dolorosa_12: (what's left? me)
I often talk about needing more hours in the day, and on the one day of the year where that is possible, I certainly made the most of it. I've been able to get a lot done, in addition to the usual bits of grocery shopping, cleaning and so on that I always do on the weekend.

Saturday poured with rain, and it was freezing to the point of almost being sleet, so I stuck close to home, apart from a quick trip into town to the market. Matthias spent most of the day writing an assignment for the cataloguing module of his librarianship degree, so I elected to spend Saturday writing as well. It was lovely and companionable to sit there, typing away at our respective assignments. In my case, this was Yuletide. I always aim to write multiple treats, and this year the sheer volume of fandoms I love in the tagset makes me even more enthusiastic about this. It will be hard to narrow it down!

So far I've written one (completed, but not uploaded) treat, about a third of my main assignment (along with an outline for its remainder), and done a lot of very weird research for another treat. I normally finish assignments before working on any treats, so I will not be touching the second treat beyond this preliminary research until the assignment is finished.

I also did one of my periodic sweeps of Ao3, where I check if any new fic in my main fandoms (all of which are tiny, inactive book fandoms, most of whose fic, if it exists at all, has been written by me). Normally this is an entirely futile exercise, so I was pleasantly surprised to see that someone had written Warden/Paige fic for the Bone Season series. I've been requesting fic for this pairing in exchanges for several years without success, so it was a wonderful treat to find this there unexpectedly. I don't think there are any Bone Season fans here among my Dreamwidth circle (the only people I know who like it are people on Tumblr, and a handful of my real-life friends), but I link to it here in any case.

J'attendrai (2459 words) by LaReinadeEspadas
Chapters: 1/1
Fandom: The Bone Season - Samantha Shannon
Rating: Teen And Up Audiences
Warnings: No Archive Warnings Apply
Relationships: Paige Mahoney/Warden | Arcturus Mesarthim
Characters: Paige Mahoney, Warden | Arcturus Mesarthim
Summary:

I looked for any other signs that he knew the significance of the day, but unsurprisingly found none in my Rephaite cohabiter. It’s not like immortal beings had any reason to celebrate birthdays.



Reading the fic reminded me how much I love the series, so I've spent most of Sunday morning curled up on the couch in the sunshine, rereading The Song Rising. I'm not sure the story of a brave, doomed revolution brought down by the inability of disparate groups of oppressed, dispossessed people to make common cause was a wise choice, given the state of the world, but it seemed to be what my brain wanted.

Now Matthias and I have just come back from running, and I'm sitting here with a cup of tea, catching up with Dreamwidth and trying to decide between doing a bit of yoga (probably not), or getting started on the chicken and dumplings (this Smitten Kitchen recipe) I'm planning to make for dinner.

*


I can't talk about what's going on in the world. In the country of my birth, the country in which I grew up, the country which is now my home, anywhere, everywhere. I just can't. Words recoil from it. I return, as always, to Calexico, who, as always, have the words to give voice to this horror. Everywhere you look you only see red, indeed.
dolorosa_12: (sokka)
Before I start, a few things to contextualise this for non-Australians:
  • The conservative party in Australia is called the Liberal Party

  • The Liberal Party (or, more correctly, the coalition between the Liberals and the National Party (rural conservative party) is currently in government in Australia, but they only had a majority of one in the lower house of parliament

  • When the party ousted its former leader, Malcolm Turnbull (who was believed by the hardliners of the party to be too socially progressive to appeal to the apparently vast hordes of far-right racists they felt were their voting base), Turnbull announced he was resigning his parliamentary seat, meaning there would need to be a bye-election in his former electorate, Wentworth (in the wealthy eastern suburbs of Sydney — incidentally I have occasionally been a voter in Wentworth, although they're constantly changing the electoral boundaries and I'm not in that electorate at the moment)

  • In ousting Turnbull, his party has continued the now decade-old tradition of no Australian prime minister since 2007 serving a full (three-year) term

  • The person who replaced Turnbull as leader and Prime Minister is Scott Morrison, a fundamentalist Christian, social conservative, and former immigration minister who was responsible for escalating Australia's vile treatment of refugees


  • In any case, the bye-election was today (Saturday). All elections in Australia are held on Saturdays.

    In spite of the fact that Wentworth is an electorate which has been held by the Liberal Party since Federation in 1901, there was clearly a lot of concern that the result was in doubt. Given I'm out of the country and not a Wentworth voter, I haven't been paying that much attention to the campaign, but my impression was that voters all across Australia are massively fed up with the Liberals, Wentworth voters, who tend to be the sort of 'socially progressive, economically conservative' type of wealthy big city residents were incensed by the ousting of Turnbull (and also had a lot of residual irritation about the marriage equality postal survey last year), and everyone was supremely annoyed by the soap operatic, farcical psychodrama with a revolving door of prime ministers that Australian politics has become. Kerryn Phelps, a left-of-centre independent, stood as a candidate in the bye-election.

    Scott Morrison, clearly fearing the worst, did a stupid stunt clearly designed to appeal to the large Orthodox Jewish community living in Wentworth. On Monday he announced an absurd scheme to move the Australian embassy in Israel from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem. This backfired spectacularly: Indonesia, one of Australia's biggest trading partners, was outraged and announced it planned to pull out of a proposed trade deal. And to complete the ridiculousness of the whole thing, as any sharp-eyed reader will already have realised, to announce this on a Monday in advance of an election that was due to take place on the Saturday of the same week to appeal to Orthodox Jewish voters was completely pointless: no observant Jewish people are going to vote on Shabbat, and so would already have voted by post before the Monday announcement!

