steepholm: (Default)
Did you call? Sorry if I wasn't in, I just popped out for a minute to go to Canada.

Specifically, I was in York University, Toronto, for the IRSCL - where I gave a paper comparing the UK and US dubs of [The Secret World of] Arrietty with Ghibli's Karigurashi no Arrietty, and indeed The Borrowers.

Anyway, that all went well, and the conference was good - I saw a lot of familiar faces, and quite a few new ones, and there were some excellent papers (I think my favourite was by Robin Bernstein, which dismantled Jacqueline Rose - not for the first time, God knows, but in a particularly interesting way, through the medium of Go the Fuck to Bed). I'm not going to go into details of the whole event because it could easily become a list of names that most people here won't know, but imagine me on a pleasant campus, and socialising as pleasurably as it's possible for an introvert to do in the company of other introverts, and you won't be far wrong. And although my prosopagnosia was a source of anxiety, a gratifying number of people lanced that boil in advance by introducing themselves with "You won't remember me, but you [edited my article/ examined my PhD/ met me in Ueno, etc.]" - and with that clew I was able to find my way.

The return journey was pretty dire, though. The flight from Toronto was delayed by 2.5 hours, due to a) a thunderstorm followed by b) a strike (industrial, not lightning), which meant that I missed my connection to Bristol in Brussels. The later flights to Bristol were full, so they rerouted me via Frankfurt. However, the flight from Brussels to Frankfurt was then itself delayed by 2 hours, which meant that I missed that connection as well. Eventually, I got another flight from Frankfurt to Bristol, but arrived here 12 hours later and much better travelled than planned. I know John Cabot would scoff at me complaining it took 24 hours to get from Canada to Bristol, but I'm made of weaker stuff. Gallingly, I flew directly over the city on the first flight, and had to suppress an impulse to say, "Driver, can you let me off here?"

The other adventure was the afternoon we spent in downtown Toronto. York University is an isolated campus out in the suburbs, so I was pleased to have a chance to see the city proper, especially as I had the company of University of Toronto alumna [personal profile] intertext. She rather tempted fate by pointing out that Ontario drivers were particularly considerate, and may also have said something about the low crime rate, although perhaps I'm adding that in with hindsight.

Anyway, we were waiting to cross at an intersection. The traffic was coming from our right, and I noticed that a car was trying to turn left, into the lane occupied by a motorbike. The car caught the bike, and the bike took the bumper off the front of the car. All this was forty yards away. However, had we but known it the car had taken out the bike's brake pedal, so while the car limped forward to rest more or less beside us, the bike shot across the intersection directly to where I and [personal profile] intertext were standing. By chance, we were right next to the pool surrounding a some civic fountains. I leapt to the ground to one side, but poor [personal profile] intertext, possibly getting entangled with my airborne legs, fell backwards into the pond.

She was unhurt, and everyone (bystanders, motorcyclist, car driver and driver's passenger) was very solicitous - and indeed the whole thing was sorted out with a politeness that can only enhance Canada's reputation (had the incident occurred south of the 49th parallel, several people would of course have been shot dead even before insurance information was exchanged).

[personal profile] intertext herself pointed out that on a hot day, a dip into a cool pond was actually very refreshing, and that this was almost the only way she could have come by it without attracting disapproval. However, she was concerned for the possessions in her now-soaked bag. We found a bench and laid them out. Her iPhone looked okay, but she didn't want to turn it on in case it fried. Having talked for a while, we went over to a snack bar - but unfortunately the iPhone was left on the bench, whence it was swiftly spirited by person or persons unknown.

Afterwards we met up with Mikako and had a nice meal in Chinatown, but it just goes to show that even Toronto has a Dark Side:

DSC00315
steepholm: (Default)
I was hoping for a few days, after the end of semester marking madness, in which to relax and pack, ready for Japan, but stuff keeps coming at me from unexpected directions: an external marking package here, a PhD student's latest chapter there, a journal article to proofread somewhere else, and so on. I'm afraid to open my email now, because I really don't have any more wiggle room. I definitely shouldn't be writing this post, for example, short as it will be.

But I thought I'd share a picture of the building I'll be staying at in Tokyo - the Foreign Faculty Building of Tokyo Woman's Christian University. At least, I think this is the one:

foreign teachers building

The ground floor is a Women's Study Centre, but the top floor is mine for three weeks, which is to say I'll be the only person living there. Until a few days ago I wasn't sure whether I'd just have a room and shared kitchen, etc., student-style, but it seems I get a self-contained apartment, which is very nice.

