In January 2013, I returned to Aberdeen, UK, after having stayed 18 months in the US. I had lived here for one year as a researcher at the University of Aberdeen, and I thought that it would be easy for me to come back and settle. It didn’t. Still in the US, getting a flat turned out to be extremely difficult. There were not many flats available and even those on offer were expensive. And having two cats didn’t help, either. After a couple of months of tiring searches, we could find one that may work for us, a flat on the first floor with a little garden at the back. “It’s in Torry,” said my wife. I asked, “where is Torry?”
When I was in Aberdeen in 2009, I lived in Old Aberdeen, and not owning a car, I didn’t bother visiting Torry—-I felt it was faraway. I heard about it, only vaguely. But its whereabouts I was not interested in. It existed somewhere, outside Aberdeen. But now Torry became an important place as I might need to live there. The first thing I googled, the most important thing about Torry, was where it was, and how I could get there.
Seeing from the Google map, Torry didn’t seem to be far removed from the centre of Aberdeen. Separated by River Dee, Torry is connected to Aberdeen through three bridges, two of which are big enough for cars, and one of which is small, only by walk. There were three buses I could use to commute between Aberdeen and Torry, and though it seemed just a bridge away, walking was rather inconvenient for me (in fact, for a few occasions I had to walk from the city centre to my flat after late night gigs—-I did not feel comfortable walking).
The distance between the city centre and Torry is more than physical. It appears that it was not just me who was new around the town that felt Torry was further away than it actually was. Such a psychological distance is an element, I think as an artist, that makes Torry an interesting place to examine. And it was not only the distance; Torry had another connotation for some people. When one of my colleagues at the university heard that I lived in Torry, he said something (exact details of which I don’t remember now) with a hint of sympathy—sort of “I feel your pain”. Another told me how much Torry got better than before.
Torry certainly has some rough places. Taking a bus (12) from the city centre to Torry, you cross the Victoria Bridge, and following Victoria Road and turning by the seaside and a golf course on the left, you will be briefly stopped on the top of Balnagask Road before you see some beautiful scenery of the sea, a cemetery, and poorly managed roads. My flat was on Brimmond Place and I took this trip every day. I enjoyed it a lot. The roads, the sea, the golf course, the cemetery, and the houses were strange and unfamiliar to me, even after one year of living in Torry. I felt that there was complete alienness to this part of Torry, which would in turn continue asking questions about my whereabouts, origin, identity.
I still remember two people I met (or rather encountered) on those bus trips: a girl who sat behind me, apparently drunk, and asked me to come to her flat and drink together (and seeing me just smiling back to her without any yes, she would then try that to a lady in the opposite side of the bus), and an old man on a wheelchair (I would see him at least two more times) with a woman (a daughter, perhaps), who looked weary, but his eyes as bright and sparkling as those of a cat.