    So, to sum things up, the Liberals demonstrated that they knew nothing about Judaism, lacked awareness of a large voting bloc in an electorate due to have a bye-election that might affect their parliamentary majority, and alienated a major trade partner, all in an attempt to win an election in an electorate they've held comfortably since 1901...

    ...and they lost. Kerryn Phelps is now the Member for Wentworth, and Australia has a hung parliament.

    The schadenfreude. It is glorious.
    dolorosa_12: (Default)
    There was a great surprise waiting for me this morning when I opened my work email: confirmation that my application to become a Chartered member of CILIP (the professional body for library and information professionals in the UK) had been successful. The chartership process involves documenting evidence of professional development (this can be formal training, conference or workshop attendance, or self-directed learning, and it needs to include work that demonstrates your knowledge of your own institution, as well as other libraries in different sectors), and writing a reflective statement evaluating your transformation over the course of the chartership process.

    Chartership is not compulsory, and indeed opinion in my field is mixed as to its benefit, but it was something I wanted to do for myself. I don't have a library/information science degree, and have progressed as far as I have through the Cambridge library system through a combination of being known to the powers-that-be (simply because I worked in low-grade jobs in a large number of libraries), and having had teaching and research experience within the university due to having done two postgrad degrees at Cambridge. I've never been keen to get a librarianship MA, but instead have been taking various other steps to gain professional recognition and qualifications, of which CILIP Chartership is one.

    In any case, it was nice to have some good news for a change!

    [This post gets a very appropriate Noviana Una icon, because she spent part of her time running a resistance movement out of a never-burned-down Library of Alexandria in an alternate version of our own world, and while I'll never be that cool, we do have being library assistants in common!]
    dolorosa_12: (pagan kidrouk)
    It's got to the point where I have had to actively avoid all sources of news, including most social media platforms, because it's so overwhelmingly awful that I was on the verge of tears at work, and on my walk home. As I said to my mother when we chatted on FaceTime this morning, it's one of those weeks (months? years? decades?) which just makes you feel worthless as a woman.

    My solution in the face of all this is (once I've ensured I'm still registered to vote in the three countries in which I am eligible) is to turn my attention to things resolutely domestic. I find it soothing.

    And so, this weekend, I have turned a full fridge of groceries into meals that will take us through to Tuesday (I always find it particularly satisfying to cook a roast chicken, because I always get at least one second dinner and several lunches worth of leftovers out of it, and then make about a litre of stock from the bones, so it feels very efficient), planted four purple and pink heather plants in the garden, cleaned the bathroom, done two loads of laundry, and gone back and forth to the market to buy all the food I'll need to cover the week ahead.

    I returned to a comforting old series of books — a series I've loved since I first read it as a ten-year-old — for yet another reread. The series has five books, and I'm on to the fourth. I possibly would have made more headway if not for all the time I spent scrolling through the Yuletide tagset trying to figure out what to offer, and watching comments appearing on the Yuletide letters post to see if other participants' prompts might help nudge me in a particular direction.

    And I've been fairly active over on my reviews blog, posting reviews of two books/series that absolutely blew me away and which I'm pleased to see made it into the Yuletide tagset (I didn't nominate them myself, but I'm so happy to be able to request them).

    The first is Katherine Arden's Winternight series, my review of which I have linked to before:

    Arden makes much of the everyday labour of women: preparing food, sweeping hearths, embroidering elaborate headdresses, assisting in the birth of children. The lives of these women may be circumscribed, lived within a narrow space, travelling between hearth, bathhouse, and church, but they are not inconsequential. This is a series in which the labour of a mother giving birth to a child is of greater supernatural significance than the outcome of a battle, where a girl slipping bread crusts to household gods does more to forge alliances than the political machinations of men in Moscow palaces.


    The second review is of Naomi Novik's Spinning Silver, which I absolutely adored:

    This is a world in which women save themselves — and each other — using the tools at hand. It is a world in which the work of a market stall seller, or a noblewoman presiding over a rowdy feasting hall, or a girl feeding chickens is given equal weight to magical powers. Indeed, it’s a world in which supernatural beings view prosaic, human skills as having a kind of magic of their own.


    Looking at both quotes together, I seem to have very clear priorities in the kind of historical fantasy I want to read. In any case, I highly recommend both books.

    I've just finished doing a bit of yoga (I'm so happy to have found a good Youtube channel with yoga classes to follow for free at home, since I dropped regular yoga classes after their times and locations became too inconvenient), and I'm just about to start cooking tonight's dinner (an Ottolenghi recipe which, miraculously, doesn't have a million ingredients that need to be bought in specialised supermarkets). Matthias and I will probably finish off the weekend by watching the last two episodes of the second season of Luke Cage, which I've found enjoyable and frustrating in equal measure.

    I'm not sure how sustainable it is to continue to insulate myself in a news-free, cotton wool-like existence, and I feel a lot of guilt for being able to do so, but I am glad this weekend that it gave me these little, quiet moments, where I could be small, and calm, and gentle.
    dolorosa_12: (Default)
    Thank you for writing for me!

    I'm pretty easygoing about what type of fic you want to write for me. I read fic of any rating, and would be equally happy with plotty genfic or something very shippy. I read gen, femslash, het and slash, although I have a slight preference towards femslash, het, and gen that focuses on female characters. I mainly read fic to find out what happens to characters after the final page has turned or the credits have rolled, so I would particularly love to have futurefic of some kind. Don't feel you have to limit yourself to the characters I specifically mention — I'm happy with others being included if they fit with the story you want to tell.

