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Resolver problemas. Enfrentar la responsabilidad del día. De pronto el mundo parece constreñirme de una manera insoportable; todo esto que es útil, todo el deber (ser, hacer) es una agitación de superficies, una imagen eficiente de mí que ahoga lo que soy. Lo que yo soy. Tengo que repetirlo muchas veces para caer en mí: lo que yo soy.
Basta con mirar a la gente en la calle, en el autobús, para entender que esto es, en buena medida, la vida humana. Navegar en la circunstancia.
Ahora mi circunstancia es un problema de inmigración, un problema de salud, mucho trabajo. Otros se mueven en otras circunstancias, similares o completamente distintas, atroces o cargadas de bendiciones. ¿Por qué siento, cada vez con mayor frecuencia, que las circunstancias de los otros son arrojadas sobre mi cabeza, abrumándome con historias que no quiero conocer? No sé si estoy perdiendo la soledad. No me gusta.
Nuestros vecinos se pusieron paranoicos por la remota posibilidad de un robo en el edificio y pusieron una cámara de circuito cerrado en el diminuto vestíbulo que divide su studio flat del nuestro. Primero me reí mucho, porque no podía entender el mecanismo mental que les había llevado a hacer una cosa semejante. Pero cada día que pasa la maldita cámara me enoja más y más. Lo que me cuesta concebir ahora es tamaña estupidez. Me descubro ya actuando para la cámara: fingiendo que no está ahí, fingiendo que no sé que está ahí, comportándome de manera “natural” pero consciente de ello, en un esfuerzo supremo por ignorarlos, harta de ser espiada.
El equipaje de toda mi vida se mezcla con el peso de la imbecilidad que parece impregnar el planeta, ¿o es sólo esta ciudad? He sido espiada desde niña; estoy acostumbrada al ojo invisible que me observa, a vivir como si no existiera, confundiendo el ojo de Dios con el ojo familiar, el ojo del destino, siempre intentando desafiar esa mirada con mi absoluta ignorancia (fingida) de su existencia. Ahora esta cámara, aquí, en la puerta de mi casa, las cámaras esparcidas por toda la ciudad como un universo delirante en cuya realidad todavía me cuesta creer, me arrojan fuera del universo. Empeñada en negarlas, viajo hacia adentro. No existen. No existe el espectáculo de todo lo que somos. Si no puedo romperlas a patadas, las romperé con mis ojos cerrados. Hacerlas explotar, hacer explotar el ojo insomne.
¿En dónde empieza la libertad? ¿Hasta qué punto puede nadie escapar a sus circunstancias? Quiero quitarme de encima esto que me oprime esta tarde, esta capa pesadísima de una mañana perdida resolviendo problemas, esta prisa de hormiga, esta sensación de huida permanente interrumpiendo el único momento realmente significativo: el manzano florecido en un parquecito, en medio del desolado paisaje de Wood Green.

To sort out problems. To face the day’s responsibilities. Suddenly the world seems to constrain me in an unbearable way. All this that is useful, all the duties (what I have to be, to do) is a stirring of surfaces, an efficient image of me that suffocates what I am. What I am. I have to repeat it many times in order to fall back into myself: what I am.
Just to look at the people in the street, in the bus, is enough to understand that this is to a great extent human life. To sail in the waters of circumstance.
Now my circumstance is an immigration problem, a health problem, lots of work. Others move in other circumstances, similar or completely different, atrocious or blessing-laden. Why do I feel more and more that other people’s circumstances are thrown upon my head, overwhelming me with stories I don’t want to know? I don’t know if I’m losing my solitude. If it is so, I don’t like it.
Our neighbours went paranoid at the remote possibility of burglary in the building and installed a CCTV in the tiny hall that divides their studio flat from ours. First I laughed a lot, because I couldn’t understand the mental process that had led them to do such a thing. But every day the bloody camera angers me more and more. What I find now difficult to conceive is such stupidity. I discover myself already acting for the camera: pretending it’s not there, pretending I do not know it’s there, behaving “naturally” but aware of it, in a supreme effort to ignore them, fed up with being spied upon.
My entire life’s baggage merges with the weight of the imbecility that seems to pervade the planet. Or is it only this city? I have been spied since I was a child; I’m used to the invisible eye that watches me, used to living as if it didn’t exist, mistaking the eye of God with the family eye, the eye of destiny, always trying to defy that gaze with my (pretended) ignorance of its existence. Now this camera here, at my doorstep, the cameras spread all over the city as a delirious universe in the reality of which I still find it hard to believe, throw me out of the universe. Intent on denying them, I travel inwards. They don’t exist. The spectacle of all we are does not exist. If I can’t kick them to pieces, I will break them with my closed eyes. To make them explode, to make the sleepless eye explode.
Where does freedom start? To what extent can anyone escape his/her circumstances? I want to get rid of this thing that oppresses me this afternoon, this incredibly heavy cloak of a morning lost sorting out problems, this ant’s rush, this sensation of a permanent flight interrupting the only truly meaningful moment of the day: the apple tree in full blossom in a little park, in the middle of Wood Green’s desolate landscape.

