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Yesterday I flew to London for a Secret Meeting of Utter Secretness (okay, not that secret). I left the house at 0405, and arrived at King's Cross at 1130.

It was A Morning, let's put it like that.

The meeting took most of the afternoon. When it was over, I met some friends at Waterstones Piccadilly - a friend I used to go climbing with in Dublin, and a friend from my undergraduate course - and we went out for food in a wander around Soho on a Saturday evening around 1830. We fetched up eventually in a really good Greek meze place called "The Real Greek" - Greek food, Greek staff (I may have startled the guy who was serving us by showing off my rusty Greek - turns out he was from Thessaloniki). I haven't eaten proper Greek food since I was last in Greece, because you can't really get it in Dublin. But this was fantastic, absolutely great.

(I may have spent about fifty pounds sterling on food yesterday, if not more: I was a bit of a bottomless pit between the early start and the late stop.)

I've had a nice sleep since then, on my friend's air mattress, and in about an hour I should start heading back towards the airport. It's a lovely bright day in London, and if I didn't have to catch a plane, I'd be heading out to poke in the museums. But unfortunately I'm the kind of person who can get really distracted in museums, so I had better not risk it.

I will risk stopping in Waterstones Piccadilly again, though. Niiiiiiiiiiiice bookshop.
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Thanks to Toronto Tourism and INSPIRE! Toronto International Book Fair, I got to take a trip to Toronto this month. Between Tuesday 11th November and Monday 17th November, I was either in Toronto or in transit between Dublin and Toronto.

I flew with Air Canada via Heathrow. The flight out was one of the more painless long flights of my existence. The aircraft was the very latest in shiny passenger-flying, with actual headroom and windows that could be tinted five different shades of green, and they fed us. Recognisable and tasty food: dinner, a snack, and then a hot wrap thing that actually tasted of its ingredients. Plenty of soft drinks: I had some Canadian ginger ale and discovered I liked it.

I landed to sunset in Toronto, and felt as though I’d stepped onto a film set.

I find the skyline, and the layout, of North American cities surreal, when I see them in person. They are so much a part of English-language television, and so different to the cities I am used to, that visiting them feels rather like stepping out of reality and into a fictional dream where people might be uncommonly handsome and even the tenor of street noise is different. The straightness of the roads and the height of buildings messes with my sense of scale. The sky seems larger.

Surreal, like I said.

Read more... )
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I have slept for a week.

You may or may not recall that I was traveling to foreign English lands in order to attend Nine Worlds 2014, and LonCon3: the 2014 World Science Fiction Convention. Many were the adventures of your intrepid correspondent! Much did she travel! Far did she wander on untrodden paths...


...Well, maybe not so much with the untrodden.


Nine Worlds 2014


I arrived at Heathrow early on Sunday morning, after about 30-45 minutes' sleep. In between the neighbours' dog shutting up, and my alarm going off, there was not all that much time - so I don't actually recall all that much from Sunday. I had a panel to participate in. I arm-wrestled Geoff Ryman (and won): he is a very clever tall skinny geek. I met the very smart Zen Cho, and blurrily encountered Jared Shurin and Anne C. Perry, and Jenni Hill, a lovely editor from Orbit UK. I recall having lunch with Elizabeth Bear and Alex Dally MacFarlane, and meeting Scott Lynch in passing, but I was seriously out of it.


Cambridge


Towards the evening, the amazing writer and historian and all-around lovely person Kari Sperring and her man Phil bore me off to Cambridge, where I got to meet their cats, among them a very affectionate half-grown catling who wanted All The Attention.


The inimitable Telzey.

I am immensely grateful to Kari and Phil for their impeccable and delightful hospitality - and for introducing me to young Michelle Yeoh in Hong Kong action movies. They are truly wonderful people.


Cambridge has pretty architecture.

