I seem to have this exceptional ability to forget books and films about fifteen minutes after I’ve read/seen them. No, really, it’s a wonderful talent to have. I can watch films over and over again and be just as surprised when the good guy turns out to be a villain, or when the husband’s been having an affair, or when the dead people turn out to be alive and the alive people turn out to be dead. It’s great!
And so, I’m now re-reading one of my favourite books and enjoying it immensely: The Magus, by John Fowles. The good thing is that I can’t remember why it’s one of my favourite books, I just happened to see it at the library and suddenly I remembered HEY! That’s one of my favourite books and I can’t remember a thing about it except that it takes place on a Greek island. I’ll take it!
The interesting thing, of course, is that as it all starts to come back to me, the stuff that was happening in my life when I read it also starts to come back to me. It was around 20 years ago [precisely, in fact – it was 1988], I’d been living in the UK for several months where I did a certificate course on Teaching English as a Foreign Language. I’d gone there from Canada because I desperately needed a change – I just wanted to take off somewhere and start a new life, preferably in Europe because I loved Europe, or at least the idea of Europe.
So I did the Cert. TEFL course and then got offered about three jobs in the UK for the summer, so I wound up staying and teaching in a school in a small seaside town called Ramsgate on the east coast of Kent. It was excellent fun, people came from all over the world to take English courses and the school had this incredibly vibrant social life – owned its own pub, for example, and every weekend there was a tour somewhere – to London, Cambridge, Oxford … to take in musicals, museums, theatre, whatever. Plus I loved almost everything about England – hard to explain; the moment I arrived there I felt like I was home. BUT alas, it was only for the summer [student numbers dropped drastically in September] so I was on the lookout for jobs in the fall.
This girl I worked with – Karen – had been living and working in Spain for about ten years and came home to the UK every summer to teach. She was heading back down to Spain and had just bought a car in the UK – a car she barely knew how to drive, since she’d just got her drivers’ licence. So she enlisted my company – suggested I drive down with her and in return for helping her parallel park en route she’d help me find a place to live in Spain and put me in contact with some potential employers. Sounded like a good deal to me.
So off we went. We drove to Portsmouth [or was it Plymouth?] and then took the ferry down to Santander. From there we drove to Valencia, where Karen lived. She had a couple of friends who were looking for a roommate – in fact one of them, who was Irish, was just about to move back to Ireland, but the other, who was British, was staying. So I moved in. It was a great flat, had four bedrooms, two bathrooms and maid service – and there were only two of us living there. Plus it was cheap.
BUT – somehow Spain didn’t really agree with me. For one thing, my new roommate turned out to be an inveterate druggie … he was perpetually stoned, all day, every day. It was completely depressing. Work didn’t work out as I had hoped [or, at least not until I’d made a decision to return to England … as soon as that happened things got moving, but by then it was too late] and it just didn’t feel right. Much as I love holidaying in the south of Europe, I’m more of a northern European soul. Plus I’d recently split up with my boyfriend and left him behind in the UK and kind of missed him and didn’t know what I wanted to do. I probably wasn’t in the best frame of mind.
Be that as it may, I spent around five weeks in Spain, and for much of that time I was immersed in the wonderful, sensual world of The Magus, which my stoner roommate had lent to me and even recommended highly. So now I associate that book with a beach in Valencia, orange groves en route to a small village in the mountains where I ended up teaching for two weeks, and a tall, lanky roommate with perpetually dilated pupils.
And now, if you’ll excuse me, I plan to go curl up with Nicholas Urfe* and friends.
THE WEATHER IS CHANGING
At least from what it’s been this summer – sunshine, day after day. Although I suppose a couple of mostly cloudy days are nothing to complain about – nor do they necessarily mean that it’s all downhill from here. But cloudy it was, plus relatively windy and we had the odd shower. At the moment we have 12°C [54F]. Sunrise 5.20 am, sunset 9.42.
* the main character