England, In Bullet Points
- In a nutshell: great fun. I spent time with my friend Avigail (yes, we have the same name), met new and cool friends, saw new and cool places, and just in general relaxed and didn't think about the things that I'm going to have to start thinking about now. A definite success.
- The flight out was divine, and even the flight back, as one-hour-delayed, packed night flights in which I get placed in the middle seat of the middle block of seats go, was fairly harmless. I finished my book and even watched those segments of The Family Stone which didn't seem completely boring without any sound, which frankly seems to me to be the best way to appreciate the film. Too bad the same approach couldn't do anything for Rent on the way out.
- The weather seemed to be on my side as well. It was cold, obviously, but I actually find that novel and refreshing, and it only rained for the last two days of my stay (although my innate Israeliness shone through when I peevishly wondered why the rain wasn't tapering off after 20 minutes).
- I've actually been to the UK about half a dozen times in my lifetime--four or five of them in the last decade, as Avigail and I exchange biannual visits. This trip was the first, however, in which I left the greater London area. Avigail is in the middle of a PhD program in Oxford, and we spent a great deal of time walking around that city, exploring the various colleges. We also took a few day trips--to Stratford-Upon-Avon and Brighton--one two-day excursion to London, and a weekend trip to the Lake District.
- And, speaking of the Lake District, here are some pictures:
Which, in all honesty, don't quite convey how beautiful it was up there.
- Niall Harrison invited me to the BSFA meeting in London on the 22nd, which turned out to be great fun and not a little bit strange--all those people I had only known as disembodied spirits on the ether turning out to have actual faces and voices (Niall, when we first spoke on the phone: "But you're American!"). A tremendously cool time was had by me, at the very least, and I suspect by at least a few others (Niall has a few comments here).
- Shopping-wise, I had two objectives for this trip: homemade fudge and books. I'm happy to report that I succeeded on both counts. The fudge is, naturally, gone already. The books, despite some not-inconsiderable headway, are still a respectable stack on my desk:
Consider Phlebas by Iain M. Banks
Arthur & George by Julian Barnes
The Passion of New Eve by Angela Carter
Old Filth by Jane Gardam
1610: A Sundial in a Grave by Mary Gentle
Climbers by M. John Harrison
20th Century Ghosts by Joe Hill
Smoking Poppy by Graham Joyce
Black Juice by Margo Lanagan
A Short History of Tractors in Ukrainian by Marina Lewycka
Love in a Cold Climate and Other Novels by Nancy Mitford
Silverlock by John Myers Myers
Gaudy Night by Dorothy L. Sayers
Perfect Circle by Sean Stewart (moronically retitled Firecracker in the UK)
Beauty by Sheri S. Tepper
Affinity by Sarah Waters
Tipping the Velvet by Sarah Waters
And, from Niall, review copies of Geoff Ryman's The King's Last Song and Simon Ings' The Weight of Numbers.
- Things I learned about England: unlike every other country I've visited, including ones in which citrus fruit is not indigenous and not in any way a part of the local diet, in England 'lemonade' doesn't mean juice derived from a lemon. It means some concoction made of fizzy water and lemon syrup.
- On the day of our visit to Stratford-Upon-Avon, Avigail and I had a competition to see which one of us could find the most embarrassing Shakespeare-related gift item. I won (or, possibly, lost) with the Macbeth finger puppets, and also spotted a shop called "Much Ado About Toys". In Brighton, the most embarrassing gift item was a booklet of Pride and Prejudice paper dolls.
- I don't know what the hell clotted cream is, except that I suspect its name very aptly describes its effects on my arteries, but I want more of it.
- Scary discovery at Heathrow airport: all the food stalls close at 9 PM. Scarier discovery at Heathrow airport: no passport control at the departure end.
- So, how have you been?