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Books, etc

I have given up on the side project because it had proven itself to be an unnecessary and additional source of stress; mostly because I knew that I didn't have the time that I needed to dedicate to it to do it justice. Getting back to the review/conference to tell them that I could no longer submit the piece was a relief, so I definitely made the right decision there.

As for the PhD...I finished my draft Introduction (finally), and have (finally) started looking at Chapter 4 again. Alas, today was utterly unproductive because I did not go to the library, thanks to 1) my waking up at 10am; and 2) the shitty rainy weather. I did some work, but it wasn't enough for me to not feel guilty, or to shake the feeling that I ought to be working on my PhD right now instead of writing this entry. I decided to write this anyway because this is an equally important part of my life, one that I have certainly been neglecting.

To be fair, though, there really isn't much to write about. My life pretty much just the PhD, E and running, some tennis...on the plus, quite a lot of reading. Well, I don't know if I've read more books so far this year than I did this time last year, but I've settled into a nice habit of reading a novel in the morning while having breakfast and coffee, and sometimes while having lunch as well. An argument could be made that I ought to spend some of this novel-reading time on my PhD, but this argument is shit because reading novels is one of the few sources of genuine enjoyment in my life these days.

I recently discovered Zadie Smith; devoured White Teeth after enjoying On Beauty, and found the former quite a bit better than the latter even though the latter is one of her later works. I read a quote from her about how her writing as a young writer was ful of aphorisms, which she's stopped doing as a more mature writer. I kept thinking back to this quote while reading White Teeth and, yes, one could fault the prose for being self-consciously clever, but somehow, it was this self-conscious cleverness that gave the book a vitality and energy which, in retrospect, I found lacking in On Beauty. White Teeth brims with joy and an urgency to say certain important things about contemporary British society: immigration, isolation, religious fanaticism, teenaged girls and fitting in, racial politics. And it talks about these issues through characters who are relatable, with whom the reader can sympathise, if not empathise. Having denounced the burnings of Salman Rushdie's The Satanic Verses in Britain as mindless acts of religious fanaticism, White Teeth challenged my perception of the incident by painting it, through two characters, as a defence of an identity that is under attack, subtly and overtly at the same time, in a society that is multicultural on the surface, but which balances precariously at the edges of racial faultlines. Interesting, isn't it, that The Satanic Verses is essentially a novel about the plight of immigrants in Britain, and it turned out to be these same immigrants with whom the novel sympathises that participated in the burning of the book. And they did so because the book, or what they were told about the book, was seen as yet another attack on their cultural and/or religious identity by a foreign country who accept them in name only, and only as waiters, taxi drivers, and corner shop owners; not lawyers, doctors, politicians, bankers.

I think this part of White Teeth really made an impression on me due to how strongly I was convinced that the burning of the Satanic Verses was nothing more than blind, stupid religious fanaticism, and that the right to free speech and free artistic expression must be protected against conservative forces that threaten it. It didn't occur to me what the subjective experiences of these 'conservative' individuals might be, or that there may be more going on than stupid religious fanaticism. White Teeth challenged all of that quite fundamentally; more importantly, effectively.

At the end of the day, the power of story-telling is still, I think, more efficacious and impactful than a well-argued, well-researched article about the same topic. But I may be biased here. After all, literature still remains my one true love.

*

From White Teeth, I went on to read The Moonstone by Wilkie Collins, a classic mystery novel. I was sceptical at first because I tend not to take well to classics. Something about the style strikes me as false, and I just can't relate to some random Victorian concerns and mannerisms and whatever. The Moonstone has been interesting enough to keep me reading, and in excitement to boot, though it suffers from overwriting. Some parts are unnecessarily detailed, and so I skim them to get to the juicy bits.

What I find interesting about the Moonstone, though, is how the British class system is portrayed in it. I don't know if Collins intended to comment on it or merely presented it as a matter of fact because, obviously, he wrote in that period. Whatever it is, it is an interesting look into how stratified society was, and how rigid its rules and conventions. And the sexism as well! Male characters make sexist remarks with such casualness that they seem to be talking about the weather, which goes to show how deeply entrenched were notions of how a woman should behave--notions which we find sexist today. For instance: men talking about politics at an upper class dinner party only after the 'ladies' have left the room. I have, of course, been reading a lot about how women were perceived and expected to behave in that time period, but only in non-fiction books. Reading it in a novel somehow makes it more real because the novel depicts the interaction between men and women based on how people of that time behaved, thus making it more real and accessible.

Again, the power of the novel, and all that.

I still sometimes wish I hadn't gone to law school. But anyway.

*

On a different note, I have been eating way too much.
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(no subject)

I returned to London today after spending a week in Cambridge at E's, and with E. I felt a slight sense of dread yesterday evening at the thought of returning, and now that I'm back in my room, the sense of dread hasn't yet abated.

It's a combination of things. It's always a combination of things, is it not? The lack excitement, the stillness of life, the ignominy of sharing a house at my age, the uncertainty regarding my future, what feels like leaving E behind... I want to move on with my life. But move on to what? Or rather: move away from the undercurrent of perpetual instability that runs through my life as it currently is. At the same time, the grass is always greener on the other side; I always want what I do not have. How long until I tire of the stability?