I'll give a tour when I get there. As on my previous Japanese trips, I intend to blog this one fairly assiduously: since it's not quite a such a tourist affair this time there may be a little less prettiness to show, but I'm sure that staying in a work environment will have its own points of interest...

My visit coincides exactly with the rainy season (tsuyu, 梅雨), which isn't ideal but at least offers poetic possibilities for an LJ tag.
steepholm: (Default)
I mentioned on Facebook the other week that one of my pet marking peeves this year (they operate on a strict rotation basis) is the habit of saying "it could be argued that X", rather than simply "X". It always strikes me as evasive, a way of saying "I'm going to float an idea, and if you agree with it I'll take the credit, but if you don't then I wasn't advocating it, okay?"

Thanks to [profile] stormdog I just saw the perfect illustration of this tactic, although not using that exact phrase, from Nigel Farage - who I bet scattered "It could be argued that" all over his school essays. It's in this article about the reaction to the London bombings on Fox News. Were internment camps a good way to go, mused the incisive analysts of Fox? (For the benefit of those reading outside the UK, no mainstream British politician - by which for this purpose I mean a politician from a party with more MPs than zero - has suggested it.)

Who better to ask than Nigel Farage? Like one of my bet-hedging students (Farage was a professional bet-hedger when he worked in the City, trading commodities, and the instinct is still strong) Farage doesn't call for internment. He says (of people on police watch lists) "if there is not action, then the calls for internment will grow" and, "unless we see the government getting tough, you will see public calls for those 3,000 to be arrested".

Did he just call for internment? Of course not - how dare you suggest such a thing! He was merely acting as a commentator! (Unless it happens, and then he'll be able to say he was brave enough to float the idea.)

And then of course, along comes Katie Hopkins of the Daily Heil like the organ-grinder's monkey, repeating his sentiment but minus the hedge, proving Farage's words true in the process: “We do need internment camps.” What a double act!

A few people on Facebook were bemused by my dislike of "It could be argued that", implying that it was perhaps a bit over the top. This is why I try to drum into people that it's a cowardly and dishonest tactic, whether you're talking about the date of a sonnet or the best reaction to an atrocity.

Nigel Farage uses it, for heaven's sake!
steepholm: (Default)
My friend Chiho told me a story today about how she'd gone with her mother recently to watch Deep Water Horizon at the cinema. During a sequence with a lot of explosions, an earthquake happened to strike Kagoshima (4 on the Richter Scale, which isn't so unusual, but certainly feelable). Afterwards she mentioned the earthquake to her mother, who was surprised, and said, "I just assumed the film was in 4DX!"

It made me laugh - and only afterwards did I realise that I hadn't even been thinking about the fact that she was speaking Japanese. I count this as progress.

This is as an aide memoire. When I visit the places in Japan that have been inspired by Britain (detailed in this recent post), as I surely will, I mustn't forget to include these two additions to my list:

a) Brockhampton Church. Brockhampton is a village in Herefordshire, with a nice Arts-and-Crafts-inspired Church. But it's also (copied at full scale) a place you can get married on the 20th floor of an Osaka hotel.

b) At least they left the original Brockhampton Church in situ. Not so with "Lockheart Castle" (formerly Lockhart House, near Edinburgh) which in the 1990s was transplanted stone by stone from Scotland to Gunma Prefecture and re-erected, much as that American bloke did with London Bridge back in the 1960s. The new Lockheart Castle has been rebranded as a paradise for lovers, although it also hosts a museum of Santa Clauses. Obviously.
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: (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: (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)
Though justice against fate complain,
And plead the ancient rights in vain;
But those do hold or break
As men are strong or weak.

There was a catch in my voice as I read these lines to a hall of first-year students yesterday, in the course of a lecture comparing Marvell's "Horatian Ode" with Horace's Ode 1.2 (in translation, naturally). I'd been asked to give a couple of lectures on rewritings, and this was the first: next week, The Owl Service and "Math ap Mathonwy"!

If there's one thing you take away from this lecture, I said, or words to that effect, remember those words and take them to heart. Rights aren't out there sitting immutably in some Platonic realm: they're human creations, and have to be protected by humans. (Pace the Declaration of Independence, there's nothing self-evident or innate about them.)

A little off-topic, perhaps, but it was hard to avoid the contemporary resonances of both poems at a time when Europe and America appear to be in the process of being "cast... into another mould". Not that either Trump or Farage (or any of the various continental Faragistes) has a scintilla of the genius of Octavian or Cromwell, but I fear that in today's world they don't need it.

