In all my life I've never hesitated to refer to myself as Scottish. There must be some ancestry there, beyond the clan name. But until this week I'd never actually been to Scotland. As we crossed the border on our way to Glasgow the thought did occur to me, will I feel like I belong here? (As well as, is it seriously this foggy in summer?)
In Glasgow and Edinburgh the answer was, no (and yes). I didn't really like deep fried pizza. I didn't strike up any friendly conversations with the locals. I had no real issues with the British. Understanding what some residents were saying required more active listening and guesswork than my German conversations!
In between the two cities there was a day spent in the Scottish Highlands. This territory did appeal to me more than the urban places, and I wondered if it would be there, among the lochs and glens, that I would find a place that felt like home.
Sadly I didn't get any sense of belonging, or any photos of highland cows! But the sweeping mountain ranges, refreshing drizzle, and reminders of historic courage and barbarity did make me feel kind of at home. Although that could have been due to their similarities with the Adelaide Hills.
I'm sitting here in Adelaide. I've finished blowing the last of the black junk from the Piccadilly Line out of my nose, after flying for so long that I watched all of Fargo Season 2 on a tiny screen attached to a chair reclined to within inches of my face. If it's not clear, I've realised, European Summer Holidays suck. Of course, I'll list why:
It's sunny from before 5am until almost 10am. This makes it really difficult to take amazing photos without staying out quite late. The lighting during the middle of the day is too harsh. Super annoying. And I missed every sunrise for a month. Deciding what to do each day is mentally draining. Museum? Park? Castle? Shopping? Hiking? Pub? How you'll end up wishing for the surprise-free routine of office and supermarket. You can't buy Weet Bix anywhere. Every time you visit a website you have to accept cookies. Sometimes also at hotels. Only having one place in the room to charge your phone is a pain. When you post something to social media you have to wait hours for your friends and family to wake up and like it. There are tourists everywhere. No matter how much fun you're having, there's a constant, nagging feeling that you'll have to go back home soon and return to reality.
I did manage a few positive experiences speaking German on my holiday. In Austria I managed to check into our hotel succinctly enough that the check in lady asked me, "Verstehen Sie Deutsch?" in a curious tone. (It is actually surprisingly simple to check into a hotel, as well as buy groceries, without ever speaking a single word of the same language, as long as the right money changes hands.) Unfortunately I ruined it by trying to say, "Ja, ein bisschen" (Yes. a little bit) and instead said "Ja, ein bissen" (Yes, a bite).
Another good moment was when I was in the Planten un Blomen gardens in Hamburg. We were looking for the Wasserlichtorgel and I'd just walked away from a map that showed the way. A second later three people approached me and babbled something that sounded like a question and included the word Wasserlichtorgel. I stepped back to the map and said, "Ich denke, das es ist da." They said, "Echt?" (Really) and I shrugged and admitted, "Ich bin Auslander." That made them laugh, and I laughed, and we all chuckled as I proved that I can be funny in Germany.
I'm back at the gym this week for a return to my hundred-year rehab plan. Because of my holiday it's been five weeks since I last sacrificed my leisure time for moving bits of metal around, so I was being extra cautious with my weights and rep choices. At one point, when I was moving just the bar up and down I was reminded of my old life in North Adelaide. By my house there was a gym for retirees. On sunny days I'd often see their group fitness classes being held on the oval outside. Frail, wrinkly men and woman on colourful mats moving tiny hand weights above their heads with the speed of snails.
I thought to myself, as long as I don't go that hard, I should be okay.
Anyway, this entry is not only for sharing that joke. Many years ago I shared my life-changing secret about using the hand-dryer and paper towels together for a luxurious post-urination experience. I don't know how I missed it until recently, but due to my gym's policy ("Members must use a towel at ALL times") I've now experienced drying my hands using the combination of cotton towel AND hand-dryer. It makes using paper towel and a hand-dryer feel like the folly of serfs. My mind was blown. As were my hands.