I have to guard against order. If it’s too chaotic, nothing comes out. If it’s too ordered, it becomes sterilised. You have to find the way between these two things. - Anselm Kiefer
The trees have shed their last and the grey sky has begun to weep. Winter is very slowly creeping across this ancient land. Our neighbour doesn't rise till lunch these days and although busying with nuts and seeds his days are short. Like him we've made preparations and there is a certain nostalgia in the air as again, a southern Christmas calls. My sinuses have even pre-emptively lubed in readiness for the dry winds and pollen of the beige Canterbury plains. They're good like that. I suspect this is sympathy hay fever for my future self. I wish I could do sympathy work or sympathy problem solving but the Gods would never settle for that. I blow my nose. Our house is in slight contrast to the plains. Beige, yes, with raw card but stacked high and jagged, calling great shining birds and leviathan hulks. These bizarre towers are blind to the coming celebrations, pub punctuated friends, in-jokes and family familiar. These boxes, they stand ready but they see further than I dare today. The pub will not be for granted, least the family time but as we prepare for festivities, we lie to ourselves of our "holiday". A bag and good shoes are for the holiday. This other collection of memories and work, gear and packaging is for something else. And the holiday belongs in part to it. We are moving once more and the boxes, birds and steel whales are hungry and will not wait any longer.
Four years is a long time when you are 10 years old. When you are 18 it is a life time but when you miss, it is a death. And we've missed so many in these last four years. Some have made it easy with well wishes and calls. Some have made it easy with none. But blessed, the great and mysterious Schiphol has ferreted us at times and just enough, to remember where we were and sometimes, why we came. And we did come and in ways conquered and in some lost. But it was just and righteous. So what now. Who now will we miss. The southern homeland and this new old, equal. This another place. This promise more fulfilled than we could have hoped. More complex and complete than we dared to know. More warm than foreign wind should be and somewhere amongst life's other plans, home. This must be some kind of witchcraft. We never signed up for this. We've said good bye there and now we must do it here. When did this happen? How is my family here when they should be there? Why are they not there? I know well the differences and yet now they are me. I know what I miss and who and where and now they and it and the places are here.
There is a small neighbourhood, quiet between the flats of University of Nottingham's students and the same city's drug dealers. It's surprisingly manicured. Just down the road from a long gone factory that produced British motorcycles and just off a street named after one of the West's great explorers known for his idea to sell some harmless tobacco. It was home. There was a humble Crocus nestled amongst binging students and concrete thugs. It was home and school, and a style of pub and refuge. It was my first link and I knew it then as well as I know it now. It was precious because of that and always will be. But like Raleigh's tobacco became fast far more than the sum of the parts. Sophie, Alice, Lester, Adam, the NTU girls, Charlotte, Jenna Kay. You are never far from my thoughts. Paul, thank you. You are a true gentleman. Kind Marie, if you were a stone from this day on, the grandest of wings would still wait for you. Alyn, I have no words. There are none. I honestly could never thank you enough. I hope that echoes for aeons like truth should.
Exeter started as a trading hub for Devon, the political kind. It was also one of the first places to offer treatment for sailors who became too close to that old sailor's friend. That was long ago now and the treatments are now catered for they say, under a new framework called austerity. I'm not sure how well that is working but caring is not short here. Leon, the first person I met in Exeter, in a toy shop. It was great. Micky, Ali, I couldn't have done it without you guys. Abi, the time has flown too fast and we share too little. Hayley, Nathan, everything you have built is everything you are. I have huge respect for you both and look forward to the rest of the story. My best wishes to you and your young family. Lisa and Yuchen. You offered company when I could not and you have my heart for that. See you in NZ. Natalia and Shaun. The pleasure has been mine. Thank you for welcoming me and offering us company. Thank you for sharing your journey with us. Neil, where do I start. I suspect I will get a chance to try but know I'll never cover it all. Katie and David. How am I even able to address you so very informally. I am honoured. Might I be learned one day. Might I be wise and caring and selfless. Might I build a home and family and have them proud of me and wish to see me. Might I open my home to strangers and have them sit and eat and be welcome and forget they are a stranger. Hear me gods. I will weather my hands and my face if we might strike a deal. Eva, you have been on my mind for too long. I have dear wishes for you. You like all these names will be forever in my thoughts. Sincerely, being there was everything at that time. You are a blessing. Leen and Zaid. This is the beginning for you again. I feel it too but you are good and good will find you. I hope you settle in well and soon. Mr Speirs, soon to be Doctor, soon to be Minister. My hope is that many have the chance to meet you and your work is never hindered. So many more names. The Notts punks I never got to jam with. The Exeter colleagues who offered so much support and understanding to Jo and who kept each other well and sane or tried to. The folks who have shared lunch and dinner and cider and beer. The guy who sells the big issue on the high street who never seems like he sells the big issue on the high street. Jo's family here who've offered support, comradeship, homes, beds and a place within their fine ranks. It has meant the world to me and more to Jo. And Jo. There is just not enough time or space. One from seven odd billion souls. From a glance to a smile. From a smile to a wink. From a wink to a poked tongue to a drink to a night to a life time and beyond.
On the 10 August 1901 Charlotte Anne Moberly and her friend Eleanor Jourdain travelled in time. I suspect I will too, back to this 1960s tribute to utilitarianism. This house of Moberly and the house of King Edward. I'll laugh and shake my head. I will forget the trials and the cold and the Britney Spears tracks and I will feel old and distant from here but I will feel just as close to you all as I ever have. I hope at times you might remember me. I hope I have left something behind. I hope I have been human and I earned your time. I swear to do justice to the kindness you have shown me and pass it on to others you might never meet, but it will be my gift to them from you. I've never learned as much as I have being a stranger. I'm Barry and I'm a Foreigner.
I shall not pass this way again but I might just pop in for a bit. I hope so and hope to see you. I hope you might be glad to see me and that things are well.