July 7th, 2019


Senior Moments

As I write this, I’m on a crowded train “rushing” home from York to Bristol. I’ve been staying with Haruka at the house of my old PhD supervisor and his wife, and a nice time we had too. (Haruka has gone off in a different direction, to London, so for now I’m on my own.)

It’s strange being in a place where I spent so much happy time in what must now be counted as the moderately distant past, and that temporal discombobulation showed itself in a dream I had last night. There, I was asked, in some kind of social situation, how old I was. “Twenty-six,” I replied automatically. Even in my dream this sounded a little odd, so my dream-self corrected it: “I mean, thirty-six.”

Then I awoke, and realised the truth - that I was in fact forty-six - or rather (as I became a little less bleary) fifty-six. That was my final bid for the moment, but a very salutary wakening it had been. Perhaps it had something to do with the fact that, when I was a York habitue, I really was in my mid-twenties?

My supervisor, meanwhile, who retired a few years ago, was embarrassed two nights ago because he unthinkingly cut the boil-in-the-bag fish he was making for supper out of its bag and put it into the oven on a baking tray. The truth is that it tasted perfectly fine, but he dwelt on his error, until I told him:

“It’s not a senior moment; it’s an emeritus moment.”

The conceit pleased him.

Bird and Butler

As long as I’m on this train, I’ll just mention that, when I was talking with Chiho, my friend from Kagoshima, the other day, she mentioned the Victorian traveller Isabella Bird, as a Westerner who had written a book on Japan in that era (I’ve an amateur interest in such people, being in a small way one of their successors). Naturally I looked her up on Wikipedia, and was surprised to find, almost in the first line of her substantial entry, a reference to my great-great-aunt, Fanny Jane Butler. When Fanny founded her hospital in Srinagar, Bird provided the money.

It was just one incident in an extremely eventful life that took Bird to adventures in not only Japan but China, Australia, Hawaii and the Rocky Mountains, among other places, but perhaps it was the most influential. One-eyed Jim Nugent, the charismatic adventurer/poet with whom Bird spent such an invigorating time in the 1870s has long since been dust: coyote and cougar stamp o’er his head. The hospital survives to this day.