1. A great morning today, teaching at a Big Tobacco company, four students, one a smoker, all rather cool. To my delight, the smoker casually produced a cigarette and lit up in the first five minutes. i initially froze, expecting a fire alarm, a red-faced manager, legal action, prison time & sodomy for all involved, but it turns out everyone is allowed to smoke in the building, if they want. i don’t want to, though had i known i might have brought my pipe out, and smoked some crack cocaine.
The lesson was “business English”, my favourite when it’s done properly – at i______a, my first, bad TEFL boss, everything was business English, but badly, stupidly so – try teaching badass grammar using a fictitious company for examples, just to make it as abstract and remote as possible. At today’s employer (same as in Ultima Thule), the business English is mercifully reserved for high-level students, and contains no grammar. Most of the time it’s only for people who actually know about business, and all i have to do is ask them to read a short text and then discuss it. Although i have zero interest in starting my own, Elberry-themed company, i find it interesting, as one manifestation of human society. At times it seems obscene, to be paid even the low 13 €/45 minutes that my school dispenses, for such joys. In addition, i managed to talk about The Insider and to steal a corporate matchbox. Another victory for the forces of Elberry.
2. Between classes i now occupy a table at Starbucks, where i write by hand and stare at people till they get uncomfortable and leave. The regular cashier is a very pretty girl, with whom i have one-sided conversations, she speaking German, me nodding and saying “ja, ja”, with almost no idea of what i’m agreeing to.
After an initial sense of extreme difficulty, i can now write properly by hand, and am managing a few hundred words of my bad old novel every day. i find the background noise & movement of the cafe useful, as i do the mess of my handwriting, the crossings-out and emendations, the sense of physical difficulty in creation. Perhaps it is my nature, that i cannot trust anything too easy, that for me any real achievement requires hard work. It need not be grimly so, however, and for all my tendency of gloom & despair, i hope to win something good from the mess of my handwriting, and my life.
3. i’ve been feeling stronger of late, able to cope with my crazed landlady and her hounds. i think in part this is to do with Juniper’s benign presence in my mind. Today, reading The Portrait of a Lady, i came upon this:
It was simply that Ralph was generous and that her husband was not. There was something in Ralph’s talk, in his smile, in the mere fact of his being in Rome, that made the blasted circle round which she walked more spacious. He made her feel the good of the world; he made her feel what might have been.
i feel the real muses are so; by their being, more even than by any explicit act, they bring something of the gods, a larger vision. It is to do with who they are – with how they see the world – and that, in a sense, is their world. Their brighter, larger world enters ours; they seduce, by their perception, by their everyday, unconsidered encounter with things. If we cannot adopt their world entirely (for it is theirs), it nonetheless penetrates and diffuses ours with its farther colour, its depth and subtlety and poise. So it is i feel graced by Juniper – not by her mere generosity (and she is generous, a giving nature) but by her world – so much gentler and brighter than mine, having found some resource against despair.
i arrange my life that i may receive such grace. A muse like Juniper is not to be previsioned, calculated, trapped – but i experience many lesser accounts, from, e.g. Henry James, the pretty girl at Starbucks, my sturdy Parker 51, from Munich itself – from every beauty, every accomplishment. It is all a matrix, within which spirit may, perhaps, survive against despair.