sea was deceptively inviting, almost unswimmable, because it was so cold.
We tried to go swimming at the little 'beach' by the hotel on the first day. We'd just played an hour's worth of tennis in the dry 30-degree heat, which worked perfectly for me: it was hot and therefore nice, but dry (as opposed to humid, like in Singapore) and therefore non-sweaty. I was particularly looking forward to immersing myself in the sea, both to cool off, and to experience again the incomparable sense of largeness and freedom that I always feel when I swim in the open sea.
We got our things, walked to the beach. I had difficulties navigating the uncomfortable pebbles; only to be out-done by the sheer shock that I felt when I finally wobbled my way to the water, dipped my feet in it, and felt as if I had just stepped into an ice-cold bucket.
It was cold, it was quite windy, he was not comfortable with the water temperature, and so I freaked out. Note, though, that this was a week before my period so my mood swung happily from one extreme to the other, depending on what we were doing. So I freaked out and burst into tears because it was not what I had in mind; namely, I did not have in mind a water temperature that made me not want to go into the water at all. So we abandoned ship, headed for the small little pool; at least I got some swimming in. E found out that there was a public beach down the hill from the hotel, which we (he, really) hoped would be warmer given it was closed, sort of, and full of people.
We went to the sandy part the next morning. It was not warmer at all. But I was determined to swim, so after maybe 5-10 minutes of standing in the sea, cursing the water for being as cold as it was, I took the plunge and started swimming. It became bearable after I got used to the water temperature; but because the swimming area was quite close to the shore and cordoned off by a safety barrier, probably because there were yachts and sailing boats just up ahead, it didn't that wonderful.
Next to the sandy part, though, was another beach: the naturally pebbled one, no safety barriers. The next evening, I dragged E to that beach, just to try, I said. We tried; stepped into the water, shuddered at its coldness, and even though I desperately wanted to swim, E's complaining about its coldness did not inspire any confidence at all (harsh, but true!). After a while, though, I decided I was being stupid; that I was already there, so I might as well just do it; and so I just did it. I started swimming, surging forward to a more or less open horizon, let my body get accustomed to the cold; and when it did, there was that magical feeling again: of being as one with the sea, of not knowing, temporarily, where it ended and I began, of being at peace with the deep and frightening mysteries that it held, as if the sea were my friend and being a part of it was the most natural thing in the world.
E doesn't like swimming, so he got out of the water after a short while. I stayed on, and held on until the cold started permeating my skin and penetrating into my flesh. That was when I finally, albeit reluctantly, admitted defeat, and got out of the water, some distance from where we had lay our towels. I saw E approach, holding my flip-flops, as it was painful walking on the hard pebbles. How sweet, right? I think so too.
We went to Arles on one of those days; I forget which one. Like I said, I wish we had done more research on van Gogh's regular haunts, as we only sort of stumbled upon it around 6pm when we walked past the Espace Van Gogh and I found out, while eavesdropping on an English-speaking tour guide, that it was a hospital where van Gogh had stayed before he transferred to the hospital where he lived out the rest of his life. Then we found out that the riverbank where we'd stumbled upon two evenings ago was the spot where he painted his Starry Night over the Rhone painting (not to be confused with The Starry Night), when I casually flipped through a thin book about his paintings and found a map of the locations of his famous works in Arles. Afer that, we tried to find the location of his yellow house, just to be utterly disappointed when it turned out that it was gone, and replaced with a decidedly unartistic and uninspiring carpark.
Still, it was a good day, albeit almost unbearably hot. We went to the Langlois Bridge (now called the van Gogh bridge) first, as my parents have a print of one of the paintings that he did of it hanging in our house, and I wanted to see it. The bridge is no longer in use, but the scene was pretty much as van Gogh had painted, except with more green, less yellow. Even the house is still there. I love being connected with a history that I find compelling like that.
We spent the rest of the afternoon wandering around Arles. When we were there for dinner two evenings ago, I noticed the numerous works of photography on the walls of the streets, which I really liked. I found out later that there's a huge non-commercial photography exhibition of sorts in Arles. I didn't want to pay to go to the Roman ruins (honestly, I've already been to Rome, so these other Roman ruins don't hold much interest for me), so we walked around in the heat (where I marveled over how the town looked like something out of a van Gogh painting) sought refuge in a little cafe purported to have air-con when the heat became too much, and wandered around again (that was when we discovered the van Gogh places) until it was time for dinner at 8pm.
