Since I first read the Fish Town manuscript, I've been interested in John's experiences in Scotland before he moved to Japan. Because it really is a radical thing to do to pack your bags and move to the other side of the world without knowing a soul there and without knowing where you're going to be living or working.
So I asked John if he would write a few words about this, and he did. It's called 'Anchored in Concrete'. I'm going to post this is 2 sections, with the first one today. Enjoy. xx Julianne
Anchored in Concrete
It was a freezing November night in Edinburgh. I had moved to the city a few months earlier for an editing position at a publisher, but my temporary contract wasn’t renewed. Nothing left in the budget to keep me on, said the old English fella who ran the place. Signing on the brew in a new city was the stuff of dreams. The exhaust had fallen off my car the previous week, so a two-hour walk there and back to Leith job centre was the only thing on my ‘to do’ list.
My old Casio watch beeped 20:00 and my head sank. I had decided to start running again and made excuses every day since not to. Sitting on the couch in a pair of ripped football shorts, staring at the rolls of fat around my waist, while the rain pelted against the window, was a defining moment in my life. Empty bags of cola bottles and pickled onion Monster Munch lay on the floor next to a half-drunk bottle of Irn Bru and the remains of a re-heated curry. The telly droned in the background with canned laughter. I could hear the neighbours arguing through the wall again. I sank deeper into the couch, turned up the volume, and resigned myself to another defeat. A Friends episode I had seen a hundred times screamed into the empty walls. I don’t know what got me up, cos it wasn’t something I consciously decided, but I pulled the plug, pushed to my feet, squeezed a t-shirt a size too small over my head, and headed out the door.
I wanted to get back inside the moment I shuffled down the cold concrete stairs and into the street. The wind and rain scorched my face, but I started a light jog along the cobbles and lasted for about two minutes before I was gasping for breath and rippling with stitches. I stopped and leaned against a wall. My gums were sore and the taste of iron coated my throat. I was on the verge of throwing up. Instead of turning back home, I shuffled up the hill towards the cathedral and sat outside on the black steps, staring into the gothic city. My breath fogged in the night air and teeth were chattering. Petrol puddles glistened from the traffic lights and gave the air an almost metallic taste. No one else was around. I was freezing and soaked to the bone, but finally felt I had taken a step forward. Not a big step, but it was something.
From that night on, I went out running three times a week and soon enough began to enjoy it more than I dreaded opening that door to the cold. I bought some cheap running trainers and ran laps around Arthur’s Seat. Craig, who was the boyfriend of a lassie from my old work, was into running too, so we met up there and became good pals. When I lacked the motivation to get out into the dark winter nights, having someone else facing that same battle was enough to keep me going. He was a curly-haired wee fella and weighed less than a sheet of paper and any sort of wind blew him up the hills, but I tried my best to keep up.
The more I ran, the less I wanted to eat shite food and drink fizzy juice. As I struggled up Broughton Street towards the park, the aroma of hot chips coated in salt and vinegar from the three chip shops I had to pass soon lost its grip on my hunger. My weight didn’t budge, but I felt a bit better and was determined not to give up – I knew there was fuck all chance I would be able to start over if I did. That voice telling me to give up was never quiet and if I let it get any louder there was no hope of turning things around again.
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John Gerard Fagan is a Scottish writer from Muirhead in the outskirts of Glasgow, who currently lives in Edinburgh. He has published close to a hundred short stories, essays, and poems in Scots, Scottish Gaelic, and English. Fish Town is his first book, detailing his life in Japan from 2013 - 2019. Join us at our virtual launch on 28 April 2021, 7pm GMT.
For more information visit: johngerardfagan.com