1. A good week so far, not much work but just enough to stay alive. i enjoy teaching when i don’t do it from 0800 to 2045 (which means leaving my flat at 0640 and getting home at 2200). But it’s almost impossible to do more than survive as an English teacher. i have bits & pieces of high-paying work (25 € for 45 minutes) and an awful lot of McLingua work (13 €). As a freelancer in the most expensive city in Germany, with no sick pay, no holidays, no health insurance, no pension, this would be like getting 4 pounds an hour back in Blighty. But it is nonetheless vastly superior to minimum wage office work. For example, one of my students told me a great story on Monday – it sounds like an urban legend but he apparently heard it through a friend (Dirk): Dirk found his dog savaging a rabbit and, to his horror, realised it was his neighbour’s rabbit; he extricated it, found it was soundly dead, cleaned all the blood off, prettied it up, and sneaked into his neighbour’s garden to put it back in the hutch. The next day his neighbour, wild-eyed, told him his rabbit had died of natural causes several days ago, he had buried it; then THREE DAYS LATER it was back in the hutch, stone dead but inexplicably clean and prim. Dirk had to calm him down and reassure him that sometimes things like this happen and all you can do is accept it and move on.

2. Listening to such tales is clearly preferable to office work. A nice passage from Nick Hornby’s Slam:

I’m not saying that people who join the army would like to be tortured. But they must have thought about it, right? So they must have decided that it wouldn’t be as bad as other things, like being on the dole, or working in an office. For me, working in an office would be better than being tortured. Don’t get me wrong. I wouldn’t be happy doing a boring job, like photocopying a piece of paper over and over again, every single day, until I died. But on the whole I’d be happier doing that than having cigarettes put out in my eye. What I’m hoping is that those aren’t my choices.

i’m not sure i could endure slow torture if the alternative was only office work. But realistically there would always be the third option: suicide, which i would choose over both. This would strike most people as nonsense but i dare say they haven’t wasted 5 years “photocopying a piece of paper over and over again, every single day”, which  is more or less how i spent the years from 2004 to 2009, the only alternatives being: suicide; leave England; become perpetual dolescum (3 years was enough); become homeless; become a criminal.

3. Reading Nietzsche, 16 years ago, i abandoned any possibility of objective understanding. We see what we expect to see, more or less. We filter out everything that doesn’t fit our pre-conceptions. i try to remain flexible, to consider “what would it be like, to think otherwise?” – to consider that i may be wrong; it helps that i disagree with many of my last life’s (insane) views. i would prefer not to become a monolithic old fuck with stock responses to everything, one of these strongly left- or right-wing windbags with a predictably left- or right-wing response to everything, push a button and watch the light come on; though i realise this is more or less what i have become.

My background – being half-Indian in the (statistically) most racist county in England, going to a school with racist Hitler Youth rugger buggers and Muslim fundamentalists for 8 years, later proving totally unemployable for jobs i could do with one brain tied behind my back, surviving for 5 years on minimum wage data entry, then more or less being forced to leave England to get a halfway tolerable job – all this has nudged me towards hating England.

The nicer parts of England – villages of rich folk – would be off limits to me because i’m half-Indian; i could live there, if i was very rich, but i’m well-acquainted with the knife-in-the-ribs racism of rich folk and rustics (remarks like “hot isn’t it? I imagine you like that” and “not many curry houses in this area, you know”, from the rich; and “Paki bastard, fuck off” from the rest). And no, they’re not all like that, but enough. And no, i don’t want more anti-racism laws.

i like the idea of England but in reality, it isn’t my home. Lacking a regional accent, being a half-caste mongrel, and being educated but incapable of apple polishing my way into a graduate job, i belong neither here nor there; i am a kind of nowhere person, at home in literature and with my bloodthirsty Germanic gods, and with my friends. Literature professors regard me with something between contempt and fear; “neo-pagans” would regard me as a funny brown person who should be gassed along with the Jews; and my friends are generally awkward unhomed freaks.

4. There is a species of content, belly-patting apple polishers, with cushy jobs, mortgages, Volvos, children, pensions, long-term career prospects, savings. It is natural that they feel England is in pretty good shape, never been better in fact, punching above its weight, etc. etc. i don’t want to push the Nietzschean perspectivism too far but i think it’s fair to say they are sanguine about the country’s rapid decline, and more or less ignore the increase in street crime, the savagery, the vulgarity and general awfulness of public behaviour & media, because England has been good to them. Did well at school, went to uni, drank a lot, got a good First, ended up with a cushy job, apple polished their way to the top and it’s 2012 and all’s well. The present situation has proved a propitious environment, for them, so they love it. Increasingly frequent random street murders are just signs of good cheer and anyway such things happened in the 8th Century so it means nothing ever changes, life now is much the same as it was in the 1930s or 1830s or 730s, etc. etc. One can imagine such folk in Germany in the 30s bellowing good-naturedly that nothing really changes, people liked to dress up in the 1830s too, etc. etc. Limited minds, unlimited self-confidence. One thing is sure, such folk will always succeed; they have the right mix of blithe good cheer, wilful ignorance, diligent apple polishing, and a general confidence in the world. For me, the world (in the Johannine sense) is a dead rabbit that’s been prettified but is nonetheless stinking dead. i don’t want that fucker in my hutch. i want an empty hutch so i can buy a vole or a dwarf child. As George Bernard Shaw put it, in John Bull’s Other Island:

BROADBENT: I find the world quite good enough for me: rather a jolly place, in fact.

KEEGAN [looking at him with quiet wonder]. You are satisfied?

BROADBENT. As a reasonable man, yes. I see no evils in the world—except, of course, natural evils—that cannot be remedied by freedom, self-government, and English institutions. I think so, not because I am an Englishman, but as a matter of common sense.

KEEGAN. You feel at home in the world, then?

BROADBENT. Of course. Don’t you?

KEEGAN [from the very depths of his nature]. No.

BROADBENT [breezily]. Try phosphorus pills. I always take them when my brain is overworked. I’ll give you the address in Oxford Street.