By that day, I was getting very sick of vegetarian food in France, or at least, in French towns that aren't big ones like Paris. I was basically eating eggs and cheese and salad (as in raw vegetables) ever day. E wanted to find something different for me in Arles, which is big enough to have more options than the seaside town of the hotel - and found this fusion place which seemed cool. And don't get me wrong: the food, on the whole, was good. But I ended up eating cheese anyway because those were the only non-meat/seafood options. Alas!
Still: the melon puree with pesto, pine nuts and seaweed was surprisingly sweet and refreshing. I liked the Saint Nectaire (?) cheese as well. I also liked the burrata, but you can hardly go wrong with that.
What I didn't really like was the grilled watermelons with feta, sprinkled with sesame seeds. First, while the watermelon did look grilled, it tasted just like a regular watermelon. Second, I didn't think that the watermelon and feta went well together. The texture of the two was rather too different for it to work: the watermelon light, the feta thick and chunky, It wasn't bad, but it wasn't as interesting as it sounded. We did have a yummy rice pudding for dessert, though. So all in all, that was probably one of the best meals I had on the trip - but the best meals were undoubtedly the food that his mom cooked!
My trip to France with E was a nice, even if undeserved, break. We drove from London, took the ferry to Calais, drove to St Malo, spent a night there, then went to Mont Saint-Michel before driving to his mom's place near Brest. We spent five nights in Brest before driving down South: stopped at Carcassonne for a night, then five night at some random 'hotel' thing in a little town called Carry Le Rouet (?!?!?! Never heard of it, wouldn't recommend) that we used as a base to go to other places. These other places were: Arles and Cassis. There was a vague plan to go to Nimes but I was lazy, so we spent two days in the 'hotel', one day 'exploring' the town. Alas, there wasn't much to see.
- I liked his mom and got along with his kids more than I thought I would, and this was despite my non-existent command of French. Imagine the interesting conversations I would have had with his mom (whose English was better than my French, though that's not saying much), and the funny things I could have said to his kids, mostly directed at him, if I could actually speak French!
- His mom's house was every bit as cluttered as he'd warned me. In fact, 'clutterd' is rather understating the case. Still, I quite enjoyed being there. They have a huge-ass garden, so huge that some developer wanted to buy it to build two houses on the land. I liked sitting on his deck chair in the garden, reading or writing in the evenings after dinner (which his mom prepared: yummy Vietnamese vegetarian food), or hitting a tennis ball around with him and his son. It was quite relaxing. Surprisingly, I would say the few days spent at his mom's was probably the best days of the trip.
- I've never been a fan of kids. I warned E a million times that I have no maternal instinct and that I dislike children. I felt apprehensive about meeting his kids; the language barrier aside, I didn't think that I could interact with them in a manner that would be mutually amusing. So yes, I was surprised that it turned out quite nice. His daughter is quite outgoing and started asking me questions in English that he fed her word for word, on the first day. His son, the shyer one, started playing with me after a couple of days, when we went to the Botanic Gardens in Brest to feed the ducks (grains, not bread! Bread is bad for ducks!). I noticed that he liked kicking stones on the path and so I joined in for fun. Later, in the car, he started hitting my head with this piece of leaf that they picked up in the Gardens, then saying either it wasn't him, or that it was his siter. It was quite cute. So after that I started hitting him gently on the head, and he'd grin and retaliate by trying to hit me on the head. I had to stoop and lower my head so that he could reach, and then I would pretend to cry and he'd giggle and run off. So yes. It was quite cute.
- I did, however, get really upset by the way they didn't acknowledge their grandmother. Without going into details, let's just say that the culture shock was real, and that I was literally shaking with anger. I cannot remember the last time I was so angry that my body trembled, and E had never seen me that angry. But he understood my point of view, so it was all good in the end.
- There was a heatwave in Europe that week. The library that was 5 minutes from his mom's house was so hot that I could barely think. That's my excuse for not doing enough work on my PhD.
- St Malo was pretty. The galette we ate there...so delicious.
- Mont St Michel was pretty too, but to be honest, these church places are starting to look very, very samey to me now. E made me eat a fucking 38 euros omelette at this restaurant in Mont St Michel. It's the only place they do it, he said. It's famous, he said. I've always wanted to try it, he said. So what they do is, they eat a bunch of eggs in a particular way and put them on a special pan and bake them in some fire place thingy. We ordered the set menu, and while my starter and dessert were good, the omelette was such a let-down. It was so not worth it. The filling was served separately, which was weird, and my vegetables were not good at all. They were under-seasoned and bland and just boring. The omelette was also too fluffy; it was almost like a souffle. I don't like souffles. So it was not a good dish. But he'd always wanted to try, and I did it because of him (otherwise, I would have said fuck off to the obvious tourist trap), so at least one of us was happy!