    Feel free to have a look around my Ao3 profile, as it should give you a good idea of the types of things I like to read.

    General likes )

    General dislikes )

    Fandom-specific prompts:

    The Bone Season — Samantha Shannon )

    The Daevabad series - S. A. Chakraborty )

    The Queens of Innis Lear — Tessa Gratton )

    Six of Crows series — Leigh Bardugo )

    Spinning Silver — Naomi Novik )

    Winternight series — Katherine Arden )

    Don't feel you have to stick rigidly within the bounds of my prompts. As long as your fic is focused on the characters I requested, I will be thrilled to receive anything you write for me, as these really are some of my most beloved fandoms of the heart, and the existence of any fic for them will make me extremely happy.
    dolorosa_12: (Default)
    On this day, ten years ago, I migrated to the UK. Because I have never been capable of making any change in my life without surrounding myself in a sea of quotes from literature, at the time I quoted one of my favourite works of literature: far from my home/ is the country I have reached, and that quote has proved itself true in many senses over the past ten years.

    Although when I made that initial choice to migrate, I had been terrified, in actual fact all I was committing to was nine months spent in Cambridge working on an MPhil. There was no guarantee that anything longer-term would eventuate. But I was twenty-three years old — and a very young twenty-three at that, having only lived away from the family home for a total of six months of my entire life up to that point — and the distance, and the drastic change terrified me. And I have described my decision to migrate in the past as a desperate last throw of the dice — because I had been having a terrible time of it in Australia in the five years since I turned eighteen, moving through a fog of situational depression that I couldn't see a way out of. I had spent those first five years of adulthood completely overwhelmed by the weight of this depression, which manifested in a kind of dull fear, and a fear above all that I was incapable of being happy as an adult. (As an aside, I'm always astonished that anyone who knew or met me during those years has stuck around, because I was a nightmare.) And so the decision to migrate was a kind of test for myself: if I couldn't be happy and make this work, it would never happen. You can see why I was terrified.

    I don't know what sort of magic there is in the disgusting, calcified Cambridge water, but nine months and an MPhil turned into five years and a PhD, and eight years and citizenship, and suddenly here I am, and a decade has passed. During that time I gave up on two career paths, and found my calling, acquired two degrees (and, like a glutton for punishment, am literally starting the first classes for yet another degree this very day), fell in love, and out of love, and in love again, got married, found a home, and lost that home in a wave of grief in June 2016 on the very same morning that the British passport that would make my permanent home in this country possible (the document that would, quite literally, make it possible for me to remain) was delivered. Yes, the referendum destroyed my sense of home as being a physical place, a country, and I won't make that mistake again. But above all things, what I learnt in these past ten years (good years, bad years, growing years) is that home is not and cannot be a country (those let you down), but rather it is other people. It is thanks to those other people — the generous, kind and supportive friends I made almost immediately in Cambridge, the open-hearted friends and family members I'd left behind in Australia, and the vast, international community of internet people I've met along the way, whose compassion and patience is boundless — that I feel what I was not able to feel when I left Australia in 2008: safe, happy, and comfortable in my own skin as an adult human being. You are home. You brought me home.
    dolorosa_12: by ginnystar on lj (robin marian)
    By way of a life update, have a few scattered bits and pieces from the past week or so.

    It's autumn, at last! Autumn is my favourite season of the year: scarves, gloves, coats and blankets, the cold bite of the air, the smell of the changing, falling leaves, and that indescribable quality of the light. The northern summer just went on and on and on, and I'm so relieved to finally experience some cold weather. It hasn't spread across all of Europe — my mother, sister, and parents-, sister-, brother-in-law and nephew are all in Italy (not together — my sister's at a wedding in Lake Como, my mother is in Verona, after which she and my sister will meet up in Milan, and my in-laws are all on holiday together near Lake Garda), and it's still very summery there, but it is well and truly autumnal in Cambridge, and I am very happy about it.

    Apart from a quick foray out to the alumni event for my former academic department (it happens this weekend of September every year, and mainly consists of drinking glasses of wine in the departmental common room, and generally the only people who go are people who still live in Cambridge, such as Matthias and me, [tumblr.com profile] ienthuse and her husband, and those who are still affiliated with the department as postdocs), I barely left the house, and have spent most of today curled up in my chair reading Naomi Novik's glorious Spinning Silver, which I think I like even more than Uprooted, although I'm only about a third of the way through. Normally I read a lot faster than this, but I've loved it so much I've been deliberately slow in order to savour the magic. Novik's Temeraire books really don't work for me, but I adore her fairytale-inspired fantasy.

    Reading-wise I seem to be all about the Eastern European inspired fairytale retellings at the moment; last weekend I devoured the second of Katherine Arden's Winternight Trilogy books, which are set in a fantastical version of fourteenth-century Russia and seem written to my exact specifications. I posted a review of the first two books in the series here, and highly recommend them.

    Matthias and I binge watched the entire first season of Killing Eve, which I adored. The whole lot is on iPlayer if other UK people want to watch. The plot and premise is frankly ridiculous, but if you accept that it's taking place in a sort of melodramatic, soap operatic reality, it's very enjoyable. The two lead actresses are great, the soundtrack is excellent, and there's a lot of gorgeous scenery porn in various picturesque European cities. After all our travelling this summer, it's been good to be back at home and just spend some time binge watching TV. I'm not sure what we'll move on to next — possibly the second season of Luke Cage, which should give you some idea of how behind we are in terms of TV series!