On a side note, though, I noticed for the first time that this poem does the same thing that Trump does in his speeches, shifting register and providing self-translation or additional comment as if for his deaf granny. The long couplets tend to use an elevated register, full of abstracts, personifications and Latinate words, which is supplemented by a demotic, everyday, occasionally cynical register in the short couplets. You can see it clearly in the lines quote above, but they're not unique. Take, for example:

’Tis madness to resist or blame
The force of angry Heaven’s flame;
And, if we would speak true,
Much to the man is due,

The first two lines are elevated, the second a kind of water-cooler village pump conversation, mulling over the recent news. Or, immediately following:

Who from his private gardens where
He liv’d reserved and austere,
As if his highest plot
To plant the bergamot,

The first two lines are serious, the second two parenthetical whimsy. In a more muted form we find the same contrast here:

He nothing common did or mean
Upon that memorable scene,
But with his keener eye
The axe’s edge did try;

Nor call’d the gods with vulgar spite
To vindicate his helpless right,
But bowed his comely head
Down as upon a bed.

Elevated language in the long lines, with the short lines devoted to a) a piece of witty black humour, or b) a homely simile, in both cases free of non-English words. Well, that's by the by, but I record it here as an aide-memoire.
steepholm: (Default)
Though justice against fate complain,
And plead the ancient rights in vain;
But those do hold or break
As men are strong or weak.

There was a catch in my voice as I read these lines to a hall of first-year students yesterday, in the course of a lecture comparing Marvell's "Horatian Ode" with Horace's Ode 1.2 (in translation, naturally). I'd been asked to give a couple of lectures on rewritings, and this was the first: next week, The Owl Service and "Math ap Mathonwy"!

If there's one thing you take away from this lecture, I said, or words to that effect, remember those words and take them to heart. Rights aren't out there sitting immutably in some Platonic realm: they're human creations, and have to be protected by humans. (Pace the Declaration of Independence, there's nothing self-evident or innate about them.)

A little off-topic, perhaps, but it was hard to avoid the contemporary resonances of both poems at a time when Europe and America appear to be in the process of being "cast... into another mould". Not that either Trump or Farage (or any of the various continental Faragistes) has a scintilla of the genius of Octavian or Cromwell, but I fear that in today's world they don't need it.

On a side note, though, I noticed for the first time that this poem does the same thing that Trump does in his speeches, shifting register and providing self-translation or additional comment as if for his deaf granny. The long couplets tend to use an elevated register, full of abstracts, personifications and Latinate words, which is supplemented by a demotic, everyday, occasionally cynical register in the short couplets. You can see it clearly in the lines quote above, but they're not unique. Take, for example:

’Tis madness to resist or blame
The force of angry Heaven’s flame;
And, if we would speak true,
Much to the man is due,

The first two lines are elevated, the second a kind of water-cooler village pump conversation, mulling over the recent news. Or, immediately following:

Who from his private gardens where
He liv’d reserved and austere,
As if his highest plot
To plant the bergamot,

The first two lines are serious, the second two parenthetical whimsy. In a more muted form we find the same contrast here:

He nothing common did or mean
Upon that memorable scene,
But with his keener eye
The axe’s edge did try;

Nor call’d the gods with vulgar spite
To vindicate his helpless right,
But bowed his comely head
Down as upon a bed.

Elevated language in the long lines, with the short lines devoted to a) a piece of witty black humour, or b) a homely simile, in both cases free of non-English words. Well, that's by the by, but I record it here as an aide-memoire.
steepholm: (tree_face)
I must get into the habit of writing down the snatches of conversation I hear while passing other people in the street. They always seem more intriguing than my own - or indeed than they would be themselves were they not tantalizingly curtailed. In the last 24 hours I've made a bit of an effort to do this. First, at university yesterday, walking to my seminar room:

"Of course, it's rare for my father to be best friends with someone who's not a policeman."


"I can't believe Stan Lee is still alive. That'll be such a sad day."


Then this morning, sitting in the cafe near the toilet, handy for passing traffic...

"Will it still be snowing? Will it still be snowing on the mountain?"
"Yes."
"If it's not still snowing, will we still be allowed to play?"
"Yes."
*thinks about it*
"When we go to Switzerland I want to take a carrot, some coal and some sticks."

"It's a whale, for sure."
"Yes, it's a whale."
"It's a killer whale."
"It's some sort of whale."
"It's a killer whale."
*I look up. The girl's toy is a killer whale, all right. But aren't they really dolphins?*
"What are you going to call it?"
"Killer whale."
"That's not its name, that's what it is. You could call it Sally, or Jimmy, or Freddy, or Julia...."
*they disappear into the toilet. I hope she sticks to her guns and calls it "Killer Whale"*
steepholm: (Default)
I must get into the habit of writing down the snatches of conversation I hear while passing other people in the street. They always seem more intriguing than my own - or indeed than they would be themselves were they not tantalizingly curtailed. In the last 24 hours I've made a bit of an effort to do this. First, at university yesterday, walking to my seminar room:

"Of course, it's rare for my father to be best friends with someone who's not a policeman."


