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21 January 2010 @ 08:34 pm
wiping off cobwebs  
It's been a thousand years since I posted, I know. Where to start?

I finished a book, took some unpaid leave from my job, and am now living with I. in the Middle East, writing a novel. I'd been planning and researching bits of one during the final stages of the Loathed Long-Overdue Academic Book, but, after I got here, realised that I in fact wanted to write an entirely different novel which started bursting out of my brain, if not fully-formed, then at least with all its fingers and toes and the beginnings of an attitude.

So here, I am, living in a skyscraper with a view of Millionaire Yachts, shisha cafes and an artificial island shaped like a palm tree, avoiding expat women groups (which are full of beaky-faced xenophobes discussing their maids), taking Arabic lessons, but mostly writing. It's like being an Alice in a very peculiar Wonderland built by imported slave labour, where the native population is massively outnumbered by foreigners, where cohabiting and having sex with I. is illegal, where the malls sell skimpy women's clothing which is not allowed to be worn in public, and we buy our wine surreptitiously in a semi-legal shop with no name or address.  I. spends his time trying to persuade Sheikhs to sign things before they go off falcon-hunting in the desert.

The future is a complete mystery, but that's the present, at any rate.
Sheenagh Pugh: Anthony Gormley's Another Placesheenaghpugh on January 21st, 2010 04:44 pm (UTC)
Which country? I happen to know writers in both Dubai and Oman at present!
Seaweedsmellingbottle on January 22nd, 2010 09:22 am (UTC)
Dubai. Do you really know writers here? Or, failing that, anyone whose primary interest isn't manicures?
helixaspersahelixaspersa on January 21st, 2010 04:47 pm (UTC)
Goodness, how interesting; I vaguely remember that you were going to take some unpaid leave, but if I ever knew, I had completely forgotten that you were going to the Middle East. Please post more and tell us about it!
Seaweedsmellingbottle on January 22nd, 2010 09:27 am (UTC)
Yes, I dithered for a long time, but circmstances conspired etc etc. And I was so exhausted by finishing the book I couldn't face returning to teaching immediately. Plus, as one academic to another, my cash-strapped institution was almost insultingly eager to save a year of my salary ...
helixaspersahelixaspersa on January 22nd, 2010 09:34 am (UTC)
Excellent that you got the book finished. When is it coming out? I spent Christmas doing the final-final proofs for my book which is imminent - I had thought that making the index was high on the boredom-quotient-scale, but it paled in comparison to minutely checking every entry in said index when I got the proofs . . .

Do you have the whole year off? Does I. know how long he'll be there?
Seaweedsmellingbottle on January 22nd, 2010 09:51 am (UTC)
I don't have a date, and to be honest (in a cowardly poltroonish manner), I dread the further faffing, proofing, index-related horrors so much I'm not pushing as much as I should. I think the issue is I feel at the moment I'm not actually an academic at all. I'd thought I'd pick up some part-time teaching out here to keep my hand in, but nothing at all transpired, and I've had to turn down some requests for book essays and papers, as I have no proper library access here - I'm making an income from the sillier kind of freelance journalism and writing for the arts pages of a local paper, which is quite fun in some ways. Yes, I took a full year out - I. is hoping to have a better sense of where his business is going within the next couple of months, so we're trying (not entirely successfully) not to look further ahead than March or April.

helixaspersahelixaspersa on January 22nd, 2010 09:58 am (UTC)
I know what you mean about the faff; I have got through it by studiously *not thinking* about the following stage each time I finish one bit. Relative ignorance of the process has helped here. Though at the moment I'm thinking about the very rough possible outline for my next book - it's hard, though interesting, to go back to that very abstract, general phase, where all is hope and ambition, directly after being mired in the most tedious, small-scale parts of the process.

