I’m in Wales. More distant, more opposite to the desert would be hard to find. And yet.
I sat alone tonight in the pub’s bow window to eat dinner, lucky enough to be able to hear the sea crashing underneath music and talk and footsteps and the clinking of glasses and cutlery. The sea’s sounding cut through all of it, a piece of the unfathomable wild to set us in our place. I was thinking that in my escape to farming in the spring and summer of last year, I found countryside and isolation, but little wildness. It is what I missed. Nothing of the fierceness, the everyday life and death, the beauty, the grandeur of the impossibly big. Its impossibility part of its nature, part of what changes you in becoming a tiny inconsequential part of it, and in that stretching just as far and wide and deep. So much of England is tamed, though I would never deny the wildness lies beneath and often comes through. But it is glimpses and glimmers, almost nostalgic.
The sound of waves. The immensity of ocean. Happiness as the desert brings me happiness. Tonight always at bottom the darkness, and the sound of waves.
On top the chattering of the maybe-twenty-somethings at the table next to me, a natural switch into Welsh. Talking about women to start, I am almost sure, there was that kind of laughter and rueful defense. But not the whole evening. We have Spanglish, I have no word to call upon for Wenglish, Engwelsh. Mostly Welsh, but ‘Fucking concrete walls’, I caught, other words and phrases here and there.
That makes me happy too, that Welsh should be surviving here. Being bilingual is a gift, the more words we have to communicate, the more differences in the structures in which we think, the better.
Above the waves, the Welsh, a song on the radio:
Sixpence None the Richer, Kiss Me. I first heard this in the late nineties, entering my second year in LA. Maybe it’s the year it came out? The year my friend Jenny started work at CARECEN with me, this was her roommate Kristen’s favourite song for a while. There were four of them, Jesuit volunteers — my time at CARECEN was marked by their year-long terms there. Jenny’s year I got along best with the whole crew of them, they were all young like me, trying to find love and life in LA. I left downtown’s salsa and rock en español clubs with them to stare at wannabe actors and Hollywood hipsters in the impossibly cool bars on Sunset Strip and in Los Feliz. With them I went to dance with UCLA students in far away Westwood, heard the Dave Matthews Band and other similar kinds of tunes for the first time. I preferred cumbias and rock en español. But still, it was something. Their apartment is where I escaped to when the crazy women threw a rock through my window and started screaming she was going to kill me. I slept on their couch, after watching three hours of BBC’s Pride and Prejudice while they were all asleep. So it this song and Colin Firth I associate with Jenny and that LA year.
Funny to hear it here, as a background to completely different lives, experiences, languages. I thought about how our identities are intertwined with songs like this one, how funny that each of us could have such different stories. Or complete indifference. Regardless, a toast to my old friends, to good memories.
As I finished off my pint of Ancient Warrior — not for the faint hearted or the Strongbow drinker, and possibly the partial inspiration for this — Liverpool began playing Southampton. I miss soccer too. Southampton had more heart, put in more effort, but Liverpool had the skills. They have those moments where everything becomes effortless, you watch it with every pass pitch perfect and that shot that hits the back of the net.
I miss those moments when you are somehow completely, perfectly connected as a team. You know exactly where everyone is, you feel it, you are moving together, and the ball is collectively yours. Effortlessly you pass it from one to the other, it can’t miss. When it is your turn, you hit the sweet spot. It never lasts for too long, especially with amateurs like us, but damn. Magic. When I see it embodied in play I feel it all again, the only reason to watch professional football.
These are so far from Obama’s tears in his final speech, from Trump’s press conference and golden showers, from Coretta Scott King’s 1986 denunciations of a racist Jefferson Sessions even now going through confirmation hearings, from an NHS so destroyed by Tory cuts the red cross is stepping in, from Syria, Yemen, Palestine, Iraq, Afghanistan, Mexico and every other place where people struggle against violence and fear… I suppose such moments of wildness, moments of fond memory, moments of perfect cooperation are the things that help keep us as whole as we can be. I suppose struggle makes up some of the rest.