Some tourism (and bookshop tourism) happened on Monday, when I received a whirlwind tour of Cambridge and environs, including the famous Soup Pub (whose real name I cannot now remember). On Tuesday D. of Intellectus Speculativus and their partner Zoe trained down to Cambridge and I spent the day with them, doing tourist stuff like looking at buildings:


Pretty buildings

And inside museums:


Cambridge has many museums

...where we agreed that it was sometimes nice to be able to look at stuff that had nothing to do with any of our subject areas (all Classicists/ancient historians, us) and just admire it as a collection of pretty objects. (The museum did try to educate us about the objects in the collection, but we were having none of it. Bad historians were bad on Tuesday.)


And repaired to a pub called the Maypole, where many beers were on offer and I sampled only one.


Wednesday contained a lot of wibbling on my part and attempts to convince myself that LonCon3 would not actually be terrifying.


Read more... )
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And I am now on five panels.



The Changing Face of the Urban Fantastic

Thursday 13:30 - 15:00, Capital Suite 13 (ExCeL)

Urban fantasy is a broad church. To some, it's the genre of "Wizard of the Pigeons" and "War of the Oaks"; to others, it means Sam Vimes patrolling the streets of Ankh Morpork, or Locke Lamora conning his way through Camorr. Most recently, it has become synonymous with werewolves, vampires and hot detectives. What holds together the urban fantastic? Are different strands of the genre in conversation with each other? And how important is the influence of the structures and tone of other genres like crime fiction?

Liz Bourke (M), Paul Cornell, Robin Hobb, Freda Warrington.


Chivalrous Critics of Fannish Dimensions

Saturday 20:00 - 21:00, Capital Suite 16 (ExCeL)

What makes a good epic fantasy? Does quality of prose matter, or is insisting on literary rigor killjoy and elitist? Is it possible to 'overthink' your experience of reading epic fantasy - or is it patronising to the sub-genre to suggest it should be given an easier ride than other types of writing? What are some of the primary critiques of epic fantasy and how can they be used to improve the genre moving forward?

Myke Cole (M), Liz Bourke, Nic Clarke, Justin Landon, Mari Ness


What does Ireland have to offer?

Sunday 11:00 - 12:00, Capital Suite 2 (ExCeL)

Ireland is disticntly different as a nation and its people posses a unique identity. How does this work through the creative fiction of modern times? Has the mighty weight of Irish Mythology that have permeated fantasy had an impact on modern writers in Ireland? Where is the new fiction coming from, and what issues of interest are explored?

Liz Bourke (M), Susan Connolly, Kathryn (Kate) Laity(, Ruth Frances Long, Bob Neilson.

I see I'm moderating this one, so I won't be allowed to go to town on the snark. But seriously. Irish Mythology has a "mighty weight"? OH CELTIC TWILIGHT ROMANTICISTS I STAB YOU.

Seeing the Future, Knowing the Past

Sunday 12:00 - 13:30, Capital Suite 7+12 (ExCeL)

Fantasy's use of prophecy - knowable futures - often parallels the way it treats the past, as something both knowable and stable: details of history known from a thousand years back, kingly bloodlines in direct descent for several hundreds of years, etc. In reality, George I of England was 58th in line for the throne and there is a Jacobean claimant still out there somewhere. No one really knows where France originated. History is messy and mutable. Why is fantasy so keen on the known?

William B. Hafford (M), Sarah Ash, Liz Bourke, Karen Miller, Kari Sperring.


Critical Diversity: Beyond Russ and Delany

Monday 11:00 - 12:00, Capital Suite 10 (ExCeL)

The popular history of SF criticism might just be, if possible, even more straight, white and male than the popular history of SF -- but things are changing. Online and in journals, diverse voices are starting to reach a critical (if you'll excuse the pun) mass. Which publishers and venues are most welcoming to critics from marginalised groups? What are the strengths and weaknesses of academic and popular discourse, in this area? And most importantly, whose reviews and essays are essential reading?

Andrew M. Butler (M), Liz Bourke, Fabio Fernandes, Erin Horakova, Aishwarya Subramanian.

I don't read a lot of criticism. I'm usually too busy trying to meet deadlines. But I can talk about what I do read, I guess.
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And the people responsible have been so foolish as to put me on panels.

Three of them.



