The week passed relatively quickly. My internal life restricted itself mainly to the development of a number of themes: how to deal with idiocy in dignity; Yu’s sorrows; my personal shortcomings and a blunder; planned trips.
Among other things, from the motley fare we deal with over a week’s time: after many years I remembered Karakter, that wonderful Dutch film, and its unique atmosphere and, ehm, characters. I saw the number 626 on a number plate and had Requiem’s Introitus humming in my head for the first time in years. I stared dumbstruck at the sight of four copies of Tender is the Night with the front cover torn off. I sensed the spirit of Rosa Parks hovering around a TV station, which suddenly decided to host two interesting and revealing shows on civil rights and on immigration, the second one featuring a brave woman police officer set against a patronising immigration officer. I stood in awe in front of a 14-year old’s talent, as materialised in her portfolio: she’ll be a great comic artist one day, I hope. I had my own Ulysses day yesterday.
Yu found a great place. But the landlord would not have her sign the contract, unless a guarantor would sign it, too, in the presence of two witnesses. Without entering into debates about generalisations, sweeping or not, this is not standard in the Outpost. I would be the guarantor. I made sure I would intimidate the landlord before signing the contract, especially after his wife, Yu and Jod (one of the witnesses) entered the lift and he turned to me and, smiling, said “women are dumb” for no apparent reason. Hence, I scrutinised the contract. I remained unsmiling and stern. I asked him why a guarantor was needed if Yu was paying a deposit (she was). “Because she is a foreigner”. “I am a foreigner, too”. He was embarrassed, but got the message, so I morphed back into a more pleasant me. He turned out to actually be a polite, considerate and discrete person. He was just as scared of foreigners (especially ‘Russians’) as anybody else. Great is the power of prejudice although, thankfully, not absolute.
My Ulysses day started with me waking up at 8:45 and deciding to go back to sleep for a little while, beneath blankets and duvets and in the sweet fragrance of a sleep-in. It continued with me going to work (yes, on a Saturday) to attend a professional training seminar NewYorker was running, where I saw a fellow administrator I had a disagreement with — but no more hard feelings here. A miserable buffet lunch after the seminar. Then to the supermarket, for cat sand and leeks and chevre. Then home for coffee with a hard-working Jod on a break (ah, teachers! what a life!). Then to an Irish pub where Great Westphalian and his wife were watching the Liverpool vs. Wigan game, to talk business and down a pint of Caffreys (after years of not having done so). Then for coffee with NewYorker, true confessions and trip planning, her friend joining us later, a businessman who’s served in the US Army. Then accidentally meeting Maria and the Guitarist on my way home. A shower and driving Jod to a parent-teacher reception thing, myself joining One of the Seven to an experimental theatre thing (which was not really good). Then drinks with One of the Seven and Emiliano Zapata. Fog has covered everything as Zapata and me drive to opposite directions after midnight. Pamuk’s Snow and sleep.