And was the holy Lamb of God,
On Englands pleasant pastures seen!
- And did those feet, William Blake

lørdag 15. januar 2011

Historia Calamitatum

Midway upon the journey of our life
I found myself within a forest dark,
For the straightforward pathway had been lost.
- The Divine Comedy, Dante Alighieri

For the methode of a poet historical is not such as of an historiographer. For an historiographer discourseth of affayres orderly as they were donne, accounting as well the times as the actions; but a poet thrusteth into the middest, even where it most concerneth him, and there recoursing to the things forepaste, and divining of thinges to come, maketh a pleasing analysis of all.
- Letter to Sir Walter Raleigh 1589, Edmund Spenser

A Gentle Knight was pricking on the plaine,
Ycladd in mightie armes and silver shielde,
Wherein old dints of deepe wounds did remaine,
The cruel markes of many'a bloudy fielde;
Yet armes till that time did he never wield:
His angry steede did chide his foming bitt,
As much disdayning to the curbe to yield:
Full jolly knight he seemd, and faire did sitt,
As one for knightly giusts and fierce encounters fitt.
- The Faerie Queene, Edmund Spenser

Historia Calamitatum


It is customary in great epics to start in the middle of things and let the narrator divulge information of things past and future as he or she sees fit. I will, however, start at the beginning as I consider this to be the proper solution for a travel narrative. The reader - be he or she virtuous, knavish or neither - must not expect fierce battles, romance, knights and dragons, for although these elements may have been present at certain stages of the journey, they were either not of the physical world or too shrouded in allegory to be of any interest to the matter at hand. This shall therefore be a story of travel and travail, of hopes and disappointments, arduous as the very journey itself.

Day the First

When I left home in the middle of a dark, cold, wintry night I had my expectations of what would ensue. I expected a long and exhausting journey, I expected a certain degree of frustration, yet I nevertheless had firm hopes of arriving in York that same day.

Things started out very well. The bus to Bergen arrived before its scheduled time so there was no delay, and I think - in retrospect - I even managed to sleep a little while. From Bergen Central Station I continued to Flesland Airport where I enjoyed the fact that my flight was not due for at least a couple of hours, I prefer not having to rush these things.

From time to time I noticed that some departures were delayed and I should have considered this ominous. Strangely enough I didn't, and therefore I became genuinely surprised when I discovered that my flight had been postponed to 14.40, which was 40 minutes after scheduled time. For some reason I still did not grasp the full gravity of the situation and in a haze of optimism I thought things would sorten themselves out soon enough. This naive vision was brutally demolished when the departure was further delayed to 15.10.

Had the delay been caused by weather conditions I would not have much cause for anger - frustration, yes, but not anger - for mankind can after all sadly not control the weather. However, I soon learned that the cause was not meteorological but technical and I found myself justified in cursing SAS thoroughly.

Finally the plane departed from Bergen and we arrived in Copenhagen somewhere around half past four. Due to the delay I missed my plane to London, but was placed on a departure leaving 18.15 instead. I was still somewhat infuriated with SAS, but thankfully I had my books and could pass the waiting time with intellectual nourishment. Eventually the clock heralded the appointed hour and I walked serenely to the gate, thinking - probably - that I could still get to York the same evening. This hope, too, was brutally demolished when all the passengers had come onboard. The captain could inform us that one of the plane's tires were worn too thin and had to be replaced, an operation that would demand an hour and a half. The murmur of hopelessness and frustration was general, and for some reason I was not comforted by the captain's repeated apologies directed especially to those of us having suffered two delays in one day.

In the end the tire was replaced and we headed off to London, arriving at about 21.00. I then went to search for my baggage, but the problem was that Heathrow had received three arrivals from Copenhagen that day and the baggage from these flights were scattered upon three separate conveyorbelts. I spent the better part of the following two hours trying vainly to locate my suitcase, but fortunately a lady at the baggage section - whom I had pestered three times and who was evidently quite fed up with my existence - managed to find the suitcase at a conveyorbelt I had already spent quite some time perusing. At this point the clock was moving towards midnight. I decided taking a train to York was absolutely out of the question and I was allocated at a nearby hotel.

Day the Second

Due to the hardships of the preceding day I made the most of my rather involuntary stay at the hotel. I slept long and got up for a breakfast followed by a shower. Outside there was a typical English mist I had already noticed on my arrival, and it remained a prevailing presence in the English landscape all the way from London to York.

Taking the train through England is an ambivalent experience. The English countryside has, of course, a beauty of its own: the flat greensward rimmed by trees and thickets, occasional stone churches, ponds mirroring what passes for a sky and of course the ever-present mist, charming in its own haunting way. However, travelling by train also means passing by the industrial cities or villages at their most hideous, and I have still not quite recovered from the sight of the beautiful Peterborough cathedral enclosed by tall masts and industrial buildings, quite like a modern interpretation of Blake's satanic mills.

When I arrived inYork at about 16.00 I was surprised to find the ground was bare and void of any snow as far as I could see, boding well for my stay. I located a taxi and went to the Centre for Medieval Studies to pick up the keys for my accommodation. Getting there was of course no problem, but finding the porter was an entirely different matter. After several failed attempts I knocked on the door to the Centre for Medieval Studies and was taken good care of by two professors who immediately tried to find the whereabouts of the porter. I had to wait about two hours until she finally appeared, but from that point on everything went quite smoothly as it was no problem finding Constantine House, my headquarters for the remainder of my stay in England.

Ingen kommentarer:

Legg inn en kommentar