Chivalrous critics of fannish dimensions

Saturday 20:00 - 21:00

What makes a good epic fantasy? Does quality of prose matter, or is insisting on literary rigor killjoy and elitist? Is it possible to 'overthink' your experience of reading epic fantasy - or is it patronising to the sub-genre to suggest it should be given an easier ride than other types of writing? What are some of the primary critiques of epic fantasy and how can they be used to improve the genre moving forward?


Seeing the Future, Knowing the Past

Sunday 12:00 - 13:30

Fantasy's use of prophecy - knowable futures - often parallels the way it treats the past, as something both knowable and stable: details of history known from a thousand years back, kingly bloodlines in direct descent for several hundreds of years, etc. In reality, George I of England was 58th in line for the throne and there is a Jacobean claimant still out there somewhere. No one really knows where France originated. History is messy and mutable. Why is fantasy so keen on the known?


Critical Diversity: Beyond Russ and Delany

Monday 11:00 - 12:00

The popular history of SF criticism might just be, if possible, even more straight, white and male than the popular history of SF -- but things are changing. Online and in journals, diverse voices are starting to reach a critical (if you'll excuse the pun) mass. Which publishers and venues are most welcoming to critics from marginalised groups? What are the strengths and weaknesses of academic and popular discourse, in this area? And most importantly, whose reviews and essays are essential reading?




I'm not sure if the panel participants have been finalised yet.

Athens

Apr. 1st, 2014 11:01 pm
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So today I had lunch sitting on a bench surrounded by pruned-back rose bushes in the grounds of the French School at Athens, sun shining on my back. A friendly white cat, a timid marmalade cat, and a grumpy-looking tortoise who rapidly stumped off into the bushes were also enjoying the sunlight, alongside several white butterflies and at least one Red Admiral.

I went through five books to look for relevant research material and take notes over the course of four hours, and then later went for a walk in Plaka, around to the Philopappos monument, showing the new guy visiting the Institute the best place to have a walk away from the traffic.

This chapter annoys me at present.
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Instead of the library, because there's only so much concentration in me.

At some point, possibly tomorrow, I will write up some of my thinking about what ancient experience and the Asklepieion might have worked out to be like.

Why am I so tired?
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I didn't miss the windows rattling while fighter jets buzzed the city, though. Even though I couldn't see them.

It being a national holiday, I stuck close to home until mid-afternoon, since all the archaeological sites and libraries would be closed anyway. But eventually I went down to Plaka, and had a kebab and some frozen yoghurt, and walked up around the Roman agora and back down to the square at Monastiraki, where an African drum band of some description was playing. Recorded drum music never quite captures the bass tremor, the reverberation of beat in one's diaphragm. The guys playing were so obviously having fun, and I wanted to dance really badly - but no one else was dancing.

So I came home and went out for a run - I lie, it was more of a shuffle - for the count of one hundred in the park. My wind is so gone. But if I try to do that every couple of days, it'll get easier.

Now, I suppose, I should work on this review. Since I'm supposed to be dedicating the rest of the week to research...
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And cranky, because the common area of the institute has been taken over by a posse of smokers, leaving me to huddle in my bedroom and grow increasingly annoyed every time I have to brave the lingering fug to go to the kitchen or the bathroom. I thought we had a bloody no-smoking-indoors policy, not an "it's okay if you blow it out the window every so often" one.

But if the AD doesn't seem to mind, what the hell can I do about it?

Anyway. Athens. It's warm during the day and chilly at night, which is about normal for March, and which means I should've packed more than one jumper and more than one pair of trousers, but I'll survive. Finally crawled out of bed this noon after a broken night's sleep (I missed my down-stuffed duvet, even if I did bring my pillow, and a damn good thing I brought it, too) (I also miss my bed, which even with its bockety mattress offers more back support and less narrowness than this one) (yes, I am spoiled and like my creature comforts and have used too many brackets) and headed out to Plaka to get lunch and wander into the agora.

Was packed. Seems like everyone in Athens was down in the flea market this spring Sunday.