    The weekend is drawing to a close, and the last few hours of it will be spent cooking a cosy and delicious Polish goulash, watching the last episode of Bodyguard (which I've liked, but not loved as much as Line of Duty, partly because the acting and writing in the latter is just a bit sharper), and reading more of Spinning Silver. I feel like I need a third day off to be fully refreshed after the work week (huge amounts of teaching and lots of wrangling of confused new medical students) I've just had, but alas it is not to be.
    dolorosa_12: (Default)
    I've seen this fashion meme doing the rounds, and most recently saw it via [personal profile] merit.

    Adornment behind the cut )
    dolorosa_12: (le guin)
    If I don't post about my trip to Tuscany (made in late August/early September) soon, I'm unlikely to ever do so, so consider this a belated recap of my time there. This was the last of my international trips this northern summer, which ended up being very busy with trips back and forth across the Channel.

    Matthias and I were invited to Italy for the wedding of two of our friends, E and A, both of whom we know through our mutual time as students at Cambridge. Unlike Matthias and I, who have left academia behind us, E and A have remained in the field. E is now a lecturer in medieval history at Durham, and A is doing a postdoc at Freie Universität in Berlin, and for various reasons decided they wanted to have their wedding in Italy. I was a little dubious at first, because Albiano, the village in which this was set to take place, appeared super inaccessible without a car, but the whole thing was planned with surgical precision and a great deal of thought as to the wedding guests' enjoyment.

    The wedding was set to take place on a Sunday, but events were happening from the Thursday onwards, so Matthias and I elected to stay from Thursday to Tuesday (flights out of Pisa were much cheaper on the Tuesday than the Monday, so we decided to give our excess money to a hotel in Pisa and spend twenty-four hours there, rather than giving it to Ryanair for the dubious privilege of returning home one day earlier). Albiano is a tiny little village, nestled in the mountains, about two hours' drive from Pisa airport. We were fortunate enough to be picked up after our flight by two friends who had hired a car, and they drove us right to our hotel.

    The set up of the village was rather odd — the hotel, pool (and poolside bar), cafe, and sole restaurant were all owned by one woman, who opened each at strategic times of the day, funnelling customers from breakfast at the cafe to lunch at the poolside bar to dinner in the restaurant according to the hour. Our hotel room had the most incredible view over the mountains and valleys, and was right above the swimming pool, which was free for hotel guests. I went in for a swim on the Thursday, before going down the hill to the wedding venue, which was also where A, E, their families and some other guests were staying, for a barbecue dinner.

    On the Friday, we were driven out to a local vineyard for what was described as a wine tasting, but actually ended up being a massive lunch of antipasti, accompanied by jug after jug of absolutely incredible wine — prosecco, minerally white wine, and two excellent red wines. I resisted the urge to buy bottles to take home (we had only paid for hand luggage on our flight), and returned to Albiano for a pizza dinner at the restaurant.

    The Saturday was occupied by a day trip to Lucca (a town about forty-five minutes away by car with a pretty historic centre, beautiful cathedral, and old city walls). Unintentionally comical highlights included being trapped in the cathedral by an absolutely torrential downpour which flooded the footpath and square outside the cathedral doors and poured in through the roof and heavy wooden doors, where it was swept out ineffectually by two old men with brooms, and a tour guide, indicating a relic of Thomas Becket, describing the saint as having been 'killed by the Anglicans because he didn't want to convert to Protestantism' (at which point the entire room, which was mainly filled with medievalists, cringed). We then moved on to Barga, the town across the valley from Albiano, for dinner in a restaurant to celebrate A's birthday. Here is my Barga and Lucca photoset.

    Finally, on the Sunday, there was the wedding. It was meant to be outdoors in the venue, which was a gorgeous villa, surrounded by grape vines, apple trees and lovely gardens, but the unpredictable weather, which we had watched roll in all morning as we lounged by the pool, brought rain in the afternoon. We picked our way down the muddy path in the vineyard, had a quick drink of Lambrusco with friends staying in the venue, and then went to the (indoor) ceremony. Fortunately, the rain had cleared by the end of the ceremony, so we were able to enjoy drinks, aperitivo, and antipasti in the gardens before heading indoors for dinner (honestly, most of this trip was just people feeding me vast quantities of incredibly good Italian food). There was a jazz band during the outdoor pre-dinner festivities, which was replaced by a cheesy 80s playlist piped into the gardens via speakers after dinner. My ASNC friends and I danced all night, and it was glorious, although the grass in the garden probably won't thank us.

    Then it was on to Pisa by train from Barga, where Matthias and I checked in to one of our characteristically bizarre hotels (honestly, this seems to be something of a pattern with us). We spent the evening walking the city walls and hanging around near the cathedral and leaning tower. We left going inside until the next day, and then wandered around the city looking for somewhere to eat, at which point we bumped into E, A, [tumblr.com profile] ienthuse and her husband E, who were on their way to a restaurant, so we joined them. It was an excellent final meal to have on the trip — just delicious, simple, good quality (is there anything else?) Italian food and wine — and very serendipitous to bump into them. I would definitely recommend Pisa as a place to visa for a long weekend, especially if you're travelling from the UK, as you can fly there from pretty much every UK airport, the airport is a five-minute train ride from the city itself, and it's very easy to walk pretty much anywhere you'd need to go. Here's my photoset from my twenty-four hours in Pisa.