It's the same with E, too. I miss him now but it was only two days ago that I felt suffocated and claustrophobic, thus making the decision to come back today. My mood seems to be as changeable as the weather, capricious and unreasonable. My restlessness is wearing me out. I don't know how to explain why I am this why. I just am.

*

What if I never know what I want, what fulfils me? What if I live the rest of my life unsatisfied, unhappy? But perhaps more fundamentally, whoever said we need a purpose, and why have I believed it for so long? I wish things were easier, simpler, mundane. I wish I didn't spend most of my life expecting the impossible.

I don't know what I'm saying or where this is going. My attention span these days isn't long enough for a properly thought out entry. I'm just tired--physically and mentally. I really didn't know what I was getting myself into when I decided to do this PhD on 2015. It's a shame that we can't ever go back in time and undo our 'decisions'.

*

Not that I regret it, not really. But a little bit, yes. Mainly because it is the latest iteration on the my effort to improve my life, and so it is the one that is most likely to stick given biological facts, like my age. The thing that I regret about it, if I were to be brutally honest, is that the thought of it--that this is the thing that is likely to stick--fills me with rather little excitement.

Add to all this a perpetual homesickness. This is probably my period hormones talking, but I'm just so tired of being away.

*

On another note, my legs, especially the front of my thighs, are in so much pain today. It is a wonder that I managed to get back from E's place to mine, carrying my backpack, a sports bag and a big plastic bag of two pairs of sports shoes (running and tennis) and dirty clothes in one piece. Could've been worse, though, right? Things always could be worse. That says nothing about the actual quality and desirability of that which could have been worse.

*

Did no work today because spent afternoon travelling. Stressed as fuck.
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Cambridge Half Marathon

After a couple of days of angst about it, especially the fundraising part (one of the most tedious and disgustingly self-aggrandizing things I've ever had to do), I'm relieved and happy that the Cambridge Half Marathon is over. My initial goal of finishing in under two hours was no longer feasible after my injury which kept me from running for four weeks, so my new goal was to beat my Singapore timing.

I ended up shaving 10 minutes off the 2hr20min that I did in Singapore. Not too bad in isolation, but in context...wow, runners in Cambridge are serious. I saw a grand total of maybe 5 people walking. And unlike in Singapore, I did not finish in the top half of the women, let alone overall. So yes, in a way, it is quite demoralising and it's a bit of a harsh reminder of how average I am at running. But all in all, I think it could have gone worse. I could have been slower than in Singapore. And I really tried to do my best to hang in there, keep putting one leg in front of the other, not letting up until the end.

Alas, it was but an attempt, for I stopped for maybe half a minute at the last 2km (it's always the last 2km that kill), for I'd honestly felt like I couldn't go on anymore. Before that--or at least, I think it was before that--we had to run up a gently sloping bridge. The slope was so gentle that it would have been no big deal on any other occasion...but when you'd been running for 1.5 hours straight, probably more, that was just a bloody fucking nightmare. I was also groaning mentally when we ran along the Backs and cut into town via the Orgasm Bridge, so nicknamed by students because it's a steeply inclined bridge and when cyclists try to cycle up the slope, they grunt as if having an orgasm. Hence Orgasm Bridge, or O Bridge. How intellectual. Point is, when I saw that the route took us up the bridge, I was thinking, Fucking hell. When I started running up, the British man next to me muttered, 'Fucking hell.' It was funny because it was so British.

Like in Singapore, the absolute hardest part was the last 2, 3 kilometres. It was probably slightly harder this time because they marked distances by miles and I have no idea how many kilometres one mile is exactly, so I was relying on my Nike Run Club app. When my app said I had 300 metres to go, I sped up, thinking the pain would end soon...but I ran past a volunteer who shouted, '500 metres more!'

It's just 200 metres, right? NOT IF YOU'D BEEN RUNNING FOR 2 HOURS ALMOST NON-STOP AND YOUR LEGS ARE ABOUT TO GIVE WAY. I don't think words can adequately describe how deflated I felt when I heard that, and even the word 'deflated' is a massive understatement.

Luckily, it wasn't that windy for most of it, and the rain was but a light drizzle. Unfortunately, sometime around the last 2km, strong winds suddenly appeared along with a stitch in my left side. The lethal combination of these two things slowed me down tremendously and I think I really lost a lot of time there. That was why I even stopped.

Overall, I found it quite challenging to settle into a comfortable pace because of the number of people and narrow streets in the city centre. I was also looking down a lot because I wanted to avoid stepping into puddles (my shoes and socks were soaked anyway) and avoid tripping over the uneven parts of the roads (Cambridge really needs to repave their shitty roads). I also brilliantly did not pin the bottom two corners of my number tag to my shirt, so it kept flapping about in the wind and I had to keep it down, sometimes worried that it would fall off (it didn't). And because I didn't want to waste water, I ended up holding the small bottle of water that I took at the halfway mark in my hand for the rest of the race. Oh, and because I didn't bring any longsleeve compression tops from London, I wore one of E's, this really tight one, and I felt a bit suffocated at one point (when we were running in Grantchester). But I was glad to be wearing it when the wind appeared from nowhere and made a mess of things.

