Blog

We should all feel the rain sometimes.

It’s a particularly dreary Sunday afternoon during this predictable Scottish Summer.
I’m home in Clydebank where I had lived most of my life before.
A mazy cluster of flat and grey houses, all packed in together ‘lit a tin a sardines’.

I don’t mind being home.

After embarking to pastures new I toiled with emotions of longing for familiarity.
It takes a strong-minded person to embrace new beginnings elsewhere with a status quo so far removed from what has always been the reality.

Yet alternating between differing realities can provide great strength in times of upheaval. And being ‘home’ is a great reminder in why it felt so necessary to seek better horizons in the first place. To stay here would be to accept this reality but i’m not
quite sure this one is for me. The process of living requires understanding and growth.
How can one grow in a bleak and introverted universe without seeking a liberation
of the mind from afar? It doesn’t ring true to continue on here, trapped by a prevailing
system engulfed in the ideals of a society built on fear and survival.

I don’t want to survive…

I want to live.

I open my door and the grey exterior fills my sight with the heavy burden of an enduring gloom. The rain comes down and the streets remain quiet but for the comings and goings of the buses and cars. Any other day and the rain would keep me inside. But in doing so would lend a hand to victory for this current reality and repress my beliefs of the nature of this facade. We should all feel the rain sometimes. We should listen to the wind and let it cross us contentedly. We should not allow ourselves to grow easy in a world where difficulty is regarded so negatively. To be at ease is to be comfortable and comfortability breeds pain in restless minds.

For the restless such as I.. This ephemeral lifetime is not meant to be comfortable atall.

Advertisements

Bucharest.

Taken from my journal, 1st June 2018.

Zen Tribe Hostel – Strada Radu de Afumati, Bucharest.

I wouldn’t spend long in the Romanian capital. Last night I stayed at a hotel not far from the Airport. A few locals offered to drop me off in their taxi free of charge. They explained to me that the North of the country was much more beautiful than where I would see and even asked me to join them in another renowned Romanian hotspot, Brasov. However I politely declined as I wanted to focus on my original plan of heading South to Bulgaria.

P1000872

”For a short while I took some time to chill  under a bridge. Trying to figure what the hell I was going to do.”

Yesterday I got up reasonably early and started to hitch-hike into the city centre. A bus driver picked me up fairly swiftly and took me to the outskirts of town. I took a path through a park, next to a river, but the determined heat was arduously difficult. I paused frequently on benches and even lay down on a wall at the edge of the riverbank and used my bag as an effective headrest. The day before had been enduring and left me jaded, somewhat haggard. But the excitement of this whole affair was carrying me and my bags to ceaseless glories and immutable perspicaciousness. A taut adrenaline had gripped me firmly for days leading upto now and I needed the time to gather my thoughts. Questions unravelled one after another and my thought process lost direction so I promised myself to take it one step at a time. It took me two more hours to get to where I was going. Getting lost on the local buses, dozens of eyes staring questionably at the sallow skin and red hair of the foreigner in their midst. We travelled through some local suburbs before taking a turn onto a massive road. I couldn’t believe it. There was a roundabout up ahead as we approached and in the centre an exact replica of the French Arc de Triomphe sat proudly. I didn’t know why this was here but the whole boulevard and its towering centrepiece was identical to the original classic of the city of Paris. Maybe I’m wrong and the French copied the Romanians? It was bizarre nonetheless. Unknown to me of course, it was a local holiday and the buses were crammed with people. Air conditioning was non-existent and some of the passengers were not shy in telling the driver exactly what they thought. I got off the bus while an older gentleman barked complaints with a couple of other disgruntled passengers seeming to agree. I felt sorry for the driver but for the time being I had other things to worry about.

P1000875

”The man on the tram.”

I wandered through some run down streets searching for my hostel and with some luck I found my way without too much difficulty. On the way I walked past a doorway lying wide open to some sort of community hall. A group of men were sat in a circle, listening to very loud traditional music. At the corner of a street a couple of drunks tried to make conversation but I couldn’t understand a word they said. Upon arrival at the hostel I met Alexis, a young Romanian who owned the place with his cousin. He spoke of the city and his experience of previously living in Scotland, in Oban and Glen Affric. He isn’t working today. I plan to head off for Bulgaria and I won’t have a chance to say goodbye. But I have plenty of opportunities to meet other interesting people along the way so I’m not too disheartened.

