December 31st, 2007


Ultima Thule

Welcome to the last day of the year.

Following this entry, I shall begin work on my review of the year*, re-reading through every journal article I have made in 2007, and also filling in the gaps, because there are big holes whenever I went anywhere (Berlin, Eutin in July and Stockholm all spring to mind).

I'll try and keep the reflection to my traditional last-few-hours entry. Something which has irked my family is how seriously I take New Year. It's not merely a switch in numbers, nor an excuse to party. It's a time for reflection, another milestone for better or for worse. Against all logic, it is perhaps the most spiritual date for me out of every year, and I make a point of treating it with due reverance. Last year, I didn't manage this, and it threw me off for the first week of January. To look back and to look ahead. I have a deeply personal relationship with time and memory, and this is what makes New Year so deeply moving and so very personal for me.

I tend to remember each New Year for that very reason. I usually have a glass of some alcohol or another, which is pretty rare for me, but it's a tradition. I don't have to make sense to myself.

I watched some television earlier. I finally caught up on the Top Gear polar special I missed in the summer, and watched the lads make their merry way to the North Pole from Resolute, Canada. That made me smile a great amount. Following this came the BBC adaptation of Philip Pullman's The Shadow in the North. I must confess, the various Pullman books slipped me by, and I never got round to reading any of them, even though I always meant to. I didn't enjoy Shadow as much as I enjoyed Ruby, but I think this may be due to expectations generated by another of my personal quirks. I was emotionally stabbed by it, too, with the scene anyone familiar with the book will know.

The quirk in question is my own admiration for North. I'm not speaking about anywhere in particular here. Nunavut, Norway, Nome, Nuuk...none of those places. Not even the North Pole. It's not even the direction that appeals to me so. No, it's the concept of North and all that is associated with it. It sends excitement running up my spine whenever I truly do head North, to Scotland, or more recently, to Sweden. North, to me, speaks of many things, some solid and some fanciful. North is Nordkapp at the second-most-northerly tip of the Norwegian landmass, with its sheer cliffs falling to the uninterrupted sea to the North Pole. North is where the sky is softer, and erupts into colour at night. North is Narnia while the Snow Queen ruled, with dark forests of white running to castles outlined against the sapphire horizon. North is the taiga, North is the tundra. North is huddling around the log fire as snow falls outside. North is remote, exciting, challenging.

The concept of 'Thule', or 'Ultima Thule' floated around in the Middle Ages, and was one of the pillars for National Socialist mysticism. Thule speaks of the most Northerly place, a land beyond those we know. I'm being mystical myself here, but to me, Thule seems to be simply a physical manifestation of the appeal of North. Now, I'm strong enough with my world geography to know the realities of North. A vast frozen sea, ringed by frozen islands, cold, barren and inhospitable to a degree. Various tribes live on the Northern landmasses, such as the islands off Canada, Greenland, Svalbard and the Siberian peninsulas. I know how it really is, but there is still that appeal. I'm a true Romantic, and this concept is one of my most deeply held.

I feel this piece of music does an admirable job at catching the mood, and was even used as such for the Visit Scotland adverts. I do agree with Bluello that the original does not quite capture the right mood (drums and mantras don't quite fit in). I also looked to see if the username 'ultimathule' was on LJ, out of curiosity, and it does, and whoever it is, their userpic is the famous Romantic painting of David Casper Friedrich of the man looking out over rough waters. Appropriate, in my mind.

* = Currently up to 1st May, but going to bed now
  • Current Music
    Bluello - Improvisation on 'North' by Pete Mounsey


Happy New Year the East! May your 2008 be happy. Me, meanwhile, am still in the molasses of 2007, writing my rather comprehensive report on the year. I'm up to August so far, so I ought just to make it in time.

Incidentally, I thought I'd do another LJ stats check.

Journal entries: 2,012
Comments: Posted: 28,756 - Received: 16,126

...I wonder which update was my two-thousandth now. Oh well, time to crack on with the eighth month of twenty oh seven!
  • Current Music
    Juli - Die Perfekte Welle


Willkommen, Deutschland, zu 2007!

Were I still in Eutin, I'd now be in 2008. As it is 2008 is imminent on the shores of this sceptered isle. I find it hard to believe. 2008 seems almost a step too far for someone who can't believe the years are slipping by like this. 2007 nevertheless is well into its final hour, and the fireworks have already erupted over the Brandenburg Gate, as well as the Kremlin, Hong Kong, and, of course, Sydney Harbour Bridge. Now, it's the turn of London, with its Eye, and of Edinburgh, where I have friends Hogmanaying it up.