What I quite liked, though, was the support of the local people. There were people just standing along the route on the pavement, cheering the runners on, and even giving out candies. This happened more frequently when the route was in more residential areas, so I surmised that those people giving out food/candies lived in one of the houses on that street. That was really nice. And some guy on a bike joked about charging 25 pounds for a ride on his bicycle.

Finally, E was super sweet. The original plan to take the bus to town and walk to Midsummer Common was ruined by the fact that the bus starts only at 9am on Sundays (what the fuck, man?!). So he figured out the driving route, where to park, and got me there 5 minutes before I had to gather in my pen. I ended up spending 15 minutes queuing for the toilet, but at least I wasn't stressed about being late. He sacrificed his Sunday lie-in to get up at 7 and accompany me when he didn't have to. Super sweet, right? He was sad that he missed my finish. He was maybe a minute late. There's theoretically an online tracking, but the information was rather paltry, to say the least. It showed nothing after 10km. I was sure that I ran over at least four of the tracking things, so I was surprised that it provided only the start time, the 10km time and the finish time. Really useful for supporters that wanted to know the right time to make their way to the finish, right?

Raffie said the exact same thing when we finally found him and G. He also said the whole thing was a mess...which it was. There was just a huge mess of people middling about Midsummer Common and it took me way too long to first find E, then Raffie and G. Ah Raffie, my loyal supporter, who was the only one who came down to support the end of my 10km run two years ago. It was nice of him to come down this time given the crappy weather.

Apart from the last 2 or 3 km, the Singapore one was considerably tougher. I kept recalling the Singapore slugfest when I found myself struggling, and it actually worked. If you've been through the worst, the absolute worst, however bad it feels in the moment can only be better, right? I think so too.

*

E and I were thinking of going to the cinema tonight but nah, I think I'm too knackered!

(No photos because too lazy.)
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Tired in the Library

I'm writing this in the law faculty now instead of powering through the last bit of my never-ending Chapter 3 (which feels like I have spent the past ten years of my life writing/re-writing, lather rinse repeat) because I have a headache, I am cold, and I am waiting for E to pick me up after he's finished with tennis. In other words, I am more or less mentally checked out of this chapter despite the fact that I am one week behind schedule (which, by the way, really sucks and stresses me out). Instead of wasting time reading things like the Guardian and Reddit, I thought, why not write an entry? After all, it's not as if this journal has been bombarded with entries lately.

Still. What is there to say? Life still feels suspended, even life with E. My undefined life post-PhD causes this relationship to be somewhat undefined, too. Or more precisely: it does not feel wholly and fully real. In a way, it feels like it's existing on borrowed time until the other shoe finally drops and we're forced to confront important issues, like Where Are We Gonna Live? I don't know; all I know is, probably not Ghent, or even London, let alone Cambridge, and pretty much not Paris.

Thinking about this is making my headache worse. I'm not sure what is the cause of this headache...I started feeling it a few minutes into my ride on the bus. Perhaps it was a particularly bumpy bus ride today because of the particularly old nature of the bus.

So yes, I have a figured out a way to get from E's place to the faculty/town without spending 10 pounds on taxi each time: take two buses. The annoying thing about Cambridge--and the UK more generally--is that there are two bus companies servicing a town of maybe 100,000, a substantial amount of whom ride a bicycle. This means that there are two different fare types for the two buses that I have to take, which means having to spend extra money and buying different tickets for the two buses. It is particularly annoying that the first bus doesn't have a sensible single trip fare; instead, its cheapest option is 4.50 pounds for a day pass. Um, why the hell would I spend my day taking buses everywhere? It makes sense for some, I assume, but it doesn't make sense for me. So I paid 15 pounds for a 7-day pass, and for the second bus, thank goodness for student discount; otherwise, I'd have to pay 2.50 instead of 1.

I've taken the buses three days in a row now and Google Maps' arrival time has been very accurate, so hooray for that.

Isn't sad that, when I finally update, I have nothing more interesting to write about than taking buses in Cambridge? To be fair, though, I've taken the bus more times these past three days than my three years in Cambridge combined--which was a grand total of zero. But that's the joy and advantage of living in college: it's so central that you can walk everywhere, even if it takes 20 minutes to walk to the faculty. Could be worse...like an hour, which I did from E's last week or whenever, in a bid to save money on cab fare. I followed the shortest route on Google Maps and was actually quite scared when I found myself walking through some random marshes or whatever for a good 30 minutes with barely anyone in sight. For some reason--probably an obvious one--after my bad experience with the hobo, I have become quite paranoid about my personal safety as a woman.

Like yesterday. E and I went to play tennis at the club in the evening, i.e. after 8. Halfway through, some random old drunk cycled onto the club premises and started shouting a bunch of shit that didn't make any sense; it wasn't even clear to me the target of his drunken ire. I caught something about how his parents didn't pay for him to do something or other, and 'this country' this and that. It basically didn't make sense.

I was rattled anyway. Rattled enough to lose focus and start playing badly when I was actually playing quite well before that. I was also standing on the end of the court that's just beside the carpark and the path leading into the club, so I felt like he was right behind me, and that the fence wasn't strong enough to keep him out. Even after he'd finally left, I still felt rattled and distracted, and didn't play well for a good twenty minutes before I finally eradicated him from my mind.