Every time I come here, I find something new in the agora. Not that it is a new bit of recently-uncovered archaeology, no: just that each time I see something I hadn't seen before, or notice it in a new light. Today, with all the spring flowers blooming and common and rare swallowtail butterflies chasing each other through the air, it was the Altar of the Twelve Gods, or the corner of it that is as much as can be seen since the establishment of the Athens-Piraeus railway in the 1890s; and the foundation-stones of the Arsenal in the lee of the Hephaisteion.

It is beautiful, and I cannot think why my mood now is so sour.

Perhaps I am cranky because I am tired. I will feel better once I start spending my days in the library of the École Francais, and start making noticeable progress again, I am sure.

Glasgow

Sep. 28th, 2013 11:32 pm
hawkwing_lb: (Helen Mirren Tempest)
In brief: it was amazing. [livejournal.com profile] tithenai is everything gracious and smart and interesting, and it was a joy to meet her (and [livejournal.com profile] alankria, who is also everything gracious and smart and interesting) in person.

Also [livejournal.com profile] tithenai is partially responsible for the giant hole in my bank account that came of introducing me to the music of Sarah Slean live. (Because I immediately went and bought of the discography.)

And my overwhelming impression of Glasgow, now, is amazing food.

Excellence. Just, brilliant time.




Interesting thing I have noticed about myself (only semi-related): I used to get intense social anxiety before meeting new people. I still get some, but these days I'm as or more likely to get a social anxiety... backlash? Aftermath? The thing that happens after an emotional high, when all the good feelings just crash into DOOM DOOM EVERYTHING IS DOOM, and I'm anxious about my social interactions in retrospect.

This just goes to show brains are weird.
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Soon I shall go to find a taxi for the airport.

It is hot today. Last night in the attic room, it proved almost too hot to sleep. I finally dropped off around 0500. In consequence of that, or perhaps of my very odd dreams, or perhaps of the odd sense of failure I have at going home, I find myself something depressed. Ah, well. Such is life.

Peaches

Jun. 8th, 2013 08:12 pm
hawkwing_lb: (Bear CM beyond limit the of their bond a)
I will miss peaches after Tuesday. They are sweet and juicy and taste like summer, like nothing in Ireland: ripeness flooding the tongue, rich and yellow and stinging on a cut lip.

Yesterday, I went out for a walk. The sky had clouded over grey and threatened rain: there was a pleasant coolness about, and in consequence I headed up to the acropolis. But no sooner had I reached the Place Of No Shade (big, white, treeless, no, it has no shade), did the sun come out. I refused to be cheated of my walk, and so, in consequence, I ended up slightly enpinkened last night.

Hey, back home rain means no need to wear sun cream all day. How was I to know it was all a fakeout, here?

But at least I'm not one of lobster brigade. It's already fading to tan.

I spent today, with the exception of a brief trip out to get more protein, working on a powerpoint and some supplemental information for my conference paper. Wrestling with this for hours - with something that will take twenty minutes to give, with a small list of extra information probably no one will even read - it occurs to me how much hard work and effort go into making things look easy and effortless. I thought I knew this already: but not, it turns out, quite viscerally enough.

Tangentially related: I am going home on Tuesday. I am going home because I do not have enough cope - nor, to be entirely honest, enough cash - to put stage two of the Greek travel plan - have fun and a holiday - into action. I now have forty euro to get home on, or a little less. Grant me no disasters, O Hermes, for it is as yet twelve days until I get paid, unless the freelance cheque comes promptly on Monday.
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I appear to like sleep. Judging by how much of it I do, anyway. When I finally rose today it was noon. I swear, I meant to get up earlier, but when I was lying there it just didn't seem nearly as important...

The metro from Viktoria was disgustingly packed - I will never feel comfortable squashed against strangers - but fortunately I was changing at Omonia for Akropoli, so it was only one stop. Went to the Tourist Info place to pick up a map and a timetable for the buses to Nauplio, and met there one tiny tabby cat, who had figured out a trick for tiny cats to open automatic doors. It was friendly enough to permit skritches - and yes, I'm missing my kittens. I'm even more of a sucker for strange cats than usual.