In the evening I ventured out into the city to get a taste of what Bucharest is like. I planned to get into the Old Town. The public transport was shitty & filled with lonely, abject characters and the buildings accompanying the tracks of the tram where mostly run down and destroyed. It’s a country with issues so I didn’t expect more but its true what they say, you never really know what it’s like ’til you’ve seen it yourself. There was a marked contrast between the affluent areas and the surrounding ghettos, left to rot by a thoughtless society a long time ago in a country aiming to jump up the ladder of desirable destinations. I didn’t see many inhabitants of the buildings themselves to be honest, just some construction workers in amongst the rubble of this abandoned metropolis. Political graffiti condemning anyone who mattered by the forgotten representatives of a forgotten class hoping to make change from the ground. It saddens me to say this but it looks to me that the message will fall on deaf ears.

P1000880

”Exuberant Romanian nightlife. (This picture doesn’t do my point any justice sadly).”

I thought the Old Town might have resembled a bazaar of the East but I was completely wrong. Instead I faced huge buildings of wealth and culture. What once was historically something completely different from the modern day Bucharest, the streets were filled with clubs, pubs, restaurants and eager revellers desperate for good times. Pretty girls stood outside establishments attempting to entice the swathes of young people into their workplace. Outdoor terraces brimmed with drinkers and cigarette smoke. Trashy dance music boomed from soundsystems and bright lights filled the night. At one point I passed a place with an outdoor stage set up and this huge light show spread boldly across a building block. Tourists like me loitered the streets taking in every inch of the Old Town’s liveliness. I had already learned about club culture in Eastern Europe. It exploded suddenly after an amicable peace was resolved in the Balkan region and the disillusioned populations found a new way to escape the horrors of what they had experienced.

P1000881

”The Old Town of Bucharest.”

I’m heading to Bulgaria today. From the hostel it should take around an hour to make it to the edge of the city, to a town called Giurglui, and from there I’ll try to hitchhike across the border into Velika Tarnovo, Plovdiv or Sofia. The hostel has been great and I could’ve probably stayed for longer if I wasn’t ridiculous in my methods of scheduling. I appreciated how much effort the guys were putting in to make it their own and I hope the future brings them the success they are looking for. And as for Romania.. I haven’t afforded myself the time or experience to see much and for that I bow to return again, to see Brasov, the region of Transylvania and the Carpathian Mountains of the Northern reaches. Or to Cluj-Napoca, Timișoara and Craiova. At least I know next time I won’t be in a rush to leave.

P1000889

”One Night in Bucharest.”

Bergamo to Bucharest.

Taken from my journal, 30th May 2018.

Flight W6 3136 – Bergamo > Bucureşti Otopeni.

The gate to Sofia is closed. You must go to the ticket counter. 2nd floor.

I’d never missed a flight before. We left in the morning pretty sharpish, a little later than our scheduled time but with still plenty of room for error. My nerves were further eased thanks to the Italian authorities somewhat relaxed approached to highway speed limits. It’s a business for them with all the tollbooths every few kilometres. Deaths don’t matter.

The route was special. You can look at all the brochures, pictures and YouTube guides you want. Nothing beats being smack bang in the middle of the most beautiful places on Earth. Like an All-You-Can-Eat buffet for dreamers. It’s no wonder three countries have laid claim to a piece of this treasure.

It was my second time in Malpensa Airport. A real nightmare experience. My boarding pass wouldn’t scan upon entry and this little old apathetic & uninterested Italian man stared carefully at nothing while I signalled desperately for help. He didn’t seem to care for my troubles. Eventually (without aid) I passed through. At the security check it was much of the same problem. Prolonged queues, few staff and thick-witted ‘heed the baws’ who wait until their up before delving into their oversized cases to search for any liquids. Thoughtless idiots of the highest order wasting precious valuable time while the rest of us are forced to wait attentively and sweat the last ounces of eager body chemicals from our pores, good to go. I was beginning to grow concerned, but not overly.

