Custard

Things have gotten dark lately. I don’t mean in any sort of emotional or metaphorical sense. Literally, it’s been getting dark lately, as tends to happen during winter months, I suppose, you know, what with the tilt of the Earth and its journey around the sun and everything. Still, it came as quite a shock to me, having grown accustomed to such ceaseless unrelenting sunshine everyday, to open my window shades expecting a barrage of energising photons, and instead having to spend the rest of the morning trying to remember where I’d packed my umbrella.

At the age of 13 or 14 I suddenly became obsessed with the concept of consistency. I think it was something to do with never having had a single country to call my home, or living in a place like Singapore, where there was always just enough time to become somebody’s best friend before their dad’s boss made a casual decision during a Friday morning board meeting that sent the family spiralling off to a new life in China or Dubai or Hong Kong.

Change is definitely good. It’s what launches you outside of your comfort zone, forcing you to learn new skills for new situations and most importantly grinding you up against people whose customs you’re unaccustomed to. I would always advocate throwing all you’ve got at a single goal, turning your life so that it points in the opposite direction and soldiering through the curveballs and sliders of a new world where every person seems to drive on the wrong side of the road. This is, after all, exactly what I did when I set off to become a doctor in America with nothing but a degree in Politics & Sociology and a rough understanding of the Krebs cycle. (Doesn’t this make me sound like a Polish immigrant coming to New York in the 1890s? Give me your tired, your poor, your huddled masses…and those among you with first-class degrees from top British universities that have minimal scholastic value in America.)

I met a girl here a few days ago who has this whole academic thing completely nailed down. With straight As and a great shot at any medical school in the country, she is nearly ready to start that long, hard march to clinical residency. But she’s putting aside her applications for a year to travel. When I asked her where she wanted to go, she reeled off the names of most of the countries in Europe, and then added that she wouldn’t mind doing Africa, oh, and Asia too. She just wants to be anywhere but where she’s been for the last twenty years. Consistency is the last refuge of the unimaginative, or so claimed Oscar Wilde, and even the consistency so exquisitely crafted by my friend’s steady 4.0 GPA and her reliable circle of lifelong friends could do with a little disruption.

For all its merits, though, change can be a little trying sometimes. Spontaneity can get tiresome and unpredictability is not always welcome. There’s something mundanely beautiful about routine, something comforting in its familiarity, something beans-on-toast boring that you know is never going to let you down. And so, despite my claims of being a crazy maverick who moves five-thousand miles to complete anonymity, in truth I’m still surrounded by tiny islands of consistency that remind me of how mundane and unadventurous I really am. I call up Mama Burns for a chat nearly every day, or visit Holly and Sean and recant the same inside jokes we’ve had for the last decade. I go to the supermarket and buy butternut squash by the truckload, like I did without fail every week in Bristol, or jars of the same apple sauce I was eating back when I lived in Connecticut in 1995 (granted I was 6 then; the impressions I get from American friends now is that perhaps apple sauce is not something that twenty-two year olds are supposed to continue indulging in). For all the change we impose on ourselves and for all reports of clean slates and new leaves, there’s something comforting about doing the same old things, just in a brand new post code.

And so when I finally found my umbrella the other morning and ventured out into the grey wasteland outside my window, I didn’t get grumpy or mad about the change in weather. In fact, if anything, I felt a little homesick. The clouds in the sky and puddles on the street were just a little reminder of the last place I called home.

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Luckily for you, my taste in music is as bland and boring as it’s always been. An acoustic guitar and a clever lyric will catch my attention no matter what hemisphere I find myself in. I was catsitting again the other day, and in between textbooks, spent some time stumbling across the songs that passed me by while I wasn’t looking. One that slipped through the net way back in 2008 was something from Neil Halstead, who is, according to Wikipedia, “one of Britain’s most respected songwriters”. Though I haven’t had a chance to get to know his music super well yet, I’m happy for this title to stand while I listen to the excellent tune below again and again and again (and again and again and again).

Neil Halstead seems to get his words tangled up as he sings, and as a lifelong mumbler myself (I just got shivers at the thought of trying to articulate the phrase ‘lifelong mumbler myself’ out loud), there’s a nice familiarity there. He does, however, use the F-word perfectly.

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3 Comments Add Yours ↓

  1. Karolina says:
    1

    I love this song.

    I like what you said about consistency. Actually, I’ve been thinking about it recently, but from a slightly different perspective – about the consistency of learning, getting experience and knowledge – and what a weirdo I am with that compared to my friends. I have not travelled as intensively as you have,though (as a friend pointed out to me when I was grumbling about the monotony of my life) 20 countries, many revisited and re-lived in, in the 21 years of my life is not entirely monotonous. I wish I could have the courage to turn my small world around and make a decision similar to yours one day.

    PS. I did not live in Connecticut in 1995, but I DID live in Texas in 1996, so I think I know what kind of apple sauce you’re talking about. The memories of my 6 year-old self of the US are apple sauce, pumpkins, and those little peanut butter filled chocolates in orange wrapping.

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  2. Rachel says:
    2

    so i just made almost the same move but in reverse. texas to england for postgrad life. just delurking to say, you nailed it. change is pretty dadgum trying sometimes. um, also, reading this blog has more or less kept me fed the three weeks i’ve been here since you once made a reference to “beans on toast.” (the truth is out. i stalk blogs. i just really really really like good folk music.) but i was wandering the aisles of tesco when i went hey, anyone who likes josh ritter can’t have terrible taste in student food, right? and now i am addicted. thanks. keep listening to good music and good luck with the med school shenanigans.

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  3. PB says:
    3

    Nice post, Lukie. Good to hear your mind is still whirring…! Those people I met in South Yorkshire seem really keen on a duo by the name of The Civil Wars. Lovely harmonies; indifferent guitar playing to my mind but you might like if you don’t already. Like that Neil Halstead. His guitar playing sounds an awful lot like someone we know!

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