I often feel slightly melancholic when I leave Sweden for England. I’ve never fully understood this feeling but it must have to do with switching cultures, dropping the Swedish for a while and reconnecting the English David Kendall.
Assimilating a new culture as an adult is a complicated process. I’m fascinated by the range of responses from others in this situation from those who more or less switch cultures without angst to those who struggle. For me it’s been important to develop my Englishness, not to become a historic “hobby” Englishman in suspended animation since 1973. But also to learn how to obtain nutrition from the literary and cultural environment in Sweden. Over time, I’ve found an Anglo-Scandinavian niche, made easier by the historic and linguistic links. It’s been important for me to accept that there is no way back, that the English life that I could have had never was and never will be, that I am irretrievably bicultural (or 1.5 perhaps…), which, in fact, is deeply satisfying in its own way.
This time my melancholic mood has been overlaid by euphoria at the release from the long tunnel of social isolation, that there is a life after covid.
I am now at an Air bnb outside Bath in west England. A visually appealing city with buildings almost consistently of warm oolite limestone, which has been referred to as the most Italian of the English cities. I am just east of the city half way up the slope of a long valley through which the railway, the canal and the River Avon all pass.
Bath was on the outskirts of the area where I lived as a teenager so I have many scattered associations from way back. The fine riverside environment and the harmonious buildings made an impression on me then even though my thoughts were mainly occupied by second-hand Duane Eddy records, and the acquisition of various items of not-so-tasteful clothing as aids for whatever libidinal extravaganzas I had in mind.
I am looking forward to walking along the canal into the city and tidying up my impressions. But first I have to complete my (at least) five day quarantine period. I am dreading the self-tests that I have to do. If anybody can sabotage these and get a string of inconclusive results, then I’m probably that person. I have Olympic level dyspraxia.
I hope they let me out soon anyway as my thin grasp of the circadian rhythm is already in tatters, having taken to my bed exhausted at 7.30 pm and woken up at 1.30 am. And now I am dowsing myself with blue light, which is all wrong but writing calms me down. As soon as I can get to the shop, I shall buy a candle, a nightcap with a tassel and a quill and ink so that I can write at night (and sabotage my eyesight instead of my sleep, at least achieving fair parity of maltreatment of my various organs….).