Thursday, June 16, 2011

Eight things I loved about May

(Sorry it's a bit late)

~ 8 ~ Moving in with Jenn: I can remember the evening when Jenn's flat very first started to feel like home -- a place where I felt comfortable, where I felt I could relax. It was at some point in the winter and still early enough in our relationship that we would stay up talking to the point of exhaustion. Conversations would drag on and on and on. Cups of tea were endless. We were in that stage of wanting to be around each other but not really knowing how to act on those feelings. Cuddles were still accidental: "Oops. Madam, you've somehow found yourself in my embrace. Quite serendipitously our fingers appear to have interwoven."
One late-night-turned-early morning, we were sitting on her couch with exhaustion drawing out the pauses in conversation. Jenn had turned to put her head on my chest. I allowed my head to slump forward and time began to skip as my grasp on consciousness loosened. Outside it was early-winter cold, inside we were wrapped in each other. The radiator clicked softly with warmth. And I felt more relaxed than I had been in months. In Britain I almost always feel some kind of anxiety; I didn't grow up here, so I can never fully trust in it, never truly feel safe. But in that moment, with Jenn in my arms, I was as content as I had ever been on this island of rain.
The months burned on and the awkwardness lent itself to closeness. We still keep each other up far too late, but cuddling requires no machination. And shortly after spending a week together whilst taking part in April's royal wedding celebrations, Jenn decided that having me live on the other side of town didn't make sense.
Numerous expeditions to IKEA were launched for the sake accumulating affordable and difficult-to-pronounce items in which to put all my things. More trips were made to drop off clothes and books at charity shops or unwanted things at the city dump. Then, on 21 May, we moved my bed into Jenn's flat. Our flat.

~ 8 ~ The awesomeness of Jenn: The decision to move in with Jenn was an easy one. As I've said before, expounding upon all the things I like about Jenn makes me uncomfortable and I can't imagine anyone else cares all that much. My eyes tend to glaze over when I encounter others' blog posts full of proclamations of affection. So, I doubt very much anyone particularly cares to read mine. Suffice to say, Jenn is awesome. She is pretty, she is joyful, she is full of life, she is a domestic goddess and she is mildly insane. What more could one ask for?

~ 8 ~ Exploring Penarth: The other day I happened to be looking back through my journal and saw that Penarth was the first place I visited after moving to Cardiff. Just a day or so after bundling across the ocean, I was wandering the village that, unbeknownst to me, would become my home just a little less than five years later. I can't now remember what drew me to Penarth and my journal makes no mention of a reason why. In my entry mentioning Penarth I am apparently assuming the reason to be obvious. I do this a lot in journaling: I leave out details that my older self really would appreciate. For example, in my senior year of high school I made several references to a girl named "Ginger," offering no surname or explanation of how or why I know her. I have asked friends and they don't remember her, either.
Perhaps five years ago I had heard that Ginger lived in Penarth. We'll never know. But for some reason I decided the place was worth visiting. The person with whom I visited hated Penarth and I didn't visit again until 2010. A while after that I met Jenn and started spending a great deal more time in this village to the immediate south of Wales' capital city. Built up in and around the Victorian era, Penarth looks like the Britain I wanted to move to so many years ago. Too much of Wales is a collection of uninspiring brick homes, most with not even enough history to remember Harold Wilson's premiership. Places like Swansea and Rhoose and Carmarthen and the Danescourt and St. Mellon's neighbourhoods of Cardiff feel like unexciting versions of Sioux Falls, South Dakota -- places in dire need of an Applebee's.
Penarth has its fair share of woefully uninteresting architecture, but there are still plenty of buildings that somehow managed to survive the Second World War and the many decades of design sloth that followed. In Penarth one can see in the buildings some of that arrogant ambition that was a hallmark of the British Empire.
There was a time when Britain knew itself to be awesome. Some of Penarth's buildings can remember that time. Certainly a lot can go wrong when a nation believes itself infallible, so I don't pine so much for the ideology in which these buildings were constructed, but one does wish for its spirit -- the sense of creating things that will inspire long after the creators' gravestones have been worn smooth by the seasons.
Penarth fills me with a strange mix of melancholy and inspiration. I am reminded of when I used to live in St. Paul, Minnesota. I loved it so much, I wanted to do whatever I could to keep it alive. I have lived now less than a month in Penarth and already I am composing letters to county and town councillors, like some batty old man. I have started reading the local paper. I am excited for the summer festival. Perhaps in the autumn I'll turn up to watch Penarth RFC lose. I find this town to be one in which I actually want to live.

~ 8 ~ The Gower: The surrounding area adds to Penarth's appeal, of course. If anyone in Wales possessed the capacity to effectively promote their nation, this strip of land on Britain's western side would be one of the most desired places to live on the planet. Every 20 or 30 miles the landscape changes slightly and you feel far away from the other parts. So, a few weeks ago Jenn and I woke up in our Victorian seaside village, had a big breakfast and drove an hour to a part of Wales that felt very much not like the part of Wales in which we had awoken.
The Gower Peninsula is well-travelled territory but that makes it no less beautiful. Sandy beach or rocky seaside are all within easy reach. When Jenn was a little girl her family would go camping on the Gower so I got to hear a few childhood memories as we walked along. Camping in Britain is an experience I find difficult to reconcile with my American understanding of what it means to camp. When I was a boy, camping meant charging out into the woods to collect firewood, occasionally being attacked by hornets and eating dinner in the pitch dark because Dad had started the fire too late. Jenn's version of camping meant setting up a tent within feet of others and playing cricket with all the other kids in the evenings.
On our walk we had brought along a book on foraging that Jenn had given me for Christmas. We made it our mission to find something we could consume, eventually managing to come across two pea-sized wild strawberries and feeling we had become true survivalists because of it.
If you're keen, here's the vlog from that day. In it you can see Jenn and I singing Elvis songs and acting like children.

