August 4th, 2017

Charah coffee

(no subject)

The past day and a half have been pretty awful. Yesterday, I woke up at 10am to an email from the maintenance office telling me that, if I wanted to collect anything from my room, I would have to do so by midday because the construction people were going to rip up the floorboards and I wouldn't be able to access my room until the middle of next week.

This email was sent at 9am. They gave me three hours' notice to vacate my room. Granted, I've had access to a spare room since early July when they turned off the water in my building; granted, too, there was some communication between college and I about how the college plumber has to access my room.

But nobody said anything about ripping up the floorboards. I thought that was already done when I was away on my trip with my parents. Furthermore, I thought I made it quite clear in my emails that I was intending to continue sleeping in my room, not the temporary room that they'd given me.

I came back from holidays and heard nothing from college about this, so I thought nothing further needed to be done. Ergo, I started moving my things back from the temporary room; I had things in this room because my parents stayed here and I brought over things like my clothes drying rack, toiletries, water jugs, etc. I was even thinking, before yesterday morning, that I'd better move all my things out as I thought my temporary access to the room was going to end soon.

College said they'd give me notice when the plumber needs access to my room during the day. Does this not imply that I can continue sleeping in my room? Something clearly went wrong in the communication between Accommodation, Maintenance and I.

So I spent four fucking hours yesterday moving things to the temporary room. Okay, perhaps I shouln't have rearranged the furniture, which took a good one hour, given that, if I'm lucky, I wouldn't need to be here for longer than a week; but hell, I want to be comfortable, don't I? And the way the furniture was arranged was just thoughtless: study desk and chest of drawers lined up tightly side-by-side, blocking access to the power point, taking up way too much space. I thought the bed was not positioned next to a power point, so I wanted to move it to where the table was; but after I started dragging the bed to where I wanted it, I discovered that the (shitty) frame had hidden two more power points.

There are also two sofa chairs that are absolutely unnecessary and a waste of space. I'm using one as a leg rest and another as a bedside table-cum-clothes drying rack, for clothes that are not completely dry yet.

I was so exhausted and hungry halfway through moving my things. By the time I was done, it was 2.30pm and I was in a mood. I went to Fitzbillies for a cheese toastie. I wanted one of their savoury tarts but it was already 2.30pm and hence late and they were all sold out. It was a good thing that Matt was off work; I wouldn't have wanted him to see me in that dark and stormy mood. He once said that he couldn't imagine me angry. I quite liked that.


To exacerbate the already shitty day, I dropped my phone while walking back to college. I'd collected some mail from the porter's lodge and I was in my running shorts (the plan to go to the gym was not to be) which had no significant pockets, so I was trying to hold everything properly - phone, key, key card, bank card, A4 envelope and the thing it contained (a copy of the Cambridge International Law Journal). Next thing I knew, my phone had crashed into the ground.

I picked it up, thinking, Shit, I hope I didn't scratch my new phone cover. It was only when I got back to the my room, showered, and lazed around on the bed looking at insignificant things on my phone that I discovered three big crack lines across the bottom left of the phone, and a spiderweb of shattered glass emanating outwards from the bottom left corner.

I'd dropped my phone a million times. Nothing had happened. I suppose my luck had finally ran out.

This morning, I attempted to fix it at a high street retailer. I went back at 2.30 to collect it, just to be told that they couldn't fix it because it has signs of water damage (from when I dropped it into the toilet some time back). I was prepared to shell out 90 quid to fix it simply because it is ugly, my phone looks ruined because it is, and I can't stand the sight of it. And so when the guys told me that they couldn't do it and that I had to take it to Apple, my reaction was probably a bit too much.

But I was pissed off and upset - at myself, obviously. But it was entirely irrational, of course, for it was an accident, and I could not have prevented the accident. Sure, I could have been more careful, taken a small bag to put my things in instead of holding everything in my hands; but what is the utility of these counterfactuals? If I could have been more careful, I would have bloody well been more careful, couldn't I? If I were the sort to take a small bag with me to put my key card, my key, my bank card, my phone and my book when I cross the street to my local cafe for a quick lunch, then I would have done so, wouldn't I? These 'could have should have' blah bullshit is unhelpful, for they describe the actions of a person that would obtain only in an alternate reality, not the here and now. One could say that I should have taken a bag with me - and this I grant. But it is still irrational to be angry at myself for not doing so because nothing like damaging my phone had occurred previously to alert me to the negative consequences of not bringing a bag of this sort, and so there was no logical or rational basis for me to change my behaviour/habit. As such, it was irrational to be angry at myself for damaging my phone.

Did I know all this in the heat of my anger, though? Of course not. I felt 0.1% better when I was at Fitzbillies and briefly bitched about my day to Alex, but not by much. She did give me free coffee for the first time ever, but it was totally not a flat white. It was not an espresso shot she poured in there; it was some kind of diluted black coffee. At least it was free; if I had to pay for that, I would have been even more annoyed, though I wonder if I would've expressed it to her, given that I'm on relatively friendly terms with her. So I'm glad it was free.