Made use of my free entry card to cut up the south slope of the acropolis and down through the agora to reach the Kerameikos. I was hoping to see a tortoise at some point, but no joy there. Instead I had a brief glimpse of a bird I had never seen before: brown head, black and white banded wings, with a thin pointy beak.

Wandered around for a bit, finally getting to proper grips with the layout of the Dipylon Gate and the Tomb of the Lakedaimonians, before heading to Yogolicious for yoghurt lunch. Now I must attempt to work on the conference paper - and not scratch my itchy bits to death, goddamn flies.
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Having spent the weekend - bar laundry and midnight bursts of conference paper productivity - sitting on my arse watching videos* and reading non-SFF books, today I set out to go walking.

Despite having visited Athens lo these several times, I'd never been properly walkabout on the hill of the Pnyx - also, and more cartographically known, as the Hill of the Muses. So, after stopping off for a frozen yoghurt lunch at Yogolicious, I walked around by Thisseio and up to the place of the assembly - and from there I set off to explore the Hill of the Muses more thoroughly.

There were no unsociable tortoises today. Instead, churring pigeons rustling in dry pine and leaflitter, and the sound of drums from the Greek Dance Theatre. It is a surprisingly long walk from the Pnyx to the Philoppapou monument - erected by a king of Commagene and benefactor of the Athenians in the Roman period - at least by the route I took. As one of the archaeological parks of Athens, the Hill of the Muses is grown with pines and trailed about with pathways. I went down and along by the remains of the Koile road - the road that in antiquity led through the deme of Koile and down to the Piraeus along the long walls - and up to the Philoppapou monument. There are excellent views from up there: a whole new angle on the acropolis.

To describe it beggars my abilities, you know. The vasty spread of Athenian metropolitan sprawl, reinforced concrete in shades of white and grey, rolling out from the centre to the mountains and the sea - but at the centre?

The centre remains a monument to the idea of Athens, that classical city-state: from the top of the Hill of the Muses you can see that there are three hills of Athens - Lykavittos, the Acropolis, the hill of the Muses itself. In the low ground between the Hill of the Muses and the Acropolis lies the agora, that jumble of broken stone: from the Philoppapou monument the Acropolis with its ongoing, much-debated reconstructions dominates the entire central aspect of the city, drawing every eye.

In antiquity - even at the end of the 19th century - the land now covered in concrete would have been olive groves and vineyards and land under the plough. Now all we have of the likeness of ancient Athens are her hills - but above the pines on the Hill of the Muses, above where the Macedonian walls closed off the approach to the city, looking across at the back of Herodius Atticus' Odeon on the south slope of the Acropolis, the past still seems close enough to touch.

I walked back via the eastern side of the Acropolis, taking a moment to slip on the too-well-trod (and consequently smooth as glass) promontory of the Areopagus, and passing by a flautist and some listening cats, made my way to the restaurant Eucharis, where I ate lovely chicken fillet grilled, and then took the metro home and sort of wobbled sideways onto this couch, where I have remained ever since.


*Let me take this opportunity to mention how very odd it was, having watched all five The Fast and the Furious films, which provide a diverse cast of compelling characters, to then watch the first episode of Defiance. The post-alien-invasion future of the American Mississippi is only 1% black.
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Another morning of sleeping through my alarm. Shower and breakfast before noon: strawberries and Greek yoghurt. Then off to the École Francaise d'Athenes to renew ma carte de lecteur and settle in for two hours' reading of Gere's Knossos and the Prophets of Modernism. I really need to think more thoroughly about my conference paper's goals: it is easy enough to point out elements of "Minoan" symbology in two SFnal works, particularly when both works make explicit reference to "Minoans," but interrogating why and pointing out the evidentiary problems with the received wisdom on "Minoan" civilisation may prove somewhat more complicated.

