Meet Mermos. (Named after a French Human Reliability Assessment (HRA) method. We just thought it sounded nice.) He is reliably naughty, and clever, and bouncy, and, when he’s finished with all that, sleepy. And beautiful. His fur is incredibly soft, and absorbs light like velvet, and he resembles nothing so much as a warm, bright-eyed shadow.
Meet Whitby. (Named after the town.) He is very very sweet with his black and white nose and his four white feet. When we first met him we thought him the clumsier and the friendlier of the two, but it turns out he can more than hold his own in the kitten wars, and when they are not chasing and pouncing and pawing one another, they are both friendly souls. They like nothing better than sleeping next to us on the sofa.
We are besotted.
Was nice, if a little cloudy. Lots of delicious pizzas, waffles, and ice-creams were ingested, not to mention German beer. Here is Michael looking pensive in a pink cafe.
A highlight for me was gate-crashing a conference on Shakespear’s ‘Troilus and Cresseda’ and Chaucer’s ‘Troilus and Criseyde’ for half a day, and catching up with not one but two of my favourite Australian medievalists. This was so lovely, and as Stephanie pointed out, it felt a bit like home away from home. The papers I heard were about gesture and emotion, public and private, faces and defacing. I must confess to not having read Chaucher’s ‘Troilus and Criseyde’ since my Honours year, but I have a very clear memory of the brilliant Tom Burton demonstrating the pathos of the poem. (For those not familiar with it, it’s a poem about love and betrayal, with the backdrop of the Trojan war.) Unfortunately the European spring put on a very poor show for all the international guests, but they seemed to enjoy themselves anyway.
We also climbed up to the top of the Berliner Dom, and watched a concert of Schumann and Bruckner there one evening. On Sunday, finally, the sun came out, and I wandered through the Tiergarten while Michael caught up with an old friend.
Whilst I was lounging in the sun, a tall dark handsome stranger from Cairo made a concerted effort to pick me up. He told me he was a masseur and a body-builder (!!!). As I gallantly extricated myself, he told me he was happy to merely ‘look see’. Having escaped Criseyde’s fate, I was immediately rewarded by a sign from the gods.
I should have taken a photo of the Norwegian flags entwined with sprigs of fresh birch leaves which adorned the kindergarten today. Tiny, crinkled, bright green leaves. Finally. The Norwegians certainly love their flags. Today we celebrated their national day (May 17) early. Ice-cream, hotdogs, flag-waving, and a procession down the driveway, complete with mini marching band and straggling two year olds. (The Norwegians also love their hotdogs. Service stations and kiosks stink of them.) I’ll miss the main event this year, because I’m taking advantage of all the public holidays and escaping to Berlin tomorrow. Hurrah!
I lie in the water. I close my eyes. I float. The sun sets behind me and all around me, sliding on the water.
This was one of the things that cracked open my grief into wracking sobs – the thought that I wouldn’t swim in the sea while I was pregnant. I had looked forward to it. So now, on the last day, I have come.
I duck my head under. I kick. I drift. I think of the little creature, floating inside me, as I float in all the ocean.
I do this one, small thing.
I think of the day I got baptized, at this very beach. They said it was about death and birth. When you go down, you die; when you rise up, you are born anew. You die to your old self, they said.
I think of it differently now. I don’t see it as a free ticket past death, or as the key to some exclusive community, or some way of erasing self. Birth and death are pretty universal.
But it is a potent symbol. Going down, coming up. Death and birth. Birth and death. The vulnerability of it all. Water clinging to you.
And that is what this world is. That’s just how it is.
I press my face into the waves.
And tomorrow, we will both go down, but this little one won’t come up again. It will die. And that death will be part of me, then.
I float. I am held.
We are held.
I freeze this moment, so that I can always come back here, to the last light shining all over us.
Goodbye, little one, I say.
And I climb out of the water. It’s getting cold.
We don’t have them yet (as we will be away this weekend), but I went to visit them this evening. Exhausted from playing, they slept and slept.
I am so looking forward to having them around. I love their little purrs and squeaks as they stretch in their sleep. Their quick paws and their warm, warm fur. And I reckon two little black cats in our little white house will be a very good thing indeed.
I went to a bbq on Friday night and over to a friend’s place for dinner on Saturday.
I slept in.
I did three loads of washing, two of which dried in the sun.
I spoke to my Mum, and my Grandma. And Michael. (He’s in France.)
I tidied and vacuumed the house.
At the bbq, I spoke to a friend who has a baby due the same time mine would have been, and it was ok.
I went to the gym.
I sat in the sun.
With my friends, I walked around the moat of Fredrikstad’s old town as the sun set at 10pm. Fredrikstad is lovely, and has a moat shaped like a star. The water glimmered all pink and gold.
I went shopping to buy things for the kitties. (We are getting both. I am so excited.)
I paid some bills.
I ate a falafel burger.
I jumped on the trampoline.
Tomorrow, I promise, I’ll finish writing the exam questions. Because right now, I think I’ll watch Doctor Who.
Michael’s colleague who lives a couple of streets away has two kittens to give away. As soon as I heard this, I pestered him to arrange a visit. ‘We need to think about this,’ he said. ‘Before we go, we need to decide whether it’s sensible for us to get a kitten.’ ‘Let’s just go,’ I said. ‘We can think about it later.’
Heh. So of course we now badly want the kittens, but we are going on holiday for four weeks just five weeks after we would get them. Not sensible at all. And there will be other kittens, so even if we decide that we desperately need them (which indeed we do) we don’t desperately need them now. But kittens have faces and bodies and souls that say love me. And the only question now is whether it should be the sweet-faced black creature who curled in a basket and then did a madly impressive high-speed chase of a ball, or the scruffy, clumsy, friendly white-socked one, with a lopsided splodge on his nose. Or both.
(For what it’s worth, we’re leaning towards blacky. But of course that isn’t the only question.)
I wrote a lecture last week about the concept of home in the books we’ve studied this semester. We were thinking about diaspora.
As I wrote the paragraph about Robinson Crusoe, I cried. I remembered reading the novel four months ago. I remembered so clearly the blissful, dozy happiness of that cottage in Bright. The hours of half-heartedly prodding the beginning of the novel between watching the tennis and sleeping on the couch. I even have a photo of me asleep on the sofa, Robinson Crusoe propped against my nose, the top button of my trousers undone because they were just starting to get too tight.
I brought the novel with me on the day of the termination. I was closer to the end, then. I remember being utterly horrified when Crusoe sailed off with his English rescuers, not even waiting for his new friends the Spaniards to return. My surgeon was impressed by my bedside reading. We had a discussion about colonialism. He was a closet Australian history geek.
I wrote the paragraph, and I cried. But then I wrote the next paragraph, and the next, and I finished the lecture.
But I realized there is more to say. There is definitely more to say.