Anyway. I'm too tired and unwell to continue this entry for much longer. I really wish I'd brought my novel (White Teeth by Zadie Smith; it's brilliant) to read because I have nothing to do if not my PhD and I don't feel like doing it anymore. So lastly: I've more or less fully recovered from the injury. I ran 12km today and it was horrible but at least I'm running, I guess. I'm not looking forward to the half-marathon this Sunday...having avoided running on anything but a track since I got back into running, the concrete/roads are not doing my legs any favours. My legs were in quite a lot of pain today; not sure if it was just the hardness of the surface, or the lingering effects of tennis last night, or a combination of everything, or just an excuse. Oh well, we'll see how it goes on Sunday, etc.
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Blah

This burgeoning habit that I have of engaging less and less with my thoughts--that is, by writing them down--is rather worrying. It has come to be such a fundamental part of myself that surrendering to the laziness night after night may very well come to have rather deleterious effects on my sense of self and identity. (This, it must be said, contradicts a crucial argument that I am makng in my PhD. Either I need to revise the argument or I need to revise my notion of what constitutes my identity.) But it's just tiring. Being mired in my own thoughts for a substantive part of the day; it makes my head hurt. Like I have said before, it makes me not want to think anymore when I'm in bed at night, and so it makes me not want to engage personally, with my thoughts about...things. Even articulating it seems to be too much effort.

The PhD is a relentless source of stress, and Chapter 3 is a chapter that refuses to be done, to go quietly into the night, and so I can't move on. And so I can't finish by the time that I want to finish and it's just aggravating.

There's also a side project, an abstract about being human that I submtited to a postgraduate journal in Ireland just for fun, and it's been accepted and I really want to write this paper because I'm more interested in it than I am in my PhD (familiarity breeds contempt and all that) but...I just don't have the time. When I do have the time, I don't have the energy, not in the morning, not at the end of the day. So just make time, right? I will try. Shame, though, that the novels that I want to use to construct the notion of human freedom that has emerged in modern societies are in Singapore. (They are: Brave New World, The Handmaid's Tale, 1984. A Level literature revisited.)

I'm just...there is this pervasive sense that I am suspended in time even as it mechanically keeps on ticking. I am putting important decisions--about where to live, what to do--on the backburner because this PhD is dominating and tyrannical. There is nothing real about this...this esoteric enterprise, abstract analysing, philosophical fumbling about towards an end that I'm not sure I had properly considered. What comes next will be more of the same: taking the easy option, the most immediate one, because I am unwilling (because afraid) not to do so.

But writing. Can I really write? I don't think I can. So I should just forget all about it.

*

Honestly, I would rather read either Zadie Smith's White Teeth or Joanna Bourke's What It Means to be Human right now than to crash and burn my way through this entry and its disjointed thoughts.

*

On a more light-hearted note, I have been running. I need to run a 10k by the end of this week, and a 15 or 17k by the middle of next week. I honestly cannot believe that I'm gonna be running 21.1km in a week and a half when I have spent the past 4 weeks not running.

I will need all the luck that I can get.
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Recovery Update

After exactly four weeks of not running, I attempted to run today after an unsuccessful trip to a gym near E's place that apparently opens only really early in the morning, and from 5.30pm onwards.

The knee hurt initially, I was half-limping (yes, it is possible to limp-run), I was slow, I couldn't run continuously...but run I did. The pain more or less disappeared as I trucked on, and at one point, the running approximated 20% of what normal running is like; perhaps I could even learn to properly run with this slight limp (though, no, this limp cannot stay). It was a nice start to the day (by 'start' I mean 12 noon) and so in this way, it was a good thing that I couldn't go to the gym that wasn't open; otherwise, I wouldn't have forced myself to run, and so I wouldn't have realised that it is slightly less painful and laborious than I had expected it to be.

I think I kind of needed this because yesterday evening, walking from the law faculty to Magdalene, put me in yet another self-pitying state. I saw enough people running through the town centre and obviously training for the half for me to feel left out, sorry for myself and frustrated by what I perceived to be the lack of recovery--or at any rate, super slow as molasses recovery--of my leg. So my kind of successful attempt at sort of running today has made me hopeful that I can somehow recover fully in time for 3 March.

Anyway. That's that for now. Other aspects of my life are more of the same. The PhD is still not finished and progress is even slower than my knee's recovery. Meh.

Gotta go for dinner and then to Ivan's for cheesecake now!
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(no subject)

My knee is getting better...well, of course, it was always going to get better. It's perhaps 70% back to normal, though I still can't walk 100% normally and I am too afraid to try to climb the stairs. E and I went to the gym last week and after he instructed me in how to use weights to work on my arms, we discovered that I could use the cycling machine to do some light cardio.

I've been doing that for the past few days, save for the four days that E and I were in Paris (last Thursday to Sunday). The first time I got back to exercising after about two weeks away from it, it felt exhilarating. The feeling that I had when I pedalled furiously, almost maniacally--the panting, the pain in my legs, especially my left thigh, the sweating dripping from my brow--put a huge smile on my face.