Once I was through I started to get a jog on, realising that time was beginning to go against me. I found my gate number. The last f***ing gate in the airport. Speed became my main issue. A man can only run so fast when he’s carrying his house on his back. The sweat was running quicker than me now and my back was aching from the strain of the weight. My hands shuffled additional bags in a valiant attempt to juggle them without error. The gate was closing in. I turned the corner expecting the last of my fellow flyers to be heading out onto the tarmac.

Shit.

I wasn’t to make it to Bulgaria that day. I trudged back into the airport lounge, awaited my partner who hadn’t yet left and began to search for a new flight to the Balkans.

9.55pm. Milan, Bergamo > Bucharest Otopeni.

Romania wasn’t part of the plan. I knew very little of the place itself except for the odd football team, Dracula and the swathes of gypsys who use the country’s identity when begging across Europe. Bergamo Airport was an hour away so I got one more afternoon to spend with my lady in a pleasant Italian city. The roads were typically populated with classy vespas and angry commuters, repeatedly antagonising other drivers with their bellowing horns and their flailing Italian handwaves of disapproval. We took the road upto the city centre, sitting high and mighty in a fortress on a hill. We ate joyously in a little restaurant called Da Mimmo’s. Classy joint with the kind of Pasta you can only find in this corner of the world. Authentic Italia.

It would seem that our enduring morning had been sweetened by an unforgetable dining experience. But the mayhem of mishaps returned almost instantly to fire up the flames of anxiety once more. Parking problems, failing cards, security checks once again causing disruption (they took my tent pegs and pocket knife, my only source of protection.. Graze mille) and the flight company charging me 35 Euros to check in at the desk. My phone had died earlier, what a shitshow. My girlfriend questioned if it was best if I go. The whole day had been a taxing mess. But my luck was going to turn and my dreams soon realised. I couldn’t give up. This was it.

The next few lines come directly from my journal, expressing my feelings as the plane began to land.

”So now I find myself.. starting a descent into Bucharest, Romania. Who knows what may lay ahead. It feels glorious. Whatever happens, it doesn’t matter anymore. Even the bad times will be good. I look out the window and the lightning forks dance feverishly in the sky. The vibrant moon flirts modestly from behind a curtain of clouds. Everything has felt right since boarding the plane.”

 

P1000860

‘Bergamo, Italia.’

 

 

70 Years of the NHS!

A little unrelated but I wanted to take the time to say Happy Birthday to the NHS!

In my opinion, this is the single greatest thing to happen to Scotland & the UK. I always see many people complaining about how bad the service can be (I won’t exempt myself from this either) but it’s important that people remember just how vital an organisation this is. In recent years the UK Government has looked to sell the NHS to private investors who would no longer allow for free healthcare but instead implement pricing and fees to fill pockets. This is a privilege which I am sure many will agree can’t be taken away. Being in France now and prescribing to medication myself I already know just how much the costs can be concerning. I am very fortunate that I can still work and pay but for some this may not be the case. Infact for many it may be the difference between staying healthy or staying out of debt. In 2018, in developed countries like our own.. this is not acceptable. To have it and to then lose it would be a massive blow for the many people in need who use it often. We only have to look to other countries such as the United States to see how much damage medical bills can cause.

Protect the National Health Service. Cherish and support it with everything you can. And hope that we will have it for another 70 years. We just don’t know how lucky we are.

nhs

Photo Credits – @Givebloodscot via Twitter.

Dipping The Feet.

P1000889

One night in Bucharest.

I’ve been back in France for two weeks now, gently relaxing (and working) after a busy last few months, most notably including my time jaunting and bussing across the southeastern region of the European continent. Like almost always my plans never came to fruition in the way that I expected but still delivered on a big time level. I tested myself, faced my challenge and took in some of the most unknown places this side of the world. I didn’t wander into completely untapped parts of the world. I met many like-minded people from all over (special shoot out to the wandering Americans and Australians. I got the feeling they all left together, they were so many) seeking out new adventures, new memories.. new perspectives.

