Midsummer’s in ten days and I’m eking out all I can of this year’s solstice light, situated as I am just a couple more degrees north of Scotland’s capital where I’ve been studying these past two years at the university. I’ve just learnt that in September I’ll be moving to Hamburg, or “Hamboich” in the local pronunciation (I’m not a pro linguist and most likely neither are you so I’ve put down my best phonetic representation here!), where I’ll be assisting pupils at the Immanuel-Kant-Gymnasium in learning English through my British Council placement in the city. Having signed up to WG-Gesucht (Germany’s main flatmate/flat finding service) and made first email contact with my mentor at the school, I’ll be using the coming few weeks to plan for this part of my year abroad.
For me and for the UK it has been a week of significant changes. Although the end of my flat lease in Edinburgh lasts up until July I decided to apply for jobs here in Orkney too and I ended up getting employed in the Kirkwall office of the inter-island Ferry Services. I enjoy telling other people that “I am the ferryman”, but strictly speaking I do no such ushering of souls in person, rather I book people on the boats and sell tickets. In my first week I’ve learnt a lot and it makes a change of scene against a kitchen environment, although each have their advantages and drawbacks.
The political makeup of the country has obviously changed too this week, and I’m left unsure how to feel after the results of the general election came in. I see little cause for celebration even if the Conservatives were denied a majority. Looking across at the party they’ve been forced to appease to get votes through fills me with disgust and dread. Labour may gloat that they were able to defy their internal critics, but the hard truth is they weren’t able to win even if they are still trying to claim victory. With regards to Scotland, this seems to show a halt in SNP momentum and unfortunately the Tories have gained significantly. I maintain that independence is inevitable, but it seems that day has now been put off a good few years. In summary, and what I say here is not hugely original, it was an entirely pointless ballot where the debate, to a remarkable extent, ignored the issue with which it should have been most concerned: Brexit.
Barring all that, it’s nice to be home. I miss the coffee shops, the craft beer and the art school nights out, but there’s something unbeatable about the silence, the space, and the vast skies and seas. Here the nights are unpolluted by the sodium glow, daft singing drunk folk and the strut of oblivious heels ricocheting off the pavement and the stark stone streets.
People. There’s that too I’d have to admit. I embraced The Student this year. Metaphorically of course; I do like to keep that sort of thing to a respectable minimum if I can help it. I met many enthusiastic and talented people, and got the chance to write a lot of articles, which I think helped keep me sane. Hopefully I’ll be able to contribute remotely next year as a foreign correspondent (lol). Anyway here are some highlights if you haven’t had a chance to have a read:
A less social pursuit this year at uni (in that for the most part I was talking to myself in a darkened room) was my flirtation with student radio. I presented a show entitled Flett-cetera on the Edinburgh student station FreshAir, which ended up sapping a lot of my creativity hence lack of blog. Here I talked about life in Orkney and local dialect, had guests on to talk about various cultural topics and read excerpts of poetry. My highlights were getting to interview one of my favourite bands at the moment, Happy Meals, and hosting a live session with The Motion Poets; you can have a listen to both of these below:
Aside from all that major stuff I’ve been watching the new Twin Peaks recently. Having only got into it last year I feel as if the wait for me isn’t enough to justify the intense satisfaction I feel when I see what appears to be the majority of the original cast returning to reprise their roles. The opening few episodes are just as sleek, charming and surreal as the series at its height and I would thoroughly recommend it to any past fans, or, to anyone who hasn’t watched the original, for them to go back and go through it from the beginning. It was ground-breaking TV back then and it continues to have the same power to confuse, bewilder, induce laughter and horrify in the here and now.
Musically I’ve been enjoying the new Toro y Moi single ‘A Girl Like You’ and the new Mac Demarco album, This Old Dog. In the former Chaz Bundick returns to his eighties synths away from the classic rock sound of his previous release ‘Omaha’ to delightful effect and this is of course accompanied by a lo-fi music video where the track finishes and then restarts to make the optimum four minutes twenty seconds mark; clearly, he is ignoring the cries in countless comment sections that vapourwave is dead. Certainly the kind of music that is literally just old 1980s tunes slowed down and pitched a few notes lower is over, but songs in their own right with a ‘wave’ vibe have proved more durable – the ‘chillwave’ label was artificially attached to Toro y Moi’s style by journalists in any case. It seems likely that the video released alongside the song is an ironic statement against those who liberally apply the vapourwave label, it does however revel in those retro sounds yet it somehow retains a simultaneous freshness.
Back to more serious matters. I’m hoping to get everything sorted for my year abroad within the next few weeks – the second semester of which I’m spending at the Universität Leipzig (Happy Meals say good things about the city, so it should be alright). Working 9-5 for the first time in my life is a bit weird, although I must say I do appreciate the more social hours after this free weekend. While politics has left me pessimistic, at least I’ll be getting out of the country fairly soon. I will definitely, and do miss Edinburgh, but I’m glad to be home and I look forward to next year.