Welcome to England: Kindly supply your own warmth

Welcome to England: Kindly supply your own warmth

Nobody ever goes to England for the warmth. 

I brought mine with me. And so did she. 

I came from Montréal, she from Brazil. I don’t remember her name. Only how she felt. 

Dancing, I like to say, is the body laughing. At least when it’s done well. Sometimes, when you get swept up but good, your body feels like it’s no longer bound by the laws of nature and your soul expands to fill all the space within earshot. 

Essex, England, is a staid place. And I am trying very hard to be nice. The hedges are trimmed. The houses are respectable. Most of the people, too. Most of the time. Or so they insist. 

Even the Rose & Crown is a bit dull. I suppose that’s to be expected, with a name like that. Even the most determined trouble-making Québécoise struggled to make a dent in the holy image this minor university town had of itself. 

I was there for an advanced course on linguistics. I was doing a PhD at McGill University, developing my own model to perform ground-breaking rhetorical analyses of Supreme Court rulings. My supervisor strongly encouraged me to take that course, not that he had to. I’d never been to England and was desperate to visit. I pretended to hesitate anyway, long enough to be offered a stipend. Knowing how to mooch off the system is a tragically misunderstood academic skill. 


Suitably subsidized, I applied myself. We studied the work of Jacques Lacan and Slavoj Žižek like we knew what they were talking about. I mean, what the fuck is objet petit a anyway? It only made sense after four pints. 

The weekend when we switched from Lacan to Žižek there was a party at the house where some of the professors lived. Well, you know, “house.” In that part of England, people who taught summer courses at the local university weren’t covered in ivy. More like weed. 

I loved my Guinness and those prawn crisps. I never understood why in England fries are chips and chips are crisps but once you get the hang of it you’re OK. There was dinner entirely figured out. Perfect for my very tight budget. 

I never finished the PhD, in case you were wondering. It turned out that Lacan was the easy part. They insisted I also master regression analysis and all kinds of disgusting advanced math and frankly, nothing is worth that kind of misery. That was the fourth and last time I would drop out of school. 

But you’re curious about the party. 

As the music played, white people from all around England put on a spectacular display of why white people from England should not, ever, dance in public. You could say their bodies were sobbing. My Brazilian friend and I won dancing that night. Not that it was much of a contest. Our warmth was in fine form, and we allowed it to radiate all over this little boring town, lighting it up, at least for an hour or three.