Category: newcastle

Can’t go back now

Heather (8:04am): But what if your heart belongs in a myriad of places that still speak your name?

As I watched the sunrise over Castle Keep from the Newcastle train station, I texted with my friend Shaun about the meaning of home. I didn’t want to leave Newcastle all over again, but more and more that week I realized that it didn’t belong to me anymore. It had moved on, but I hadn’t.

This was the cafe where I waited for my train to London the first time, just days after I first arrived in Newcastle. I ordered a lemonade and it turned out to have ginger in it, which I’m allergic to. It was a baffling moment in which I felt extremely foreign. And thirsty. Thursday I felt more capable, travelling alone once again but so accustomed to it by now. Things had come full circle, which meant that it was over.

I think that was the hard part. Being there made me realize that it really was over and I was never going to have it back. Any of it. Newcastle, Europe, school. It was all done. I took a bus that went close to my apartment, about two blocks away, and it hurt to look. My mom asked if I went to see my apartment building, but I couldn’t have. Not ever. That place was home and I loved it so much. And it belongs to someone else now. Newcastle belongs to someone else.

My friends don’t belong to me anymore either. They have lives that go on without me, and all I can hope for is a passing message or a small moment of connection. I was a visitor in a place that I used to call home.

I have lived in many homes in three different countries. And in each one I was hoping to find the place where I belonged. But now it seems like pieces of me belong to each place and no matter where I am I feel displaced.

My trip was a bittersweet whirlwind. I was there just long enough to say my goodbyes all over again. To realize it was over, stamped signed and sealed like the certificate they handed me after I walked across the stage.

Theseus: completed

Last Friday, after many glitches and a great deal of emotional stress, I printed out my dissertation and handed it in.

I am happy with it. I am confident that I did everything I could to make it perfect, and there is nothing I would change. That’s all one can ask for, right?

Now it only remains to be seen what other people (namely my supervisor and two other markers) think about it and if I get a decent grade.

It was my life for an entire month. When it was done I was both immensely relieved and strangely empty. I had no idea what to do with my time anymore.

Luckily, packing came along to keep me busy. That and Firefly.

I’m proud of myself. For finishing this and for getting this far. This is the physical manifestation of all of the work I have done in the last 5 years, and everything I have learned.

And, believe it or not, I think I finally found my niche. Yes, I could talk about pots, myths and political myth making forever.

Theseus: a democratic hero

Title page

It's so beautiful!

180 pages

Goodbyes

When it comes to goodbye, I think I like the French “au revoir” better. In direct translation, it means “until I see you again.” I love the idea that the French have a word for seeing someone again. Reseeing. I wish we had it in English. Reunion doesn’t quite cut it.

I get tired of saying goodbyes. Why is that you have to say goodbye to one set of people in order to be back with another? Why is it that you have to leave one home to return to another? Why must there always be that trade off - losing something to gain something else?

I think it’s not about the places you go, but the people you meet.

This year has undeniably changed me for the better. But it wasn’t the place so much as the people. Places are only the backdrop for experiences, and experiences are largely dependent on the characters.

I know that distance is a relative thing, and I know that friendship can survive distance. But it’s hard when things change. When you go from seeing someone nearly everyday to maybe once a year. It was hard when I came here, and now it will be hard when I return to Canada. The more places I go, the more homes I have… the more people I have to leave behind.

So I’ll settle with an au revoir to Newcastle and my Newcastle cast of characters, because goodbye is too final and too sad.

They built a wall…

…the Romans, that is. Starting in 122 CE (or AD if you’d like). They built a wall from one side of Britain to the other, to regulate travel and keep the south safe from Barbarica - in this case, Scotland.

wall

In Rome, the army is power. Caesar came to power because he had support of the troops. When Octavian wanted to claim his inheritance, he bought off the army first. Any ruler worth his salt kept the army happy. And busy. Because a bored army is recipe for rebellion.

