Night Cheese

Northern Ireland, where I am currently based, suffers from research exhaustion. Bright-eyed anthropologists, sociologists, psychologists, ad infinitum parachuted in for two-week stints to have meetings with combatants and prisoners arranged for them in sterile backrooms. Would that it were somewhere I could use Slavic language skills, or really anywhere not so overrun with researchers. But, the phenomenon and circumstances that interest me are here and only here.

Research exhaustion means most involved are adept at dealing with researchers, which includes knowing who we are and what we want before we’ve had opportunity to properly introduce ourselves. Hence this week’s encounter with a person who had no reason to know me, who, by way of introduction, stated: “I knows who yous are.” This is a small community, and I am aware this is how things go. Nevertheless: yikes.

My housemates were all away an evening after this happened, and Storm Gertrude helped a creepy, creaky old house be even more creepy and creaky. Shutters banged, the house groaned, and imagines of violence stayed sleep. I had spent some of the day listening to accounts of profound violence, and had entertained myself earlier in the day by educating myself about the details surrounding a recent dismemberment in the Republic of Ireland.

For those that know insomnia, the longer you stay awake the more portentous the imagination becomes. I am not an irrational person, yet the week’s stories snowballed in my mind and grew uncontrollable. By 02.30 I had read all the books stashed on my bedside, and the midnight munchies set in.

But if I went downstairs to the kitchen, there would surely be a man in a balaclava waiting for me. Surely no cheese was worth finding out what terrible things the stairwell light would illuminate. I could wait till morning when the sun would vanquish the enemies that were surely at the gate.

But time crawled on, and my growling stomach joined Storm Gertrude’s howling. And you know what? I can say now with confidence that fear enhances cheese’s deliciousness.


What I’m Listening To: I’m not. I’m humming “Night Cheese” from 30 Rock to myself.


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