As a principle rule there comes a point where all academics and/or PhD’s must leave, not just the country but the entire continent. Merely leaving the country would be far too paltry.
Like a roving sailor, the academic boards his or her ship and sets sail, to new lands and new adventures: Lovers and thesis material in every port.
I suspect this is a calling or perhaps an addiction. In the movies it compels the protagonist to go off wandering on adventures that are as implausible as they are improbable. Like Captain Kirk; Never mooring his ship long enough to allow any of his alien lovers a chance to outlive him.
Or more prosaically, like Anush my neighbour PhD (8 years thesis) who arrived from the US in London only to leave promptly 3 weeks later for Palestine. Lover in Palestine, family in Bombay, work in London, PhD in the US; Why restrict yourself to a low-carbon footprint? Besides long-distance commutes with occasional visa trouble is practically mandatory for any self-respecting academic.
So T invited us to her Leaving-For-Australia party. While in the tube on the way there I saw a very attractive black man with a beautiful Indian girl (she may not have been Indian, I’m assuming because she was brown) in our carriage, and I thought, Damn that is one attractive couple.
Later while walking down the street and simultaneously leaning over the Ex’s iPhone to backseat drive the directions, I saw an attractive woman, also holding an iPhone, wandering about eyes glued to the screen and I thought damn that is another attractive person. What the heck is happening in Paddington?
Later at the party I saw both of them there.
Damn that T.
She has far too many attractive friends. I should have guessed.
We were fashionably (extremely) late to the party and walked in when T was right in the middle of a very entertaining speech, perched on top of the table, hands clasped in front, like some messiah preaching to the flock.
I forget the gist of the speech, but it was well delivered and very funny. A career as an academic is clearly a colossal waste. TV is T’s destiny. Some kind of chat show, or reality show or something like Mary Beard, poncing about ruins enthusiastically telling you fun facts about orgies and homosexuals.
Like any good host, T had devised some stratagems to introduce her guests to one another and get them mingling.
At her last party she tossed in delightful conversational bombs like:
“The ex wants to open an underwear factory and Janine hates breeders. X sings in a choir and Y is a lesbian. Goodbye”
Leaving the stunned introductees to pick themselves up out of the debris of that little social grenade.
This time however it was a more civilised and involved a roll of rectangular stickers upon which she wrote her association for that person and stuck it on their chest. The guests would then be able to compare notes, thus facilitating conversation.
e.g. mine was “Breeders”, the ex’s was “Things I like to ride”
A pale wispy sort of man had “Sweaty” on his chest sticker. T said it was because he was a runner. In my mind he will now always be a sweaty pale man holding a wet drink at the party. I think T may have done him a little disservice there. “Sweaty” should never be on a chest sticker.
Sweaty aside, I enjoy things at parties that lubricate the awkward gaps that occasionally build within a conversation.
My social anxiety kicked in right away, especially at an early stage when I was making laborious small talk with one particular girl.
Imagine a rickety wheel-barrow, wheels crusted with mud and cement.
Now imagine it full of hard-bound books, not Barbara Cartlands’ but long volumes of tedious prose.
Up ahead is a steep hill, with an endless flight of stairs. You need to get up it.
It flashed though my mind at this point that I wouldn’t be able to make it through this party. I went to over to the ex and hissed desperately
“Let’s leave in 15 mins!”
Happily just then I moved away and found someone else (who was much easier to talk to.). I think that’s the trick I need to learn – How to move away politely. At my mother’s 60th I spent a lot of time in my room or in the loo, trying to avoid uphill polite chit-chat.
Soon after moving I got drunk and met a bunch of lesbians. That always helps.
(There was a deceptively delicious cocktail called ‘Grandma’s Apple Pie’. Did what it said on the tin except with a significant kicker. The outer rim of my vision blurred into mellow fuzziness after the second of these killers.)
By the end of the evening there was a tiny knot of drunk lesbians that had somehow gravitated together in one corner of the room, like sponge cells re-assembling.
I spent half an hour talking to a Librarian performance artist about her wandering Library and how it is possible to cultivate multiple fake boyfriends and girlfriends across Europe & America. There were some basic rules, but sadly Grandma’s Apple Pie has erased all of them.
Ah Lesbians. All is well when there are lesbians.
On that note, adios, good morning, good evening and adieu.
Ps: Off to Bombay in 3 days! Oh yes yes yes yes!!
I’m ready and prepared to spend a lot of time lying down and eating things.