P1000904

On the oustkirts of Sofia.

I originally planned to start in the capital of Bulgaria, Sofia. Things went awry when I missed my flight and decided to fly to neighbouring country Romania. So I found myself starting in Bucharest and then made my way down through Bulgaria, Macedonia, Kosovo, Montenegro & Croatia.

For many reasons I didn’t make the route the way I originally planned to. I missed out on going to Albania & Bosnia, two countries very high on my list for visiting. I didn’t spend nearly as much time in Montenegro as I intended and I never camped out as much as I would have liked. I’m not too downhearted though. I realised whilst spending time in many of these countries that it’s a privilege to jump on a plane with a bag and take an extended holiday in some of the poorest areas of Europe. I was aware of that already but being there hit home more than anything else could have. It was never an intention to go and be a tourist but instead learn from others on their way of life and understand what it means to have what they possess. Therefore I would rather label this as a taster of what’s to come. I dipped my toes in a great puddle of fulfilling water and next time I will dive in head first, the lungs loaded with refreshing air, ready for the deeper experiences awaiting underneath.

P1000952

”ЖП линии.”

Now I’m reminiscing, evaluating, learning & preparing for the future. I look fondly back on some thrilling adventures; crossing borders with the help of extremely generous people.. walking through the cities of forgotten countries in the midst of bringing themselves in line with a standard of the capitalist structure of development, in order to compete with the titan nations of our world.. amongst many other beautiful things I hope to share over the coming weeks. Most importantly  for myself I held an unrelenting feeling of melancholy when I returned home. I wasn’t utterly delighted or basking in the glory of my adventures to share as I had previously expected. Instead I just had more questions. A hunger to continue. To garner up as much of this riveting energy as I possibly can. An energy so engrossing, so magically powerful the brain needs rest periods every once in a while just to compute what the hell is going on and why in God’s name did you feel it was necessary to take such a plunge into the unknown. That is where most people find themselves wanting to take on more and go further out into the foreign lives and societies of others. I’m of the opinion that its easy to fall into a trap of believing we know everything already grâce au monde connecté que nous vivons* and yet myself along with many others, desperate to discover what this life has to give us, are striking evidence that our new abilities to interact may not be as connecting as what is generally percieved. But instead it gives us a flavour of the life we strive for and perhaps desire in order to live what we believe to be a fulfilling life.

I look forward to sharing my experiences with you and I hope that you’re all excited to share them too.

Мерси и Поздрави!**

P1000980

”Newborn.”

Languages are amazing. You’ll have to guess the name of the picture, let me know if you find out by posting a comment 🙂

* – ”thanks to the connected world that we live in” (French)
** – ”Thank you and regards!” (Bulgarian)

Winter Season Thought Track.

Throughout the winter season in Les Saisies, I wrote down some notes in various forms. They are mostly trivial, constructs of boredom, and whether they pass as ‘bloggable material’… i’ll leave that to you.

An empty store,
There’s nothing to do,
Except for stare at the walls.

Outside there are few,
And no attention is paid,
For those minds are fixed elsewhere.

Without customers,
And without work to be done..
What can I, the lonely Ski Man, actually do?

The winter snow storm has beaten us all;
The pistes lay empty,
The roads conquered by snow,
While bitter tourists rue the dashed dreams
and retreat to their chalets.

And I, the lonely Ski Man,
Sit here biding time sanguinely
And writes this poem to express..
Just how f***ing bored I am.

P1000355

——————-

He had a dream.
He had many dreams actually.

To see, to hear, to smell. To feel.

He observed videos and pictures online.
He read many books.
He spoke to many people.

It was the beginning of an everlasting adventure.

He was a flower ready to bloom.

P1000529

——————

Clouds fill the sky,
The colour of grief.

Those otherwise boastful mountains,
Have become bashful,
Whilst they hide between deep stretches of fog.

She rains down like a determined soul,
Persistent in disrupting the life underneath.

For her skin is white and glorious,
But should she be disrespected,
Her heart will be black and vengeful.

La neige.