"I can't believe Stan Lee is still alive. That'll be such a sad day."


Then this morning, sitting in the cafe near the toilet, handy for passing traffic...

"Will it still be snowing? Will it still be snowing on the mountain?"
"Yes."
"If it's not still snowing, will we still be allowed to play?"
"Yes."
*thinks about it*
"When we go to Switzerland I want to take a carrot, some coal and some sticks."

"It's a whale, for sure."
"Yes, it's a whale."
"It's a killer whale."
"It's some sort of whale."
"It's a killer whale."
*I look up. The girl's toy is a killer whale, all right. But aren't they really dolphins?*
"What are you going to call it?"
"Killer whale."
"That's not its name, that's what it is. You could call it Sally, or Jimmy, or Freddy, or Julia...."
*they disappear into the toilet. I hope she sticks to her guns and calls it "Killer Whale"*
steepholm: (tree_face)
Does anyone today use Barthes' five 'codes' (hermeneutic, proairetic, semantic, symbolic and cultural) except in the context of teaching Barthes' ideas?

I mean, I see (for example) Bakhtin's concepts and terminology being used all the time, but I can't remember the last time I saw an essay that drew on those codes because the writer thought they were the most helpful way of understanding a text. But perhaps I'm just living in a non-Barthesian bubble?
steepholm: (Default)
Does anyone today use Barthes' five 'codes' (hermeneutic, proairetic, semantic, symbolic and cultural) except in the context of teaching Barthes' ideas?

I mean, I see (for example) Bakhtin's concepts and terminology being used all the time, but I can't remember the last time I saw an essay that drew on those codes because the writer thought they were the most helpful way of understanding a text. But perhaps I'm just living in a non-Barthesian bubble?
steepholm: (Default)
Well gosh, it seems like days (because it is) since I went to Hyperjapan in London's glamorous Tobacco Dock. I was there last year, of course, and my return visit was strangely similar, with many of the same stalls in the same places - but stepping into the same river twice is no hardship if it's a pretty river. The highlight was perhaps my private photograph with Domo, the NHK mascot:

IMG_20161127_150656

But I was also struck by this Teddy Bear, who was having difficulty getting into the role:

IMG_20161127_123402

And by this texting angel:

IMG_20161127_114444

Given that my father was an art teacher, it's sad that I've never had any facility that way - but this was brought home afresh when I paid £5 for a chance to be a have-a-go hero with a calligraphy brush. I realised belatedly that being left handed was actually a grave disadvantage when it comes to drawing Chinese characters, which demand a certain stroke order drawn in a certain direction (usually left to right). Why I hadn't thought of this over the years of using a biro for the purpose I don't know, but it was only when I got a brush in my hand that I knew how much of a disadvantage my hidarikiki-ness would be. But I can't blame that alone. I also have a very bad visual memory, so that (for instance) my attempt to remember the kanji for "dream" turned into a bit of nightmare - not only infantile in execution but also missing two crucial strokes:

Scan_20161201

Plus, I'm just very bad at drawing. They were nice enough to give me a version of my name, though - with the same "Fruit Poetry" kanji I have on my hanko:

Scan_20161201 (2)

On Monday I was visited by [personal profile] kalimac, with whom I toured Bristol (especially the bookshops, but also of course the Suspension Bridge), and whom I accompanied to Oxford on Tuesday evening for the launch of Dimitra Fimi and Andrew Higgin's edition of Tolkien's essay on invented languages, A Secret Vice

IMG0199A
[personal profile] kalimac at the Clifton Suspension Bridge

I had to leave Oxford early because (like every week) my alarm was set for 5.45am on Wednesday morning, necessary if I'm to get to Cardiff in time for my first lecture - and it was the same story on Thursday. On Friday I went to Romsey to visit my mother, and returned yesterday. So, this is the first day I've had free to write about any of it, and now I'm too tired to make a good fist of it - but for the record, that was my week!
steepholm: (tree_face)
Well gosh, it seems like days (because it is) since I went to Hyperjapan in London's glamorous Tobacco Dock. I was there last year, of course, and my return visit was strangely similar, with many of the same stalls in the same places - but stepping into the same river twice is no hardship if it's a pretty river. The highlight was perhaps my private photograph with Domo, the NHK mascot:

IMG_20161127_150656

But I was also struck by this Teddy Bear, who was having difficulty getting into the role:

IMG_20161127_123402

And by this texting angel:

