Firstly, I hope this finds you all well and happy into the bargain.
I’ve been living rather a nomadic life for the last few weeks, but things are about to settle down into a more regular rhythm. After returning from The Sausagelands, I had a week before my friend Chris’ lease expired on his flat which had been my base camp since arriving at the end of May. It was a strange place to live in, with possibly the most poorly designed kitchen in the world, low ceilings, no access to the back courtyard from the flat, an oven that only occasionally worked, a washing machine / dryer that murdered clothes and was entirely uncooperative, a shower so small you banged your elbows continually whilst washing, and no ventilation since all the windows were designed not to open properly. The bit that really kills me is that this pokey little dive is also the chosen retirement home of the Dean of (insert Cambridge College here). Ahhh, the Poms!
That flat faces directly onto a park (Frisbee lawn) and has a small front yard which can be accessed by climbing out the one window that did open fully – a space about three or four feet wide and ten long, full of shrubs and bark. It was better than nothing under the circumstances, and proved quite useful for drinking in the afternoon sun while people walked and rode past immediately beside us.
Owing to the proximity to the park, it made both us and any passers by into an endless spectacle. Having spent many hours watching pikies and plebs suck back cans of Tennants Super Strength Lager, guarded by the ubiquitous dog-on-a-rope, I was gutted to learn that I missed the very best spectacle of all whilst in Czech, namely, two proper Newmarket race-goers in three-piece suit and frock, going for it no holds barred under the tree immediately outside the window.
It had been rather cramped in the flat with Lucy and Liz, but we all got on OK and muddled through. Naturally things improved as soon as we got rid of the women ; )
After a final disposable BBQ of Boerewors and beers aplenty, Chris and I farewelled the flat and I went down to London on Saturday to stay with Liz. She was holed up in a flat belonging to old friends of her family, at which we used to stay years ago to get a break from Cambridge. Liz was busy researching in the British Library and I am currently racing like the devil to finish my novel in the hope of reaching a July 31 deadline for a competition entry, so I stayed in, set up in the kitchen and hammered the keyboard all day Sunday and Monday. As a consequence, I will now reach my deadline.
Whilst in London, I received some extremely good news from Chris, namely that our cunning plan had come to full fruition. See, one afternoon around ten days ago, we were dining in Kings College (for reasons too boring to explain) when he hit me with the proposal that he hire me as his teaching assistant for his summer school course on the South African novel, commencing at the start of August. I agreed to do it immediately and the following day we sent my CV off to the director of studies for the international programs at Pembroke College, from which these summer schools are run. On Monday the good news came through that the job was mine at the rate of 70 pounds per hour. Essentially I shall be taking all the tutorials whilst Chris does the lectures. Yes, I have a lot of reading to do, and needless to say, there was much rejoicing.
Monday evening Liz very kindly took me up the London Eye. We reached the peak at around 2100, which chimed in perfectly with the setting of the sun. London was hung with gold dust in an umber haze, but however romantic the light, it’s still an ugly town.
On Tuesday Liz and I parted ways and I took the train back to Cambridge, unsure of where I would be staying. Chris had assured me I was welcome to the floor of the room in Pembroke into which he has moved temporarily, but I was concerned about imposing upon him further.
For about five hours I felt like my entire plan of relocating to the UK was going to fall through and I’d be flying back to Sydney with my tail between my legs, ungodly broke, especially when it became clear that the cheapest bed and breakfast I could find was thirty pounds a night. After a very sweaty search (over thirty all week and Wednesday hit 38 degrees) I bit the bullet and took a garret room at 30 quid, then went straight into town to a job interview with the Cambridge University Temporary Employment service. Having been told there would be nothing available until the start of September and needing some readies in the meantime, I walked straight around the corner to my old pub, The Anchor, which is still run by the same landlords for whom I worked back in 2003.
The following day, I moved my stuff into Chris’ room and that evening, like a dog returning to his own sick, I worked my first shift at the Anchor for three years. It was alarming how familiar it was and I had no trouble in slotting straight back into being a piss merchant, as it were. I expect to be doing around twenty to thirty hours a week to tide me over as I won’t be paid by Pembroke until the end of August. There is a cool crowd so far as the staff are concerned, with three Poles, two Frenchmen, an Italian girl and a side order of Poms. Do drop by!
So, here I am, sleeping on a futon mattress on the parquet floor of W8, “Lawn Bowls Court”, Pembroke College, and things are looking up. I now have two jobs, hope of another with the city council commencing at the start of September (working for the local theatre / gig venue) and, as of Tuesday, I will have a new place to live. For, in another stroke of extraordinarily good fortune, Chris, whose lectureship is now permanent, was successful in applying to become a fellow of St John’s College (where we both did our PhDs). John’s, who may take their time but do things properly, have kindly offered him a house at peppercorn rent into which we shall be moving shortly. This arrangement will only last until the end of August, at which point John’s will give him his permanent rooms and by which time I should be loaded with Sterling from my teaching work and have had the time to organise a room here in town…
So, that’s me in a nutshell, writing by day and drinking by night with the Young Americans, soon to be my students. I’d forgotten what a nice place Cambridge is when you’re on the right side of tracks, so do drop in – good show, what! – Pimms and Lemonade all round…