    And then it was back to Cambridge, and reality, and autumn.
    dolorosa_12: (emily hanna)
    I have a lot of stuff to post about, including a great trip to Italy I made nearly two weeks ago to celebrate the wedding of two friends, but it will have to wait, because there is other, more pressing news. Namely, I was lucky enough to get to see Janelle Monáe live at a concert last night in the Camden Roundhouse in London!

    Rather fortuitously, the concert was on the same day as a day conference on open access monograph publishing, which Matthias went to and was thus able to not take leave to go to the concert (as I had to do), and had the cost of his train ticket covered, making the whole day slightly cheaper than it would otherwise have been. While he was at the conference, I caught up with [twitter.com profile] lowercasename at a cute little basement coffee place in Bloomsbury. Inevitably, as it always is when two migrants in the UK meet up, we fell to venting about the Home Office, fretting about visas, and planning his next visa application with the level of tactical detail normally reserved for some sort of military campaign. Inevitably, also, his PhD supervisor was giving a keynote address at the conference Matthias was attending. It really is a very small world.

    I spent the rest of the day wandering around London. I visited the free exhibition at the British Library on the Windrush generation, stopped in at Seven Dials, and walked along Regent's Canal from Kings Cross to Camden Lock, where I met Matthias at a great Caribbean restaurant over the road from the Roundhouse before heading in to the concert.

    I'd definitely put it in my top five concerts of all time (so far). I've only ever been at one other concert where the singer was so generous and open and almost giving away pieces of themselves in the way Monáe did last night. She played most of the songs from her newest album, as well as some older numbers, and had a fabulous set of dancers and a great backing band, and bounced and strutted around the stage with sheer dynamic energy. And her voice! At one point she brought up several audience members onto the stage to dance with her, and the first person was so overwhelmed with emotion that she was almost crying - and then she danced her heart out.

    I was up in the seating area (I can't do crowds), and by the end of the concert, almost everyone in my little corner of the gallery was out of their seat and dancing - me included, of course!

    I had a wonderful time, although unfortunately I was completely unable to sleep when I got home, meaning I now have been awake since 5.30am yesterday, so today's day at work is going to be ... interesting.
    dolorosa_12: (flight of the conchords)
    The [community profile] fic_corner collection went live on Sunday.

    I received an absolutely gorgeous Galax Arena fic: dark, and quietly devastating, and exactly the way I like the Presh/Allyman relationship to be written. I'm absolutely blown away by it.

    Missing the Moon (1275 words) by Morbane
    Chapters: 1/1
    Fandom: Galax-Arena Series - Gillian Rubinstein
    Rating: Teen And Up Audiences
    Warnings: Graphic Depictions Of Violence
    Characters: Allyman | Allan Manne, Presh
    Additional Tags: Missing Scene
    Summary:

    Allan's view of the last act of Galax-Arena.



    I wrote a Six of Crows fic. It's Matthias Helvar/Nina Zenik, post-series and canon-divergent.

    A Road Made of Stars (5647 words) by Dolorosa
    Chapters: 1/1
    Fandom: Six of Crows Series - Leigh Bardugo
    Rating: Teen And Up Audiences
    Warnings: No Archive Warnings Apply
    Relationships: Matthias Helvar/Nina Zenik
    Characters: Nina Zenik, Matthias Helvar
    Additional Tags: Alternate Universe - Canon Divergence, Post-Canon
    Summary:

    Having survived Ketterdam, Kaz Brekker's various schemes, and the assassination attempts of powerful people from at least four different nations, Nina Zenik and Matthias Helvar have embarked on their most dangerous mission yet: to bring about peace between Ravka and Fjerda. While they knew this wouldn't be easy, they were at least expecting their journey to be uneventful.

    They were wrong.

    Post-Crooked Kingdom.

    dolorosa_12: (flight of the conchords)
    Summer is well and truly in its final days for the year here in Cambridge. The air has a distinctly autumnal feeling, blackberries are appearing in the hedgerows, and, best of all, it has started to rain again. The next two weekends are going to be very packed for me: next weekend I'll be in Italy for the wedding of two of my friends, and the following weekend my mother will be visiting (for those of you keeping count, that is indeed two trips she's made to Europe in the one northern summer. Oh, to be a wealthy baby boomer with loads of long service leave!). Luckily, this weekend lasts for three days due to the public holiday on Monday, and it's been nice to just nest at home and get lots done. This can probably be broken into three main categories:

    Housework

  • I cleaned all the internal and external windows. (By internal windows I mean the ridiculous glass panels that are above every doorframe inside our house.)

  • I did two loads of laundry, which, given it rained on Friday evening, Saturday afternoon, and all day Sunday is something of an achievement.

  • I cleaned the fridge.

  • I cooked a massive vegetable soup to eat throughout the week, as well as all the weekend meals.

  • I planted garlic in the garden.


  • Stuff outside the house

  • Our friend B was visiting from Thursday to Saturday. He lives in Poland, but had come to Cambridge to use the university library to finish up his PhD corrections, so we didn't see him all that much. However, on the Friday night, he, Matthias and I went out to Thirsty, one of my favourite wine/beer sellers/bar, for drinks and food truck dinner.

  • I've just come back from a walk out to Grantchester. It's overcast, but not too cold, and all of Cambridge seems to have had the same idea. Matthias is working on an assignment for his librarianship MA, so I thought it best to get out of his hair for a bit.