At 1510, having spent at least two hours in the library and grown cranky with hunger, I left l'ÉFA and set off for Plaka - via, due to my disinclination to walk much before food, Panepistimio metro - where I found myself satisfactorily fed at the first estiatorio on Adrianou. Pretty good chicken fillet grilled, fried potato, and cucumber (all for 10 euro!) and then frozen yoghurt in the yoghurt place. Decided to walk up to the Pnyx, around the back of the agora, it being after 1600 and the Agora, in consequence, being closed. Hot, but not scorching: about 28C. Dust and laurel and bay. Pink flowers which I wish I could identify - I need a handbook of Greek flora - cascading at intervals in the bushes.

At Thisseio, turn left. It would've been easier to get to the Pnyx proper and the seat of the assembly if I'd turned right just before the Sanctuary of Pan, but I did not know that then, and continued up to where the tourist buses turn around between the Pnyx and the South Slope of the acropolis, and turned right there. Pine trees! Tourists! No water fountains! The late fourth century wall built to protect the agora and the city from the Macedonian threat - or at least its very sketchy remnant.

I came out onto the assembly space eventually. A grassy flattish slope, the Areopagus visible across the agora, the Propylon of the Acropolis half-hidden by pines: from the right angle, the skene of the Odeon of Herodius Atticus can be seen, and one has a true sense of its size. I sat there for a while, watching an unsociable tortoise retreat from munching on a plant and slope off towards the trees after I sat down beside it.

I was sitting on the wall that encloses what looks like, to a casual glance, an earlier phase. But it's not labelled, nor marked on any of the nearby plans. I wonder now if it's not a sanctuary of some kind, but without doing some more reading (which is not immediately relevant to my concerns right now) I hesitate to hazard a guess. I met two archaeologists (students? properly employed?) there, one from Vancouver and one from Richmond VA, who also seemed to be puzzled by it - and who also did not know the agora closed at 1500, which inclined me to believe they had not been in Athens before.

Then back to Monastiraki via the flea market, and home. I wandered through the book festival that seems to be going on in Ares Park for a while, wishing my Greek was better, and now I am sitting on the couch listening to a cat complain somewhere outside - sounds like the grounds of the Austrian Institute, though I could be wrong. Miaow! Miaow!

I suppose I should do some calisthenics, and go lie down. Tomorrow, as they said in that episode of Farscape, is a rest day.
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So I spent most of yesterday, apart from a break to go to agora, working on my paper. And then last night I couldn't get to sleep.

I don't know why, really. Maybe I didn't walk far enough. Maybe I drank too much coke. End result: I fell asleep after four, slept through my alarm, and crawled out of bed and into the shower barely before noon.

That put paid to my plans to go down to the École Francaise. It also puts paid to any notion I had of going to any of the museums or enclosed sites, since they all close at three - bar, as far as I know, the acropolis and the Acropolis Museum.

I feel pretty cruddy right now. I expect that's lack of sleep. I'm also eating less, I think, than I was at home - partly because I'm worried about making my money last, and partly because the easiest quick food is from the bakery and I don't want to be eating too much cheese pastry all at once.

It's 25C with 60% humidity, says the weather site. Add an extra degree for central Athens. I should, I suppose, be kind to myself for a few days until I adjust, although I almost wish it was 30+ already, so I could have an excuse for feeling cruddy.

I should try and go out for a proper walk this evening, though. If I do, I can have yoghurt on Adrianou again.

Athens

May. 29th, 2013 02:05 pm
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A breakfast of plain yoghurt and sweet strawberries, the yoghurt all but solid. Afterwards some work on this conference paper, but at 1300, hungry and frustrate, I set off for Plaka.

There's nothing terribly exciting about the metro to Monastiraki, but the souvlaki place on the street opposite the station still seems to be doing good business. The one problem is I always forget its name, but you can get souvlaki kebab there - two kebabs in one pita for 3.30 euro, and a solid helping of tomato and red onion. (I always ask for the tzatziki to be left off.) The kebabs were salty but tasty; the tomato juicy, and I wound up with tomato juice dripping on my white t-shirt before I polished off the remains and sauntered into the agora.

