I remember somebody claiming that the Czech national anthem was outstanding, maybe unique, by praising the country’s beauty instead of the usual self-backslapping or rattling of arms. (My explanation, which I wouldn’t venture there, was that a national anthem must praise something, and there being nothing to praise about Czechs, it praised the landscape instead.) Anyway, unique it’s not. I recently discovered that the Swedish one goes along similar lines.
For obvious reasons, I liked best the line “Ja, jag vill leva, jag vill dö i Norden” (the more so as it took me some time to find out that Norden doesn’t really mean the North but the Nordic countries). Despite the fact that I have been recently more preoccupied with döden than is healthy.
My health has indeed been troubling me. Whatever had my former dentist thought she had been doing, my dental chart after my first visit at my new one looked scary. Since then I’ve lost four teeth, and I’m not finished yet. Also, after a lifetime of fighting diarrhoea I’m these days sometimes finding myself constipated. White-outs, which vexed me as a teenager, seem to be back. (They were around most of the time, but only as an alcohol withdrawal symptom.) Now and then I experience cramps in my calves and wrists. I sometimes sweat in sleep. And so on. Slàinte bha, to be sure. It’s as though my body patiently suffered the years of lifestyle which was anything but healthy, waiting for a revenge until I began to care.
It’s not all bad. I breathe better, for example. Something worse began happening lately though. Worse, because mental. The childhood fear of death, or rather, of the limitless time I will no longer be able to witness, was reccurring. With the end being three decades nearer than then. Hard to tell why. Midlife crisis? I thought I had had that in my mid-thirties. No friends? I had none during the last years in the old country either, save for Rob – and I wasn’t seeing himself all that frequently after I stopped boozing. Post-alcoholic depressions are out of the question, of course.
Maybe… maybe it’s the feeling that I have accomplished the greatest challenge of my life. As Paul Simon sings, “the nearer your destination, the more you’re slip-slidin’ away”. Maybe it’s that.
Still, there are other quotations. Like Frans Gunnar Bengtsson’s Vagn Åkesson’s “och ännu äro inte alla Jomsvikingar döda.” There is still a lot to see, a lot to experience, a lot to contrive. David Gemmell’s Hewla says “All life is a pendulum. I shall return” and in fact it seems to me I am already returning. I could almost end this blog larded with quotes by one from Vonnegut: “I am better now. Word of honour: I am better now.”
(The songs and books quoted from are: Du gamla, du fria; Slip Slidin’ Away; Röde Orm; Waylander; and Breakfast of Champions.)