Well, what a treat it is to be back in touch--especially
for me, suffering, as I am, from a spot of homesickness.
So, do me a favour old boy and print this thing out:
I know full well the tendency to skim screen text. I know because I am
a famous skimmer myself. Indeed, the only thing that skims better than
me is a flat stone lobbed at full force over a placid Cumbrian lake with
a shepherd in the next field waiting to go home and have his tea.
Right, so now it’s on paper, sit yourself down,
put your feet up, grab a coffee and read on as this overly creased tale
unfolds before your very eyes, nose and perhaps earlobes.
Right, indeed you are right: the last time we met was
at the independence rally in Montreal. You were there because you are
a long standing--though sometimes stooping--Anglophone rights
activist with an understandable fondness for maple syrup. I was there
because I thought Quebec’s separation might prove the final nail
in the old coffin: if folks in Canada could not live together in harmony,
than what hope for there rest? Heck, hadn’t the UN said for the
fourth consecutive term that Canadians were the happiest people in the
world . . . or something. So, yes, it was this holistic vision that took
me to the rally.
Oh, and I was doing a spot of shopping nearby and accidentally
found myself there.
So, at that time I am guessing that I was starting my
master’s degree or some such nonsense. Of course, it was a doddle
and we can only hope that chappies and chappets in other more creditable
(pun wholeheartedly intended) disciplines face a more challenging prospect.
I mean, imagine if doctors could get through med school the way we can
get through English. Heck, they’d be getting away with murders.
The next thing you know there would be all kinds of blunders and patients
would wake up from operations with tweezers, twiddlers, scalpels and scissors
still stuck inside. And the wrong leg would be chopped off. Heck, wrong
leg? It was supposed to be his left arm.
And patients would die from no fault of their own.
Actually, a friend of mine over here is a certified
psychiatrist and has told me horrendous stories. Only in Japan. Of course,
only in Japan. Canada is really great and everything is great. Don’t
worry. But what ever you do, the next time you sneeze, don't go see a
doctor. He’ll have your nose before you can count your blessings.
So yes, it was a doddle. The only difficult thing was
the thesis. Oh, the thesis statement, the research, the writing and rewriting,
the prodding and proofing, the indexing and annotating: yeah, all that
was all a doddle. The thing that made it hard was that I fell in love
in the middle of the thing.
No no no, not with myself.
This is what happened. First the exacerbation--which
of course is most strange: how the heck can we begin with the exacerbation? It doesn’t make sense.
Well, welcome to this ripping yarn which has yet to rip and is barely
a yarn. Barely a yarn? It’s hardly even a thread. So, the exacerbation:
I’d decided that once my thesis was done I would leave Canada and
go to South Korea. Accordingly I gave up my apartment at the end of June
and moved in temporarily with Linda, who happens to be Nicole’s
sister. Do you remember Nicole? She’s the girl--and I use the
term with studious deliberation--I married. So my plan was to finish
the thesis as a homeless person and then get the hell out. But then--and
now we move away from the exacerbation--I met a girl called Beth.
She was cute as a knife and as sharp as a doll.
Actually, she was very clever and the funniest person I have ever met--well, excluding yours truly, of course. We sometime played this joke-making game, using formula stuff: what’s the difference between . . . There was an English man, an Irishman and a Frogman . . . that kind of thing. We would take it in turns to come up with something chuckleable . I met her father and, sitting in his Ottawa garden one summer evening, we invited him to play. Of course he couldn’t even qualify for the first round. I think he thought I was a loony. He defiantly thought I was an alcoholic loony. I admit, I have developed the taste for beer. But in Glasgow, I would be a mere amateur. In Yorkshire I would be a toddler. And in France they would hardly even notice me pissing.
Of course, that was a test. Are you reading carefully? Did you notice the conclusion was a reference to the Englishman the Irishman and the Frogman introduction? No? Then do not pass go and do not collect your pension.
It was a fiery romance that started in the blaze of summer and ended with the autumn freeze of Baffin Island. She was temporarily studying mining engineering at McGill in an effort to be pragmatic after completing a BA in history. I heard later that she dropped out. That was her problem: a struggle between the romantic and the realistic, if you will, between the Dionysian and Apollinian, which, of course seems to refute her father’s alcoholic accusation.
When we first met, she had a boyfriend. A mining engineer. A very sensible fellow. Of course she was attracted to me because I represented her clever imaginative and artistic side. Oh, and let’s not forget I always claim to have a huge dick and be a great lover.
But, oh, oh, oh would we argue. Even so, I abandoned all Korean plans. I wound up living at her place more than at Linda’s. Since my thesis computer was at Linda’s, this slowed things down somewhat.
Oh, oh, oh, fiery power of summer love. It glinted and glimmered until I was blind. And then, a bit after my August birthday, I think, she had to go to Baffin Island for some boffin McGill work-study thing. Three months. I moved my thesis computer from Linda’s to another friends. I lived there and continued not to write. I was too busy wallowing in sadness and loneliness to thesis myself to death.
We stayed in touch by telephone and we broke up by telephone. I insisted she was not calling me often enough and I guess she insisted she called me way too often. So that was the end of it.
By then I had moved back into my old small apartment building and taken the apartment next door to the one I had so recently vacated. Oh, woe is life and woe was me and woe was that goddamn thesis. I set back to work on it. It is humbly entitled: Pictures and Poetry. Debunking the Bunk: An Examination of Picturesque Influence
Wordy? What do you want me to be, a wild and wonderful student of Literature or a bloody mathematician????????????? It featured such delightful sub chapter titles as “Landscape Painters Autochtonous”, “The Grand Tour” and “The Less than Grand Tour.”
Actuallty, the whole thing is so god damn clever, the word play so cute and oft subtle, well, it actually makes my eyes water--in a crying sort of way.
So I finished it. I only met my advisor once, at the very end when it was done. He was very impressed and used a rude word to describe me on several occasions. The word stars with G, ends with S and has ENIUS in the middle, but modesty prevents me from spelling it out to you.
Of course it was flattering but ridiculous. If anyone has any interest in reading it I can send a copy over, but it is long and completely irrelevant.
So, anyway, it was done and school was over and I had to find a job. This was a problem because I had no intention of looking for one.
Find out what happened in the concluding letter coming your way in the new year.