I'm too lazy to continue with this entry. Maybe tomorrow!
On another note, I haven't been writing very much. I'm struggling to finish a short story that I started last year. The main reason, I think, is that I just don't care very much about it; that is, the story, the characters, my original plan for it. I'm just working on it (if you can even call it that) just to finish it.
The one good thing about the writing challenge was that it forced me to finish things. Now I get stuck after a couple of sentences and I think, Eh, no, can't be arsed. It's terrible.
I want to start writing the novel, but not until I'm done with the PhD. Both enterprises require 100% focus - and the PhD obviously is my priority at the moment. I really can't wait to submit it!
I'm writing this on the ferry from Dover to Calais; and the reason I'm writing this on the ferry, instead of last night in my room like I had intended, is because I got back at 9.45pm from my super awesome gym class last night, and for some reason (I wonder what it could be), ended up spending 1.5 hours packing for a two-week trip. Then I wasted about 30 minutes hunting for my HSBC digital secure key thing for online banking, which I had to look for because my main account was in overdraft and so I had to transfer money from my other account to the main one. In the end, after I was royally pissed off, E found it in my backpack - which was bizarre, and which I still can't quite fathom, for I have absolutely no recollection of putting it in my backpack, and I have no idea why I would even do it. Isn't it strange, how some parts of our lives are wiped from our memories, just like that, as if they've never happened?
So much for the pointless, rambling preamble. The point of this entry is three things.
Still not submitted, but my supervisor has read it and given me the okay to submit it. Before this, when I was still waiting for her to get back to me, the thought of it being in its state of non-submission was stressing me the fuck out, especially since I have to (and desperately want to) move out of my current house in August. Now that she's given me the okay, I feel so much better - precisely because the fate of my thesis is now entirely in my hands. John has given me his comments, Raffael has commented on almost half of it and will give me the rest of his comments soon, so basically everything is now within my control again. This, somehow, is all that matters; the actual work, I tend to think, will just sort itself out.
As I absolutely hate the current place I'm living in (owing to a combination of my ground floor room, housemates who have left me out of their socialising and whose socialising in the kitchen I can hear from my room, thus making me feel like I don't have my own space), I'm thinking maybe I'll move out early August, as soon as I can, then focus on the thesis. I think I'll start seriously house hunting when I'm back from my trip. I really hate the house. But I don't want to talk about this right now.
I've just finished teaching a two-week law course to a 17-year-old kid from Romania, as part of a broader summer school programme to let high school kids interested in applying to Cambridge get a sense of Cambridge.
I must say that I am pleasantly surprised by my ability to explain legal, moral and philosophical concepts in a way that he seemed to have mostly understood. As I designed the syllabus to give a good balance of private and public law, the first week was spent on the law of torts; specifically, duty of care, and public policy exceptions to the duty. It was only when I had to explain it to the kid that 1) I realised that I'm better at explaining things than I'd thought I was; and 2) I finally understood what I was meant to have learned in Year 1 of law school.
The second week touched on jurisprudence and law and morality more generally, so it was my area of 'expertise' (still feel like a fraud referring to myself as an expert on anything law-related). It was lucky that the woman running the programme chose the session on homosexuality and the enforcement of morals to sit in for my appraisal, because this is one of the few things that I can claim some decent knowledge of - and at the end, she gave me really good comments. She said I was articulate, measured in my responses to some of the kid's slightly ignorant remarks about travellers in Romania, and that she couldn't tell that it was my first time teaching law (and second time teaching, period). So I was quite pleased with myself.
In fact, and like I've said, I was really quite pleasantly surprised by how it was sometimes quite enjoyable, especially when my student was engaged and responding to my questions, and when I pushed him on a couple of points, he knew where I was going before I had to say it. In retrospect, starting with duty of care was probably a bit much, as I think it took him some time to understand the terms, let alone how the courts analyse the legal issues; and so, in retrospect, it wasn't so unusual that he didn't get it as quickly as I thought, unreasonably, that he would. But the point is, it was quite enjoyable. I don't know if I would still say the same if I had to teach university undergrads, as the intensity of my knowledge would need to be a lot greater; but still, for what it's worth, it was fun.
What I didn't like, though, was the teaching preparation. I think each session took me at least three hours to prepare for - and in the end, there were only tw hours of teaching. So in terms of my monetary rewards, this job wasn't that great, especially given that my thesis is still not done, so I could have spent a lot of that time working on my thesis instead. Still, it was a good experience overall.