P1000344

—————–

I often fight with myself about the idea of home.
I’ve come to realise that it’s never going to be where I lived all my life.
Ok you can argue that it’s story and mine are forever intertwined,
But should the place you call home endure you a mountain of pain?
Is home really a place at all?

Wonder entrenches my thoughts now I have strayed away.
My brother called it ‘soul searching’.
Perhaps an expected & unsurprising buzz phrase.
Tell me this, does one find home whilst soul searching?
Or is the soul contaminated, poisoned, by the constructs of our day?

For me this is crucial.
I don’t believe in soul searching.
My soul is always here.
It’s the cleansing and the repairing that I believe is pivotal..
In finding my home.

(Note. I am ginger. And I do have a soul.)

P1000314

 

Here’s to My Treasure Island..

It’s a new day tomorrow. Wednesday, 30th of March to be exact. And it marks the beginning of another new expedition to add to the previous escapades on record. An early morning drive to Milan in Italy followed by a fairly short flight to the Bulgarian capital of Sofia and I will be ready to take on the lower half of the Balkans. I have my tent, my hammock, my Jack Kerouac books and lavender spray for the mosquitoes and I am ready to go. I hope to take six or seven weeks and make my way through some of Europe’s poorest and unknown countries by throwing the thumb out and taking a lift with some happy locals willing to share their hidden piece of this world with an enthusiastic, ginger, 20 something from a country they might never have heard of (before anyone contests this I’ve had several conversations with people who don’t know what Scotland is. Or if they do, they think it’s a part of England..).

The majority of the countries I will be going through are not the typical destinations at the top of a European getaway wish list. But after doing some research and targeting some adventurous places I decided to go with my final findings. I wouldn’t be human if I wasn’t nervous. It’s a region of Europe which still has various issues mostly linked to the break up of the Yugoslavian Republic and the brutal wars that preceded. This is not my reason for choosing these places and I wouldn’t like to think of myself as some sort of ‘war tourist’ (I don’t know the phrase word for word but I read about some Danish guy being accused of this after visiting Syria.. And after seeing widespread criticism of folk posing emphatically for photos at several commemoration memorials I intend to pay my utmost respect). Most of these countries are trying to move on from the past and bring the benefits of change to help their poor nations. And with the attempts to step away from the limelight for the wrong reasons I hope to embrace the future with the locals in a shared hope of personal wealth and a long-lasting happiness.

I can’t choose a favoured part of the plan I have drawn up for the coming months; I hope to spend time in the Bosnian capital, Sarajevo, venture through the wilderness of Montenegro, find out more about the Continent’s newest country Kosovo (or South-Western Serbia for when I arrive at the border) and experience the valiant & enigmatic cultures of Albania and Macedonia. Even as I head North to more common-known places like Croatia, Slovenia & Italy, I can’t begin to dream about what is in store for me.

I look forward to the moments that await me and the joy they will bring. In the previous days the thought running through my head has been one of great excitement. Embarking on a trip like this to me is potentially life-defining. Or as we fondly say back home.. ‘One to tell the grandweans‘. Maybe i’m getting carried away and it won’t be anything extraordinary. Or maybe they’ll talk about me in parts of the region as a ‘much loved Scottish explorer’. I don’t expect my name to be up there with Robinson Crusoe after a summer stint in the Balkans, but these are the scope of thoughts that enter play in the preceding moments before an adventure as such. And is it dangerous to aim high? To dream of great happenings and endearing moments? The romantic in me says no. The realist in me says ‘get a f**kin hawd of yersel!‘.

Perhaps striking the balance might be what shapes this chapter as a decorated highlight in the ongoing novel that is my life..


The last few weeks I’ve been exploring various places in La France with my partner. We’ve mainly divided our time between the wonderful city of Lyon and the South of France. Over the coming weeks while i’m away i’ll be sharing various tales from our shenanigans, so keep updated by following the blog at the links provided. Cheers X

Appeasing the Masses.

When I began writing my blog I had a vision of what I wanted it to be. I knew all the things I wanted to discuss and to portray. Now, although I would like to apologise for the lack of content released recently, I must refuse.