Predictably, though, I am now bored of this cycling thing. I would like to run again; I really miss it quite a lot. I cycle 15-16km each time which is about 45 minutes and the worst part of it isn't how it works the legs; no, the worst part of it is how uncomfortable the seat feels against my butt and the sides of my crotch. When I stop pedalling and lift my butt off the seat, it is to alleviate the pain, not because I'm physically tired.

That is not to say, of course, that the cycling isn't tiring. It is. I don't believe in light exercising, so I up the effort level/resistance level to one that doesn't completely kill me, and I'm always dripping sweat halfway into the workout. I'm also always weak in the legs when I finally get off the machine. I think I took 20 minutes to walk back today--20 minutes for a 10-minute walk. Yup, this cycling thing is no walk in the park. It is just rather boring.

I can scarcely believe that it's been 3 weeks since I fell and I'm still not fully recovered. I have not played any tennis and haven't done any running. I would be happy to be able to run maybe 10km two weeks before the Cambridge half...but I'm not even hopeful about that. The fall was really untimely, as I was going to go for a under-2 hours finish at either the Cambridge or London Landmarks half. Oh well.

*

In other news, Paris was great, and E was amazing for putting up with my grumpiness and whining and crying about my leg because it was sometimes difficult to walk. Is he a saint or something? He must be.

Love the eclair au chocolat from Stohrer. Went to a fondue place on Friday evening...oh my god, I love cheese. Also finally had wine. I LOVE RED WINE.

I love E, too.
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A Threnody

It's been something like 9 days and my knee still hasn't recovered. It pains and shames me considerably to say that I have not taken this tiny injury well at all. Instead of focusing on the positives--or rather, the positive fact that it's not anything worse than a bruise--I'm focusing on all the negatives, like I always do. Such as: it's been more than a week since I last exercised and I am going crazy. Such as: I can't believe this happened just as I was starting to get into a good rhythm on my runs, and could see myself seriously pushing to finish in under 2 hours. Such as: I feel like a useless cripple; I can't even walk normally; I can't walk up and down the stairs; can't even walk ten minutes without my leg stiffening up; am taking twice, maybe thrice, as long to walk with this stupid injury.

What a stupid injury. What a stupid response. I think it is true that a person's character--true character--is revealed in the way she deals with setbacks. I am not someone who deals well with setbacks. One setback in one aspect of my life is capable of seeping into others; somehow, the fact that my right knee is injured has become an excuse for why I have dropped the ball on the thesis, decreased my intensity. I can't go to the library, I say; it's too painful to walk to the station, etc. And since the house next to mine is undergoing renovations, it's too noisy for me to work at home. Hence we're almost at the end of January and I've only revised two chapters--and I've just about finished the substantive revision to Chapter 3.

I feel I am trapped in a nightmare of my own making. Virtually every day is the same: the same half-hearted goal, the same thorough failure to achieve it. Any wonder now that I almost need running? Sticking to the training plan gave me structure to my days, my life, and working towards a short-term goal gives me an instant gratification that almost--but not quite--makes up for the abject lack of it over the past three years.

Whenever I start talking like this, E tries to get me to see the positives. I had a paper accepted, he said. Didn't that make you feel good?

The trouble with such things is that...or rather, the trouble with me is that these moments of satisfaction don't last, and they come and go quickly like a sense of deja vu and a memory that you can't quite grasp. In contrast, the sense of lacking purpose, of ennui, of dissatisfaction, sometimes mild, sometimes intense, have lingered in varying degrees over the past 3 years. That is my constant, not the satisfaction at having a paper accepted.

This will change once the PhD is done. At least, it will for a while before I start to tackle the daunting question of whatever the fuck comes next? I don't even want to think about it.

*

I just don't think it is normal for me to be my age and struggling with life. It's not just that it's not normal; it is not desirable, it is not respectable, and I feel like a lesser person because of it. Perhaps this is the cause of the way that I have been feeling for the past few months, the lack of enthusiasm, the lack of deisre to do anything, being mildly content not going out, and worst of all, the lack of effort into my appearance. I can't be bothered, these days, to buy new clothes because where am I going to wear it to? More fundamentally, I don't care about how I look because it doesn't matter. And this isn't some self-affirming confidence that I suddenly possess; it's quite the opposite in fact.

It is because I feel unattractive because useless and a lesser person as mentioned in the previous paragraph that I don't think it matters whether or not I put any effort into my appearance. Did I not say before that the moment I should be worried about my mental health is when I stop caring about how I look? Perhaps I should be worried then. But I just have neither the time nor energy for that.

*

I spent the past few days in Cambridge because I needed a break from the attenuated rest of my place in London due to the renovation going on next door that actually went on until 10pm on some days. (They seemed to have stopped this after I went over one evening because I was sick of it and told them nicely to try not to go on too late, and I have also complained to the council who has sent them another email. Oh wait, I have mentioned this already in the previous substantive entry. Okay.)