  • Reading/Netflixing

  • I finished off a nonfiction book, Thunder At Twilight by Frederic Morton, which is about the history, politics and culture of Vienna in the year between the summer of 1913 and the outbreak of World War I. This is obviously a really fascinating time period, but I found the book somewhat frustrating due to the author's stylistic choices — namely, to use an almost novelistic tone and style, imagining what the historical figures were eating, drinking, saying or feeling at moments when he couldn't possibly have known that. If I'm reading historical fiction, I obviously have no problem with authors filling in the blanks in this manner, but I found it jarring in a work of nonfiction.

  • I read two novellas: 'The Black God's Drums' by P. Djèlí Clark, and 'Coral Bones' by Foz Meadows. Both were excellent, although I felt the former suffered from the constraints of its short length: the actual plot was slight, and it would have been fantastic as a novel, because its excellent setting (a steampunk nineteenth-century New Orleans in an alternative North America in which New Orleans was the site of a successful slave rebellion, the US Civil War ended in a truce, meaning the Confederacy still exists, and the Haitian slave rebellion was a success) and characters would really have benefited from being fleshed out into something novel-length. Hopefully Clark will write more in this setting. 'Coral Bones' — which imagines what happened to Miranda after the events of The Tempest (the answer: fairies, journeys, and an exploration of gender) is actually the first piece of fiction by Meadows that really works for me, and I highly recommend it.

  • Matthias and I also binge-watched most of the Netflix adaptation of Altered Carbon. Neither of us have read the books from which it was adapted, so I have no idea how faithful an adaptation it is, but as a television series in its own right it's pretty good. It explores pretty standard cyberpunk themes of immortality, cloning, humanity, bodies, how these interact and intersect, and how inequality affects all these things, in a pretty standard Blade Runner-esque cyberpunk setting (rain, smog, grimy neon night markets, flying cars, and super rich people living elevated lives in skyscrapers above the clouds), but since I like all these things, and enjoy the cast (honestly, it should be watched for Dichen Lachman alone), I don't mind the rather derivative themes and setting. It does have the sadly standard sexualised violence of a lot of Western cyberpunk, so do bear that in mind if you're making the decision to watch this based on my recommendation.


  • I'm now sitting here fretting about the [community profile] fic_corner exchange. I finished up my assignment in good time, and I had thought this might be a rare exchange where my own request actually matched to an offer, but having checked Ao3, I can see that that's not the case, and I seem doomed to continue my exchange experience as one of life's perennial pinch-hit recipients. I suppose it can't be helped, given the fandoms-of-one I tend to request.
    dolorosa_12: (le guin)
    No sooner than I had returned from Spain than I was leaving Cambridge again, this time for a long weekend in Belgium with Matthias. This was one of those things we'd been talking about doing for a very long time -- jumping on the Eurostar and jumping off two hours later in Brussels. International train travel has a lot to recommend it: even with passport control and security, you only have to be at the train station 45 minutes in advance (as opposed to the two hours required for international flights), you have all your belongings with you so don't have to wait at the other end for checked bags to be unloaded, and, best of all, train stations tend to be in the centre of cities, rather than on the outskirts as airports are, so once you've arrived, you're likely to be within walking distance of your accommodation. I hate flying -- and I hate flying Ryanair most of all -- and I'm now completely convinced that, with careful planning, train travel is the way to go whenever we're travelling within Europe.

    Choice of transport aside, it was a really fun trip. Belgium was sort of an odd choice for the two of us, given that Matthias isn't keen on Belgian beer, and I don't drink beer at all, and a lot of the touristy things to do in Belgium involve beer. Even without that, though, we found plenty to do in the three-and-a-half days we were there: wandering around the old city centre in Brussels, visiting the comic book museum (which is housed in this incredible old restored Art Nouveau building) and the Atomium building (originally built for the 1958 World's Fair, which was held in Brussels), and walking out to a fabulous food market that I had read about and wanted to see.

    We also made a day trip to Ghent, which was cheap (about 10 euro per person for a return ticket on the weekend), and easy to do (trains left every half-hour or so), where we strolled along the beautiful canals, visited the cathedral (which has an absolutely exquisite and famous altarpiece), and wound up in a quirky little jenever bar filled with old bottles, dried flowers, and eccentric old men.

    We had been planning to do a similar day trip to Bruges (equally easy and cheap to do by train from Brussels), but decided that we would leave it for another visit, as we enjoyed our brief holiday so much that we're very likely to return again. It was nice to get out of Cambridge for a few days, and have a holiday that was so relaxing and stress free. And while we were away, the long, long weeks of dry, hot summer broke, with spectacular storms, and Cambridge has been restored to its more normal, mild temperatures, which was a great relief to come home to.
    dolorosa_12: (le guin)
    I got back on Saturday from a week's holiday in Andalusia with my mother, but because I had to go back almost immediately to work, I only just got the time to write about it now. In short: I loved it, I thought it was incredible, and I would go back again in a heartbeat. I had been worried that everywhere would seem too overwhelmed with tourists — more like theme parks than cities, in the vein of Venice and Prague, both of which I've been to — but although the presence of tourists was obvious in all three cities, they were not completely overrun and it wasn't as if we had trouble walking down the street due to the crowds (which is what I found in Prague). If you do visit these cities, however, and want to visit big tourist attractions, I would recommend booking online in advance, as we did, as some of the places allocate most of their available bookings to big tour groups and it's almost impossible to get a ticket on the day.

