“Maybe we should buy a mule.”
We have this conversation every time the car has to be inspected, repaired, insured or (in the most extreme and unthinkable of circumstances) cleaned. After all, we have the space, the garden could use the manure, and we live an easily clip-cloppable distance from the village. It all makes so much sense. A mule would be appropriate.
We fantasise light-heartedly about building her a corral beyond the chicken coup, grazing her up the mountainside, maybe getting hold of a cart or a two-wheeled gig.
But as usual, logic doesn’t cut it when faced with real life.
“Back in the UK they already think we’re crazy,” sighs Sue. “If we buy a mule, they’ll send someone out here to get us.”
* * *
Maybe they’re right? I don’t feel crazy, but perhaps that’s a symptom. So what is it that has so many outwardly reasonable people convinced that we, and other expats like us, might be deficient in the marble department?
Firstly, we sold out from (in our case) the Surrey dream; sold what the agent marketed as an ‘idyllic period cottage’ – my knowledge of history is awful, I’ve no idea when the idyllic period was; Sue informs me it was sometime between yore and yesteryear – to come to a foreign land, to a house with no hot water, no mains water supply, no mains drainage, no internet or damp-proof course, no telephone line, where nobody speaks our native tongue or cooks our traditional British dishes (such as curry and pizza), and where you can’t buy decent tea, despite – or maybe due to – the fact that around here the tea chest is a musical instrument.
As if that weren’t condemning enough, we then continue to eschew many of the modern wonders to which many people aspire; we have no smartphones, smart TV, tablet computers, dishwasher, media centre, microwave oven, freezer or air conditioning. If our old Peugeot furgoneta had one piece of equipment fewer it would officially be a tractor. Compared to us, the Amish are NASA.
After a little research, though, it transpires that none of this makes us crazy; it simply makes us deviant. I feel much better now. I could try to understand the finer points differentiating the two, but for that I need the help of a Sociologist. (If you’d asked me, up until today, whether I’d ever use the expression ‘I need the help of a Sociologist’, I’d have found it hard to imagine; except, perhaps, in the context of cannon fodder, decoy or bait).
I refute absolutely the view that if you don’t conform, you’re nuts. Under this regime there’d be no Bach or Bowie, no Galileo or Michelangelo, no Pythagoras, Byron or Milligan. Not that I’m under any illusion that such a club would have me as a member, but I’d sure have missed them if they’d all been thrown in the bedlam instead of being left to do what they do, or did, best.
I prefer the opposite notion. It’s the adamantly and unquestioningly right-minded folks that give me the creeps.
“Whenever you find yourself on the side of the majority, it is time to pause and reflect.” ― Mark Twain
* * *
So who should decide who’s one clown short of a circus?
In medieval England, madness was seen as a religious issue. Let’s think about that – your sanity, or lack of it, is decided by those who believe in plagues of locusts, burning bushes, fire from the sky, wives turned to salt, virgin births, folk walking on water, resurrection, and endless love from a deity who will then torment you for eternity if you screw it up. Oh, and who, by the way, needs your money. In fairness, I can’t think of any organisation better qualified to adjudicate on clowns and circuses.
Later on, and as recently as the nineteenth century, you could be committed for debt, vagrancy, depression, alcoholism, disobedience or a host of other behavioural quirks. The asylum then wasn’t a hospital so much as a means for the movers and shakers to banish any troublemakers who threatened to get in their way.
Nowadays the definitions are much more medical and complicated, through the definition of a long list of specific disorders; you can’t simply be nuts any more. It’s enough to drive you barmy.
Maybe, on the other hand, the expat class of 2007 to which Sue and I belong are not lunatics, but pioneers; although behaviour that deviates from society’s notion of the normal is often considered to be crazy, so-called normal behaviour in a society shifts over time. Look back in a few years, maybe everyone will choose to live this way. Or maybe it won’t be a choice.
“Do not fear to be eccentric in opinion, for every opinion now accepted was once eccentric.” ― Bertrand Russell.
So, an open question to all of our fellow expats: Do your family and friends back home think you’re crazy? And, in similar vein, do you ever think so?
Maybe I’m due a bout of lunacy, since I never did get around to having a mid-life crisis. What I really need is a good excuse, an explanation to appease those who are (literally) judgemental. If I could claim, say, that I’d suffered a kick to the head, that ought to do it.
Maybe we should buy a mule.
“Would it save you a lot of time if I just gave up and went mad now?” ― Douglas Adams, The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy