steepholm: (Default)
My daughter suggested I get highlights, and, intrigued by the process (all those bits of foil arranged elegrantly round one's head, as if one were a fashion-conscious conspiracy theorist!) I took her advice. It made much more difference than I was expecting: at first I was pleased with the change, then doubt began to creep in, and now I'm more or less back to liking it again.

Anyway, here is me bidding a lingering au revoir to Jessie's paws, while Ganesh looks on in the background:

IMG0400A

Next time I post it should be from Tokyo!
steepholm: (Default)
While breakfasting with friends at Betty's in York a fortnight ago, I mentioned that I was wary of predicting the result of the French presidential election (which was happening that day), since I was worried that Trump's win had been precipitated by my privately expecting it to happen.

Clémentine Beauvais remarked that it was rather splendid to say something so equally composed of narcissism and paranoia, and I have to admit she had a point. But isn't that a familiar combination in our times? Anyway, taking that hint (and another from "Porphyria's Lover") this poem came to me as I was wandering back from town this afternoon, a bag of marked essays at my back.


And so, Mark Zuckerberg, we are alone.

My last four Facebook posts have gained
No likes at all – although, in point of wit,
And weight, and power to shock, they should
Have gone as viral as the Spanish flu.

How could this be, I mused? Am I perhaps
Too dangerous now? My insights honed too sharp?
Have the Illuminati moved to hide
Me from all timelines, fearing my quick tongue?

At last I understand. Mark, it was you.
You made this private room on Sugar Mountain
Just for two; built Facebook walls around us.
Speak! I am waiting! What would’st thou ask of me?
steepholm: (Default)
One hundred and one years ago my curate great-grandfather preached a sermon in Esperanto at the church of Holy Trinity, Goodramgate, York, on the occasion of the British Esperanto Congress being held in the city. When I lived in York in the 1980s I often visited the church, loving the old box pews (as who couldn't?), but at that time I didn't know about Thomas Robinson Butler's performance. Yesterday, however, in the wake of a conference organised by the talented and delightful Clementine Beauvais, I visited with her and Maria Nikolajeva, and photographed what was, I assume, the very pulpit:

IMG_20170506_140153

Meanwhile, here are Clementine (l) and Maria (r), as seen through the church's hagioscope:

IMG_20170506_140138

Tonight I'm staying with Farah and Edward in Stoke-on-Trent, which really ought to be the occasion to visit the Esperanto Association's Butler Library, named after Thomas's son, my grandfather and housed at nearby Barlaston. But, alas, Wolverhampton calls and I must take the morning train. Bonan nokton, ĉiuj!
steepholm: (Default)
In recent months, as I've mentioned here a couple of times I think, I've taken to working at Coffee #1 on the Gloucester Rd. I like their green tea, and I've got to that stage now where they reach for it when they see me come through the door. That's good in a way, of course, but it occurred to me that I might be becoming predictable, and a while ago I said jokingly to the woman behind the counter, "I ought to have a catchphrase - like, 'Tea me up, Scotty!'"

To my surprise, she found this weak quip highly amusing, and in subsequent weeks I felt honour bound to quote it whenever she happened to be serving. After a while, though, for the sake of my sanity I thought I ought to vary it. "Greet me with green tea" worked for a short while; "The green, green tea of home" was even more ephemeral. I've been through quite a few phrases now, and it's getting desperate. I've got "A green thought in a green shade" saved up for next time, but I worry that eventually I'll run out of mildly amusing ways to order a pot of Jade Tips. Then I'll have no choice but to switch to Rooibos. The horror!

* * *


Obviously I can't help overhearing the people who sit next to me while I'm working at the cafe. It's not that I'm listening in, not at all.

So, today it was a man of about 35 and his 9- or 10-year-old daughter. I was drafting my Annual Performance Review document on a laptop a couple of feet away, but absorbing as that activity was I couldn't help but be struck by her loud claim to be able to "predict the past".

Dad, naturally, plodded out a few clichés about the unidirectionality of time, the meanings of Latin prefixes, and so on. (By this point I was trying to find a way to say how wonderful my teaching has been without sounding boastful - no easy task, as I've recently had occasion to observe.)