Cambridge was a nice break. I met with Raffie for dinner on Monday and Ivan on Tuesday. E and I have also started watching the Netflix series, You. Despite the fact that we both weren't sold about the show after the first two episodes, we continued watching them anyway on subsequent nights. And now I'm looking forward to him coming this weekend so that we can continue hate-watching it. Seriously, it's one of the lamest shows I've seen in a while. At this point, I'm convinced that it's simply engaging in self-parody because no one can actually think that this is a good show. It's so bad that it's good because it's so bad that it's hilarious. I am also positive that the book it's based on is terribly written as well.

*

On another note, while having a drink (well, I had water; can't drink because on ibuprofen) with Ivan at the Pick, I saw Gareth sitting somewhere at the back, reading and having some beer. I'd already spotted him when I scouted the back for an empty table, but didn't say hi because what for? I avoided looking in his direction when I went to the toilet, but couldn't do the same when heading back to where Ivan was because he was in my direct line of sight. He sort of waved, and I sort of went over like I was on auto-pilot and made small talk of no consequence.

He showed me his copy of Julian Barnes's The Sense of an Ending. 'I thought about you,' he said.

He asked me why I was limping. I asked what he was reading. I didn't know what it was, or much cared; then I said I was with a friend and left, and that was that.

The thing is, it's never really just that, at least not in the immediate aftermath, not when you run into someone who treated you badly. For a while, he was at the back of my mind when I was talking to Ivan, and involuntarily, I pictured him coming up to me, putting a hand on my shoulder in the way that a man would to the woman that he's with. Absolution, vindication, validation. I made a mistake; that was what I'd wanted him to think, or to feel, or both. I passed up on something good and now I regret it.

What does it matter to me, whether he regrets it or not? He was never going to be my long-term plan; I would have been too selfish to deal with his mental illness. He was too depressing, too lacking in energy, too self-absorbed, too poor. I understood why he ended it the way that he did, and I tried to be the bigger person, forgave him, got over it.

Do we ever truly and fully forgive, though? I understood why he did what he did, but I cannot deny that a part of me--the vindictive, hateful part--hoped that he's still single and alone because he deserves it.

What do I deserve, as someone who thought that? Do I deserve someone like E, who takes care of me and enjoys it because it is just who he is? Or do I deserve to be alone, festering in my bitterness? Does E deserve to be with someone who doesn't infect his life with negativity the way that I am sure I have?

In the immediate aftermath of this brief encounter with Gareth, I imagined, fleetingly, his regret; a text message, perhaps. Then the realisation that this part of me still sought validation, even from someone who doesn't matter anymore, and had never really mattered all that much, just because of the wrong that he'd committed against me.

Be the bigger person. Let it go. It does not matter.

But it is hard to remain steadfast in being the person that I know I should be, when it seems like I am constantly fighting against the weakness of my character.

*

Lastly, an illuminating conversation with Raffie about somene from my past. Bernard Williams, he said, once said that if someone has to ask the question 'why be moral?', then he is not engaging in the conversation on the same terms; he does not have the requisite constitution to engage in the conversation.

Too true. Too true.
Charah coffee

2018 in review

I put off doing this because I didn't want my PMSy mood to affect my answers. I am rather tired now (spent a few but very concentrated hours in the library revising Chapter 2, and now I'm knackered) so I'm not sure I will finish this in one sitting; but I shall try.

(Edit: Nope, did not finish this in one sitting.)

1. What did you do in 2018 that you’d never done before?
- Ran a half-marathon
- Went to Venice
- Assembled various (four, to be precise) flat-pack furniture, such as a wardrobe
- Went to Belgium (Brussels and Bruges)
- Played tennis on a highway (a Belgian highway) packed with cars
- Tried to rescue an injured squirrel, got kicked out of a taxi when I tried to get the squirrel to the vet and it escaped from my bag, then watched as the squirrel leapt out of the car, ran around all hassled and confused, and eventually fell to its death. I cannot ever forget the sight of it convulsing on the sidewalk as it died. This was honestly one of the worst days of my life.
- I honestly can't think of anything else.

2. Did you keep your new year’s resolutions, and will you make more for next year?
Last year, I '[resolved] to have a serviceable draft of my bloody PhD by the end of 2018'. I had this 'serviceable draft' by August but did nothing with it for months, until now--January 2019. I really suck at this shit.

3. Did anyone close to you give birth?
Nope.

4. Did anyone close to you die?
No.

5. What countries did you visit?
Italy (Venice), Hong Kong, France (Nice and Lille), Belgium (Brussels and Bruges) and...that's it.

6. What would you like to have in 2019 that you lacked in 2018?
Stability and direction in life; my PhD; and a job.

I'm quite happy to note that the thing that I wanted for 2018--'A proper relationship with a properly compatible person who can be properly emotionally available and committed'--I finally have. (For now!)

7. What dates from 2018 will remain etched upon your memory, and why?
Apparently September 14 because that was when E first kissed me. (Not that I remembered the date; he did, and told me).

December 9 - half-marathon nightmare. But a nightmare worth accomplishing.

And that day of the failed squirrel-rescuing attempt.

8. What was your biggest achievement of the year?
Finally getting the first-publication monkey off my back; finishing the draft of my thesis; and running the half-marathon in a decent time.

Also, finally starting to write again.

9. What was your biggest failure?
Not polishing the thesis sooner; not writing enough; not spending enough time on my PhD.

