The Account of a Lifetime

September 16, 2009

Sic Transit

Filed under: A day in the life of...,Cogitations,Reflections — xisor @ 9:43 pm

Continuing the maudlin theme of late, I might relate that I’d recently picked up a copy of Wyndham’s The Day of the Triffids. I’d never read it before, nor seen the visual versions so it was something of a familiar adventure. I knew details, I knew some arcs and points but I hadn’t touched it. It feels, like when I read The War of the Worlds and The Time Machine earlier this year, both intimately familiar and exceedingly alien. To liken it to another feeling, if of different magnitude and trigger, it is much the same feeling I had on that fateful day over two years ago: The day I first stood in Skanderbeg square, Tirana, Albania.

I arrived unexpectedly and unplanned in exactly the place Id wanted to
I arrived unexpectedly and unplanned in exactly the place I’d wanted to

I’d intended to go there for a while. Well, to go to Albania at least. Like the day, around two weeks earlier, when I found myself beneath the statue-plinth depicting Christopher Columbus in Barcelona, I had long-since known of this location, well fore setting off on what I often think of as ‘the trip of my life’. I’d explored the nooks and crannies in guide-books, online and indeed in Google Earth, peeking at photos and generally exploring the thing. Getting a feel, if you will.

A better look via my proper arrival in Tirana

A better look via my proper arrival in Tirana

Earlier that day, the Albania one, I had hiked, blagged and bumbled my way cross-country in a minibus packed, utilising my good standing as an Englishman* to keep smiles on faces. I trekked up to Kruja, explored the old castle and fort occupied by the national hero Skanderbeg once upon a time, got a bit drunk, had a lovely meal, bought a hat and a flag, scampered down through the backwater, mountainside forests of Albania and eventually was picked up by an old man on a scooter (sans helmet and even engine). Though we narrowly avoided an early trip to the grave at the behest of some eagerly-road-crossing sheep, I finally arrived at the town far below to discover that the last minibus back to Durres (where I was staying at the time) was totally packed and leaving.I didn’t realise it was the last at the time and generously offered up my place to some other folks. This led to a few hours searching around, trying to hitchhike, contemplating a massive day-or-two long walk and even just wondering whether there were stray dogs in the area. (It turned out that there were indeed many stray dogs, but I only found this out some days later on a mountain above Tirana whilst being chased by such a pack…)

In any case, I was eventually picked up by some friendly young folks on their way to Tirana. They couldn’t take me to Durres, but they could drop me near where I needed to be to get there in Tirana. And so, some time later, I arrived at night in Tirana earlier than I’d planned and almost entirely by accident. The feeling was intense. I’d spent so long reading, researching and there I was. All those anecdotes, all those fictions and stories…and there I was amidst it. Living it. Something I’d been so second-hand familiar with finally assaulting my waking senses.

And that’s how I feel reading the likes of The Day of the Triffids, just as with The War of the Worlds and The Time Machine.

At the end of a passage I’d just finished reading whilst spending a gorgeous day out and around in St Andrews getting tea (Venti Zen), coffee (large cinnamon latte) and my particular favourite of the muffin line (skinny peach & raspberry) I came across a bit of a phrase. Sic Transit. The entire phrase is sic transit gloria mundi and it’s a widely known bit of latin. ‘Thus passes the glory of the world’, I’m told, though I knew it as “so” rather than “thus”. My parents gave me a photo-album (in a This is your life style, albeit white rather’n red and almost half the size) for my eighteenth birthday which featured the phrase in its entirety. That was over five years ago and so much has happened.

I once felt, fro the time of August ’07 to around February ’08 that I was ‘at the top of my game’. It wasn’t a maudlin though, but it was one I couldn’t shake. I’d had the most glorious few months, capering from adventure to adventure and basically leading a high life. The following six months were pretty decent too. The four after that took a sharp downturn and, up until perhaps March this year, I remain at the nadir rather than zenith. Or so I thought.

Here, now in September ’09, I find myself in a frankly magnificent situation. I’m jobless, prospectless and effectively homeless (living on other folks’ couches). I’ve not partner, no forthcoming adventures and no secure way to see myself beyond the next few weeks except the prospect of moving back home. A death knell? Yes, I think it probably is. It’d be sobering though, but I fear it. I suspect it to be a trap, a resting place from which it would be an unsightly battle to escape. Though I get on well with my family, I highly suspect that living with them again is something I simply would not wish on me, or more importantly, something I would ever wish on them.

It hardly sounds excellent, does it? The thing is, it has been excellent. It continues to be excellent. I’m staying with some good, if relatively new, friends. I’ve spent a lot of time with people I really wouldn’t have expected to do so. Even those I’ve said goodbye to, those I felt had moved beyond my reach…they are returning.

* Obviously** I’m not English. The Albanians, however, popularly have little or no distinction between British and English, and similarly refuse to accept my not being English. Quite quickly I relented and became, for the duration, English. It wasn’t quite New York, but I was for most intents and purposes now an Englishman abroad. Also, the Albanians seem to be deeply in love with the English and Americans, venerating them quite highly.
** This isn’t obvious at all, apparently. On S3E2 of Q.I., Stephen Fry spends a lot of time doing Morningside-esque ‘neutral’ Scottish accents (ones which are purported by the speakers to be accent-less, think Maggie Smith’s Prof. McGonagall/Jean Brodie). Many folks have told me they think I am, or at least sound English. This is mad, in my opinion.

A deadline

I spent a lot of time this year ending up inadvertently inundated with new friends from RockSoc. It’s almost exactly not my scene, my ‘thing’. Indeed: compare & contrast.

Spot the truly odd one out.
Spot the truly odd one out.

I think my current suspicion is that I’ll leave St Andrews next Friday. At worst, next Saturday. Thursday is RockSoc and Friday’ll be the Freshers’ Bop. They’re institutions and most of the folks I’m likely to be kicking about with may well be at these events. Indeed, the friends I’ve made seem to be strongly involved in these things. This is so much so that I know the bulk of the RockSoc committee. I even considered an outfit. My desire at present is to reinvigorate my Valentine’s RockSoc get-up, but we shall see. If I even bother. I might leave before then. We’ll see…


1 Comment »

  1. You think it’s bad being mistaken for an Englishman, despite corrections?

    I usually end up being German since no one has heard of Denmark.

    As a Dane, you quickly learn a few tricks to get peoples minds working:

    Carlsberg. Peter Schmeichel. Hans Christian Andersen. Lego. Etc..

    Sometimes it gets a bit lame being “the German dude”.

    Comment by Christoffer (His Will on BL forums) — September 20, 2009 @ 4:35 pm | Reply

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