Finally, the father said in exasperation: "I refuse to believe that you have access to a non-linear, atemporal mode of being!" His daughter stared back mulishly across her babyccino. Relenting, he added: "Anyway, what do you want for supper? And don't say cheese and pasta!"

"Pasta and cheese," she replied.

Touché.
steepholm: (tree_face)
I spent this weekend in the Gower peninsula, taking part in a magical weekend - my first in two years (last year having been taken up with other matters). Of course, it's in the nature of the beast that I shouldn't go into details about our Dreadful Rites, but I can at least share some photos (albeit taken with a very poor phone camera) from the archaeological part of the adventure.

Over Sea, Under Stone )
steepholm: (Default)
I spent this weekend in the Gower peninsula, taking part in a magical weekend - my first in two years (last year having been taken up with other matters). Of course, it's in the nature of the beast that I shouldn't go into details about our Dreadful Rites, but I can at least share a some photos (albeit taken with a very poor phone camera) from the archaeological part of the adventure.

Over Sea, Under Stone )
steepholm: (tree_face)
I went to Romsey this weekend so that I could visit my mother in hospital there (she was moved last week from the big hospital in Southampton to the local cottage hospital – where I was born, as a matter of fact). When I saw her on Friday afternoon she was in good spirits, and asked me to bring some clothes and smoked-salmon sandwiches the following morning, which I duly did. However, on turning into the ward I found my way blocked by a nurse, who said that there’d been a couple of cases of D&V among the ladies of the ward overnight.

I had to ask what D&V meant. The first words to pop into my head were “decay” and “vile with green and livid spot”, but apparently it’s diarrhoea and vomiting, and the standard practice is to close the ward to visitors for a day or two, for fear of spreading the infection. This was a shame, since it defeated the purpose of my driving from Bristol, but I thanked her for letting me know, handed over the care package, and went back to my mother’s house for the day.

This morning I rang to see if the ward was open for visitors yet. It wasn’t, so I asked to speak with my mother on the phone. A minute later I heard her asking why on earth I hadn’t visited yesterday? It turned out that she didn’t know about the ward being closed to visitors! The nurse who gave her my package the day before had simply told her that I couldn’t visit – which she understood to be a message from me, rather than about me. Consequently, she spent the next 24 hours wondering why I’d abandoned her.

Of course I cleared up the misunderstanding, but I was quite upset to think of her feeling bereft and abandoned like that. And I was just as upset on my own behalf to think of her believing I’d do such a thing.

“No one ever gets over the first unfairness,” wrote the sagacious Mr Barrie. I’d hazard that mine involved being unjustly accused of something, because that’s a scenario that has a peculiar power to cut to my quick – far more so than open cruelty. Stories in which it happens are upsetting to me, too, unless the misunderstanding is cleared up very quickly. If it doesn’t get cleared up at all, forget it! I can just about make it through The Winter’s Tale because of the final act, but Othello, where Desdemona dies before Othello becomes aware of her innocence, is simply upsetting, and not in a cathartic way.

Even when misunderstandings are cleared up, they leave an undeserved aftertaste – like the smell of cigarette smoke in a non-smoker’s hair (something I’m very familiar with from my Romsey visits). The scenario in which I abandoned my mother at the hospital and went off instead to – what? the races, perhaps? – is hard to dispel. It’s a bit like the episode of Friends in which Phoebe is angry with Ross because of something he did to her in a dream. I suppose that’s how it is for anyone who’s unjustly accused, even when they’re cleared of blame. In the court of the unconscious, the best verdict you can hope for is “Not Proven”.
steepholm: (Default)
I went to Romsey this weekend so that I could visit my mother in hospital there (she was moved last week from the big hospital in Southampton to the local cottage hospital – where I was born, as a matter of fact). When I saw her on Friday afternoon she was in good spirits, and asked me to bring some clothes and smoked-salmon sandwiches the following morning, which I duly did. However, on turning into the ward I found my way blocked by a nurse, who said that there’d been a couple of cases of D&V among the ladies of the ward overnight.

I had to ask what D&V meant. The first words to pop into my head were “decay” and “vile with green and livid spot”, but apparently it’s diarrhoea and vomiting, and the standard practice is to close the ward to visitors for a day or two, for fear of spreading the infection. This was a shame, since it defeated the purpose of my driving from Bristol, but I thanked her for letting me know, handed over the care package, and went back to my mother’s house for the day.

This morning I rang to see if the ward was open for visitors yet. It wasn’t, so I asked to speak with my mother on the phone. A minute later I heard her asking why on earth I hadn’t visited yesterday? It turned out that she didn’t know about the ward being closed to visitors! The nurse who gave her my package the day before had simply told her that I couldn’t visit – which she understood to be a message from me, rather than about me. Consequently, she spent the next 24 hours wondering why I’d abandoned her.

Of course I cleared up the misunderstanding, but I was quite upset to think of her feeling bereft and abandoned like that. And I was just as upset on my own behalf to think of her believing I’d do such a thing.

“No one ever gets over the first unfairness,” wrote the sagacious Mr Barrie. I’d hazard that mine involved being unjustly accused of something, because that’s a scenario that has a peculiar power to cut to my quick – far more so than open cruelty. Stories in which it happens are upsetting to me, too, unless the misunderstanding is cleared up very quickly. If it doesn’t get cleared up at all, forget it! I can just about make it through The Winter’s Tale because of the final act, but Othello, where Desdemona dies before Othello becomes aware of her innocence, is simply upsetting, and not in a cathartic way.

Even when misunderstandings are cleared up, they leave an undeserved aftertaste – like the smell of cigarette smoke in a non-smoker’s hair (something I’m very familiar with from my Romsey visits). The scenario in which I abandoned my mother at the hospital and went off instead to – what? the races, perhaps? – is hard to dispel. It’s a bit like the episode of Friends in which Phoebe is angry with Ross because of something he did to her in a dream. I suppose that’s how it is for anyone who’s unjustly accused, even when they’re cleared of blame. In the court of the unconscious, the best verdict you can hope for is “Not Proven”.
steepholm: (tree_face)
#1: when you give blood at Antwerp University, you get free entertainment from a giant drop of blood, who dances around in front of your already-dazed eyes:

IMG0273A

I can't decide whether or not this is a good thing.

#2: when the Belgians decide to erect a monument to the characters in a book hardly anyone there has heard of, they make a very good job of it:

IMG0278AIMG0282A

#3: When this monument precipitates Korean and Japanese tourists, the Fish and Chip shop round the corner takes on a new dimension, offering panko and tenpura options, and a kimchi side.

#4: When they want to advertise the university, they dress the academics as superheroes (centre-stage is my friend Vanessa, who invited me to talk to her conference on Wednesday):

IMG0295A

#5: In Luxembourg, if you're too tired to boil and decorate your own Easter eggs, you can buy them ready-boiled and painted. Probably someone will eat them for you too, for a price:

IMG0298A

(Also, there is almost certainly a charming story behind this statue in Luxembourg City, but I've no idea what...)

IMG0297A

#6: Finally, it turns out that my brain will only hold a maximum of two languages at a time. Since arriving in Abroad I've done my best at least to make an effort, language-wise, although Flanders and Luxembourg both being notorious nests of polyglotism it was never going to be more than a token one, and it's not as if I knew any Dutch to begin with. However, whenever I try to pull my school French out from the lumber room of my mind I find it's buried under a huge pile of conversational Japanese. I can get at it eventually, but it takes time - rather too much time in a country where everyone's already on a hair trigger to switch to English at the first sign of linguistic ineptitude. I've already thanked someone in a supermarket with 'Arigatou' and, truth be told, a few 'Hai's and 'Daijoubu's may also have escaped the fence of my teeth.

Still, the main business - being patron for a travail de candidature (don't ask) - went off smoothly, though in circumstances that were also rather tragic, for reasons I can't go into here, because it's not my story to tell.
steepholm: (Default)
#1: when you give blood at Antwerp University, you get free entertainment from a giant drop of blood, who dances around in front of your already-dazed eyes:

IMG0273A

I can't decide whether or not this is a good thing.

#2: when the Belgians decide to erect a monument to the characters in a book hardly anyone there has heard of, they make a very good job of it:

IMG0278AIMG0282A

#3: When this monument precipitates Korean and Japanese tourists, the Fish and Chip shop round the corner takes on a new dimension, offering panko and tenpura options, and a kimchi side.

#4: When they want to advertise the university, they dress the academics as superheroes (centre-stage is my friend Vanessa, who invited me to talk to her conference on Wednesday):

IMG0295A

#5: In Luxembourg, if you're too tired to boil and decorate your own Easter eggs, you can buy them ready-boiled and painted. Probably someone will eat them for you too, for a price:

IMG0298A

(Also, there is almost certainly a charming story behind this statue in Luxembourg City, but I've no idea what...)

IMG0297A

#6: Finally, it turns out that my brain will only hold a maximum of two languages at a time. Since arriving in Abroad I've done my best at least to make an effort, language-wise, although Flanders and Luxembourg both being notorious nests of polyglotism it was never going to be more than a token one, and it's not as if I knew any Dutch to begin with. However, whenever I try to pull my school French out from the lumber room of my mind I find it's buried under a huge pile of conversational Japanese. I can get at it eventually, but it takes time - rather too much time in a country where everyone's already on a hair trigger to switch to English at the first sign of linguistic ineptitude. I've already thanked someone in a supermarket with 'Arigatou' and, truth be told, a few 'Hai's and 'Daijoubu's may also have escaped the fence of my teeth.

Still, the main business - being patron for a travail de candidature (don't ask) - went off smoothly, though in circumstances that were also rather tragic, for reasons I can't go into here, because it's not my story to tell.
steepholm: (Default)
Bristol now has a cat cafe. I helpd fundsurf it about a year ago, and today I cashed in with a cup of tea and a brownie, and 9 rather adorable cats:

IMG0247AIMG0266AIMG0269A

Of course, when I got back, Jessie immediately told me that there was catnip on my collar - but nothing happened, I swear it!

This, along with the recent addition of the Bristol Steampunk Museum, has brightened up the Bristol winter - but if you still doubt the city's charms, why not look at it through the eyes of a visiting Japanese film crew?
steepholm: (tree_face)
Bristol now has a cat cafe. I helpd fundsurf it about a year ago, and today I cashed in with a cup of tea and a brownie, and 9 rather adorable cats:

IMG0247AIMG0266AIMG0269A

Of course, when I got back, Jessie immediately told me that there was catnip on my collar - but nothing happened, I swear it!

This, along with the recent addition of the Bristol Steampunk Museum, has brightened up the Bristol winter - but if you still doubt the city's charms, why not look at it through the eyes of a visiting Japanese film crew?
steepholm: (tree_face)
I'd never heard of the English novelist Ouida, let alone her 1872 children's book, A Dog of Flanders, until the other day, when I mentioned to one of my Japanese conversation partners that I was about to go to Antwerp for the first time, and she brought it up.

This ultra-depressing tale of a destitute boy and his faithful but doomed hound, dying of exposure in Antwerp Cathedral, has I believe has been largely forgotten in the UK, and was never well known in Belgium; but it turns out it's regarded as a classic in Japan and South Korea, and has been televised in numerous versions in both countries. I'm always interested in this kind of "prophet without honour in his own country" survival: When Marnie Was There/Memories of Marnie is another notable instance (although in that case I had at least read the original off my own bat).

Anyway, the burghers of Antwerp were apparently taken by surprise when Korean and Japanese tourists turned up asking to be shown to the sites of the book's various events. Nothing daunted, they arranged for statues and plaques to be erected, so that the tourists would have something to photograph. But in which district of Antwerp was the majority of the story set? The novel never names it, and Ouida herself had only ever spent four hours in Antwerp. But how could literary pilgrimages be made, documented and uploaded to the cloud, without more specific information? The exasperated officials decided more or less arbitrarily that the novel was set in Hoboken, and erected another statue there to prove it. So now, when far-eastern tourists ask where these entirely fictional events really happened, the authorities are able to point them to the exact spot.

I will try to take a photograph when I'm there on Wednesday and Thursday, so as to have ocular proof.
steepholm: (Default)
I'd never heard of the English novelist Ouida, let alone her 1872 children's book, A Dog of Flanders, until the other day, when I mentioned to one of my Japanese conversation partners that I was about to go to Antwerp for the first time, and she brought it up.

This ultra-depressing tale of a destitute boy and his faithful but doomed hound, dying of exposure in Antwerp Cathedral, has I believe has been largely forgotten in the UK, and was never well known in Belgium; but it turns out it's regarded as a classic in Japan and South Korea, and has been televised in numerous versions in both countries. I'm always interested in this kind of "prophet without honour in his own country" survival: When Marnie Was There/Memories of Marnie is another notable instance (although in that case I had at least read the original off my own bat).

Anyway, the burghers of Antwerp were apparently taken by surprise when Korean and Japanese tourists turned up asking to be shown to the sites of the book's various events. Nothing daunted, they arranged for statues and plaques to be erected, so that the tourists would have something to photograph. But in which district of Antwerp was the majority of the story set? The novel never names it, and Ouida herself had only ever spent four hours in Antwerp. But how could literary pilgrimages be made, documented and uploaded to the cloud, without more specific information? The exasperated officials decided more or less arbitrarily that the novel was set in Hoboken, and erected another statue there to prove it. So now, when far-eastern tourists ask where these entirely fictional events really happened, the authorities are able to point them to the exact spot.

I will try to take a photograph when I'm there on Wednesday and Thursday, so as to have ocular proof.
steepholm: (tree_face)
"If you think we don’t care because I don’t tell you much about her you only show that you do not understand people at all."

It's been a rather chaotic few days. The other morning my mother dismounted her stair lift, somehow fell as she turned, and broke her femur. Luckily she didn't hit her head (or anything else) on the way down, so she was able to press the button round her neck that summons help, and a neighbour duly arrived to call the ambulance.

So, she's now in Southampton General. Apart from giving birth, it's the first time she's stayed in hospital in 92 years - and the first 24-hour period without a cigarette since I was born. Naturally, at her age they were nervous about operating, but it went fine, and she seems to be making a good recovery, now plus one steel rod in her leg. I'll be up and down to Southampton quite a bit this week.

Now we're beginning to think, if they can do that for her leg, perhaps they can give her a new hip after all? The only reason they haven't is because they were worried about the anaesthetic, but if it weren't for her hip she'd basically be physically fine, and good for another decade of independent living...

But let's not totter before we can hobble.

In other news, Bristol's first cat cafe is now officially open. I'd put off going because my daughter (who despises my weeaboo-ness) was going to be here, but then she got invited there by one of her friends, much to my chagrin. But, broken legs permitting, I should be there a week today.
steepholm: (Default)
"If you think we don’t care because I don’t tell you much about her you only show that you do not understand people at all."

It's been a rather chaotic few days. The other morning my mother dismounted her stair lift, somehow fell as she turned, and broke her femur. Luckily she didn't hit her head (or anything else) on the way down, so she was able to press the button round her neck that summons help, and a neighbour duly arrived to call the ambulance.

So, she's now in Southampton General. Apart from giving birth, it's the first time she's stayed in hospital in 92 years - and the first 24-hour period without a cigarette since I was born. Naturally, at her age they were nervous about operating, but it went fine, and she seems to be making a good recovery, now plus one steel rod in her leg. I'll be up and down to Southampton quite a bit this week.

Now we're beginning to think, if they can do that for her leg, perhaps they can give her a new hip after all? The only reason they haven't is because they were worried about the anaesthetic, but if it weren't for her hip she'd basically be physically fine, and good for another decade of independent living...

But let's not totter before we can hobble.

In other news, Bristol's first cat cafe is now officially open. I'd put off going because my daughter (who despises my weeaboo-ness) was going to be here, but then she got invited there by one of her friends, much to my chagrin. But, broken legs permitting, I should be there a week today.
steepholm: (tree_face)
Did I mention that I'd be going back to Japan this summer? I don't think I did, but let me make that good now. Last month I won a Visiting Scholarship at Tokyo Woman's Christian University, and I'm going to be there at the end of June and beginning of July. (In Japanese, incidentally, the name translates as Tokyo Young Woman's University, which I think an interesting difference. It was actually founded by a Japanese Quaker - perhaps a unique combination? - a century or so ago.)