10. Did you suffer illness or injury?
Apart from my yearly cold that seems to coincide with my running plans, no.

11. What was the best thing you bought?
My Asus Zenbook. It's amazing.

12. Whose behavior merited celebration?
My parents, always and forever. E, too, for being a really sweet boyfriend. Mag and Rui, for being one of the few, but deeply important, reasons I would want to (in fact, want to) return to Singapore. John and Raffael too, for being my PhD friends, and simply being my friends.

13. Whose behavior made you appalled and depressed?
Thomas. Oh god, why did I get myself enmeshed in that shitfest?

This must be said: NETFLIX FOR CANCELLING DAREDEVIL, THOSE FUCKERS.

Also: a friendship that I hoped to rekindle but which turned sour instead.

And...NEB. Enough said. Though I had a part to play in that as well.

14. Where did most of your money go?
PhD fees, rent, some small trips, food. FOOD. And now in London--the bloody Tube.

15. What did you get really, really, really excited about?
Daredevil Season 3. Does this count? I was also excited about moving to London.

16. What song will always remind you of 2018?
Nothing, really,

17. Compared to this time last year, are you: (a) happier or sadder? (b) thinner or fatter? (c) richer or poorer?
a. Happier.
b. I think I weigh more but am fitter.
c. Poorer by logical necessity: still no income, still spending money; QED. <<< Same as last year.

18. What do you wish you’d done more of?
My PhD. Sigh. I also wish I'd read more and written more.

19. What do you wish you’d done less of?
Engaged with Thomas and his crap. I wish I'd just seen him for who he was as in the person that he was with me instead of believing in the idea of him that I had in my head.

I also wish I hadn't tried to revive something from the past that should simply remain dead.

20. How did you spend Christmas?
My parents and I attempted to go to Malaysia for lunch. We crossed the Singapore checkpoint and was about to drive up to the Malaysian one when we spotted a hge queue of cars. My dad, the seasoned daily cross-country commuter, said that the jam would take at leas 1.5 hours to clear. As it was my condition that I didn't want to spend hours stuck in traffic, we noped the hell out of there.

I spent the rest of the day not at my uncle's and at home, trying to do some work but probably not succeeding; probably doing not very much. I also ate a lot.

21. Did you fall in love in 2018?
Eventually, yes, to a man who's more than worth it. I think I take comfort in the fact that I'm not head-over-heels in love with him, that we started off as friends, and that this is a relationship that makes sense--both mentally and emotionally. Mentally because he's the type of man that I've been wanting to have (even if he doesn't share all of my fundamental values); and emotionally because I feel safe with him and I know that I can trust him, and that he wouldn't hurt me. It's great.

22. What was your favorite TV programme?
DAREDEVIL SEASON 3. Daredevil is just amazing and Netflix still sucks for cancelling it.

23. Do you hate anyone now that you didn't hate this time last year?
I mean, yeah, people get on my nerves, they disappoint, but hate? I don't even know why anyone would go to that extent, harbouring such deeply negative emotions towards others.

24. What was the best book you read?
Housekeeping by Marilynne Robinson. Exquisitely beautiful prose that conveys the bone-deep loneliness of her characters.

25. What was your greatest musical discovery?
Really enjoyed Camila Cabello's album!

26. What did you want and get?
A publication. Yes!

27. What did you want and not get?
A finished PhD. And probably too many things to remember.

28. What was your favorite film of this year?
Hmm. I honestly can't think of anything.

29. What did you do on your birthday, and how old were you?
FUCKING HELL I JUST REALISED THAT I'M 33 THIS YEAR. I THOUGHT I WAS 32. OH MY GOD.

Anyway. I was 32, in Singapore. Went to a vegetarian buffet lunch with my mom. I forgot what I did in the evening. Had cake with my parents, knowing myself and my usual pattern of behaviour. And since I was in Singapore, the cake was a delicious chocolate cake from Lana.

30. What one thing made your year immeasurably more satisfying?
Having a paper accepted for publication and (I know one thing but I can't just pick one) getting together with E.

31. How would you describe your personal fashion concept in 2018?
Same shit.

32. What kept you sane?
It's actually hard to say. Apart from the typical answer--i.e. friends and family--I suppose an innate survival instinct that forced me to get through shit and shitty days because time kind of just goes on and the next day arrives and you wake up in the morning and get out of bed and get through another day. Am I right to call it an innate survival instinct? Maybe it's not even that; maybe it's just a going through of the motions. Regardless: that was probably it.

33. Which celebrity/public figure did you fancy the most?
Er. I don't know.

34. What political issue stirred you the most?
Animal rights/protection and environmental protection.

35. Who did you miss?
My parents.

36. Who was the best new person you met?
Elijah is pretty awesome!

37. Tell us a valuable life lesson you learned in 2018.
The 'ex' in 'ex-boyfriend' is placed before 'boyfriend' for a very, very good reason. And: the best things come when you're not particularly looking for them.

