Tuesday, 22 June 2010

Thoughts from Elsewhere

I've spent the last couple of weeks trying to remember the terminology, from my art-class days, for when you draw something by looking at the shapes of the things around it, rather than looking at lines of the subject itself.

That I have the time to dwell on such banalities can only mean one thing: I'm on holiday.

I once spent July in Sao Paulo by accident. No one had thought to tell me that it was possible to get so miserably cold in a tropical city that you needed to get dressed under the duvet. None of my friends warned me they would be 'wintering' (or is it 'summering'? I never can get used to calling June, July and August 'winter') in Europe with their families, and that I would have to endure endless solitary weeks in one of the worlds most populous cities.

Anyway, even though I now live in Rio, which has a gorgeous winter climate, I have, since that first cold July, fallen into the routine of spending July and August "back home".

And so here I am.

So far, being back home has meant lugging me, my children and too many suitcases between the homes of various relations and friends in the UK, the country of my official, passport-proven nationality. It has meant subjecting my children to endless family gatherings at which they look blankly at the second-or-third-or-once-twice-removed cousin (and who the hell can figure that out?) to whom they are being introduced and with whom they will dutifully play with for an hour but then totally forget until they meet again at an identical get-together next year. It has meant perfecting the art of yogic breathing to remain zen in the middle of a tug-of-war between grandparents, great-grandparents and friends over our too-little time. It has meant a lot of talking without a lot of listening. But it all means a lot.

I see these friends and family year in, year out. Nothing much changes. They get married or divorced. Newborns become children and we all just get a little bit older, but they are always there. We sit in the same parks, the same gardens and eat the same strawberries and talk about the same people and the same memories. Over time some people move away, out of range, and I stop seeing them, and it's like another thread breaking in the worn fabric that binds me to this country.

Anyway, I digress from the point of this post: When I return to England, specifically London, on my annual break from Brazil, I am always amazed at how amazed I am by it. I marvel at things that I never appreciated or even noticed when I actually lived there. I didn't think that I'd be able to write anything in my Brazil blog while I was on holiday outside of Brazil, but then I realized that all these things that I was noticing about England were actually inverse observations about Brazil.

Negative Space.

That's the term I was trying to remember. It came to me on a run along the Thames path, somewhere between Hammersmith and Barnes Railway bridges. And so, to keep my blogging brain a-ticking while I'm away, I'm going to fill in all the negative space with observations from abroad that in some way define part of my experience "back home" in my real home, in Brazil.


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