Photo by Matthieu Joannon on Unsplash
The heat hangs heavy on the head, the way a wet blanket only partially wrung dry after being pounded by feet in a washbasin hangs listlessly in a barely-there breeze. The short afternoon walks to the canteen, to grab some combination of a salad, chicken and rice is beginning to feel like a chore, not helped by the sand which has become a permanent fixture it seems. Some days G and I wonder if the haze is from fog or dust but the loud whirl of my air purifier settles it for me; dust it is – that most irritating kind that finds its way through every tiny crinkle in our armour, covering everything with a fine layer of brown. Not far away in their ubiquity are the flies which flit around everything, their persistent buzz the soundtrack to life in these baking summer months. With Ramadan behind us, it is the season of long vacations and every other day it seems someone else in the wider team disappears for a few weeks. My turn to disappear is in about a month, and for the first time in a long time, I am looking forward to kicking back, waking up at my leisure then sticking L in her stroller and grabbing brunch with real bacon. Adding a few more Parkruns to my total – with maybe one push for a new PB – would be a welcome bonus.
Listening to the news on the odd occasion I catch it, it strikes me just how much of it is prattling on about the unserious stuff – Depp and Heard and Rooney and Vardy are a case in point – but out here amongst fellow prodigals abroad the impacts of the Ukraine-Russia conflict loom large. From the Ukrainian family who persists in spamming a WhatsApp group with images from the war to the Russian chap who can’t send money home to his descendants, the abstractions that are the news of sanctions and bombs falling here or there hit home. An unintended consequence is that Europe has finally gotten their finger out and their heads from being bent down navel-gazing to start thinking about energy security again. Companies which let tons of folk go are back on the market trying to recruit; it is very much boom again, and just how long it will last remains to be seen. I remain bullish on nuclear and carbon capture.
It seems that along with death and taxes, twists and turns worthy of a Stephen King page-turner in Nigerian politics, gun deaths in America and yet another sexual abuse case in bible-belt America are (unwelcome) facts of life. The less said about these the better I suspect, though my inner complex systems enthusiast can’t help but ponder the social and religious interactions which have resulted in the state of affairs these three (not entirely disparate) events represent. Regardless of what one thinks about the benefits of “thoughts and prayers”, there comes a time when they are functionally the equivalent of burying one’s head in the sand (a less charitable reading would be that they are an excuse for permitting the status quo from which we benefit persist).
In reading, a return to catching the bus at a slightly less obscene hour has enabled me to catch up on my plan. In the past month, Atul Gawande’s The Checklist Manifesto and John Walton’s The Lost World of Genesis One have been very good reads. Finally digging into Fola Fagbule and Feyi Fawehinmi’s Formation: has also been an interesting experience; I am finding myself pausing to go google some arcane fact and/or look up a map. I have also reread bits of Julian Barnes’ Booker Prize-winning The Sense of An Ending, from which a very prescient quote jumped out at me:
Time … give us enough time and our best-supported decisions will seem wobbly, our certainties whimsical
Coming up to the two-year mark out here, I can’t shake the feeling that it very much is the beginning of an ending of sorts. Fingers crossed.