I think I owe you a blog post. It’s almost the end of my first semester at university and I’d like to keep you in the loop.
Life in Hermit’s Croft is falling into its routines. The installation of street furniture is complete. A gleaned guitar, a lamp and leather seat. Fairy lights lazily draped above the sink exude their quiet glow, and 6 Music is interspersed with Radio 3 from generously gifted PC speakers.
On Thursdays of an evening I’ll attend some wordy gathering, or when the mood takes me, a guest lecture or a workshop. Perhaps a couple of days in the week I’ll visit the gym or swim. I’m settling into equilibrium, but I want to fight it.
You find me just as I have given my presentation for my oral class in German. The subject was the federal state of Brandenburg – core of the Hohenzollern dynasty and seat of Prussian Kings. In German one is prompted to reflect upon the nature of language. Is one dialect representative of the language as a whole? Can you say you’ve learnt German if all you know is Hochdeutsch? You’d probably have a hard time in Bavaria.
Similarly, one is also invited to consider questions of identity and a sense of place or belonging. We think of our Scottish identity, a year on from a no vote and on the day of our patron saint. I consider my Orcadian upbringing. I’ve come to realise just how lucky I’ve been to have grown up in such a nice place, with a real sense of cultural identity; this perhaps coming rather artificially from the need to promote ourselves to further the tourism industry? Maybe I’m being cynical – it could be that the strength of oral tradition and inherent kinship with our forbearers has led to the preservation of such things, but who knows?
Edinburgh has many advantages over Orkney, whilst it may be great to go into the pub and recognise almost every person, one can’t help but crave anonymity at times. I can go to things alone and feel less of a loner, because actually quite a lot of people are loners too. I can go to a writing workshop and feel among friends without exchanging names.
Over the weekend I took part in Scotland’s Climate March, praying most of the time for a turn in the weather to ease the damp miserly of our technicolour advance. I suppose that’s what they call direct democracy.
Speaking of democracy, let’s talk absolutism. Yes, I’m loving my European History course, which stretches from the Renaissance to the French Revolution. I am fascinated and appalled at the audacity of figures such as Machiavelli, Louis XIV and Frederick the Great. I find it thrilling to contemplate the intellectual movements which influenced them; the apparent contradiction of Absolutism and Enlightenment married to great affect by Prussian Kings. You can see why I picked Brandenburg now…
University allows time for deep reflection, self-discovery and extra-curricular development. So naturally, I’ve spent mine watching Rick and Morty, discovering Peep Show, Parks and Recreation and becoming a huge fan of Community. In all seriousness, some books I’ve read in my spare time are More’s Utopia, Wilde’s A Picture of Dorian Gray and I’m just finishing Dracula. But just to be clear, I whole-heartedly endorse Rick and Morty. Everything about it is great. Watch it.
I don’t feel as if I’ve lost touch with Orkney. Feelings of home come out of me in bursts. A dialect word that so perfectly fits a situation, when one afternoon you find yourself writing a crofting scene ripped from 1850s Harray without ever intending. Just last week I was at a gig where Ross Clark of Hybrid Constellation fame was playing with his new band In Stations. I felt a pang of sentimentality at the syncopated djent breakdown slotted quite unsubtly into some intricate alt-rock composition. Disclaimer, they were by far the best act of the three I saw that night and I’ll definitely go and see them again if I get the chance.
That’s just about all I have to say for now. Adios! Adieu! Tschuss! Ciao! And may the force be with you! #StarWarsEpisodeVIIhype