But mostly I am just worrying about jobs, as I don't have one for next year, and the market is *incredibly* slow at the moment, there is almost nothing. I suppose there must eventually be some temporary things advertised, but the uncertainty, all over again, is hard to take. And in some ways worse than last year, because at least last year I was so *looking forward* to leaving Oxford, in whatever form; whereas I love my job here and will be so sad to leave.
the femme dandy highwaymanglitzfrau on January 21st, 2010 04:58 pm (UTC)
How wonderful! It's so great to hear from you again, and I can't wait to hear more about the desert life.
Seaweedsmellingbottle on January 22nd, 2010 09:28 am (UTC)
Thank you! I will say more in the future about what people coyly refer to as the Sand Pit.
Lollardfishlollardfish on January 21st, 2010 04:59 pm (UTC)
I am thrilled to hear that you are writing a novel. I shall be even more thrilled if you will allow us the chance to read it when the time comes.
Seaweedsmellingbottle on January 22nd, 2010 09:29 am (UTC)
Honestly, I was so committed to the other novel that I came out here to write originally, before this new one jumped the queue, that I still have a guilt complex, as though I'm engaging in some papery form of adultery... But thanks, and have been enjoying your posts on your family.
Fortune depends on the tone of your voicebopeepsheep on January 21st, 2010 05:06 pm (UTC)
Best Childhood Friend unexpectedly moved to Qatar a few months ago, with three under-sixes. (She apparently spends her days running French conversation classes, rescuing Iggle Piggle from camels, and half-wishing she was back in Kent so the kids wouldn't complain about the heat so much.)

I think it sounds like a wildly exciting thing to do! I'd like to hear more about the novel.
Seaweedsmellingbottle on January 22nd, 2010 09:34 am (UTC)
That sounds about right, though I don't know Qatar at all - one feels woefully under-accessorised without any under-sixes at all! I will post more about the novel.
White Hartwhite_hart on January 21st, 2010 06:41 pm (UTC)
Wow! And there was I thinking you were plugging away at academic work in London (that was probably last academic year, now I think about it - you had research leave, as I recall).

Hope the novel continues to go well!
Seaweedsmellingbottle on January 22nd, 2010 09:36 am (UTC)
That's right, that was last year. I would have been back to teaching this past September if my institution hadn't been so eager to dispense with services (and save a year of my salary) that it waived requirements for the usual notice period etc. I slung the other book off to the pubblishers and came over here with two suitcases of books and two pairs of jeans and started to plug away more enjoyably at the novel. Thanks for the good wishes.
Lady Summerisle: Cities condor in flightstrange_complex on January 21st, 2010 06:44 pm (UTC)
Gosh, that's quite a change of pace! Sounds fantastically exciting though, and like those above, I'm looking forward to hearing more.
Seaweedsmellingbottle on January 22nd, 2010 09:38 am (UTC)
I feel slightly as though I've stepped out of my own life, which is both uncomfortable and liberating. There will be more. I'd have updated sooner if it wasn't that all my writing energies were being directed elsewhere, or I thought they were...
hartleyharehartleyhare on January 21st, 2010 08:30 pm (UTC)
Oh wow, that's a bit of a change! Good luck with the novel!
Seaweedsmellingbottle on January 22nd, 2010 09:39 am (UTC)
Thank you! it's an odd period, but interesting...
melancholy in the rainliseuse on January 21st, 2010 10:07 pm (UTC)
It seems like the middle east is where a lot of people in my life (no matter how tangentially) are ending up right now. It was lovely to see this post pop up on my friendslist with that familiar, and comforting, usericon. I'm glad that you are well, and working on the novel.
Seaweedsmellingbottle on January 22nd, 2010 09:41 am (UTC)
Well, there was that annoying little banker ditty from a year or two ago that went something like 'Shanghai, Mumbai, Dubai, or bye-bye!' which is kind of what happened to I. (and a lot of other people, as you say.) Not that he's a banker, or anything nefarious, I should add... It's probably the most unsuitable icon for out here - all I can think of is the sensation of trying to get into an armchair of extremely hot leather... Though actually, the temperature if perfectly pleasant here at the moment, but will be back to hellish from April or so.
melancholy in the rainliseuse on January 22nd, 2010 01:21 pm (UTC)
Oddly only a couple of the people I know are actually in banking. One teaches English to Deeply Irritating Girls in Saudi and spends a lot of time trying to escape to Bahrain, and two of the others are digging for shards of pottery and gazing wistfully at pictures of snow on fbook.
IkIkswedishhorse on January 22nd, 2010 12:09 am (UTC)
That is a change! A very interesting post after all these months. I hope you will post more about your adventures out there. I too am curious if it is Dubai or Oman?

Seaweedsmellingbottle on January 22nd, 2010 09:45 am (UTC)
It's Dubai, though planning to go to Oman for a few days soon, as I've never been - and it sounds much more congenial. I will post more soon...
IkIkswedishhorse on January 25th, 2010 03:57 am (UTC)
I had a six hour layover at the Dubai Airport on my way over here to Australia. The airport alone was something. I went to Kuwait, Saudi Arabi and Baharain when I was ten. Dubai Airport alone showed me that the above three were vastly different from the former. But then again this was sixteen years ago so not sure now.

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