    We flew into Seville and spent three days there, during which time we visited the cathedral, Plaza de España, Real Alcazar (a beautiful old palace with wonderful gardens), and an amazing underground bathhouse with a salt bath (you float around, buoyed up by the salt as in the Dead Sea), spa, steam room and trio of warm, hot and cold pools.

    After that we took the train to Granada, where we stayed for two days. The main reason to go to Granada is to see the Alhambra, which we did. I spent the entire time wandering around in complete and utter speechless awe. It's certainly one of the most incredible places I've been in my life, and I was overwhelmed with emotion to be there. Here are some photos I took, and here are some videos of one of the many fountains in the Alhambra grounds. In addition to the Alhambra, we discovered a pretty little park while walking around on our last half-day in Granada, filled with fountains, peacocks and orange trees.

    Then it was onwards to Córdoba for our final two days. We again took the train. Our main focus in terms of tourist attractions in Córdoba was the mosque-cathedral, which has the history of the city, and the area more generally, written in layers into its architecture. I have a photoset here, but it's hard to capture the sheer size and scale of the interior. We did not book in advance for this, but I do recommend showing up at opening time (a little before 10am) as we did, as it meant we were able to wander around the building when it was nearly empty, and almost completely free of large tour groups.

    After Córdoba it was back to Seville, and then homeward. (The less said about the two-and-a-half hour wait at Stansted for Ryanair to unload our bags and announce the carousel on which those on our flight could collect them, the better. Suffice it to say that I describe flying Ryanair as 'playing Ryanair roulette': you're always braced for something to go wrong, and eventually something will go spectacularly awry.)

    I've travelled quite a lot, and seen many amazing places, but I would have to say that of all the places in the world that I've visited, this corner of Spain is probably one of my favourites. It's a really pleasant region in which to be a tourist: trains are cheap and reliable, the cities are easy to get around in by walking (and public transport is good if walking is going to be a problem), and food is both delicious, and unbelievably cheap (I was astonished to find that two people could eat a really nice dinner which included wine and mineral water for about 30 euro). I'm the sort of person who finds places whose difficult, complicated history is written into the architecture to be completely emotionally overwhelming (and I probably didn't help matters by deliberately bringing my copy of Guy Gavriel Kay's The Lions of Al-Rassan and making a point of reading some of it in every city, culminating in a tearful reread of its final pages in the hotel in Córdoba). Andalusia obviously has a lot of this, and it hit me really hard — in a good way.
    dolorosa_12: (matilda)
    Britain — or at least my corner of it — continues to bake. It's been at least a month since it last rained, and for the past three weeks the temperatures have been in the high twenties or low thirties every day. Given that I'm Australian, I can cope with far hotter weather than this, except for the fact that I left Australia when I was twenty-three, and therefore only spent one summer there when I was working full-time. Every other summer I had been either a child, or a university student, and school and university shut down for good during the hottest weeks of the summer. Even when I was working at my part-time jobs (I had weekend jobs from the age of fifteen), these were in patisseries/bakeries run by European chefs, so we worked intensively in the two weeks leading up to Christmas, and then closed for about a month from Christmas Eve while the chefs went to Europe to visit their families. In other words, although I lived in a much hotter country, I spent the hottest weeks every year doing little more than sitting around reading, or swimming in our backyard pool or the ocean. My poor body and brain can't take doing proper work in these temperatures!

    *


    So far I've coped by spending as much time outside as possible, and subsisting on a mixture of ice cream, iced tap water, iced coffee, and gin. The photos on my Instagram feed should give you some idea...

    Today I joined my work colleagues for a meal out at a nice restaurant near my house. We're not the most sociable bunch outside of work, but we do do things occasionally when the mood takes us, and today's meal was really nice. It's likely to be my sole social engagement for the weekend, which suits me just fine as I'm about to head off to Cardiff for a professional conference, which I'm likely to find incredibly draining (so many people! so many awkward 'networking while drinking coffee during the breaks' sessions), so I need to store up my socialising energy!

    *


    I've also managed to complete my Goodreads reading challenge for the year. While I do tend to set myself pretty low aims, given that it generally takes me about two hours to finish most books, I am pretty happy to have reached the target at just over the halfway point of the year. While I used to be a voracious reader before I moved to the UK, my reading tailed off for a while and I was concerned at one point that I'd never really get back to my old reading habits. Last year was probably the first time that I enjoyed reading the majority of the books I read in a given year, and this year was, if anything, even better. Two factors probably contributed to this.

    Firstly, I made a decision about a year ago that I would stop stressing about what I was reading (the demographics of the authors, whether it was recommended highly or nominated for awards, and, above all, whether it was the shiny new thing that everyone was talking about), and focus solely on reading things I was likely to enjoy: subgenres or tropes I liked, certain types of character dynamics that appealed to me, authors whose previous work I'd enjoyed, or books people whose tastes alligned with my own were praising. Once I stopped stressing and agonising about, in a sense, performative reading, everything felt a lot more freeing and natural. Getting over the feeling that I needed to read every single hyped up new book was particularly helpful, because I often feel that in the pro-SFF circles in which I dip my toe, there's an emphasis on newness, on chasing after the next big thing, which, while understandable, is unsustainable for someone like me who can't afford to buy hundreds of new books a year.

    Secondly, I had developed a really bad habit of eating breakfast while browsing through my various social media feeds. This had an appalling effect on my mental health, to the point that I was starting every day either burning with fury, or having a panic attack (usually about Brexit). It was unsustainable, and affecting other areas of my life. I made a decision (something of a new year's resolution, really) at the start of 2018 that I would ban myself from the internet during those early hours of the morning, and would instead start the day reading a book. The effect has been extraordinary. I still go through periods of intense despair about the state of the world, but at least I'm not starting every day on a really negative note — instead I'm immersing myself in fiction. I think the next step will probably be to ban myself from social media in the evenings as well, and read during those hours too.

