Tuesday, June 20, 2006

Home thoughts

I blog too often and too long. This is because I have no life. I admit it. It's ok: I'm used to it!

I have a very interesting job and working with kids in their teenage years is completely absorbing. But at the same time, I don't think it's ethical to blog about my job, either with anecdotes about individuals, or with the goss on the workings of the school. I'll track the Delhi project, which we're very excited about; and one of these days I'll get round to stills from the Kabuki performance recordings, but I haven't asked permission to put students' pictures up here (and I don't particularly wish to direct their attention here, either), so I try to choose pics that are interesting, but not of identifiable individuals.

BUT if I don't blog about work, I'm stumped really, because that's where I put all my energy, and where I get my satisfaction. (Hence all the amateur psychology, philosophy and politics!)

The bottom line is that I've never really adapted to life here, and by now I've used up all the devices I've invented along the way to maintain the illusion that I live here. I don't. I live in my head. In the past. In contact with, and thoughts of, distant family. In an imagined future. In hopes of a different life in a different place. And increasingly, in the blogosphere, where other people also live at least part of their lives. Thank Google! Two weeks in Spain and nine days in Jordan have kept me afloat since this time last year, first steps in the direction of our new/old life. It has surprised me that I am, ultimately, so inflexible, because when I encountered this in someone else - my mother-in-law - I found it both very sad, and very hard to comprehend. Now I understand a little better.

My father- and mother-in-law, and all their brothers and sisters, were born into a Durham mining community in the far north of England. However, by the time Habibi was born, the pit was pretty well worked out. Soon enough, his father got a new job at another, expanding pit, in Yorkshire, about a hundred miles south. Once he was secure, the family moved down to join him. At six years old, Habibi found himself in a new village, and a new school where the local kids thought he was Chinese, because his accent was so alien to them. By the time I met him, he was a Yorkshireman, though his parents, of course, retained their 'Geordie' accent, which I adore!

For his father, I guess that a change of pit wasn't so drastic, particularly as lots of Durham miners moved to 'Yorkshire Main'. The work was the same, the social life was the same, and he had an allotment where he grew the best - the absolute best - onions I've ever tasted. Legendary, they were! (And 'were' is the operative word, unfortunately, as he gave up his allotment years ago.) So he has been quite content with his lot - and his allotment - I think. A hard-working, sociable, family man, with a legitimate bolt-hole whenever he wanted a bit of peace.

But when I met Habibi-mama, who was lovely - so kind, determined and creative - but so shy, it was a different story. After twenty five years, she still missed 'home', her mother (who lived to be 93!) and her sisters, and had never settled in the 'new' place. She was a quiet dynamo who redecorated the house herself when it was due, who made all the costumes for years for the local Majorettes (marching band) who competed all over the country, and wore sashes absolutely laden with medals. (Think of the piles of coins in a penny arcade machine - that kind of density.) And when the sewing machine was put away, she knitted. ('She never stopped!' Habibi says!) That's where he gets his talents from; the difference is, of course, that he belongs to a working class generation that had choices, and he got to go to university; his mother didn't (Nor, I think, would she have wanted to. But that's another matter.) Anyway, this lovely, lovely woman (maker of world-class pease pudding, and source of our scrumptious wedding cake recipe) got right on with being a good wife, mother and grandmother, and doing her bit in the community she had been transplanted to; but she never put down roots, never made close friends, always missed 'home' - and should have had shares in the tobacco industry! I couldn't quite understand how she could live twenty-five years in a place, raise three children, be so essential to the functioning of the community, and not feel at home, at ease. Didn't all that constitute a life? A home?

Before and after we met, Habibi and I moved around England quite a bit, what with studies and jobs. Once we'd been together a while, I realised that I had a pattern (nothing as organised as a strategy!) of working hard at nesting and networking to begin with, so that we were part of the landscape by the time we'd been in a place six months, and part of the neighbourhood in two years: taking it for granted - having adapted to local conditions - and just getting on with life.

When, after we'd been here half a dozen years, and Dubai was still an uncompromisingly exotic dancer smack in the centre of my field of vision, instead of an eccentric uncle in the background, I thought first that it was the place, and then that it must be me. I know now that it's both, with a generous measure of particular circumstances thrown in!

Isn't it ironic, though, that I and my mother-in-law, apparently so different in temperament, and literally a generation apart in terms of opportunities and options, should turn out to have this major element in common: we do best in our particular soil; we make an adequate show in the wrong part of the garden, but our roots are shallow. I'd really better get out of here before I run to seed!

Voy a espańa la semana próxima! Voy trabajar con unas gallinas. Jajajaja! (Spanish laughter! =D)


Keefieboy said...

Cor that's a long 'un. And working with biscuits again! We'll have to see what your husband sez about that!

MamaDuck said...

Oh KB, he ain't the boss of me. Who does he think he is, King Edward? Well he's not. He's just a common tater! ;) Jajajajaja! Los viejos son el mejor! (Habla Spanglish?)

MamaDuck said...

Agh! - los chistes! I meant los chistes viejos! I meant old jokes, not old men! I think I'll have to take the big dictionary with me to Spain, or just listen for about five years before attempting to speak Spanish out loud in mixed company.