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Sunday, 28 October 2007

Just 24 hours makes such a difference...

From: Z on Sunday, October 28, 2007 4:42am. To: Simon Cc: Dh. Subject: Just 24 hrs made such a difference to my broken spirit!
Dear Simon and Hani, Many thanks! You responded first to my outcry, Simon, just as I opened my eyes this morning, with a friendly phone call after getting my attached message I sent out late last night to both you feeling anxious, helpless and desperate about so many questions that needed sorting out. You later dropped in with your folding bike, a classic image of yours! We discussed how we all could play our respective roles in welcoming Dh to 'the small room in the small house' here in Birmingham which you are most welcome to, as your home. Dh, you will be arriving into an empty house I have given the key for you. What a welcome from me! I shall begin tidying up the room since there is extra time we have, not just the extra hour, with the clocks changing from tomorrow! I don't like long dark evenings in winter. With Warm Regards, Zarina
From: Dh. Date: Sun, 28 Oct 2007 07:38:36 +0200 To: Z, B and H
Dear all. Please, don’t trouble yourselves with the many ceremonial acts and etiquettes. With you doing all this for me, the phrase “thank you” would be meaningless and valueless. You know how one needs this phrase to keep its value and power for it is the only thing I can give presently in return of your great favours. Kindest regards, Dh
From: Simon Baddeley Date: Sun, 28 Oct 2007 09:25:41 +0000 To: Dh
Dear Dh. Do not be embarrassed by gratitude. We are all too grown-up for this. We shall serve and drink coffee in small cups together no doubt and there will be English tea – though we are such a mixed bunch that few of our rituals are old. Most are invented for the occasion.
We are mostly aware of logistics as you are, and the Kafkaesque intricacies of bureaucracy – things that make us curse and fume and laugh and sigh with frustration and puzzlement. I like it that you went to the National Express website. We know the difficulties of coach travel. I got a journey from Birmingham to Scotland a few years ago – 500 miles for only £9.90 but it was a journey I am not keen to repeat. The coach was packed and the seats so close I sat with one foot in the aisle between the rows, and later, changing buses, stamped my feet in the cold in Glasgow at 4.00 in the morning because the waiting room there was closed until 4.30. I got a better seat northward at the rear of a more modern coach but it was next to the toilet and users thinking they were pressing the button for the flush pressed instead the emergency alarm mistakenly announcing to the driver and fellow passengers they were trapped. I got no sleep or rest all the way from Perth to Inverness, but during that night I did have a lovely conversation with an old lady about her popular romantic novel - which she was listening to on a tape recorder having joined the coach 200 miles earlier than me. She was small, and so quite comfortable. Later – on my computer and in between WC alarms – I watched ‘Casablanca’ on my laptop and was very moved when the Marseillaise was called for by Victor and Rick’s nod to the band signalled his move from cynical neutrality to commitment. I think we were somewhere near Drumochter Summit at the time. The sun was coming up but it was cold.

I feel that your Phd has to cover the political and sociological elements but that you will also know of Rory Stewart’s proposition that so much was to do with small but very significant exchanges between unique individuals, rather than grand strategy. Surely too, the work of Norbert Elias will inform your thinking. The notion of psychogenetics, the civilising and decivilising process, will influence your narrative. Whatever your sources, you are uniquely qualified by experience and past learning to tell a story not yet told.

Now yesterday Lin was filling gaps in the brickwork below our kitchen window. I guess some men would be ashamed that their wife does pointing. She does it with more craft than me. She mixes better mortar. Earlier she was filling higher up, relying on a stepladder. 'Some of the holes up here reach back to the back of the brick!' What I notice is that she doesn't do overalls but wears her maroon mac; her handbag on a chair just out of camera. At 208 Democracy Street a few weeks ago Lin was up a ladder mending the guttering on our balcony and was keen to get on the roof itself. At that point I put my foot down and refused to help.

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