You see, I don’t want to write for the sake of satisfying my desire to furiously fire out pages of work. It’s robotic, generic and really not authentic. And with the topics I want to investigate I firmly believe they simply deserve more.

The vision of a Wide-Eyed Scotsman is to focus on two separate wider topics without aggressively dividing the posts as such. For one, I love exploring. I get bored easily. I don’t enjoy staying in one place for too long and I can’t begin to comprehend those who choose not to delve further into anything outside of the world they know.

Of course, I understand it.

Maybe it’s true.. if something is not broken, why change it? If someone is happy, why would they feel it necessary to challenge that? Me being me, I don’t believe that has ever been familiar.

As a family we used to visit the South of Spain one week or two weeks at a time. I have some very fond memories of these trips. Some sadly not so fond but mostly (as the French would say) ils étaient très agréables. These were very typical, working-class, Costa Brava affairs; Causing mayhem at the pool while our easygoing European brethren looked on dismayed. Days at the beach often being ruined the moment someone realises the sand is too warm to set foot on. Excursions to Port Aventura with screaming weans who don’t want to wait two hours in the blistering heat to take on a roller-coaster they told their da’ they didn’t want to go on. Or wandering around the typical towns just far away enough from the bedlam ensuing in the tourist spots to feel like ‘the Real España!’   All in all it makes for a very Scottish holiday abroad.

At home all I knew were my surroundings and these opportunities to explore became special. And with the ho-hum trials and tribulations of everyday life being somewhat difficult to digest, finding that sense of gratification I mentioned earlier was to be more bothersome, wearing and complicated than the young me could have ever known. Which brings us onto the second topic..

I’ve always thought of myself as a heavy thinker. That being I think too much. My mother would often describe me as deep. I liked this to begin with. I had a fruitful imagination and occasionally wondered if I could achieve great feats like others such as J.R.R Tolkien. I wanted to create new worlds. But I never persisted and instead engaged in a lifestyle similar to a youngster in Clydebank. Football, the streets, console games and various other trivial things. Family life was also tough which affected the ability to pursue creative ambitions before plaguing my thoughts with impossible-to-answer questions, needless dilemmas and false scenarios. I was never an outgoing person at a young age, resulting in a habit of generally drifting to the side of any attention. I wasn’t confident and rarely felt good enough. My mates would be plodding along well with girlfriends and sporting achievements while I held on with relative insignificance at the rear.

Eventually confidence came with alcohol. A false bravado soothed by an empty promise of society’s way to a better world. As a result I like many others fell into the distraction trap and began measuring myself against the measures of drink I was consuming.

I wasn’t an alcoholic but I had issues. Anything that hurt me during the week would often unfold to a live audience at the weekend filled with those who had no business. Irrational, senseless and downright foolishness my actions would come to be, I sometimes take time to try understand why I acted this way. In my eyes it felt like life had disregarded me and left me at the bottom of a very big pile. I would react with deep frustration and aggression. The negativity in life made me a negative person. These are still issues I tackle today.  I don’t drink nearly as much anymore because I resent what it can do to me or what I can do to others through it. I don’t take drugs other than the prescribed pills i’m given in order to keep me relatively level-headed although there was a time when other influences fueled this illusion of well-being while plotting against me in the midst of my own skin.

This is what I want to address through my writing. I don’t want to bother my audience with weekly updates of information that would otherwise be simple to find in a holiday  brochure. Personally this is important and possibly life-changing. Travelling to me is much more than a status update or a like. It’s a personal project to help myself and to help others. I hold ambitions for the future to change where I come from for the better while gaining the fulfillment I have admired from afar since a time long gone by. I want to discuss things that others can’t or won’t. Recently there seems to be a recurring trend of ‘raising awareness’ and ‘promoting discussion’ without a genuine attempt being truly undertaken to tackle the dangers of our everyday lives. Why? I honestly do not know. There could be a thousand reasons but in the end life goes on and damage prevails while the preachers preach a ghostly prayer.

It’s not acceptable.

It’s helpful to no-one and dangerous for everyone.

The time to act is now.

The Art of Leaving.