The upper level of the reconstructed South Stoa was open, with an exhibit on the changing face of the agora in antiquity. This is the first time I've been up to the upper level of the Stoa, and the view over the agora is rather astounding. It makes you think what it must have been like, when more than one stoa stood; when the Odeon of Agrippa loomed in the centre and altars and shops and temples and offices all around.

From the Stoa I wandered up towards the Hephaisteion, sat on a bench in the shade on the shoulder of the rise, above the Tholos. This is what I wrote in my notebook, wanting to keep hold of the moment:

The agora smells like burnt caramel, almost: some sweet combination of pine, laurel, olive, dust. The acropolis and the hill of the Areopagus before me, circled round with still-green pines - and off to the left, further distant, the slopes of the mountains. It's not a perfect peace. But by Zeus - yes indeed by Zeus - it's glorious.

It is not yet truly summer. The heat has not yet stifled movement. Birds warble in the greenery, sleepy pigeons fluff their feathers on a corner of the South Stoa, yellow and white butterflies flutter past. The drone of cicadas is missing - although I don't find I miss it.

Every time I come here, I see something new, among the archaeological clutter. Or rather, have the time to appreciate something old, until now unnoticed. This time it was the "Civic Offices" in front of the Middle Stoa, and the small boundary stone adjacent, I am the boundary of the agora; ΗΟΡΟΣ εἶμι τῆς ἀγορᾶς. And on the slope of the hill whereon sits the Hephaisteion, the "Geometric Cemetery" and the building marked "Strategeion(?)" whose purpose is disputed. The geometric cemetery is blink-and-you-miss-it stuff: stony holes in stony ground, grown about with grasses. And yet here we touch 2,800 years of history preserved in the earth - sheltered only a little from the passing feet of sun-pinked complaining American tourists. (Overheard: "I donwanna do this anymore," which is not the style of whine one expects from an adult woman.)


Shortly thereafter, my train of thought was interrupted by the blowing of whistles as the site guards closed up for 1500. (I succeeded in startling one of them, a nice boy, by responding to his inquiries in my dreadful Greek.)

Stopped off for yoghurt on the way back to the metro. There is a delicious yoghurt place on Adrianou. Frozen yoghurt! In many flavours, and with many toppings - and they charge by weight, not by topping. Strawberries and redcurrants and figs and grapes and glacé cherries and strawberries in syrup and raspberries in syrup and orange bits and OTHER FRUIT I DON'T EVEN KNOW. And all kinds of chocolate and cereal toppings, and honey and caramel and a sort of light syrup? And melted chocolate of several different sorts. The flavours of yoghurt this time were plain, vanilla, banana and hazelnut. (Last summer they had mango and strawberry and - I think - lime.)

And the woman remembered me from last year, and gave me a discount. Which was aces, and if I'd thought she was going to do that, I'd have filled my little yoghurt tub more full.

Delicious.

Now, though, I suppose I should try to do more work.
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Traveling is a weird experience, and airports are expensive places. But Lufthansa, whatever their flaws, at least feed and water you. The food on the flight to Frankfurt wasn't all that great: some kind of sour potato salad... but it existed! Which is more than you can say for a lot of airlines.

After a long layover in Frankfurt (where everything is more expensive than I believed possible even for airports, but where I made a decent meal out of an Asian restaurant called "Coa" for about twelve quid with a bit of inventiveness), the onward flight to Athens came as a welcome relief. And the dinner provided, a vegetarian ravioli dish, was sufficiently tasty I would've eaten twice the amount. (And they provided dessert! A Toblerone!) This, to my mind, makes Lufthansa amazing.

I lucked out, too. The miracle of a seat with legroom by the emergency exit came to me without my asking.

For a wonder, when I reached the taxi rank at the Athens, the taxi driver actually recognised my street. We had a nice wee chat in which he asked me how I came to speak Greek, and told me that, while it's been bad economically, one should only believe half of what one sees on the news.

The new AD at the Institute is a lovely guy who waited to let me in despite it being 0200 in the morning. So I got settled, with my own pillow (which I brought from home, yes, because I remember the Institute's pillows and they suck) and finally fell asleep at 0400 or thereabouts - which isn't as late as it seems, because Athens time is two hours ahead of Dublin time.