last news –not yet expelled

The person Ms Featherstone, our MP, addressed at the Home Office got back to her. He said the problem was not so much those doomed three weeks of delay, but that my migratory status was as an artist, and the only condition for being granted that is that we don’t change our migratory status within the country, but from outside.         

First news I have of that! The scary letter from last week didn’t mention that either.         

My migratory status is that where they put all those people too odd to be classified normally: for instance, I share it with religious ministers. I’m so used to not fitting any normal classification of anything that I accept all sorts of oddities as a matter of fact, but that such oddities seem to deprive me of any rights of whatever kind starts to piss me off.          

Anyway, on Tuesday I went to see the lawyer with this new piece of information. Her advice: go. It seems it would be even more expensive to try to fix it from here. She said they would be inflexible and that anyway there was such confusion within the Home Office that I’d be better off leaving in a few days. She also said that my plea for mercy on health grounds was pointless: they expected you to be fatally ill in a hospital or about to give birth in order to consider such pleas. I thought it was quite odd: if I were dying on a hospital bed I wouldn’t be thinking of my visa, as I would be preparing for a much longer trip.     

On Wednesday morning a young message boy who had a parcel for my neighbour had the wrong bell and started ringing on mine desperately. I rushed down the stairs. Then he started banging on the door and my heart nearly stopped: it’s the Home Office, I thought, and they will deport me with my slippers on.         

That same day, one minute before starting to book my very expensive flight –being so close to Easter holidays–, I thought I should follow my appeal application, even if I had supposedly no right to appeal and even though the lawyer told me there was no point in trying. I called the tribunal and, to my absolute amazement and joy, they told me that there was no problem with my appeal application, that I would receive a letter shortly and we would have a hearing for the 4th of May! That same day we received a letter from the Immigration and Nationality Directorate feeling “very sorry” that we had had reasons to complain, and saying they would look after our case.         

I didn’t know any more whether if I should laugh or cry, with my emotions, and my plans, going up and down like that during the whole week. I had already been picturing myself in Mexico giving lots of presents to my godson and eating quesadillas. I had already been through despair because I had so many things to sort out in very few days with lots of physical pain, and had been cursing the fortune this would cost us. Now, it seems we have a whole month to prepare ourselves for the hearing and things don’t look that bad.         

Which is all very good. Mark and I are quite relieved and happy and I even bought myself a pair of new beautiful shoes, much cheaper than the flight to Mexico and the new visa application.         

The thing is: do the Home Office staff know where do they have their heads? Why one person says I have one problem and then another one says the problem is something entirely different, something I was never informed would be a problem at all? Furthermore, why do they send such threatening letters without any reliable information and with no mention whatsoever of your rights? Even criminals are informed of their rights when arrested. I feel bullied but I don’t even know if there was any bad intent behind that or just gross inefficiency. That letter I received a week ago is full of horrid implications and has not one single line that provides any sort of help, advice or information about your rights.         

Anyway, I won’t bother you further. Let’s wait for the hearing in May. Then I will know how good or bad things are. Meanwhile, let’s dance in the sun.         

The immigration saga continues

Muchas gracias a quienes me han escrito y me han dejado sus cometarios de apoyo. ¡Claro que sirven de algo! Me levantan el ánimo y eso es lo que importa. Perdonen que continúe con esta aventura en inglés; con toda esta pesadilla no me da tiempo de contarla también en español, y ya que la empecé en inglés, pues así sigo. No se preocupen: mis próximos blogs volverán a su estado bilingüe.         

Thank you very much to those who have written to me or left their support comments here. Of course they are useful! They cheer me up!         

The saga continues:          

Yesterday morning I left home at 6:20 am, on my way to the Immigration Advice Office (a charity, independent from the Government) that opens at 9:00 o’clock. I went to Borough tube station, the one with a terrifyingly loud alarm on the lifts that makes you think the ultimate terrorist attack is on its way. Not good for my nerves.         

I came out of the station thinking that at least I was in Little Dorrit’s territory, though if I think about it, I don’t know if that’s a good thing or a bad thing, given the circumstances.         