And now, the main point of this entry: I FINISHED MY EPIC DAREDEVIL FANFIC.
When I say 'finished', though, I mean that I have written the ending, and it's pretty much how I want to end it. But because I was rushing to finish it yesterday before heading to the gym (and this was because I knew that I wouldn't have much time to do it on my trip, and I want to focus on my thesis after the trip), I do not like the way the very last part was written, and I will definitely rewrite that bit before starting a second draft. But the first draft is more or less there. And it feels pretty amazing because this is the longest thing that I have ever written, and the longest thing that I have ever finished - which gives me a lot of confidence in my ability to see a writing project all the way to its end. The piece now stands at 285 pages (1.5 spaced, Times New Roman font size 12) and 127,929 words (including chapter titles and chapter numbers). I finished it at Chapter 13 to mirror Daredevil's 13-episode seasons...lame, I know, but not as lame as not wanting to end it on the 13th chapter because of 'bad luck'. Ugh, I'm really stupid sometimes.
So yes, I'm really pleased that I managed to finish it. The re-write is going to be a real pain in the ass, and I always cringe and literally cover my face with my hand when I re-read the things that I've written...but my goal was to finish this, and I did it, and so I will enjoy this feeling of accomplishment until I start mentally eviscerating myself for the bad writing.
This ferry is making me a bit sick. This entry was supposed to be more reflective but it's hard to be reflective on a ferry that's threatening to make me sea sick, and a tummy calling out for food.
While it is shameful that I have not written in this LJ for the entire month of June, I think I have a decent excuse: the writing challenge.
I have just submitted my last piece for the challenge, and I am honestly too mentally exhausted to even commit to this entry. But I will just write down my thoughts briefly.
1. Writing is fucking hard work.
2. Writing something new and interesting every day is fucking hard work.
3. Sometimes - especially towards the end of the challenge - I really didn't feel like writing.
4. On days when I didn't feel like writing, forcing myself to write felt worse than not writing.
5. But I think, in the end, writing something is always better than writing nothing. Because even if it is tough to distance myself from what I have written, having something to work with is easier than starting from scratch. And if I need to unsee the shit that I have written, I can simply press the 'enter' space multiple times and provide that physical distance on the page.
6. I love writing, even when it's shit and painful.
7. Trying to write two things at once - the on-going Daredevil story which hasn't ended and is about 240 pages long right now, and the daily new piece of fiction - is a very, very bad idea. By the time I'm done with one, I have nothing left for the other. And because I'm really gunning to finish the Daredevil fanfic - I think two chapters will be enough to wrap it up - the quality of my work for the writing challenge has suffered a lot. So, lesson learned: only do one creative piece of writing at a time, unless I need a break from whatever it is I'm working on. But it has to be necessary and voluntary, not externally imposed.
8. I have been writing every single day since I started writing the fanfic in the beginning of April. This is the most intense and consistent commitment to an endeavour that I have made in at least the past 10 years of my life.
9. I am so committed that Etienne and I only went out for drinks last night after I've finished the brief.
10. Indeed, I would rather not see friends if it means that it takes time away from writing.
11. Nothing gives me more joy and satisfaction than writing - even when I'm writing crap.
12. And because I frequently write crap, nothing brings me the kind of torture that bad writing brings to me than, well, bad writing. It is a self-effacing torture, the sort that causes self-flagellation because I want to be so much better, but I can't seem to actually grasp where I am reaching. And it hurts because it is deeply personal, and because I care.
13. I have wasted at least the last decade of my life by not writing. It is time to rectify this mistake.
I signed up for this challenge last month, thinking that I would be done with my thesis by the time the challenge starts...well, I was wrong; still plugging away at the blasted thesis, wanting to stab my eyes out at Chapter 5 which I hate almost as much as Chapter 1 (because they talk about actual things that happened in real life, none of the imaginary theoretical arguments of the middle three chapters), and now I am realising that I will receive the first brief tonight at 10pm, and I am actually kind of scared.
On the one hand, wouldn't it great to write a new piece of prose every day?
On the other hand, when the hell am I going to find the time to do it? My day goes like this: wake up sometime between 8.30 and 9.30, depending on my mood; breakfast and continue with the fanfic that I'm writing for about an hour; either tennis or run for an hour or less, depending on the activity; shower, sometimes cook, etc, and leave the house at around 1, depending on the day; 30 minutes on the tube to the library; half an hour to forty minutes of writing the fanfic in the British Library while having coffee (because I can't drink in the Reading Rooms); three to four hours straight in the Reading Room (Rare Books and Music), ploughing through the thesis; then 30 minutes on the tube back to the house, where I watch an episode of Daredevil while having dinner; then 15 minutes of sitting around doing nothing, followed by 30 minutes of shower; half an hour on the phone with E; and when it's about 10.30, 10.45, back to writing the fanfic until I get tired. These days, it's around 11.30. Before, it's around midnight to 12.30. And then I go to bed.
