The Bluestocking, vol 205
A diamond goat goes with everything
And hello from Tirana, the capital of Albania, which I am visiting for work. I am beyond excited to be travelling again, and was moved almost to tears by the sight of the tiny jam pots at the buffet breakfast.
There are many things to recommend Albania, starting with its very cool flag—everyone loves an eagle, so why not have two?—and continuing with the fact that the country’s traditional heraldic symbol is a goat. Why? Meet Skanderbeg, the heroic warrior who fought the Ottomans, and clock his helmet:
The royal family decided to carry this motif through to the twentieth century, and so the last (and, to be fair, first) Queen of Albania, Geraldine, had a tiara with a goat on it:
In fact, the royal family also has another one, because a diamond goat goes with everything:
More on this subject in the Atlantic, soon.
Learning To Drive (The New Yorker, 2015)
Unlike everything else I’ve learned to do in midlife, driving negated the usual path of learning: the incremental steps, the breaking down and building up of parts, the curve we go up as one small mastery follows another. Driving, I realized, isn’t really difficult; it’s just extremely dangerous. You hit the gas and turn the wheel, and there you are—in possession of a two-ton weapon capable of being pointed at anything you like, at any speed you can go at, just by pressing a pedal a little bit harder. The poor people in the crosswalk—the guy in the tank top striding indifferently forward; the mother yanking at her child’s hand—had no idea of the danger they were in with me behind the wheel! I had no idea of the danger I am in doing the same thing, day after day. Cars are terrifying, and cars are normality itself.
Turns out Adam Gopnik also learned to drive late, and he got a bloody good piece out of it, which is wise and profound about the mechanics of ageing and civilisation itself. Bastard.
That said, while I loved his line that driving “isn’t really difficult; it’s just extremely dangerous,” yer man did not learn in a manual. Maybe driving would be easy, if you learned to do it in the kind of babyfied clutch-free go-kart favoured by people with one leg and Americans.
Meanwhile, in Albania
Unexpectedly, the president of Albania is a huge Celtic fan (he visited the ground this week while in Britain for COP). I presume that’s why this bar exists in Tirana:
Also venerated in Albania: George W. Bush, who gets a bar and a gelateria named after him in Fushë Kruje, plus this smart-casual statue I obviously made my guide stop at:
In downtown Tirana, there is a park with a huge artificial lake, which is the kind of thing more cities should have. I mean, the Serpentine is nice but you have to admit this is more impressive:
What’s that, you cry? You want a photo to prove I was really there? Please enjoy this photo of me at the top of a mountain, wearing an expression which will be familiar to anyone who’s gone on holiday in Britain:
Anyway, I’m going to end by noting that Albania is safe, sunny, beautiful, cheap and three hours from London by plane. Loads of Italian restaurants, too, a fact presumably related to The Incident which ended the reign of Queen Geraldine.
See you next time!