What this means is that as well as a research grant (which will mostly get eaten up by translation fees) I can live on their campus for a very small amount of money for three weeks, while researching an article. I will of course also be taking the opportunity to sample Tokyo life, at a slightly less breakneck pace than I was able in my previous visits. Lectures at the National Diet Library and the university's Institute for Comparative Culture have also been slated, and maybe at a couple of other colleges. By singing for my supper I'm hoping to keep costs down.

The campus looks very pretty, perhaps more like an American campus of the early twentieth century than anything very traditionally Japanese, but lush and leafy. I'll be staying at the foreign faculty residence, which I think is housed in this building. It's not clear whether I'll need to live in black and white, though.

I'll be there for the Tanabata festival, which I'm looking forward to - but where's the best place to experience it? I will need to look into that...

So, that's all rather exciting. When I've finished my stint, the plan is to stay on another week to do a bit of exploring outside Tokyo. Since Tokyo at that time of year is said to be more or less unbearably hot and humid, I'll probably head north in search of more clement climes, but I've not broken it down more than that at the moment. Any recommendations for Hokkaido or Touhoku?
steepholm: (Default)
Did I mention that I'd be going back to Japan this summer? I don't think I did, but let me make that good now. Last month I won a Visiting Scholarship at Tokyo Woman's Christian University, and I'm going to be there at the end of June and beginning of July. (In Japanese, incidentally, the name translates as Tokyo Young Woman's University, which I think an interesting difference. It was actually founded by a Japanese Quaker - perhaps a unique combination? - a century or so ago.)

What this means is that as well as a research grant (which will mostly get eaten up by translation fees) I can live on their campus for a very small amount of money for three weeks, while researching an article. I will of course also be taking the opportunity to sample Tokyo life, at a slightly less breakneck pace than I was able in my previous visits. Lectures at the National Diet Library and the university's Institute for Comparative Culture have also been slated, and maybe at a couple of other colleges. By singing for my supper I'm hoping to keep costs down.

The campus looks very pretty, perhaps more like an American campus of the early twentieth century than anything very traditionally Japanese, but lush and leafy. I'll be staying at the foreign faculty residence, which I think is housed in this building. It's not clear whether I'll need to live in black and white, though.

I'll be there for the Tanabata festival, which I'm looking forward to - but where's the best place to experience it? I will need to look into that...

So, that's all rather exciting. When I've finished my stint, the plan is to stay on another week to do a bit of exploring outside Tokyo. Since Tokyo at that time of year is said to be more or less unbearably hot and humid, I'll probably head north in search of more clement climes, but I've not broken it down more than that at the moment. Any recommendations for Hokkaido or Touhoku?
steepholm: (tree_face)
IMG0232A


I encountered this person striking Anglo-Saxon attitudes in Romsey market place this morning. He cheerfully gave me permission to take his photograph, and seeing my quizzical look explained the reason for his get-up, namely the Anglo-Saxon Family Fun Day taking place at King John's house. We were getting on quite well, but then he had to spoil it by adding, "You might like to come along, if you've got children or, er, grandchildren."

Now, it's true that someone of 54 may very well have grandchildren, and in fact I know several people younger than me who actually do, but this is the first time someone's put it to me quite so bluntly. Even muffled against the cold, surely my youthful mien shines through? Apparently not.

When I told my mother about it a little later, she cackled gleefully - like the wizened old crone she is.
steepholm: (Default)
IMG0232A


I encountered this person striking Anglo-Saxon attitudes in Romsey market place this morning. He cheerfully gave me permission to take his photograph, and seeing my quizzical look explained the reason for his get-up, namely the Anglo-Saxon Family Fun Day taking place at King John's house. We were getting on quite well, but then he had to spoil it by adding, "You might like to come along, if you've got children or, er, grandchildren."

Now, it's true that someone of 54 may very well have grandchildren, and in fact I know several people younger than me who actually do, but this is the first time someone's put it to me quite so bluntly. Even muffled against the cold, surely my youthful mien shines through? Apparently not.

When I told my mother about it a little later, she cackled gleefully - like the wizened old crone she is.

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