My days are like clockwork now and it's boring, and so in a way, it's nice to break up the monotony...but wow. It's going to be extremely challenging. My hope is that, throughout the next month, I will come up with a few things that will be halfway decent and usable. Perhaps some of the briefs would allow me to develop part of the original novel that I've written mostly in my head so far. We will see.
Daunting, but exciting.
And other stuff...well, don't have time to write about them right now, don't quite feel like it either.
I'm sitting in E's living room, a dull ache in my legs, feeling a residual euphoria, the sort that gets triggered by the release of the relevant hormone or whatever when one exercises. The sort, indeed, that I have rode on now in the aftermath of a half marathon, overpowering the fatigue and making me feel pretty damn good.
I ran the Mercedes-Benz World Half Marathon in Weybridge (somewhere in Surrey, close to Heathrow) this morning. It was a four-lap race on a racing track in, obviously, Mercedes Benz World. I can honestly say that, out of the four half marathons that I have completed, the only one that was more brutal was the one in Singapore - and that's more or less entirely due to the tough weather condition back home.
The first thing that I said to E today, immediately after I finally crossed the damn finish line, was, 'That was really tough.' And it was. It was a combination of things: running four laps which means passing the finish three times before finally finishing; the 99.99% unshaded route, which wasn't fun at all because it wasn't cloudy enough today and there was way too much sun; the wind, free to blow unobstructed all over the racing track, surrounded by wide open spaces, and needing more effort than normal to run against it; and my confusion after the first lap, my GPS telling me that I'd hit 5km when I was 1km away from the end of the first lap, then realising later that we ran an extra distance at the start that wasn't part of the lap, so no, I wasn't off by 1km like I'd thought.
The confusion over distance messed up my pacing. Since I thought I was 1km slower than I really was, I started speeding up - and I sped up earlier than I'd wanted. I started off really relaxed, running at a comfortable pace, and the plan was to gradually increase the pace to something close to my max and maintain it for the middle of the race. But nope, that plan did not come to fruition. I don't know how much of my speeding up earlier than I'd planned contributed to the absolute leadenness of my legs at the final lap, but wow, my legs felt terrible. I think I hit the wall even before 18 or 19km; it was something like 14.5 or 15km. It honestly took a lot of concentration and mental effort to keep going and not start walking, or even just drop out of the race. I can't even begin to say how many times I'd thought of quitting the race. When the sun was blazing down on me; when the wind was blowing in my face; when I reached the end of the third lap and hoped in futility that it was actually my final lap...
I like to laugh at the Brits and their overreaction to slightly warm weather, such as reports of a 'heat wave' at the London Marathon last year when temperatures reached an extreme high of 22 degrees celsius. And while I still find their overreaction quite hilarious, I can sort of understand it now, though the problem for me wasn't the temperature; it was the sun. And it was relentless on the track today; it just wouldn't bloody go away. There was a patch of shade for maybe 10m; otherwise, there was no hiding from it. I was actually quite worried when I left the house that we stayed in and saw some rays of sunlight breaking through the clouds. The forecast was for a cloudy day...and it wasn't cloudy enough eventually. I guess the upside was that the sun went away after the first hour, so the second half wasn't that bad. There was still the wind to contend with, though; and that really wasn't fun at all.
My confusion over the distance, coupled with my inability to see the time on my phone because of the stupid sun, meant that I really had very little idea how fast or slow I was going. At one point, I thought I was so slow, and I was suffering so much, that I actually thought to myself that I didn't even care anymore if I finished it slower than in Singapore. All I wanted was for the torture to end.
Well, it did - after 2 hours and 3 minutes.
On the one hand, yay personal best! On the other hand, it was 3 minutes too slow.
That said, I wasn't gunning for a sub-2 this time. I wasn't training properly, wasn't putting in as much effort as I would need to for a sub-2 in my training, didn't even come up with a proper training plan, just ran a few 5k and 10k here and there, did maybe three proper long runs before this (two 15 and one 18)...so the only goal that I had was to improve on my timing, and I set a rather timid aim of 2 hours and 6 minutes (the previous timing being 2 hours and 7 minutes at the London Landmarks Half Marathon). When I saw that I'd hit the 2-hour mark with less than 1km to go, I pushed myself as hard as I could (which wasn't that hard because my legs were taking a serious beating) and sprinted like crazy over the bloody finish.