Now, traditionally at this point, I would return to the very first post of the year and review my predictions for the year ahead. However, due to January's burst of online lethargy, I have no such post to use, so I can just look back from where I stand now. How I can look back. I have read through every single word I typed into my LJ this year, relived every recorded experience, all for my massive Grand Review which for once was completed ahead of schedule. After going back over the entirity of 2007, I am amazed at how much changed. January's flirtation with classical music, and then the snow of Feburary. Essays literally brought me to my knees in March, with the Romanticism essay being the climax of the madness. April was a burst of freedom, summarised by the sunset over Erith lined by smoke from a distant fire, whilst May was me hopping from exam to exam trying to cope as much as possible. June left me with enough freedom to do nothing very much, and July marked the end of Hazel House, a trip to Norfolk, and a few days in London with Holly before my first viewing of Eutin. August was a true Summer, centred around a resurgent Amecon, but all changed in September. Cologne acted as an interim period, and then my life at Eutin began, so different from the rest of the year, with its own cast, vices, and aspects. October literally seemed like a different year to March.

So what have I accomplished in the past year? Well, lots.

* I got used to living in a house away from home, and then to catering for Holly and I in said house
* I got used to living in an apartment utterly on my own, as I still am in Eutin
* I made it through a dense essay period, suffering, but learning, and getting good marks after the stress.
* I achieved good exam results, leaving me in a good position for my final year.
* I visited Sweden for the first time, to be at a fantastic concert on the first international holiday I have entirely organised myself.
* I improved my photography dramatically to the extent I can no longer consider myself a true amateur
* I went a Blackmore's Night concert, even if the concert did seem curtailed.
* I completed my role as Travel Editor for the Orbital having done a good job, despite administrative errors affecting my section. This taught me a lot about delegation.
* I also finished my period as Writers Circle co-ordinator and a second year on the German Society committee
* I learnt how to be a Language Assistant, and am now able to handle classes of students for lessons in English
* I got to see a lot of new places, from North West Norfolk to the Northernmost town in Germany
* I have lived in Germany for three months without having any serious troubles.
* I got together with Holly!
* I finally sorted myself out, overcoming many mental barriers to become more the person I know I am, for the better.
* ...and lots of other things.

I'd like to present a soundtrack for the year, but I cannot do that. Time won't allow it. There are many many songs that mean 2007 for me, including 'Wolkenberge' by Schandmaul, 'Life on Mars' by David Bowie, 'Stuck between Stations' by The Hold Steady, and 'Soundso' by Wir sind Helden. It's been a long year, in many different forms, and looking back...I find myself nostalgic. I miss Hazel House, and its lifestyle. Campus life was chaotic, but I miss being on the other side of the classroom. I remember how we spent April. I remember August, and I remember October.

Last twenty minutes! My parents are here, watching something on TV, but they don't share my obscure rituals. Soon enough I will call Holly to be with her at New Year, even though we're at our own houses at other ends of the country. My brother is at a party. I have rum and ginger beer, and I'm prepared.

2008 is almost upon us. 2007 is almost behind us.

I look back, and I see a long way. I look forward, and I see only hints at what is to come. Janus rests on my shoulder, and sand slips through my fingers. I sit up in my bed in my purple room at the back of Hazel House, and I set my alarm, to keep pace as I hurridely rush through my essay, keeping an eye as every minute ticks past to ensure I don't miss my train, whilst I wait for the hour of the exam to strike to see the seconds slipping away and my total game time building up as I roll the katamari under Yiazmat to Reading and despair as the alarm begins to ring, crumbling Hazel House and then waking me up from my bed in Nottingham, where I stroll through Norfolk, London, and the Future before keeping time with the music of Gothika as Amecon draws to a close, just in time for our flight to get our train from Cologne, because a few minutes count when the class is waiting for their teacher and I wait for the lesson to end, delayed due to the Die Bahn strikes, carefully pressing the snooze button so I don't have to leave my cosy Eutin bed, and then I pick up my watch from the shop in Stockholm, matching it to my alarm as I hurry down to Thüringen, on a journey that takes as long as it takes to return through the freezing fog to celebration and the alarm rings out loud as it sends me flying out of my bed and out of the year.

So all that is left for me to say, at the close of the Year of Germany, the Year of Romanticism, and the Year of Internal Truth, is this.

Have a very HAPPY NEW YEAR!
  • Current Music
    Stuck Between Stations, Soundso, Once in a Lifetime, Zetsubou Billy, (2007!)