Bright Possibilities.

Though the departure day is drawing near, I’ve still had a good amount of things to do in relation to my recent studies. Much of it has been involving closing up shop and saying my goodbyes to all the university people who have assisted me through the year’s trials. In between turning in keys and bestowing gracious thanks upon helpful and kind library assistants, professors, and school chums, I had a good opportunity today to enjoy the afterglow of post-academic exertion. Amazing that this still sounds dirty.

But in fact there was nothing dirty about it. I recently summoned up the plums to approach one of my scholarly heroes, who was lately visiting from Manchester at a cultural conference hosted in Edinburgh. This is the same man who, after hours of Kieran and I dissecting and stumbling over his work, word for word, until 4:00 am during our final dissertation push, made an appearance for his own research at the NLS the very next day. We were too timid to approach him then, though we instead stared and tittered like schoolgirls. How sad is that? But I spoke with him at the conference, and invited him for lunch the next time he was in the city. That day was today.

I met Murray Pittock at Milne’s on Hanover St. this morning, and we chatted in an area of the pub known as Little Kremlin, where all the Scottish socialist authors from the 1930s once sat and plotted, schemed, and tossed back frosty pints. Gunn, McDiarmid, Gibbon…now us. But we replaced the pints with tea, and the socialism with Jacobitism. I have no wish to go over all the good points of conversation that passed between us, but there is something worth mentioning that I find just wonderful.

The close-knit community of scholars in Britain really do pay attention to what’s coming up, right around the corner. Perhaps they see themselves reflected in our faces, ready to continue their good work in the days and years ahead. I’m just a recent postgraduate master’s student, but the encouragement I received to continue on, to get my work published, and to come back to Edinburgh, was so kind and pleasing. It appears that Dr. Pittock had been speaking of my subject matter with another prestigious scholar currently back Stateside, and between this and interest from another literary hero of mine from the National Museums, it appears that the word is out among mixed and sundry company. I would have never thought that I’d be taken so seriously. It’s just the subject that appeals, because these men have not yet read my research. They might hate it, but I think our shared passion is enough to keep a good relationship brewing. And really, they know someone new is interested.

Please understand that this is not a gloat, and no smugness is intended. It’s just a childhood fantasy that is suddenly a serious, tangible possibility for me to really pursue. Before we parted ways at Milne’s, I produced one of his old books on Jacobitism for the Good Doctor to sign. Ol’ Murray inscribed it, ‘to a fellow Jacobite scholar’. If that didn’t put the burden and joy of responsibility squarely upon my shoulders to continue and contribute, I don’t think that anything could.

The NLS hosted a free lecture this evening by the verbose and renown Tom Devine, who spoke a bit on Scotland’s empire – the shrinking of the landed class and its corresponding acreage in the mid 18th century, and the measures of willful emigration used to relieve the subsequent pressure stemming from this. My supervisor was there, as well as some other friends from the library…it was a night out learning about this great country, instead of, say, a night out at the pub. To have that choice, spent with the eminent people in this field, is just superb.

And on the way home, the winter chill was in the air. Passing buildings that once held Darwin, Stevenson, and Hume. Crunchy, coloured leaves and a real sense of community. Waves to good people on the way home, with the promise of better things ahead. A lone piper in the night outside of the Museum, flanked by the flaming torches that signaled some posh function behind sandstone walls. Then off to stop by a friend’s house to say ‘goodbye for now’, and then on to another’s for starch and conversation and more temporary farewells. I’ve decided tonight that this is where I belong, and I’ll give up many of my things at home to be here again. To continue on this road, which just seems like the right one.

I have something substantial to work for. In a few years, I think I’m going to make it happen. This down time back in the States is my test, and it’s there to see how bad I want this, I think. There’s funding available, and now I need to test the value of my heart.

11 Responses to “Bright Possibilities.”

  1. evilfb Says:
    October 6th, 2004 at 5:53 pm

    Darren I think I know your heart, and you will do what is best for you.

  2. FunkyPlaid Says:
    October 7th, 2004 at 7:19 pm

    You do know it, and this means quite a lot to me. Let's hope the old, shriveled thing is really up to the task at hand.
    But it would mean that you always have a place to come visit!

  3. seolta Says:
    October 6th, 2004 at 7:20 pm

    Aw shit. Tom Devine? i could have really used that lecture for my class… ah well, will have to settle for the book.
    Glad you finally overcame the blushing fanboy thing 🙂 Sounds like a GREAT lunch and a good spur to bring you back 😉

  4. FunkyPlaid Says:
    October 7th, 2004 at 7:21 pm

    Now that you're a full-fledged academic, dear, we'll have to hook you into all the lists and resources so you can find out about these spontaneous bursts of lecturing. They're fun, and a good chance to engage with pretty perspicacious folk.

  5. dryad_wombat Says:
    October 7th, 2004 at 1:42 am

    Ol’ Murray inscribed it, ‘to a fellow Jacobite scholar’.
    That's an absolutely fantastic thing! I'm thrilled they recognise you as a peer and equal.

  6. FunkyPlaid Says:
    October 7th, 2004 at 7:23 pm

    I wouldn't say 'equal' at all, but I do know it was a lovely phrase of inclusion and encouragement, and it makes me keen to stay the course. You know about this very well.
    I had the loveliest time with yourself and G the other night. Gonna miss you very much, but good things are ahead!

  7. velvetdahlia Says:
    October 7th, 2004 at 5:30 am

    It sounds like you are in a great place right now, and have a clear perspective on what it will mean to come back to the states. I look forward to hearing your process all this Stateside, selfishly, as it will be a weird echo of my own shifting perspectives.

  8. FunkyPlaid Says:
    October 7th, 2004 at 7:27 pm

    It is such the inverse, and so exciting both ways. It's a good place, as you've mentioned, but also a nebulous one. This is a good test and task for my Bullish bones – not knowing the exact path before me, but understanding the destination and what it will take to get there. I think that more will be uncovered in good time.
    Undoubtedly you're finding much about the length and breadth of your own path right this very minute.
    Thank you for your continued support.

  9. thistlelurid Says:
    October 7th, 2004 at 8:59 am

    What I would give to sit with a hero…………
    you are charmed….what an experience!

  10. FunkyPlaid Says:
    October 7th, 2004 at 7:25 pm

    Charmed and annoyingly tenacious. What I didn't tell you is that I kidnapped his children to get him to agree to meet with me, whereupon I taped him up and bound him to a chair while shredding his many books, page by page.
    Okay, not really. But it was fun as hell.

  11. thistlelurid Says:
    October 8th, 2004 at 2:35 am

    I was going to return with a dubious comment……then I thought better of it…
    know it was there…hanging in the air…. for a moment tho! HA! :*P

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