My god. I'm still reeling from the toughness of the experience. While running, I thought to myself that I wasn't going to do another race for the rest of the year, and certainly not in the summer. But perhaps the point is to never do another lap race ever again. It was so much more mentally challenging. Still, I'm glad I did this. Now I just need to break the damn 2 hours barrier...
I haven't blogged very much these days because there's only so much writing I can do in a day: the PhD (let's not talk about this), and the Daredevil fanfic that began as a fantasy that I indulge in, a story that I spin in my mind, before I fall asleep (I have been doing this since I was a kid), and which has since assumed a life of its own. It's now around 120 pages, 50,000+ words, and I think only half the story has been told. It's interesting how it seems to be writing itself now. I didn't have any concrete idea as to where it would go, how the story would unfold, when I began writing it; and yet, there's always been a vague but solid enough direction, and it's not so clear if I'm pushing it that way, or if the story is leading me with the confidence in its own coherence and depth that I don't always possess.
The only downside to this project, which has been one of the most exhilarating things that I've done in a while, is that it's pretty much not going to go anywhere. Oh sure, I could change the names; Matt Murdock could be Mark Murdoch, whatever. But the concept of Daredevil is so central to the story, and the characters' interaction with each other, that there's no way it'd remain what it is if I changed it. So I'm resigned to it just sort of dying, definitely in my hard drive and perhaps somewhere on the Internet, once it's finally finished.
The upside, however, is that it's giving me the confidence that I don't think I ever had to really write. Write something longer than an incomplete short story (I have too many of those lying around). Write a story that matters from start to finish, a story that explores themes and ideas that I find interesting, and not giving up on the characters, or the story, even when I don't know where it's going. And, really, write. Just write. Write every day, write even when you're not inspired, write especially when you're inspired and the words flow like water in a stream, and this feeling, like I'm doing exactly what I'm meant to do, is incomparable and irreplaceable.
So in this regard, I really feel that the PhD and all that it implies is a second-best option. And because I know it is true, I don't think I can ever shake the regret, always latent, that I didn't have the courage to pursue what I really want to do - write; that is, write fiction - much earlier. The upside, I suppose, is that it's never too late, right? I don't know. Maybe. We will see.
The point of this entry is something else. The point of this entry is a job interview with a university in Hong Kong that I had at 3.30am last Tuesday, and the vague possibility that I might be in Hong Kong for a year if they offer it and if I accept it, and for some reason, recurring nightmares of NEB.
It seems that I dream about him every month without fail. The latest one was a mere variation on the same theme: a longing, a hopeful heart, a dead-end desire, an inchoate relationship. We made plans to meet after something; he never got back to me.
I told E about the dream. He told me that he's not thrilled about Hong Kong because NEB is there (amongst other reasons). He said that he wasn't confident that I would be able to resist him if he were in front of me now. He said that the chemistry and connection would always be there.
All of this is not untrue. As Rui once said, NEB is my Kryptonite. I have a weakness for him, or more accurately, what he represents, that I can't seem to expel completely. I know all the reasons it was never real with him, all the reasons it would never have worked, regardless of distance, of time, of emotional trauma that I was too proud to accommodate, of scars from the past that would probably never completely heal. I know that he is a fantasy.
But it was - is - an intoxicating one. And that's the problem, isn't it? I struggle with the banality of stability, of normality, of a man who is good for me, with whom I am grounded; a man who gives me a relationship that is sustainable, good, and above all, real. I want the things that I don't have, and now that I have the stability that I thought I wanted, I start to resent it and mistake it for stagnation.
I don't know why, much less what I can do to change it, if I can change it. Perhaps I should simply accept that this is a part of me, and will always be; and figure out a way to manage it. This being, of course, my restlessness, my retreating into a fantasy world and ignoring what is real, my perpetual yearning for the kind of moments that I had with NEB - the type that seem life-altering, where time doesn't exist, in which you are spread wide open and he knows every single bit of you without needing to say a word. The connection, the chemistry - so astounding and delightful in dark corners, but so pale and frail in the harsh light of the day.
Hold on to what is real. Write to indulge in fantasies. Makes sense, doesn't it?
Today has been great! One of the best days I've had all year!
