UPDATE: I now have a Patreon. You can find it here: https://www.patreon.com/indomedieval. I will continue to post on this blog, but certain features — transcriptions and transliterations of texts, for example, as opposed to merely the translations — will become Patreon-only exclusives.
Happy New Year, everyone. I’ve just emerged from quarantine in the Netherlands, having returned from the UK a few days ago. (The monotony of lockdown life means that it feels like it’s been a month or so since we got back. A look at my calendar suggests that it’s been a little over ten days instead.) My wife and I were visiting family for Christmas. It was the first time I’d seen any of my relatives in over two years, and it was my first extended break away from Leiden — and from my computer — in some time. Apart from a brief sojourn in Flanders in November, it was also the first time I’d been outside the Netherlands in over a year. The country is still in semi-lockdown, so coming out of quarantine means very little; museums, cafes, and restaurants are still closed. It’s also rather cold and foggy. I’m not the happiest of bunnies.
Life in Holland has a way of narrowing one’s horizons. Going away helped put a lot of things in perspective. I’ve realised that one of the things I value most is living somewhere I like as opposed to somewhere I feel I ought to be for academic or work-related reasons.
I moved to Leiden almost six years ago and I can’t say I’ve ever been happy here. I think you have to have a certain personality type to appreciate this country and I suppose I have the opposite kind. I’ve been desperate to move away for years — and that seems viable at long last. I finished my doctorate back in May; my wife looks set to acquire a permanent European residence permit in the next couple of months; my employment contract with Leiden is coming to an end; and, while the virus hasn’t quite gone away, it is getting easier to move about these days.
So we’re going to move. I’d like to live in a warmer and prettier place, preferably one with nicer food and lower living expenses but still somewhere in Europe — also somewhere where the government doesn’t force you to pay a private company for health insurance, as is the case in the Netherlands. I’m also keen to improve my Portuguese. So, well, right now the plan is to move to Lisbon. If you have any tips for moving to Portugal, let me know. I expect we’ll figure it out, though, as both of us have lived in other countries before, and we have plenty of time to improve our European Portuguese in the meantime. (Why is Brazilian Portuguese so much easier to understand?)
Anyway, that’s the big change for this year and it hasn’t even happened yet. I expect we’ll get going in the summer; right now we’re looking into moving companies, apartments, that sort of thing.
Still, obviously this means that other changes are afoot. For instance: I’ve given up on my dream of having an academic career. Actually, that’s not true; it was never my dream. I don’t see a way to make it work without considerable hardship. Frankly the last few years have been hard enough. I’d quite like to simply live and enjoy life now, and I don’t think that’s a realistic ambition alongside all the other ambitions. (Ambitions do tend to crowd one another out.)
For me the enjoyment of life necessarily includes writing and research, though, and I truly can’t imagine an existence without doing those things on a regular basis — and, indeed, I’d quite like to be able to make some sort of a living from them if at all possible. To that end, I will shortly be starting a Patreon. I’ve been promising to do this for a while but I think now’s the time. I hope that I can attract enough readers to make a meaningful impact on my bank balance, but I’ll still probably write about fairly niche topics that interest me rather than crowd-pleasing things I hate. Otherwise, my income will depend, as it has done for the last decade, on teaching English to professionals. I’ve realised over the years that I actually rather enjoy doing it and I like to think I’m pretty good at it.
If you’d like me to write an article for you, and you’re happy to fork over a small amount of money for it, feel free to DM me on Twitter (@ siwaratrikalpa or DrAJWest) or send me an email (firstname.lastname@example.org). I write clean copy quickly.
Anyway, I should also have some nice things to reveal in the next few months (or, failing that, the next few years). I’m cautiously optimistic about the rest of 2022. 2021 was probably the worst year of my life, as I suspect it was for a great many people, and I suppose the only way 2022 could be worse is if it’s more of the same. Here’s hoping it will at least be differently bad.
A. J. West — Leiden, 2022