Those first steps wreak havoc on a mans curious mind.

To leave was to fare on my own.

Without the loving mother whom I cherish so dear.

To this father of mine I normally keep near.

Of friends turned family and family turned friends, I gave up everything to seek better ends.

———-

For this life has given me enough to move on, amidst great hope that with wisdom I will return.

To complete my life aims I must venture on,

Beyond these grey walls and from these strong bonds.

The continent is vast with opportunities abound.

New experiences lie ahead; sweet lessons to be found.

———-

And so my dear home I give you my word,

Leaving you was imperative to grow.

Your concrete surroundings and your merciless approach,

Sends many into a haste-ridden frenzy.

You tarnish communities through systems of wrong.

Fuelled by a wickedness of a wallet grown strong.

Leaving those in control with filthy hands not yet rubbed.

Callously witnessing a delirium undisturbed.

———-

They say it takes courage to leave all behind.

But I can’t say for certain if I believe this is true.

I see many who stay despite all their woes;

They bravely hold fort, they boldly fight foes.

And thus we can answer our pigheaded question..

Does courage ascend from the people who go?

Perhaps there is depth to our meaningful journey,

But in the end it is from everyone that we see true strength grow.”

 

Thursday, 10th May. 2018.

‘The Art of Leaving’ by Aidan Meehan.

Rue de Dauphine, Lyon.

 

 

Where Am I Now? (Part 3)

”Growing up, you think you know everything.
About those places you see in pictures.
But to see is not to experience,
You have to be.

I visited this country just once before,
And I thought it had shown me everything I ought to know.
It seems a straightforward practice..
In this world of connection and instant dexterity.

And yet I sit here,
Sapped by the relentless stream of information.
Does this deter me?
No.

The pursuit of experience cannot be burdened.
It only begins to spark further enthusiasm.
And this manifestation crowns my decision
as legitimate and just.”

 

P1110404

 

It’s not been easy settling in to my new surrounding. But it has been rewarding. Despite the progress I’ve made in learning French it is a tricky challenge made more difficult thanks to the level of detail and history of a language spoken by approximately 220 million people throughout the world. There are only five other languages with more speakers and these are Mandarin Chinese (leading the way with over a billion speakers), English, Hindi, Spanish and Arabic. And as is the same with most languages spoken there are many different variations as a result of accents, social elements, natural progress and countless other important aspects. Being a hugely influential language worldwide French is absolutely no different and this is where I would maybe aim criticism at popular sources of language education. For it is often stated that the best method of learning a language is to thoroughly immerse yourself in the culture and I cannot agree more. When learning in school or using online apps like Duolingo (which I have used frequently in my own time) it is very easy to learn the basics to work off. However.. this will never help to fully prepare a person for a conversation with the average native person. Certain words and phrases I have heard very often provide evidence of such. Here are a few examples…

‘Balle’

Pronounced like b-a-l.. Not balls.  A slang term for money, it’s literal translation                    into English slang would be ‘quid’ or for the Kevin Bridges lovers out there…                        ‘Smackeroonies’.

‘Bordel’

This officially is the french word for brothel (hoor hoose for us Scots).                                    However  it’s often used to describe a mess.

‘Mec’

The slang term for man and is also used for boyfriend. Kind of like when a                        Scottish guy says ‘ma burd’. Obviously the roles are reversed so well done to the                  ladies of France.

‘Ouf’

Very similar to the Scottish term ‘ooft!’ this is used to describe something mental                and is the French word ‘Fou’ (crazy) spelled backwards. This is a fairly common                   throughout the country to use words in their backwards form as slang.

 

P1000735

”Eh donc,  ça c’est un truc de ouf..”

 

Comparing Scottish food culture and French food culture has been one of the most interesting things for me so far. There is a great importance placed on meals and socializing to the point where I have felt I spend most of my time at a dinner table. It’s a good way of communication and interaction. Phones are off. The TV is off. There are no distractions. Being from a home where the norm was to eat dinner on the couch with the dining table relegated to an ornament until Christmas rolled in means that I am not very accustomed to this.

