Of Love and Faraway Places

I’ve been back exactly a week and I’m still catching up on posts from when I was in England. There’s something I want to write about the medieval congress too, but that will have to wait till the weekend. Because nearly three weeks ago, before my graduation and before the congress, my cousin got married.

Richard moved from Adelaide to London shortly after I moved from Adelaide to the UK, six years ago. I started a Masters in York, he started a job in a bank (which he has since ditched to work at Google). It’s been so nice, all that time, to have a familiar face in London, not to mention a spare futon on which to crash when necessary. We’ve been friends a very long time. He’s about three years older than me, and I remember insisting on sending him an invitation to my birthday party when I was very small. ‘Mum, how do you spell Richard?’ ‘Just how it sounds, dear.’ ‘W-I-T-C-H-E-A-R-D’. Unfortunately my spelling has not improved greatly since then.

When I lived in York, first at the University Hall of Residence and then with Michael, he used to come up and visit us. Once, we made a snowman outside of Durham cathedral. Actually, he was the first member of my family to meet Michael (who’s German). ‘I like him a lot’, I confessed over a cup of tea and a scone in the York railway museum. ‘I can tell’, he said. ‘You can’t stop smiling.’ And last year Richard met the girl of his dreams, who happens to be from Russia, and now he’s married her. I think it’s brilliant. And I’m not the only one.

The wedding was great. Relaxed and heart-felt. Lots of family came across from Australia, making it a big reunion – my cousins and aunts and uncles from Adelaide, and my Dad’s cousins from Lancashire. Just in case you’re curious, here we all are when we were considerably smaller.

The priest who married them is also a journalist, and he mentioned my cousin and his bride in an article he wrote the following week:

I married a lovely young couple on Saturday. They very much represented our globalised parish today: the groom was of Australian extraction, working for Google; his bride was Russian. It’s optimistic these days for a priest to expect to marry couples in their “local” church, whatever that can mean. But it was a joyous occasion and a privilege to dispatch them on their journey of matrimony.

I’ve been thinking a lot about this ‘globalized parish’, this globalized world that we live in. The webs of love stretched across it, pulled taut. London is a long way from Adelaide, or Moscow for that matter. As Norway is from Germany or Australia. Richard visited Australia with his fiance in April, but they were engaged before his family had met her. Michael and I had been together a year (and living together for more than half that time) before my Mum met him. (This was a bit of a challenge for her, of which I was blissfully oblivious.)

The problem with these new loves is that they take us – or keep us – very far from home. And to get everyone we love in the same place is difficult, if not impossible – though at this wedding we gave it a pretty good shot! Here’s Richard with his sister, who’s still in Adelaide (and also a very close, very old friend of mine), and his brother, who’s soon to move to Perth with his wife and small daughter. They adore each other.

And here’s me and my brother, of whom I’ve sadly not seen a great deal for several years, but it’s been just brilliant to spend more time with him recently.

But family, it seems, is stretchable, flexible, adaptable. You can’t stop love springing up in unexpected places, and why would you want to? Who knows where it will take you.

Very good news!

Well, not in the grand scheme of things, I suppose. But in the miniature scheme of things, in the everyday and the here and now, very good news indeed. This kindergarten job that I ummed and ahed about for so long, and then hesitantly took the plunge, has suddenly become much more appealing. Instead of having to drive 40 minutes to the next town, I have a position right here in Halden! And instead of starting next Monday, I’m starting in three weeks, which leaves more time to tie up the loose ends of my summer job, and means I will be working three days a week rather than five sooner than I expected. (This is a very good thing indeed, as it is extremely difficult to find the time to consolidate any post-PhD writing at the moment.) As an added bonus, I will be looking after one to two year-olds instead of three to four year-olds, and I imagine they will be less linguistically demanding. Hurrah!

I got my Norwegian person number a couple of weeks ago, and applied for a bank account last week and a tax card today. A sim card for a mobile phone is next on the list. There is rather a lot of paperwork to be sorted. This is all on top of my Norwegian residency permit, which I secured last year. I got the residency permit because I was able to prove that M and I had lived together for two years in England. I think my UK passport also helped. Although Norway isn’t in the EU (which causes all kinds of logistical problems for foreigners like ourselves) they are at least friendly toward to the EU.

Anyway, I am glad I will have a routine and a way to contribute and a deeper connection to this town. Walking back through the town centre after filling out the extremely confusing tax card form, I noticed I was already starting to feel differently about this place. Despite my wondering documentation of the seasons here over the past couple of years I have felt very much a visitor – transplanted to our little flat in which I write about Australian poetry and read Australian blogs. The thought of having an ongoing job here – and such a humble one – changes that.

