Thursday, January 10, 2013

The Irrelevance of History

We're sitting in The Kenilworth in Edinburgh, a traditional pub with a ridiculous variety of whiskeys available. On the skirting around the bar island the fact that the building is dated form 1789 is written in a neat calligraphy in gold paint on dark varnished wood.

The first encampment establishing Australia as a penal colony of the British Empire happened on 26 January 1788. Thousands of years of Aboriginal culture carpeted over just like that. That is the Australia of today. 225 years old.

It is a surreal thing to have a pint and a pie in a place that is older than the nation you grew up in, especially when you have memories of the bi-centennial celebrations of 1988, of a school assembly in primary school, being tasked to make vaguely nationalistic posters and not entirely understanding why this particular date was so important, why you were given a special medal commemorating the anniversary, because at 7 years old you do not yet have a sense of time, of age, as at 7 years old you have not stood on the Great Wall of China, walked the streets of Edo, stood in the Cave of Hands, hid from a squall beneath Stonehenge, or come to understand how much you can learn in 10 years and how stupid you were 10 years ago.

Moments like these happen have happened over and over the past year. London was overwhelming. It seemed every building, every street corner, ever mail box had a little plaque commemorating this or noting that. The history of the place was inescapable, and so deep as to drown us all. How can anyone go about their everyday lives when there are tombs in the footpath? How are you supposed to pop down the store for a pint of milk when the building is advertising the fact that it was rebuilt after a zeppelin raid during the war? How can you do anything when you are surrounded by history which demands your attention and respect?

 I guess you just carry on, as everyone else here appears to be doing.

(Aside: Glasgow has shifted my sliding scale on what I consider eye candy, and whoa, there are so many pretty things walking around Edinburgh I'm getting whiplash. J is giving me a lot of shit for flirting with the bartender.)

1 comment:

  1. Agree on the eye candy. I saw the *handsomest* Scottish laddie with longish auburn hair in a tourist shop in Edinburgh on the Royal Mile. I couldn't afford a damn thing in there, but I lingered for at least twenty minutes just to listen to him talk to other customers. Purr.

    Being from a similarly/comparatively young country, I found it a bit peculiar to stand in German cathedrals that were nearly a thousand years old - there isn't much left in the US that's more than ~300 years old. (I am a bicentennial baby, and remember the celebration of the 200th anniversary of the ratification of the Constitution in 1988, and being equally clueless as to why it was all that important.)