On a brighter note, I miraculously had a slightly productive couple of hours in the library today. I am revising my chapter 3, and I have to submit a draft to my supervisors next Friday. Ever since I got back, I'd been doing shit work. Last Thursday was when my parents left, and I went to London to cut my hair after sending them off. On Friday, I wanted to work, but Barry had just returned and I got distracted by catching up with him. On Saturday...I don't even remember what I did on Saturday before going to watch Dunkirk with Barry. I probably spent some time in the library reading over my shitty draft chapter 3 and coming up with an outline of the chapter. On Sunday, after tennis, I read a chapter of Elizabeth Frazer's book, which I hated the first time I read it as it was pretty much an extended literature review, and didn't like any more the second time, and it wasn't as useful as I'd thought it would be. Then I went for drinks with Barry, and although I only had two gin and tonics, I woke up at 4am with a muscle ache and couldn't sleep till 6am. This messed up my Monday: I woke up late, don't remember what the hell I did before going to the library, and couldn't do shit in the library. On Tuesday, I was a total zombie from my late night with Matt, from sleeping here and there because I need to get used to someone in my bed and two times do not a habit make, was even a bit hungover because we drank a fair bit, and I was also woken up by his alarm, and eventually got up at like, 10.30am. Way too late. My afternoon in the library was fucked as well. On Wednesday, I don't even remember; I just wasn't feeling it. And yesterday, my college fucked me over.

And so I was relieved like a stranded desert traveller stumbling upon an oasis after days of being lost in the vast, unknown desert when I finally wrote something today. It was just two hours, but it was something. It definitely put me in a better mood.

(An aside: It is actually incredible how my PhD so far is me making shit up as I go along; I don't read enough to really know what the counter-arguments are in the literature, so I make it up. My supervisors picked up on my lack of referencing in the previous chapter; this betrays my lack of research and lack of reading. I will just fill in the blanks later on.)

Finally, what made my morning almost unbearable, worsened by the situation with my phone, is the realisation that Barry is really leaving. He is leaving next Friday and it's beginning to sink in. I am happy for him that he's embarking on a new stage of his life, but at the same time, I am sad to be losing a friend. That is, losing in the sense of being in different geographical locations now, no longer having the privilege of having a study buddy in the library (though sometimes we gossip too much - only about ourselves - and it's a bit distracting) or a friend who lives 3 minutes away and whom I can call upon for a spontaneous chat when a guy dumps me via text, or just because. Who else will I go to to piss and moan about my love life? For the past year, Barry has always just been there, and we've come to tell each other almost everything that's happening in our personal lives. Now that he's leaving - he's not even in Cambridge right now - I am realising how precious that has been, how much of a difference he has made to my life. I go to the law section of the library and he's not at his usual seat, and I can't help but feel a bit empty. Of course, I will get used to it; that's a fact of life. But during this transitional phase, I will be rather melancholic, until such time as I get used to it.


I expressed this to him, and he said, whether serious or not, 'You have Matt now.'

I was entirely serious when I said, 'It's not the same!' I was half-serious when I added, 'I can't possibly complain to him about him, can I?' I was entirely serious, though, when I said, 'Besides, he's not gonna sit with me in the library while I write my PhD.'

I will miss Barry so much. I was thinking this morning how all this is such bullshit sometimes - this life thing. You meet people and they make a difference to your life and then they leave. Cambridge, great as it is, is the epitome of transience. The friends that I make now - how often will I see them when all of this is over? Isn't it curious how I have never thought this way about my friends in Singapore? I suppose it helps that my friends have not left Singapore; but it is as if the powerful concept of home provides an equally powerful anchor to my sense of being, sense of belonging, to something external to myself, and which I need as a constant to keep me grounded, keep me sane.

It is interesting that people like John and Stefan, who have moved around a lot, don't really have such a strong concept of home. They're well-adjusted, for sure, but they seem to be missing something, such as a strong element of identity. But I'm not sure why it's important. Maybe it is only intuitively so. Since I am arguing in favour of it in my thesis, I suppose I will be making up an argument for its importance.

Anyway. It is too late for PhD talk. Let's move on.


Matt gave me free food on Tuesday. I went for a cheese toastie as I was hungry and craving it, and he didn't charge me for it. Later, he sat with me while he was on his lunch break. I was a total zombie and so wasn't chatty at all, but it was nice. (I noted that he finished his food shortly before I did - some kind of avocado smash with smoked salmon that looked quite big - and I started eating maybe 30 minutes before he did. Either I eat way too slowly or he eats way too quickly.) The next day, he gave me a free savoury tart, one that they couldn't sell because it was aesthetically damaged in the delivery process. Upon Barry's advice, I texted him a picture of it when I had it for dinner, thanking him for it and for the cheese toastie the day before. 'It'd be sweet,' Barry said.

If he hadn't said this, I wouldn't have done it; and if I hadn't done it, Matt wouldn't have told me that it was nice to have his lunch break with me, and he wouldn't have asked, 'When can I see you next?' (Or he would have. Hopefully he would have at some point.)

We decided on Sunday evening. I am a bit sceptical though; he's in Bristol now for a friend's stag do, and I assume there's going to be loads of drinking. How's he going to meet me on Sunday when he's just got back, more likely than not hungover? He even took the next Monday off work 'to recover', in his words. So I wouldn't be surprised if he says he can't make it. But maybe the promise of Swiss chocolates would motivate him.

Right, who are we kidding? If the prospect of seeing me can't motivate him to not crash immediately in bed upon his return, aboslutely nothing else in the world can.

(Also, when I was in a foul mood because of my phone and Barry's impending departure, I definitely thought about how nice it would be if Matt were around to give me a hug. Or two. Or several. But no, I didn't text him about my ordeal because it was just whiny shit and therefore unimportant. I can deal with it on my own anyway.)