To say that time flies would be to suggest a rush or a soar that misrepresents my first six months in this little backwater of Korea. Time moves quickly but with the fluid speed of oil poured on palms, slipping through fingers. The gentleness of flow, along with the thick muffling blanket of a foreign language lulls me into hazy realms that many people would pay good money to achieve. It would be quite pleasant if it were not for the necessity of interactions with real people in the real world – a sporadic and annoying inconvenience, like being shaken awake by a stranger on a long train journey.
Sometimes in these quiet, lazy days, I miss Prague. Perhaps it is only hindsight that bathes everything in the mellowest light, but I miss the easy, hypnotic sway of life that had me moving to its rhythm before I even realised I had picked out the beat. There is something so unmistakably bohemian about Bohemia, where even the tamest of friends seem wild; the most innocuous of activities seem avant-garde. No doubt my recollections are coloured by who I was then, and who I became. It was in Prague that for the first time in my life I had a room of my own; that marvellous isolation, that space to be, that time to think. I can close my eyes now and be back in my first apartment with its wide windows and wooden floor, dancing in a shaft of sunlight that warmed the strange, oversized bed, listening to music and to the sound of children in the kindergarten across the street. Having nothing to do and no-one to see, no telephone or television or distractions of any kind, just a decadent emptiness waiting to be filled and the time and energy and creativity to fill it.
Here, too, I have time and space. Long-ago when I was still flailing around in the noisy ocean of domesticity I dreamed of the space I have now – a room more garret-like than any dark place under the eaves, outside my window just sunshine and fields and muted conversations, inside warm, dry, comfortable, quiet. Back then I could only imagine the long solitary days and nights that I now enjoy. I have to work, but it’s not hard. I have to spend time in the classroom, but there are many more hours spent in the staff room where I am invisible, left in my own silent world. Beyond work I have few duties or social obligations to bind my time.
And this easy occupation provides enough of that other essential commodity; cash. The melody of Prague was too often interrupted by the hungry howls of the wolves at my door. Here there is a new experience to enjoy – here I am financially secure.
A room of one’s own and five-hundred a year – according to Ms Woolf, prerequisites for any woman if she wants to write fiction. Reading Ginny’s essay recently only confirmed what I always knew and what I have been inching towards for many years. A room of one’s own and five-hundred a year – it is a deep truth, though an incomplete one. How else to explain why – while sitting here in this perfect environment with ample money, abundant time, lavish space – why am I scratching out a blog and thrashing around to find any available distraction?
A room of one’s own, five hundred a year and an enormous amount of self-discipline is what I think Ms Woolf meant to say. I expect that at the turn of the 20th Century there were fewer distractions. At the turn of the 21st Century the potent trinity of Facebook, spider solitaire and CSI re-runs turn potential creativity into a lost moment. Still, this is no excuse. Here, in circumstances so ideal they almost seem stolen from the pages of a quixotic author’s biography, here, in my little room in Korea, there is nothing left between me and that great novel, that marketable short story, that lucrative article, but the vast expanse of my own apathy and indiscipline. No wonder I reminisce about Prague and its small but worthy diversions. Here I am naked and exposed for the spineless malingerer I am.
It is six months since I arrived in Korea. Time enough to acclimatise and adjust. Time enough to know that I do not want to spend too much more time teaching English indifferently to indifferent students. Time to realise that if I can’t do it here, I can’t do it at all.
It is now almost a year on since I wrote this piece. This website contains my burgeoning efforts at writing with the intention of being read by others. It will include course work from the writing courses I am taking, old blog posts and new observations. Thank you for taking the time to read. Any constructive comments will be welcomed.