E and I went to watch Pinter's Betrayal at the Harold Pinter Theatre this afternoon. I absolutely loved The Birthday Party, so I was excited about this one when I saw that Tom Hiddleston is in it. But it wasn't until it was announced that Charlie Cox is in it too that I acted immediately; literally bought tickets on the day that I saw the news. We paid 102 each for stall seats, fifth row from the front; the package came with a glass of champagne (which was way too much for me at 2 in the afternoon and made me flush like an Asian), 'luxury' ice-cream that was more ordinary than luxurious, and the programme.
First, the play: while I do appreciate that Betrayal is quite different from The Birthday Party, in that it is about the intricacies of the relationships between the three characters, and while I appreciate, too, that my only basis for comparison is that these are the only two Pinter players I've watched, I liked The Birthday Party quite a lot more. It simply blew me away when I watched it because of Pinter's absurdly clever use of language - subversive and nonsensical - to convey the absurdity of life. It is more thematically expansive; it makes a point about life; and because the dialogue is frenetic, so was the acting. It was great.
Betrayal was rather more quiet. It didn't blow me away like The Birthday Party did; but I enjoyed it anyway. First, I love parts of the dialogue that were dripping with subtext, where the characters said a lot and said absolutely nothing at the same time. The audience, of course, was in on it; only Jerry (Charlie Cox's character) was oblivious. The brilliance of the dialogue in those scenes reminded me of some parts of The Birthday Party; and I would even say it's Pinteresque, except I can't because I'm not familiar enough with his work to make that sort of claim.
Second, the performances were brilliant: great chemistry between the actors, really loved Zawe Ashton's charisma, Tom Hiddleston is a natural, and while I admit that I am a bit biased (okay, maybe more than a bit) when it comes to Charlie Cox, I enjoyed watching him as the shallow, light-hearted Jerry - a far cry from brooding Matt Murdock in Daredevil. It was a bit odd listening to his native British accent and watching him look at people; but it was great. He was great.
Third, I bought the play afterwards more or less because of a scene towards the end, when Jerry confesses his love for Emma. Charlie's delivery of them was perfection; but more importantly, the poetry and the romance in those lines...I think I melted in the moment. And reading those lines after I bought it nearly made me swoon.
Second, after the play: I had been obsessed with the idea of taking a picture with Charlie after the play for at least a week; and when I get these ideas into my head, I have to do them. I messaged a girl on Instagram who had a picture taken with him when she watched the play a couple of weeks ago, and she told me to leave the theatre immediately when it ends and go round to the side of the theatre to join the queue. The queue, as I found out today, mostly comprised of Tom Hiddleston fans; and because I did exactly as the girl advised, I rushed out of there quickly (didn't even pee even though my bladder was bursting) and was one of the first few people in the queue!
Alas, Charlie came out later than Tom. I took a pic of E with Tom, and when I was right in front of him, I just shook his hand and said, 'Great performance!' or something along those lines. I wasn't trying to be rude, but I didn't see the point of taking a picture with an actor just because he's famous when I'm not particularly a fan of his; and because I love Charlie's work in Daredevil, the person that I really wanted to see was Charlie.
So I asked the security guy next to Tom, 'Can I wait here for Charlie?'
He told me to join the back of the queue. Oh my god, I could've crumbled in disappointment. I didn't want to argue with him because, earlier, he'd made a Tom H fan cry by not allowing her to be in the queue. She had apparently left the show five minutes ago just to stand in the queue and get Tom's photo or whatever; she even had a sketchbook with sketches of him (really good ones, if I may add). I didn't want to mess with him and risk having him ban me from the queue; and so I joined the back of the queue.
Charlie came out after some time. I'd relieved my bladder by then, so I was quite happy to wait a bit. I started talking to two women and a girl in front of me; one of the women liked Daredevil too, which was nice. The queue had already snaked around the theatre, which meant I couldn't see what was going on in front. On my second trip to the front of the queue, I saw Charlie!
I was so excited. I could barely wait for him to come to my bit of the queue...but when he did, the security guy said 'autographs only'. What the hell, I don't want an autograph; I want a photo! When Charlie was right in front of me, I asked him if I could have a picture.
While he did very politely say no (something about how he'd never get out of there if he took a picture with everyone), I was massively disappointed anyway. I did, however, manage to say that he was great in the play and that I love him in Daredevil. He signed our programme book and we started to walk off. E, of course, knew that I was disappointed; I'd been yakking his ear off about a photo with Charlie for at least a week. He suggested that I should go back and at least have a photo where he and I are in the same picture, even if it's not a photo with him; like him in the background walking or something.