38. Quote a song lyric that sums up your year.
I can never answer this question.
Charah coffee

I HATE Injuries

Today, I tried to walk to a nearby cafe for brunch as I have three 40% discount vouchers expiring sometime next week. Since the food is tasty, I had every intention of going back to use the vouchers but hadn't done so because the thesis is (or rather, was) taking up too much of my headspace. I should've gone earlier, in retrospect, because today, two days after the fall, I couldn't make what is ordinarily a 15-minute walk due to the stiffness in my right knee and how unnatural and uncomfortable it felt, just trying to walk out of my shitty street flanked by council flats. I must have spent about 10 minutes painstakingly dragging my right leg behind me just to get to the end of the street; to put things in perspective, I would ordinarily take maybe 3 or 4 minutes to get to the end of the same street.

It didn't help either that it was quite bitterly cold. After 20 minutes out in the cold--during which time all I did was walk to the end of the street and walk back to the house--I felt like a walking icicle.

Needless to say, my unsuccessful attempt to walk to the cafe got me rather down. I didn't feel like working on the thesis at all, so I spent my afternoon watching Muguruza vs. Konta at the Australian Open, which just happened to end at 3.15am Australian time which was 4.15pm UK time. I didn't intend to spend my afternoon watching it but it was actually a good match, and it distracted me from my stupid knee, so whatever, I'd take it.

I cannot adequately express just how much I am hating this. I am hating not running, I am hating being stuck in the house, I am hating not being able to play tennis. I am hating this forced inactivity, hating the way my right leg feels so immobile and inert and dead every time I try to walk. I suppose the upside is that it doesn't hurt except when I accidentally twist it or put too much weight on it...but can it just heal already? Please?

I'm going to the doctor tomorrow. I need to be sure that it's nothing more serious than a bruised knee because I cannot imagine a rest of my life without my usual sporty activities; I really can't.

More generally: I think I need to get away from this house for a while. I'm sick of being here, especially sick of the shitbags in No. 20 who do their stupid DIY renovation work at night, and the lousy Brent Council who has yet to respond to the noise complaint that I lodged three nights ago when those shitbags carried out the same noisy work. The room they're working in is literally next to my bedroom; in fact, next to the wall against which my bed rests. So it feels like it's just next to me...oh, but that's because it is.

I can't stand people like that. People with no civic-mindedness (and now they're sawing something. What the fuck?). My housemates had gone over, knocked on the door, but nobody answered. Apparently the Council had already sent them warning letters but evidently, they have gone ignored.

So I need to get away. I think I'll go to Cambridge this weekend and stay until Tuesday or something. It'll be nice to spend time at E's anyway; his house feels bigger than mine even though my room is bigger because he has actual living room, and there are just two other people in the house with him. Oh, and he has his own bathroom, which is always a nice plus.

I don't really have much to say. I'm just not very happy these days.

*

Daredevil. Oh man, what an amazing show, and what a crime that Netflix has cancelled it. I've just rewatched all three seasons and I love the complexity of Matt Murdock. I love the conflict between his daytime identity as a lawyer and his nighttime one as a vigilante, his wavering conviction and belief in the law, and his belief in the redemptive potential in everyone, even the worst criminals. However, I am not a fan of his consequentialist moral reasoning--but that's the point, isn't it? Nobody is perfect, not even this superhero.

Season 3 is really the best season of the show. The story is tight, focused and compelling. There was too much going on in Season 2 with the Punisher, the Hand and Elektra; I really could've done without the Hand storyline because it's just kind of lame. But season 3--the focus on Wilson Fisk as the ultimate Big Bad, the way he manipulated two main characters as different as night and day but with equally compelling storylines, and the way he pushed Matt's moral compass to its absolute limit. Charlie Cox was phenomenal in the final fight scene when Matt came so close to snapping Fisk's neck but he just couldn't do it because, simply put, that would be the absolutely wrong thing to do.

I haven't loved a show or related to the characters or found them so compelling since probably Veronica Mars. I've liked a few shows in between, such as Orphan Black and The Good Place; but Daredevil really gets to me and speaks to me because of the themes and issues that it explores, particularly through Matt. I found Foggy's continuing faith in the law and the system in the face of overwhelming evidence that the faith is misplaced very comforting; it was maybe an obvious foil to Matt's broken-hearted cynicism, but an important one because I think I share his views. As he said, and I paraphrase, the law is the only thing that keeps powerful people in check.

I'm still really sad that it's been cancelled. There is so much more story-telling to be done: the dynamic trio back together again; Matt's relationship with his mother; Bullseye vs. Daredevil...sigh. What a huge, huge waste.

(I strangely even enjoy Matt's Catholic conflicts. Religion can actually be quite compelling when it's presented in a sensitive and intelligent fashion and none of that 'believe or burn in hell' shit. Father Lantom was such a good character.)

On a slightly related note, E and I are going to see Charlie Cox and Tom Hiddleston (? aka Loki) on stage in Harold Pinter's Betrayal. I was already interested because 1) Pinter and 2) Loki, but bought the tickets immediately when I found out that Charlie Cox will be in it. YAY! The tickets are insanely expensive; 105 pounds each. It's somewhere 5th or 6th row and comes with champagne and 'luxury ice-cream' but the point was that the cheaper tickets--around 65 pounds--were the restricted view ones. It's not that huge a difference so we went with the expensive ones.

And of course, the main reason this play is expensive is because of Loki. The Birthday Party, also at the Harold Pinter Theatre, did not cost nearly as much.