Emperor Hadrian was smart enough to recognize this, and put them to work building a wall, some forts and a milecastle every Roman mile. Sure, it was a lot about defence and transportation too. But the most important this is that the legions stationed in the North were too busy to come around and repeat the events of 69 CE (the year of four Emperors, all to fresh in the Roman mind).

Newcastle Upon Tyne stands at the Eastern-most edge of Hadrian’s Wall. Within a short journey is several major forts (Segedenum, Arbeia, Vindolanda, Birdoswald) and some of the most important Roman excavations going on now.

excavationsvindolanda

Being in Northeast, I’ve had a chance to visit some Roman ruins. We went out to Vindolanda about a week and a half ago. At Vindolanda, they found surviving examples of Roman papyri. Written in strange cursive Latin, the Vindolanda tablets show us daily life on the Roman frontier. From birthday party invitations to requests for leave, the tablets offer an amazing insight.

They’ve already done extensive excavations at Vindolanda, and they’re in the process of doing more. You can see a bathhouse, a granary, and several other buildings from the fort and the town that grew up around it to cater to the Roman army. You can see the complex system of wells and waterways that made it possible to supply water to almost every building. You can also see the remains of how they kept themselves warm in the cold Northeastern winter - the heated floors.

bathhouse

The second place I went was Birdoswald, where one of my professors is leading an excavation on a Roman cemetery. He led us through the excavation, and then we walked out to the Wall and followed it for a few miles to see a milecastle and a Roman bridge.

bridge

So I have a new goal. There is a path that follows the 80 miles of Hadrian’s Wall, from coast to coast. There are hotels and hostels on the way. I want to walk the Wall…. in the summer. Apparently it only takes about a week to get from Newcastle to the West coast.

A love affair

The cure for anything is salt water - sweat, tears, or the sea.

~Isak Dinesen

I lick my lips and taste salt. The water rushes towards me and I dance away - acutely aware of my clumsiness because how can any human have grace when compared to the sea? The waves crash angrily against the pier. The wind sweeps by, carrying with it the smell of the ocean. I close my eyes and breath in deeply.

I am having a love affair with the ocean. It has been going on for years. It started long ago with waves and fresh water, the beautiful crisp smell of a lake on the breeze. It’s culminated in this - I feel better when I’m around water. In Galway, I lived minutes away from the ocean and beside the river. And when I got lonely or sad or a little too drunk, I would walk down to the infamous Galway Bay and listen to the swans fight, watch the waves crash into the rocks. Suddenly, you feel small and your problems unimportant. You feel freer, imagining that you can hitch a ride on the wind and explore the seemingly infinite ocean.

northsea1

Last weekend, I had my first encounter with the North Sea. It was beautiful. The waves were so strong that they crashed into the Pier and sometimes splashed over. It was cold and windy, but it was awesome, in the truest sense of the word.

tynemouthpriory2

I spent longer in Tynemouth, on the coast, than I had planned. After exploring the Priory for a couple of hours, I decided I need to explore the coast. So I climb down this small staircase from the Pier and picked my way through seaweed and stones to watch the waves crash against the rocks.

I started picking up rocks to keep as a reminder of my trip - the beach was full of round pebbles, smoothed by the restless sea.

rocks1

On the other side of the Pier was a small bay where people more adventurous than I were sailing, and a small boat rental place to serve them. But there was also a mass of rocks, covered in seaweed, and the ruins of something at the bottom of the cliff. I decided I wanted to walk over. It was treacherous.

otherside

I slipped and tripped and had to be very careful. The worst rocks were the ones covered with the slimy green seaweed, because if you stepped on it wrong you slipped and lost your balance. I only had one slightly scary experience, though, when my foot slipped and ended up wedged between two rocks. But I caught myself, and remained largely uninjured. Thankfully.

By the end of the day I was windswept, cold and hungry. And far too late to go explore St Mary’s Lighthouse like I had planned. But it was worth it. The North Sea made me feel better, the trip reminded me why I was here - to explore.

sea

For whatever we lose (like a you or a me),
It’s always our self we find in the sea.

~e.e. cummings