IMG_20161127_114444

Given that my father was an art teacher, it's sad that I've never had any facility that way - but this was brought home afresh when I paid £5 for a chance to be a have-a-go hero with a calligraphy brush. I realised belatedly that being left handed was actually a grave disadvantage when it comes to drawing Chinese characters, which demand a certain stroke order drawn in a certain direction (usually left to right). Why I hadn't thought of this over the years of using a biro for the purpose I don't know, but it was only when I got a brush in my hand that I knew how much of a disadvantage my hidarikiki-ness would be. But I can't blame that alone. I also have a very bad visual memory, so that (for instance) my attempt to remember the kanji for "dream" turned into a bit of nightmare - not only infantile in execution but also missing two crucial strokes:

Scan_20161201

Plus, I'm just very bad at drawing. They were nice enough to give me a version of my name, though - with the same "Fruit Poetry" kanji I have on my hanko:

Scan_20161201 (2)

On Monday I was visited by [livejournal.com profile] kalimac, with whom I toured Bristol (especially the bookshops, but also of course the Suspension Bridge), and whom I accompanied to Oxford on Tuesday evening for the launch of Dimitra Fimi and Andrew Higgin's edition of Tolkien's essay on invented languages, A Secret Vice

IMG0199A
[livejournal.com profile] kalimac at the Clifton Suspension Bridge

I had to leave Oxford early because (like every week) my alarm was set for 5.45am on Wednesday morning, necessary if I'm to get to Cardiff in time for my first lecture - and it was the same story on Thursday. On Friday I went to Romsey to visit my mother, and returned yesterday. So, this is the first day I've had free to write about any of it, and now I'm too tired to make a good fist of it - but for the record, that was my week!
steepholm: (tree_face)
In my Marie-Kondo-fuelled rage for tidying I came across some material from the Diana Wynne Jones 2009 conference that [livejournal.com profile] fjm, [livejournal.com profile] chilperic, [livejournal.com profile] lady_schrapnell and I organised at UWE, Bristol. This included a copy of the message Diana recorded for the conference, since (because of illness) she was unable to attend personally - something I know she regretted. In it she reads the beginning of the (then still unpublished) novel, Enchanted Glass.

I thought that this might be of interest to some people here, especially those of us who miss her.

steepholm: (Default)
In my Marie-Kondo-fuelled rage for tidying I came across some material from the Diana Wynne Jones 2009 conference that [personal profile] fjm, [profile] chilperic, [personal profile] lady_schrapnell and I organised at UWE, Bristol. This included a copy of the message Diana recorded for the conference, since (because of illness) she was unable to attend personally - something I know she regretted. In it she reads the beginning of the (then still unpublished) novel, Enchanted Glass.

I thought that this might be of interest to some people here, especially those of us who miss her.

steepholm: (tree_face)
All my possessions seem to be winding down in sympathy with me, dimly cognizant perhaps that my life, like the hinged year, is at a turning point. Yesterday I said goodbye to the car I'd had for ten years, waving it off as it disappeared on the back of a "dismantler"'s lorry. (I did rescue Littly My from the rear view mirror first, though.) Later, getting a taxi to the station, my phone slipped from my pocket, taking my numbers with it. The phone itself was a temporary - £15 - replacement for the £20 one that died the other week en route to the States, but I regret the numbers. My PC is currently refusing to talk to my screen, and altogether I feel like some kind of techno-Job, being stripped down to a poor bare forked thing ahead of next week's naked encounter. At the larger level, of course, this may be the day that the UK strips itself down to being (pace Donne) an island. It's hard not to get all Elizabethan-World-Picturey about these weird correspondences of inner and outer, macro and micro.

Not that I've had time to dwell too much. Last weekend I was helping run the Roald Dahl conference in Cardiff, and today I'm in Nottingham to examine a PhD. In between there have been exam boards, a quick visit to my mother, and my daughter making her last appearance before she turns 18 (another turning point - eep!).

At Bristol Temple Meads station yesterday there were many Glastonbury goers set for their annual bout of trenchfoot, but as yet their wellies gleamed green as emeralds. It's Midsummer Eve, a day that is of course ripe for magical transformations. Seeing the revellers (just at the moment I was leaving my phone in the cab) brought back sharply that other June 23rd-4th, in 2007, which I spent being quizzed all night by Tony Robinson in the British Museum, returning in the morning in a train slathered with the mud of Glastonbury's fallen, and going on to work, only to find that one of my friends had died at a meeting that morning.

But, enough. Have a picture of the peaceful Trent, taken as I walked back to my hotel from a nice pub supper yesterday.

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There's something very grounding about water.

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