I also had dinner with a lovely bunch of Norwegians last night which steeled my resolve to learn some of the language. I even learnt a new word: ‘potatgul’ (probably spelled atrociously). Literally, it means ‘potato gold’, or, in other words, ‘crisps’.

I am not giving up on my academic dream! But I am planning neither to starve to death nor to go bonkers with frustration in the mean-time. Three days a week of work should leave me time to straighten out a few articles. On the top of my list are the chances of securing some postdoctoral funding from the Norwegian government (one of the best places to be in terms of funding, I have heard), and possibly a bit of teaching at Oslo University next year.

We’ll see. There are strange parallels with my life nearly ten years ago when I finished my Honours degree in English and ended up working as home-care worker for the Paraplegic and Quadriplegic Association. I remember going to interviews at nursing homes, desperate for some kind of a job, and seeing puzzled looks as they looked first at my CV, and then at me, and asked: ‘What are YOU doing HERE?’ I loved the care work in the end. It was important. A lot has changed for me since then. But I am glad to be right here, right now.

(Although I wouldn’t mind knowing where in the world summer has wandered off to…)

Oh, and if you have any tips on entertaining Norwegian toddlers, let me know.

Graduation

Was brilliant. Loved my hat, which in fact was black, not green, but the robes were green which suits me fine. My supervisor said she always associates me with green jewellery.

It’s past bedtime now but I just have to tell you about it. It was very formal, and just so much fun. The staff of the school of English paraded on stage, decked out in all their finery.

It was brilliant to have my brother and Michael there. We went out for lunch with my supervisors, which was so so nice, and can I just say once again how I love them and they are just fantastic and I couldn’t have asked for better, and if I had to do it all again I would, and I’d do it with them.

It rained but I didn’t mind.

And later my friends and I went out for dinner at Hansa’s, which if you are ever in Leeds you must do too.  So it was pretty great. And THANK YOU – to my supervisors, to my sponsors, to my parents and grandparents who were there in spirit, and to my friends and especially J and M for celebrating with me (and for taking the pictures!). It’s been an awesome journey. One part of it is over now. That is a little bit sad as well as exciting, and it was nice to have a ceremony to mark the end of it. But many paths, I hope, have only just begun.

Hello from the road

Weddings and conferences and sleeping in friends’ spare rooms make for plenty of blog content, but not much blogging time or head-space. For now I’ll say: the wedding was gorgeous, the conference was tiring but brilliant, and it has been most enjoyable catching up with old friends and taking advantage of their hospitality in the process.

It’s my graduation tomorrow. Well, today actually. I can’t sleep. My brother and my boyfriend are both here to help me celebrate. We had a great day in York today (well, yesterday), and on Sunday we drove out to the Dales – a superior pub lunch in Grassington followed by a stroll to Malham cove. Yorkshire is just the best.

My brother says that meeting my lovely, talented, hard-working friends, many of whom graduated with their PhDs several years ago now, is making him reconsider his postgraduate plans. Most are struggling by with scraps of teaching supplemented by library jobs.

I’ve been dithering for a couple of weeks as to whether to accept a part time job in a kindergarten in Norway, to cover costs while I work on articles and a book proposal. I accepted it yesterday and now I feel slightly terrible. M had counseled against it, on the grounds of missed holidays (chances to tag along on his business trips to exotic places), early mornings and having to drive the car to the next town even in winter, it will interrupt my brilliant two-month summer job, and a couple of other things. Sigh. Why are decisions so hard to make? I accepted it on the grounds of money, Norwegian integration and a structure to my week.  But I’m still not sure. My applications to several academic jobs in the UK didn’t get anywhere, which wasn’t a surprise given the current market, but disheartening all the same.

Anyway. I’m still pretty proud of the PhD. And looking forward to wearing the floppy green hat. Photos to follow!

Oh noes!

I was going to write a blog post tonight, really I was. But it is late and I am tired and we have to get up early tomorrow to drive to the airport. Off to London, for my cousin’s wedding, then up to Leeds for the IMC and then my graduation! Much excitement and I can’t wait to catch up with my brother and my cousins in London…

It’s been a very busy few weeks since I posted. I have a summer job at M’s research institute, coming up with a newsletter prototype and coming to grips with InDesign. It’s brilliant. I’ve also been applying for academic jobs in the UK, interviewing people and writing an ethnography assignment, sussing out academic contacts in Norway and intending very muchly not to leave my conference paper to the last minute again. Oops. I’ve also been offered a part time job in a kindergarten and I’ve been dithering and dithering. It was really hot for two weeks – lots of cycling and swimming in the evenings. This week the rain has almost been a relief. Very much looking forward to the UK. And hoping to do some conference-papering on the plane tomorrow…