ESR 9 blog January 2022
Seven sky-blue Post-Its are stuck on my desk. As I look out at the gathering dusk, my thoughts as scattered as the notes on these squares of semi-adhesive paper, I wonder what you’d like to know this month. Here are two instances that catch in my mind, which – perhaps as a form of subconscious resistance to the bouts of political theory reading, seminar discussions and formal art space visits I’ve been focusing on this month – are only implicitly relevant to my research. I’m hoping this pause through/of writing will function to distil the snag of these moments into a relation, but it might also suffice to simply share these moments with you. Both come from non-work moments in the past six weeks.
DECEMBER, A BAKER
We are driving along the coast. Then away from it. Winding through the gentle rolling mountains that glow in their auburn hues under a grey sky. The heating is slightly too hot, but our spirits are high. We’re on our way to visit a Kurdish baker, whose reputation precedes him. In the context of rising Welsh nationalism, particularly in the north, the conglomerations of Kurdish communities are of interest to my travel companion and I.
The baker turns out to be an effusive, large-character of a man with an impressive moustache he has had the branding foresight to turn into caricature. His bakery, covered in yellow and white signage proclaiming the cost of his range, is empty today; it is the festive season and he is only doing direct orders for cafés. He gesticulates generously around him, talking us through his father’s army career, subsequent departure and posthumous recognition by the Kurdish National Congress. Proudly displayed, alongside his IT certificates and images of him running marathons, moustache consistent throughout, is an image of his sister and him accepting this recognition in London.
For now, London is very far away. We talk about how he finds community in this small Welsh village, the shifting allegiances of small businesses and locals, and the loose network of fellow Kurds in the wider region. But he gets most excited when his sister mentions the birds he feeds. A large tray of rotund, greasy donuts sits on the side. They aren’t for us; he has been cultivating a bird community with great care and enthusiasm over the years. The seagulls, who are the intended recipients of these donuts, are fed along his daily run, whilst the pigeons come to his backyard for bread. The birds meet here, circle overhead, keep him company.
JANUARY, A MATCH
Later, in London, a crowd cheers loudly on another grey day. It’s a Saturday and we stand in the concrete bleachers of a local football stadium. It’s scarcely past noon, and we clutch our quickly-cooling coffees as the game picks up pace. It’s strange to watch a local match in which one of the sides has flown in from a UK island, but my initial focus is on the strategies of play and the slight mismatch between the purple hue of the opposing team’s socks and shorts. I compliment the supporter scarf, on which the team’s logo is emblazoned, and learn an artist redesigned and updated an old crest. We laugh about artists finally having a clear and useful function. I’d forgotten how fun live sports can be.
As the game picks up pace, we feel the swell of the crowd’s conviction. South London is black and white, we chant, as the team forge on to eventually tie. “This will appease the fans,” says the coach glumly, acknowledging a prior stretch of losses. The players, sweaty and a bit frustrated at how they couldn’t quite manage to turn one of their many chances into a second goal, line up to shake hands with the fans. There’s an implicit camaraderie here, but one carefully delineated into groups and the sharing of space and ambitions. That is to say, this isn’t a kumbaya moment. We collectively rush indoors with feigned casualness to warm up and have a pint.