On the shortest day of the year the sunrise is pretty late to be fair. I don’t like getting up when it’s still dark but I have had to on a few occasions lately; most notably my Viva day. There was a beautiful view on my way to work a few weeks back with the sun rising over one of the big Sikh Gurdwaras on Soho Road, but sadly I didn’t have a camera. Even on my longest thesis nights I never stayed up much past 2am – there have actually been very few all-nighters in my life… summer balls and the odd new year make up most of them.
I do love late night conversations with people, and this is one of the main reasons I think ‘Before Sunrise’ is one of my favourite films. A version of Brief Encounter for the 1990s, it features Ethan Hawke & Julie Delpy wandering around Vienna discussing life, love, the universe and everything. I love all the ideas they have, and the honesty, and the randomness of some of the people they encounter. Watching it now I think I see different levels as well – when Jesse talks about pseudo-intellectual stories I wonder if that’s more what the conversations have been, and that perhaps it’s not quite so deep as I used to believe. That the other-worldliness of the situation means they’re not being themselves as much as they might think.
When I first watched the film I think I was excited about interesting intellectual types I would meet at university, and that was part of my university experience although mainly chatting to girls and odd guys who didn’t fulfil the romantic projections but certainly managed the randomness quotient. It also made me keen to go inter-railing which I did in 1999. I travelled round France, Germany, Spain, Italy, Austria and the Czech Republic and I met some wonderfully diverse and hospitable people. The lack of luck with men I might have felt at the time was probably good luck looking back. Someone less pleasant or easy-going could have messed me up a lot. As it was, I learnt to make masks in Venice and went to the Zoo in Vienna; went to a festival of cardboard boxes in Toulouse and was part of the Jubilee Debt Campaign in Cologne.
More recently I travelled to Croatia with some friends and spent a week as part of a small flotilla of yachts visiting islands in the Adriatic. It was a wonderful trip with glorious weather, swimming off the boat and evenings of wine, poker and good conversation. I didn’t want the week to end, and the last morning I was awake early and went up on deck to watch the sun rise. I’d been taking lots of photos throughout the trip including the blog mast-head above which was taken in Zlarin. The final morning was in Krapanj, and I sat and read a book and listened to the gentle breeze and water.
It had been a week without technology for the most part – mobile phones and radios had been useful for contacting others in the group but we had mostly relied on much more basic entertainment. Rewatching the film this evening I think my house-mate and I were most struck by how Jesse and Celine weren’t planning to meet on facebook or via email; how he talked about saving time with a word processor, not even a computer. Even the whole café culture in Vienna without phones or netbooks seemed very quaint. It makes me wonder how much I really connect with people online. Whether I wouldn’t rather be off seeing interesting places and meeting friends and new people in real life. But it’s cold. And this is easy. And I can tell myself I’m being deep and meaningful. And that a night of conversation can still change everything.