Didn't really emerge to consciousness until 1300 today. Still a bit sleepy, to be honest, but at least Athens is giving me a day's grace of cloud and 22-24C before it breaks out the scorchers.

It's odd, how much being here is like coming home. I mean, not as comfortable as home-home, and the cops in Dublin don't look quite so like a well-armed motorcycle gang late at night, but I've been here often enough that the shops around the corner are familiar - the woman in the bakery recognised me today, and asked if I'd come home. I had to check myself before I said yes.

Also, there are strawberries and cherries in the vegetable shop. CHERRIES. OMNOMNOM.

Not really doing much today. I'm still a bit wiped from travel.
hawkwing_lb: (Helps if they think you're crazy)
We've just been discussing Scott's Antarctic journals. ("They're all manly men. There's no mention of buggery.") I love my mates. I really do.

Today I walked down by the Broad Meadow and saw the cows on Christ Church Meadow. Off to the Ashmolean, to pick up a copy of the guide to the Aegean antiquities in the Ashmolean for my supervisor. Then off - via a brief browse and a sandwich in Waterstones - to the Museum of the History of Science, whose premises on Broad St. were where the Ashmolean museum was first established. The cellar was previously - until the mid-19th century - the chemistry labs for the university, and the internal staircase was only added later. Access was via an external stone staircase, which preserved the integrity of the rest of the building (lovely stone vaults) in case of fire or lab explosions.

So many scientific instruments! Persian astrolabes! Marconi apparatus! AMPUTATION KITS! Amazing.

And more stuff on SCIENCE.

After this, I went across the road to Blackwell's with a pen and notebook, went to the Classics and Archaeology sections, and took notes on titles.

All told, I've been very restrained in terms of books while I'm here. Inhumanly restrained. Only three books of fiction purchased. Two nonfiction for me. (And one book for my supervisor, which hardly counts.) They don't all fit in my bag. But K. says he'll post them to me.

(I did, however, commit Academic Book via the Book Depository this evening, as soon as I saw I'd been paid. Forgive me my sins, but I could not resist.)

Tomorrow, off home. With a spot of luck, I'll be in my own bed this time tomorrow night.
hawkwing_lb: (Helps if they think you're crazy)
It turns out I'm not going up to London, because the thought of navigating pubtrans from here to there made me break out in cold sweats. So it goes: I'm not going to push my anxiety this time.

Today I was slow to get started. Ate lunch with J. and K. in The Arts Café, where I had moussaka that tasted far healthier than the last moussaka I had (there was more meat in it in Greece, and fewer vegetables). And then wombled over to Blackwell's, where I had an appointment to meet the most excellent Kari Sperring. (And where I briefly met the most excellent Juliet McKenna, who stopped by in the company of the aforementioned.)

I love medievalists. Classicists, too, but medievalists can be relied upon to know cool shit of which I've never even heard. It's truly delightful to talk with people who are knowledgeable, enthusiastic, and articulate - and when some enthusiasms overlap, that's brilliant. (I admire [livejournal.com profile] la_marquise_de_ and The Grass-King's Concubine is a book that meant rather a lot to me when I read it, so if I am enthusiastic in an unseemly way about spending several hours talking? This is why.)

It was, I think it's fair to say, a reasonably wide-ranging discussion. (And somehow my normal anxiety at meeting new people managed not to show up until... five minutes ago? That's fine. That's afterwards.) So, um. Kari Sperring? Delightful conversationalist. Absolutely lovely. Pleasure to meet.

Shortly thereafter, I failed my saving throw vs. temptation in Waterstones, and walked out with Chris Beckett's Dark Eden and something called Babylon Steel, which looks bizarre and potentially either terrible or amazing.

I did not purchase Richard Holmes' Falling Upwards: How We Took To The Air. Weight limits. Weight limits. I keep repeating this. WEIGHT LIMITS.

...There may be some small problems at the airport.

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