 

P1000241

‘Cheese is very important to the French. That’s why I’m reppin’ Swiss.’

 

The stereotypes of wine, bread and cheese are 100% authentic. There are aisles in the supermarkets dedicated to cheese and the smell is absolutely rotten (I should mention that this is just my opinion and not based on scientific facts, although i’m sure most degree swingers would agree). Baguettes are forever present much to my pleasure and wine is also a big game changer in foody affairs. It says a lot about the population however that alcoholism doesn’t seem to be a major health issue. Maybe it is for others but when you’ve lived in the West of Scotland for the entirety of your existence it pales in comparison. The quality of beverage is better thanks to production regulations and a truly continental attitude towards the preservation of the liver.

 

P1000686

”The laid-back nature of Europeans..”

 

France is one of the most diverse countries in the world when it comes to geographical standings. Each section of the country is more closely linked to the neighboring countries and their various aspects of culture. In the East where I reside now is mostly vast expanses of mountains which travel deep into Italy and Switzerland.  Winter is a big season for the inhabitants here. Holidaygoers travel from all over the country and other parts of Europe during this period to make the most of the snow by Skiing, Snowboarding etc. and this has an effect on the local economy. Most businesses will make their money in Winter before shutting down for the summer while hiring enthusiastic staff keen to earn some money while enjoying the surroundings in their spare time. Therefore the majority of these people will aim to work through winter before enjoying a long summer break. Obviously, the potential to have a three month holiday is enticing but what does this mean for the time being? Long hours and very little days off which are used up aiming to do anything that hasn’t been done throughout the week. It can be and usually is very tiring. It all depends on personal preference I guess but I struggled with this. I spent most of my time working, eating, sleeping or drinking and I can feel the fatigue now even as I write. Physically my fitness is gone and mentally I have struggled to continue at a creative level I was achieving before I started. So while the advantages are there.. is the work/ life balance really sustainable? Or are most folk at breaking point by the end of the season?

 

P1000784

”Fin de saison.”

 

Considering how difficult the season can be it’s the people who make it easier to get through unscathed. I’m grateful to the people I met throughout my time. They made the experience worthwhile and I learned more from them than from any other website or textbook. My colleagues were fantastic and with our apartments all next to each other we formed a small community for the duration. I’ve heard many things about French people being historically moody or simply unpleasant but it could not be further from the truth. The customers aswell were mostly very receptive and often very cheerful when they discovered I was Scottish. Only two groups of people guessed this, which brings me on to my next statement… SCOTTISH PEOPLE AREN’T ENGLISH. It’s all in good nature but if you can’t remember Mel Gibson’s famous (even if historically tainted) blockbuster ‘Braveheart’ then sorry troops but it’s jist no gonny fly that way.

 

WILLIAM WALLACE

”And if HE were here, he’d consume the English with fireballs from his eyes.. and bolts of lightning from his arse!”

 

I had some great interactions in work. Many folk spoke about the ginger hair bellowing from my head and face (I let the beard grow out for a few months) while others continued to play ‘Guess the Nationality’. I was English, Irish, American, French-Canadian and even Swiss or Belgian. There seems to be some confusion about Scotland and the UK. It is often referred to as a region within Great Britain. I have to say this was fairly irritating even if understandable. People are only given information and in fairness the United Kingdom has become increasingly irrelevant while simultaneously being horrendously slaughtered by it’s European counterparts thanks to the way its been dealt with.

 

charlie hebdo

”The Real Queen Elizabeth.”

 

A fleeting conversation I had with a gentleman from South Africa has stayed with me due to it’s insightful nature. This man was French by heritage and he claimed during the colonization of the country the Dutch banned the French navy workers from speaking the language in order to halt any possible revolutions. They were forced to learn Dutch and thus the French culture is only remembered by the ancestors (such as the Monsieur mentioned) and the names of towns and districts still preserving their distinctly French names. I found this fascinating however I’m still very unsure of it’s truth. If anyone could add to this or rectify any wrong points, I would be most grateful.

As stated in my previous post I would continue to share music currently soundtracking my journey. Here’s another popular French song by a well-known group here, and the video is quite a laugh too..