The Last Aurora

The wind is howling outside the window. Not a mild summery gale or bluster, mind, but proper banshee-style wailing winds. The ones where you hear shrieks and whispers in the fiercest squalls. Taken together with the dry hum of the lighting, the occasional click and whirr of the electrics and then the dull drone of the plumbing every few minutes, it’s a proper orchestra of silence up here in our Edinburgh flat. The perfect, saddening seal to what is, and perhaps what must be, the last glorious flight of one of the brighter stages of my life.

Everybody’s out or asleep. The post-handover drinks and DMC’ing lasted until the early hours of the morning, by which time yours truly and the usual handful had long since turned in for the night. With the last show over – and a resounding, successful six-in-a-row sellout show to boot – the fantastic fifteen are at their strength’s end. The Northern Lights now go their separate ways. Today was a new beginning for the youngsters, and a promising golden start it was too, but for five of us at least it was the last flight. The coming years may see many happy reunions and moments relived in coffee shops the world over, but somehow I do not think the same Lights will take the stage together again. Because whether we are the same crowd or not, we will all have changed. Time is the master of all things.

Were it not for Biff, loyal and enduring, I would never have known this world. I might never have met Luke, and shared a greater love for Luther Vandross. Or Sam, that most charismatic of leaders. Seb, the rockstar maestro. And though we crossed paths from time to time in the modern languages block, it was chiefly through the Lights that I found a loving friend in Aisha. My heart breaks a little more every time that I remember that I’m letting you go (like I said in Thursday’s Grapevine riff, even if it did fall flat on its face somewhat). But life is, when you think about it, one long string of goodbyes. And for a serial loner like me, I should be well-versed in saying goodbye. Perhaps that explains the lack of tears.

Sixteen hours later. Sam’s electric toothbrush is buzzing away in the bathroom. The fridge is steadily being emptied. Four Lights have taken their leave, eleven remain. The fade-out continues, only not quite as harrowing as yesterday’s yellow afternoon. There’ll be plenty of time for reflection on my next adventure, and right now I could do with getting my head screwed on straight vis-a-vis living arrangements for next year. That’s what the next few days are for – that, and a welcome break from a very, very intense fortnight.


It’s time I went in search of a new project. Something that will occupy my heart, mind and soul for the next few years. Books are the answer, and there’s no better place to start than Edinburgh, truly the city of books. A solid hour in a second-hand bookshop off Grassmarket set everything to rights. There’s a word for that feeling of being surrounded by the writings of ages in an old bookshop, though I can’t remember exactly what it is. That is my life, though. I am sure of it.


The morning sun has set on my time in the Lights. The whispering winds lead me forward. Waverley station awaits, the only station in the world named after a novel. There’s a symbolism there, and I’m shamelessly abusing that for a final word. BB x

Ariana Who?

I’ve been a bit idle on the blogging front over the last two weeks. About as idle as being “far too busy with end of term exams, final year housing admin, Christmas concert preparations and affairs of the heart” can be – if you want my honest answer.

Looking about me now, it’s rather hard to believe that I’ve been working here for almost three months exactly. But for the sporadic Christmas decorations, the staff room looks much the same as it did back in September. It was about 18°C back then, too. I tell you, it’s been an unseasonably warm winter. Perfect for the Romanians who came to Extremadura for the harvest, but mystifying for the rest of us. It’s almost Christmas Day, and the leaves still haven’t fallen from the trees yet. Stranger still, some have started to flower anew in the warm weather we’ve been having, so there’s a mix of browns, reds and vibrant greens. And at the same time I’m seeing photographs taken by colleagues of mine who remained in Durham, showing the place beset by magical, snow-dusted scenes that seem to have leapt from postcards or travel brochures. It’s so very hard to imagine when I’m having to go into school in a light shirt every day, because I’m still overheating if I take more than one layer. Bonkers, I tell you.

The Christmas concert is tomorrow, and it’s scuppered any plans I had on exploring Plasencia with Madre, who came to visit yesterday, as it falls bang in the middle of her stay. Technically it’s on my day off, so I could be an absolute Scrooge and demand my rights, but I’m not that much of a heartless bastard, so I’m chained into conducting two potential disasters tomorrow night. My two 2° ESO classes wanted to do Shakin’ Stevens Merry Christmas Everyone and Ariana Grande’s Santa Tell Me (I’d never even heard of that one), but democracy being the troublesome beastie it is, everybody has to have something to do: singing, dancing and…. <sigh>…. percussion. Cue twenty two boys volunteering for percussion, six girls for dancing and two for singing. Bang, bang, bang.

Fat chance. De eso nada.

 In two weeks’ practice (or rather, three hours apiece), we’ve just about got them down… Just. But it’s going to be more trouble than it’s worth, frankly, and it’s bringing back bad memories of thinking myself capable of being a Musical Director last year. Ha! I’m not a leader. At best I reckon I could make a good Ulysses, scheming from the sidelines, but the responsibility of leading everything – the percussion, the choreography and the notation, not to mention the discipline – is a severe (if deserved) punishment for my unstoppable enthusiasm. That’s what an exec is for; dividing responsibilities. Still, I’m learning at a ridiculous rate; and as I’ve said before, I’ll come out of this year with all the makings of a bloody good parent. All I need is a Spanish girl, the One, and she’s eluding me still.

Ill throw down a summary of the year in a bit, but before that, I’ve another six hours of class to get through today. England’s calling, but my phone’s on silent until the madness that is the Christmas term is finally over. Then, and only then, will I have true cause for the Hallelujah. BB x