It’s Christmas time and I have some time off work, so Isabel and I drove from Bilbao to our old place in Santiago de Compostela, my home town, where we are spending a few days. Coming to this old home always feels like coming back to a diffent time. Nobody lives in the apartment, just us when we come for a few days like now, so we keep just enough stuff in it so that a couple of persons can survive for a short time. There is no dishwasher and no DVD player, but there are blankets and cutlery and brand new furniture. You may wonder why we keep brand new furniture in this place where we spend no more than two or three weeks a year. Well, we bought the apartment in 2000 and be spent some money in furnishing it and setting it up nice and cozy. Who would know that, shortly after, I would be offered a position in Australia and we would move there for 4 years! Since carrying large things to the other side of the world is insanely expensive, and houses in Sydney are much smaller than here, all the furniture and stuff that we had just bought stayed, and it’s been sitting here since then, gathering dust but still lovely and so ours.
This is why coming to this place feels like coming back to the past. It is amazing how much it can influence me. After two or three days in the apartment, it is like I haven’t ever moved out of it, and Australia and Bilbao feel so distant. At the same time, things look old-fashioned and like taken from a dream, especially the tiles in the bathrooms and the kitchen. But it’s our place.
Three things have made me think of the past especially this time. The first one is the collection of Byte magazines that I keep in the bottom shelves of the dining room. I have in front of me the April 1985 issue of Byte, a special number on artificial intelligence, including articles by Marvin Minsky, Elliot Soloway, Steve Ciarcia and Dana H. Ballard among others. Great reading. At almost 500 pages per issue and a superb mixture of solid papers, technology commentary and regular columns, Byte is the best computer magazine I’ve ever known. It flourished in the 1980s and I guess it survived in the 1990s, but I don’t think Byte would be even possible these days.
The second thing from the past is a worn down recording of Close Encounters of the Third Kind on a VHS tape. We keep a small collection of great movies on VHS, and today I spent some time flicking through them and watching most of Encounters. It is so well crafted. Spielberg at his best. The script is rich and full of nuances, refreshingly avoiding the overuse of technicisms that seems to plague most of today’s sci-fi movies. If you haven’t watched Encounters in two or three years, I suggest you run and get a copy now.
The third thing from the past is rain. Dark outside, no noise from neighbours or cars, just the soothing ghghghgh of the rain. We have a thick double-window system so I need to slide at least one of the window panes open in order to hear it. Again, you may wonder how rain can be something from the past. Well, what I find to be from the past is not rain itself, but the experience of listening to the rain from a warm place that I feel my home. Last time I recall feeling this was in Sydney, a few years ago, at our place in Lavender Bay. I find rain in Santiago, however, more soothing than in Sydney, because it is usually not as intense and goes forever.
I’m going to bed now. To my old bed.