I didn't really want to because Charlie had already said he wasn't doing photos; but E pushed me, and I walked back to where Charlie was. Most, if not all, of the fans had gone by then. I honestly had no idea what I was hoping to get, or even trying to do; according to E, when Charlie was walking towards us, E told me to turn around so that he could take a photo. I didn't hear what E said; in fact, I was just sort of standing around, perhaps looking a bit dejected...and the next thing I knew, Charlie walked up to me, put his arm around my shoulder, and let E take a picture.
It all happened so quickly. The whole time Charlie was next to me was probably 3 seconds long. And because it all happened so quickly, all I could do was stand there and smile. I didn't say anything to him, he didn't say anything. He literally strode up to me (he was walking really quickly, like he was in a hurry to get somewhere), put his arm around me and smiled for three seconds, and walked off.
But oh, I was so happy after that. I still am. This is really fangirly of me, and I definitely have fangirly tendencies (see: Jay Chou, Roger Federer, just to name a few); but I really love Daredevil, and his portrayal of Matt Murdock/Daredevil. Like I told E, I don't really care for celebrities or famous people, which was why I didn't have a photo with Tom Hiddleston even though he was right in front of me. I only care when the said celebrity or actor or famous person has made an impact on me; has created something that resonates with me, sometimes quite deeply and personally. Charlie Cox has done exactly that with Matt Murdock/Daredevil, especially Matt Murdock, I would say.
That was why I was all for Charlie, and why I'm really happy that my photo(s) happened! Here they are!
I think this was when he saw us and came over to me.
I know, there are hardly any differences in these pictures, and fucking hell, I look like a tomato (the champagne was potent and it was 2pm and I really dislike drinking in the middle of the day); but oh, this makes me so happy right now, so I'll just post however many I want.
Also, isn't E the sweetest? If he hadn't prodded me to go back, I would've just left. And it was so nice of him to accompany me through my madness! He's the best.
Today has been a combination of bad news, unproductivity, physical tiredness, and the usual searing hatred towards the PhD that I can't seem to finish. Oh, it's 'finished', of course; save for the conclusion, I've written everything. But the 110,000 words that I've accumulated are not even worthy of being my crap paper.
Two rejections today: one from a literary journal which was expected and thus okay; the other for a teaching post at a summer school in Cambridge, whose law syllabus I designed. Granted, in an ideal world, I wouldn't want to do any teaching at all, and it was something that I felt I had to do as opposed to really want to do.
But the email from the very nice lady who runs the programme, sent an hour ago, left me feeling quite defeated anyway. This trying to get experience which I can't get because I have no experience...and for what, exactly? I know the difference between passion and interest. Yet, I am still stuck on the same path to a lacklustre life that I unwittingly put myself on 14 years ago.
This is all rather overwhelming. At this very moment, I honestly don't know why I'm even trying, what it's for.
Just let the fear of failure continue to drive me. It's got me this far; surely it will get me over the line.
What the hell am I even doing?
The only thing that I'm looking forward to - and it's a pretty huge thing - is watching Harold Pinter's Betrayal this Saturday with E. Apart from the fact that it's Pinter, it's also Charlie Cox a.k.a. Matt Murdock a.k.a. Daredevil. Even though I'm too lazy to go through the hassle of such things, I'm convinced that I want to try and meet him after the play to get a photograph with him, maybe tell him that his work in Daredevil is amazing and inspiring, if it's not rude to talk about the actor's other project after just seeing him in his current one. We shall see. It will be cool if this happened.
Also, E and I watched Shazam! last night. I was excited about this too because Zachary Levi a.k.a Chuck, a.k.a one of my favourite TV shows ever. He was hilarious and great and the movie was superb, in that it's light-hearted entertainment that doesn't take itself seriously. It was great. Way better than boring Captain Marvel and Black Panther (only good thing about BP was the hotness that's Michael B. Jordan).
Alas, it was back to my shitty real life today, and I can't quite put into words how badly I want this torture to end, and how much I hate my life right now.
Also paid 6.65 pounds for a stupid sandwich at 5.30pm today at the British Library. I walked across the street to Pret but there was quite literally nothing vegetarian left. So I went back to the cafe that's just outside the library, which was already closing; but the man dug out a couple of vegetarian sandwiches for me. I was not happy to be paying 6.65 (the other was 4-ish) but beggars can't be choosers and all.
I stopped by Sainsbury's on the way back and bought a big loaf of bread for 1.60 so that I wouldn't ever have to buy a bloody 6.65 sandwich ever again.
Writing is the only thing that's keeping me sane right now, even if it quite often occupies too much of my focus, attention and time. But whatever; this is important to me, and that's that.