~ 8 ~ Completing my tutor certification course: Roughly a year ago I was delighted to have learned that I'd been accepted onto a course training me to become a certified Welsh-language tutor. I had no interest in becoming a Welsh-language tutor but I figured it wouldn't hurt to have an additional bit of qualification to throw on a CV and it seemed a good way to pick up a bit of extra money in addition to the job I was certain was around the corner.
A year on, no other job has surfaced. I still don't want to be a tutor, but I am happy to at least have some way of paying for groceries. In May my course officially ended, and with that I now have Level 5 National Certification. I have no idea what that actually means, but it sounds nice. And I can teach Welsh wherever I damn please. Or, rather, wherever I can find work. Which, for the time being is Ebbw Vale.

~ 8 ~ Getting a bit of work: Actually, the previous sentence is a bit misleading. Presently, the only work I have lined up for September is in Ebbw Vale. But right now I am teaching in Ebbw Vale and two places in Cardiff. In May I was offered a class that is taught in the Welsh Assembly Government offices, helping to get the receptionists up to speed on the language of their nation.
I like the job. Thrice weekly I take the train into Cardiff and get to walk amongst the ornate city and government buildings of Wales' capital city. Much like my life in Penarth, this is the European lifestyle I had daydreamed of when I lived in the United States: taking the train into work, occasionally taking lunch at a cafe. The assignment only lasts to the end of July, so I won't get to live this life for long. In the autumn my life will become one of long drives into the South Wales Valleys. But the company that gave me this assignment does a fair amount of work within Wales' corridors of power, so perhaps there will be more opportunities ahead. Or perhaps the company's hiring me will result in their losing their government contract.

~ 8 ~ Reaching 50 days of vloggery: It's a silly thing, is my daily vlog, but I find I enjoy it. It is a way of noting each day in a way different than to writing it down. Admittedly, my blog and actual writing ability have suffered as a result. But, as the Welsh say, there you are.
Back in December I started vlogging on a daily basis through the medium of Welsh. I think I hoped to connect with the similar-minded Welsh-speaking people I had failed to find in Cardiff. What I found instead is that such people do not really exist. There are Welsh speakers, but they are condescending or struggle to get my humour/mindset. The ways in which that makes me sad are seemingly infinite. After a few months I felt an even greater sense of disconnection than before and decided to abandon the thing.
But I realised that I had been enjoying doing the vlogs. There's something I like about the challenge of trying to document something from each and every day -- the philosophy that each day is worth making note of. So, I fell into the habit of doing them in English. Now, at least, my friends and family could understand.
In early May I passed the tiny milestone of having vlogged for 50 days (through the medium of English). Late this month I will reach 100 days. Each milestone grows less significant, I suppose. I mean, am I actually achieving anything? It's a bit like when teachers would give you gold stars for attendance.
No, it's not even that cool. In junior high school they would give prizes at the end of the year to kids who had perfect attendance. If I vlog for a full year, it will most likely not result in a free sweatshirt. More's the pity.

~ 8 ~ Doctor Who: Britain doesn't really have seasons. We have cold and rainy, less cold and rainy, and a snow day. I think some part of my internal clock therefore struggles to grasp the passage of time. Environmentally, very little changes; how can I know that this day is, in fact, not still the one previous? Thankfully, television comes to the rescue. My years are marked by Strictly Come Dancing, Great British Menu, international rugby matches and Doctor Who. Ironically, I note the passage of time by watching watch the adventures of a bloke who not only travels in that dimension but increasingly seems to enjoy messing with it. This past series of the Doctor's travels seems to have been particularly mind-boggling. But also particularly enjoyable.
On a side note, I think that the person who kills the Doctor is either: the Doctor himself or Amy Pond.


Elimare said...

I think the doctor they met was the Flesh Doctor and the doctor they are with now is the real Doctor. And I think River Song did it.
Although if she did it, she wouldn't be freaked out that he was dead. cos she already knows what she did to get sent to prison, hmmm....

Chris Cope said...

Eli -- Yes, the Flesh Doctor was my guess, too, as to the one who gets killed. I'm pretty sure it wouldn't be River because her chronology runs different to the Doctor, so she would know that she killed him. Also, she would know he wasn't an actual Time Lord and wouldn't have insisted that they instantly build a funeral pire.

Also, there are too many clues pointing to River: the space suit, the fact that she went to prison for "killing a good man" and that the last episode was called "A Good Man Goes To War." With so many things suggesting River, there has to be a curve.

Anonymous said...

Don't promote the Gower.Keep it secret. Go to 3 Cliffs, It's stunning

Annie said...

I love this 8 things blog. I wish you would write more about happiness. Nobody's eyes are going to glaze over, I promise.