As all good things must come to an end, so all excruciating mediocrities must begin. Before this blog reaches anything close to a sense of direction I thought I might search my memory for something almost worthy of sharing. Rather then start at the beginning, allow me to commence from somewhere nextdoor-but-one to the present, though not quite within the realms of the past.
2010 took me further away from home then I had ever been. From the Smokey Mountains of North Carolina to Perth, Western Australia, via Miami, New York and Washington D.C. Along the way I learnt more about myself then I had in my previous 18 years. This exploration of the hemispheres had convinced me I couldn’t go back to reality, back to a university course that had never quite grabbed me and back to a normality that had become that little bit harder to stomach.
That…and I had fallen in love with an Australian girl and had come to the decision I was going to uproot my whole life and move down under…naturally.
So what next? How does one go about transplanting one’s self from an existing reality to a brand new one? Being a good scholar I consulted the relevant texts and all signs pointed to one course of action, one sure fire method for success. You call your sister and beg her to let you move into a room she’s still renting but no longer lives in as she has moved in with her future fiancé. The glitz of Miami and the bright lights of New York had left me viciously underprepared for the next location on my journey; St. Andrews, Fife, Scotland.
St. Andrews was not entirely a mystery to me, having often visited my elder sister as she continued her studies in English Literature at the historic university (she being achiever of the family). My longest tenure within the town had amounted to a few days at most. Living and working there would no doubt be a different experience entirely, especially given my unique situation of being caught in limbo between one chapter of life and the next. For those who have never had the pleasure of visiting St. Andrews it is a truly beautiful place. One of those rare parts of the world that is at its finest when the sun is shining and the wind is attempting to wrench the skin from your face. You can’t move without falling over a bit of history. From the 600 year old university to the ruins of various chapels, the town exudes the antique.
Life in St. A began with a stroke of luck. The résumé I had shared with a potential employer led to a trial shift and my eventual employment at the Northpoint Cafe. Though years ago I had sworn never again to sink to the depths of kitchen porter here I was again. To put it into context, if you look at your arms and find at the end of them a pair of hands you are more then qualified to be a kitchen porter (love stinking of grease and being covered in dishwater? You’re the perfect candidate). Hard work, dark, cold mornings and darker, colder evenings were to be my world for the next 3 months.
But despite the bleak picture painted, the memories of St. Andrews that I cling to most are joyous and precious ones.
Like any good 20 year old living in a university town I began to seek out and experiment with substances – initially double demin, then chilli hot chocolate and strong, smoked applewood cheeses. I refused to waste the opportunities around me; pestering my future brother in-law to tutor me in philosophy. When you’re sleeping on the couch of a double degree toting English tutor at one of the best universities in the land its rather hard not to want to tap that rich vein of knowledge. Nights at “Chez Ev” were a whirlwind of red wine, discussion and cold meats, exposing my mind to the likes of Beckett, Fouchault, the Pre-Socratics and Pinot Noir.
From the beginning I had always said that my time in Scotland would be one I would enjoy “more in the reminiscing .” It was a means to an end whilst I earned the money that would eventually take me to Australia. Now in my present, I can look back on this sometimes difficult period of my past and be imbued with the knowledge that I wouldn’t have changed it for the world. The time spent there helped me evolve into much of the young man that I am today. A young man attempting to get the better of a double major in English and Philosophy – a legacy of my cultural awakening in a frozen university town.
I believe the most worthy experiences are those in which you find equal moments of despair and delight.
That was St. Andrews all over.