I needed to go to number 190 in Great Dover Street. The first number I saw was 4, so I assumed I had to walk to the opposite end of the street, and there I go. I passed endless estates with no numbers on them, and no sign whatsoever of the Immigration Advice Office. I started to go frantic. The thing is: I had forgotten how idiosyncratic the numbering of streets can be in London. It usually makes this funny U-turn, so actually 190 was exactly in front of number 4, where I had started.          

When I realised I had been unforgivably imbecile again, I rushed back in a panic, thinking that by now I would have the last place in the queue and wouldn’t be seen that day. But there was not a soul (it was by then 7:48), so it was just as well that I walked up and down the street like a lunatic; it kept me warm and busy in that ungodly hour.         

Oh well, things were not that bad then. I went to the café next to the station, the same one where I started one of my exhaustive Dickens walks for my London book a while ago. By then I was starving so I ordered a croissant and a coffee. The macchiato looked spectacular to me and beautifully served, a warm and friendly salute. The croissant, though, was one of those huge and elastic monstrosities that remind you that this is not exactly Paris.          

I did not even feel guilty to have a croissant; I had walked so much in the cold and shivering with anxiety, that I’m sure it won’t make me inordinately fat. I ate only half, anyway. Its dimensions scared me.         

I thought that I had been in despair a few minutes before, in the roundabout at the other end of the street, thinking: “This place doesn’t exist either!”, and that now I had found it, with no queues, and had even time for enjoying my favourite activity: taking notes and reading in a café, feeling almost cheerful.          

And I didn’t even have to go to Croydon! As I was saying last Saturday to our beloved Quentin (the other witness to our wedding, by the way), everybody knows Croydon is one of the deepest circles of hell. There are even some Doré engravings that show that place with the ominous name, Lunar House.         

Life being so unpredictable, would I be leaving the office in tears again, a couple of hours later? What do you think, dear reader?         

I dashed out shortly after anyway, just in case a mile length queue had suddenly appeared, but there was only another lady. We waited standing for nearly an hour, nothing good for hurting bones, but at least I was reading Osamu Dazai’s short stories (Quentin’s birthday present). I finished reading “On The Question of Apparel”, that had me laughing in the tube earlier that morning. His eye for absurdity was very handy just then. It was a bit hard to read because there were some road-works just opposite, but what the hell, it could be worse. It could be Croydon.         

A couple from Nigeria arrived with a very peculiar problem. They were not accepting their permit to marry because they insisted their case was one of a same sex couple cohabiting, even though they were so very obviously male and female. We had to laugh.         

This Immigration Advice charity turned out to be superb. To start with, it’s a clean and welcoming office, and not the refugee-camp Croydon-like scenario I was expecting. The staff is all extraordinarily kind and understanding. They struggled hard to find me an urgent appointment with a lawyer for today at 3:00 o’clock, because they say the case is very unusual and we should hurry, so I’m still in suspense till that time.         

Our bad luck had it that my payments and the loan money finally came through just now, because our bank accounts of this month show a rather unusual reality. Had we been there just one month ago the service would have been free, but now I had to pay 100 quid. I don’t know if you find the humour in it. I do. It’s a very gloomy and macabre kind of humour, but I find it. This is the kind of completely absurd situation that makes me wonder if someone has a spell on me, but I try hard to go back to rationality and stop recurring to magical thinking.   

I got back home by bus, and as I saw the City workers in their smart dark suits hurrying around the Bank of England building, I even thought I could be far worse-off and be one of them. Am I not amazing?         

I was in very bad pain when I finally got home. I immediately called the Law Enforcement thing and finally they know where my passport is, though they still can’t open the file to see if my Marriage Certificate is there. Yet they told me not to worry: it certainly is not lost. My question is: that certificate is not only mine; it’s Mark’s as well. What right do they have to retain it?         

This person informed me, to my qualified  relief, that I simply made a mistake in my application. That if I go out I wouldn’t have to have any trouble to come back, but he believes I do have to go out, and not to any other European country. I have to go to Mexico and pay for the whole visa all over again. He says it’s only a procedure matter. I don’t think it’s that simple; a lightning trip to Mexico is certainly not simply “procedure” to me.

Then I tried to drink some water and realised we had no water at all in the flat. You guessed: I started crying, to make do for the lack of liquids. It’s not that I don’t want to go to Mexico and see my friends and my godson. It’s just that I don’t want to go like this, spending all our so hardly-earned money this way, and furthermore I can’t see how can I organise a trip like that, and the finances included, in a few days, feeling so very ill.

So this is what a blog is, then? Letting the steam out? Is it an embarrassing thing to do, a sign of how insane and neurotic our society has become?          

It’s probably a very bad thing. At least we have running water again.