Friday, 4 July 2008

Moving House and Man Cold

So, I haven't written for a while. I have two excuses:

1) I have moved house.

2) I have a Man Cold.

We all know that moving house is akin to a funeral in terms of stress levels. I am sure there are some classic psychic reasons why having one's wordly possessions packed away or thrown out and one's home turned into a shell are profoundly disturbing. We like caves. But it was the timing of it this time that made it particularly anxiety-provoking.

I have had to move out of my College accommodation for the summer so that the College oldies can rent it out for even more obscene amounts to conference delegates. Summer-booting coincides with the end of the academic year here, when students - home and international - flee back to their homes, homelands, sometimes for holidays, often (now that one year Masters courses are all the rage, much to the frustration of the Admin) to start new jobs, new lives "without routine fire alarm checks", as one French student recently put it to me. Despite the promising, even cheerful weather, early July is the time of upheaval: multiple goodbyes (that become less sentimental as they go on), the rearrangement of alliances, seeking reassurance, facing the reality of solitude, even loneliness. Loneliness in the sunshine somehow feels worse than in the Winter. It's easier to shake off in the Summer, but there's none of the comfort that comes with the rain on the window pane, a menacing fire, a dark painting in the hall, looking at your own white hand. 

My brilliant cousin sent me a link to Where the Hell is Matt? (2008) which she said would make me giggle. Were it not this time of year, it would have. Watching it today made me smile sadly. It reminded me of just how wonderfully fortunate I am to have shared time, food, conversations and dance floors with so many students from all around the world. Of course, there are times when you wish that you were around your own people, where you don't have to explain yourself, where you don't have to conduct an autopsy on conversations because no one's cultural, or even personal, boundaries were crossed, where you're sure that you are loved. But most of time, for me, I have delighted in connecting or not with the motley crew that is the graduate community at Oxford (OK, I am sure someone could run a class analysis on the student composition and question its primarily middle class character). 

I love the fact that only last week I had dinner with a skinny German physicist who found my jokes confronting but laughed all the same, a gregarious Italian historian (who obligingly told me every Lygon street story he had) and a psychologist from San Francisco who is all about playing with language and says ridiculous but great things like "in cognitive linguistics the visual-spatial representations of height frequently indicate the positives, power, prominance and so on. Radiohead is expert in exploiting that format" or "this flourish of post-neural ideation, as it were, owes a good and especially grand deal to Nietzsche, to date the world's absolute best world-&-tempo craftsman of the EXALTED."

I love the fact that the other day someone knocked on my door and I asked from my desk 'who is it?' and this (older) woman replied 'C'est moi'. I said, 'You've got the wrong room, I'm sorry.' She said (in that dramatic, pouty French way): 'Pourquoi tu me parles en Anglais?' I said (coming closer to the door): 'I am not who you're looking for' (and thought of Ben's 'these are not the droids you are looking for...'). She frantically tried to open my door (I could see the handle jerking around) and wailed: "Qu'est-ce qu'il y a? Pourquoi? Pourquoi?' She was now crying. I am not sure whether it was the onset of my Man Cold, but I was by then too afraid to open the door. I was half sure that a gypsy woman would jump on me and suck the blood from my neck, so I said (in my best French): 'Je suis desolée madame, je ne parle pas Francais. Je suis Australienne. Vous n'avez pas la bonne chambre.' She sobbed, 'Oh, tu es la. Pourquoi tu n'ouvres pas la porte. Je voudrais te voir. S'il te plait...' She still thought I was her haughty daughter. I didn't open the door. I said (in my best wounded French tone): Laissez-moi tranquille!' (Leave me alone!). She quietly said 'OK' and crawled away. I continued putting my notes into new piles as part of my vow to sort out my desk.

It's the physical task of moving that distresses me the most (smooth segue!). I am one of those irritable and irritating shits who deeply detests ordering things neatly. I shove my clothes into my holiday suitcase, I push and scrunch my money into my wallet (a habit Oprah once said was evidence of someone destined never to be rich) and I certainly do not have my books in any functional order (criterion: what looks pretty). I seem to expend as much energy moving from half-done task to half-done pile as doing the actual scrubbing, compiling, packing or lifting. Music helps, but it also gives me an excuse to do some 80s moves (headslides, skip claps and shoulder shimmies). I was supposed to be out by midday. At 2pm one of the cleaning ladies yelled up to my room: 'You've got to be out of there. You're supposed to be out of there now!' I replied sulkily (as if it mattered): 'I am trying my best...gosh.'

I have moved to the pretty Oxfordshire countryside amongst the hedges, stone walls, sheep, horses, crops, hay and manicured English gardens. I will tell you all about the local villagers in a future post...

Until then, I want to tell you more about why I haven't written for a while - either my blog or much of my thesis. I have had a Man Cold! A Man Cold is a common cold that you decide people are going to know about, a lot of people, and for which you're going to receive some extra special care. You may even convince yourself that your hefty cough is borderline fatal, as you dramatically douse yourself in Vicks (with big circular motions across the chest) in front of the unsuspecting, elderly check-out attendant. You allow yourself lie-ins and longer breaks. The reason it's called a Man Cold is because when men have colds they tend to behave as though they have been struck down by a tropical disease from eighteenth century sea travel. Man Cold was superbly enacted in the Man Stroke Women series. I am not quite the man on the couch in this scenario, but I think with a little less thesis-guilt and child-of-unsympathetic-doctor-shame, I could very well be! "I said 'Laura', but you didn't come, so I dialled 999!" Genius.



Kate said...

Oh poor little possum! Man colds and rogue emotional Frenchies sounds like a tough crowd. I hope you're getting some fresh air (real and metaphorical) in Oxfordshire and start to feel better soon.


Alice said...

I'll second with the sympathy! xx

The difference with a woman having a Man Cold is that it'll be in a ironic, self-deprecating way that she'll name it thus, where as a man will just be dying of said ancient tropical disease!

As for moving, evidently it really is right up there on the psychologists stress scale, in the top 5 behind divorce and death of a loved one...I must track down the source.
I'll occasionally tell stressy clients this, and suggest they take it easy on themselves (and those around them!). Glad you're out the other side and back in the sunshine.

Sorry the film was bittersweet for you - I can certainly appreciate that. I just crack up at the dance style!

Alice said...

..and of course I meant in 'an' ironic way. Gotta be careful with the grammar in this PhD group! :)

Monkey Mind said...

Thanks for the comments, lovelies. Please don't fret about typos. My blog itself is almost a stream of consciousness so if you guys worry about grammar and/or typos in your comments, I am well and truly in trouble! Hoping to keep it mellow! x