The playlist I’m currently listening to on Spotify has, with utmost humility, awarded itself the title: “The Most Beautiful Songs in the World.” I dispute this claim on the grounds that half of the tracks in the playlist can’t really be considered “songs”: they’re purely instrumental and therefore lack the crucial part of a song that is known among some radical thinkers as singing. The other half belong to that annoyingly edgy genre of music in which the vocalist mysteriously half-murmurs, half-burbles some meaningless drivel about coffee and radiators, while someone else lethargically flops their pick back and forth across some guitar strings creating not harmony, but rather an accompanying one-chord dirge that is undoubtedly filled with some tumultuous, troubled deeper meaning. Beautiful.
The playlist does have a couple of saving graces. One in particular Erik Satie’s Gymnopédie No.1 (mainstream, but what else can be expected from Spotify), and it was during this track that it dawned on me that this sort of uneventful, ruminant music was making me feel like writing something. Awfully pretentious, but it is pleasant to have something on in the background beside silence that doesn’t interfere with what I’m thinking. I’m guessing that caffeine probably has something to do with it too.
So here I am, writing. Probably nothing that interesting, but I am writing nonetheless, and I think it’s about time, since my last entry was before Christmas. That was last year – something I find simultaneously refreshing and terrifying – and I was on the eve of returning to the UK. Now, the two-thousand-and-fifteenth year of Our Lord is upon us, and this is my first post of the year! How exciting! Happy New Year! Let’s pretend I’m not two weeks late.
It’s bizarre: in the fortnight that I was in Grantham, being back on home ground didn’t feel like home ground at all. I remember going into Aldi on one of my first days back and finding it bizarre to hear English voices. Maybe it was because they weren’t very nice-sounding English voices; maybe it was because it was Aldi. For a few precious moments, I almost attained something that has always fascinated me, but until then I had thought impossible: the ability to observe the British from a non-native point of view. Imagining my own country and its language through the eyes of another, for me, holds the same intrigue as being able to look at myself from someone else’s point of view. Those split seconds in Aldi weren’t very much, and probably weren’t the best circumstances to have such a revelation, but that day shall go down in the history of me trying to be something other than myself as “The Aldi Incident.”
I had a pleasant Christmas and filled the days around it with fun, more fun, and no work. I went to see Matilda, a phenomenal musical based on the Roald Dahl children’s novel, with music and lyrics by Tim Minchin, and also had a great reunion with my A-Level French class. I hadn’t seen some of them since we left school, and now a couple of them are coming up to finals! Time throws itself through the air. When not in Grantham, I visited Norfolk, and got to go to the coast, which did me a world of good. I hardly know how much of Continental Europe manages with just lakes and rivers, but then again, I was spoilt with the North Norfolk coastline. It’s a Sight of Special Scientific Interest (SSSP), and gorgeous. The sky goes on for miles, geese cloud the crisp winter air in their cacophonous thousands, and the villages and their pubs are wonderful. Why we upped sticks to the Midlands I’ll never know.
It is the time for New Year’s Resolutions, and on the whole, I’m sticking to mine. One in particular was to start keeping a diary again. I’ve bought one that has a nice large page for each day of the year, and it gives me the impression writing a new chapter every day, gradually completely an extremely boring 365-page novel about me that nobody gets to read. Nonetheless, I’ve found in my diary a good form of discipline, as well as an outlet for a lot of negativity that was a burden for a considerable chunk of my second year at university, and that had also started to creep in with the winter nights at the end of last semester. That isn’t to say that I’ve been bitching for a page every night, or that I’ve been keeping some sort of self-indulgent Burn Book; I’ve just found it useful to commit whatever’s on my mind to paper, and to then shut the book and leave the thought inside, allowing me to concentrate on other matters, like my sorely neglected dissertation.
I was back in France by the 6th January due to musical commitments. I sang in a concert full of Italian things at the weekend, at the Auditorium de l’Orchestre National de Lyon, with Rossini’s Stabat Mater as the crowning jewel. It went well enough, though I had been starting to get ill so my singing was unfortunately not as on point as I would have liked. Other than that I am glad to have returned. We’ve been blessed with the weather, the Sun shining and temperatures not being too severe. To be standing at the start of a semester without the burden of dedicating its first month to finding my bearings is very relaxing: I know Lyon, I understand it better, and that has done wonders for my confidence. Speaking French is more comfortable, rather than an intimidating chore, which is brilliant considering that I had worried that I’d have lost it all over the break. I think French people still sense that I’m foreign – one person yesterday benevolently welcomed me to Lyon despite my having been here more than four months, and I was recently followed down the street by looks of revulsion as I ate patisseries out of a box on the way home – but even if I am an étranger, I’ve decided to embrace it. After all, I can live in a place and find myself at home despite being an outsider. Otherwise, if you were only allowed to live and feel comfortable where you were from, I’d have to stay in Grantham, and that would be tragic indeed.