    In any case, my Goodreads 2018 reading challenge is completed, and I'm very pleased with how it went! Is anyone else doing the challenge, or has anyone else set other kinds of reading goals for 2018? How are you all going with your respective challenges/goals?
    dolorosa_12: (sokka)
    Night on Fic Mountain is one of my favourite exchanges, and this year's iteration was definitely pretty great. I always wait until after author reveals to post my gift and link to my own assignment, as I like to be able to credit authors by name so that people can look up their other work more easily.

    My gift this year was in the 'Seasons of Glass and Iron' fandom. I'm glad that I seem with my own fic in this fandom last Yuletide to have started something of a trend in this microfandom: stories where Tabitha and Amira find themselves operating halfway houses for the girls and women fleeing the brutality and misogyny of the fairytales in which they find themselves trapped. The gift for me took a similar approach, but in new and interesting directions, and I'm going to have to look up some of the fairytales alluded to:

    A Home Built on Stillness (A Home Built on Movement) (1571 words) by ChocoChipBiscuit
    Chapters: 1/1
    Fandom: Seasons of Glass and Iron - Amal El-Mohtar
    Rating: General Audiences
    Warnings: No Archive Warnings Apply
    Relationships: Amira/Tabitha (Seasons of Glass and Iron)
    Characters: Amira (Seasons of Glass and Iron), Tabitha (Seasons of Glass and Iron)
    Additional Tags: Found Family, Fairy Tale Retellings
    Summary:

    They walk miles and roads in patterns of ones and threes and sevens, east of the sun and west of the moon, through lands unseen and stories untold, until they find a cottage in the woods.



    I was assigned to write for [personal profile] shopfront, and matched on the Obernewtyn Chronicles, an absolutely formative childhood/YA series (an opinion shared by many Australians, particularly Australian women, of my generation), and I thouroughly enjoyed writing my assignment.

    Mirrored Flame (2192 words) by Dolorosa
    Chapters: 1/1
    Fandom: Obernewtyn Chronicles - Isobelle Carmody
    Rating: General Audiences
    Warnings: No Archive Warnings Apply
    Characters: Elspeth Gordie, Dragon (Obernewtyn Chronicles)
    Additional Tags: Post-Canon
    Summary:

    Three years after the events of The Red Queen, Elspeth Gordie returns to Redport.



    I unfortunately don't know many of the other fandoms in this year's Night on Fic Mountain, but please feel free to rec anything from the collection if it stood out to you!
    dolorosa_12: (matilda)
    Thank you for writing for me!

    I'm pretty easygoing about what type of fic you want to write for me. I read fic of any rating, and would be equally happy with plotty genfic or something very shippy. I read gen, femslash, het and slash, although I have a slight preference towards femslash, het, and gen that focuses on female characters. I mainly read fic to find out what happens to characters after the final page has turned, so I would particularly love to have futurefic of some kind. Don't feel you have to limit yourself to the characters I specifically mention — I'm happy with others being included if they fit with the story you want to tell.

    Feel free to have a look around my Ao3 profile, as it should give you a good idea of the types of things I like to read.

    General likes )

    General dislikes )

    Fandom-specific prompts:

    An Ember in the Ashes - Sabaa Tahir )

    Galax Arena series )


    The Pagan Chronicles - Catherine Jinks )

    Six of Crows series — Leigh Bardugo )

    Don't feel you have to stick rigidly within the bounds of my prompts. As long as your fic is focused on the characters and/or relationships I requested, I will be thrilled to receive anything you write for me, as these really are some of my most beloved fandoms of the heart, and the existence of any fic for them will make me extremely happy.
    dolorosa_12: (le guin)
    I have been away from Dreamwidth for simply ages, and I think I'm going to have to accept that I'm unlikely to post anything substantial about things that have happened in the past few weeks (a couple of weekend trips, lots of sunshine, and a huge amount of gardening). I have been keeping up to date with my feed here, so assume that if you've written a post, I've read it, but am unlikely to comment.

    I have, however, been very busy elsewhere online.

    For those of you who've joined Pillowfort, I've got an account on there — I'm Dolorosa. I'm very happy for anyone who knows me through Dreamwidth to add me over there, although if your username is very different to any you use elsewhere online, I'd appreciate you letting me know who you are. At the moment I've joined Pillowfort simply to ensure that I've got the Dolorosa username, as I'm very much at home here on Dreamwidth, but if Pillowfort really takes off, and becomes the kind of fannish space I like (heavy on the discussion and interation, light on the passive reblogging), I will obviously post more over there. I'm also keen for recommendations of communities to join. I'm very into book fandoms — current YA and also older children's/YA books that I read in the '90s and early 2000s, and smaller Yuletide-sized fandoms in general. If there are any Pillowfort communities dedicated to YA, obscure fandoms-of-one, or any of the fandoms I've written fic for or been given fic as gifts in, I would love to know about them!

    I've also written reviews of several books I've been reading. The first is a joint review of three works of fiction that are reworkings/adaptations of literary classics: 'The Tea Master and the Detective' by Aliette de Bodard (a gender-swapped space opera reimagining of Sherlock Holmes in which Holmes is a woman and Watson is a sentient space ship), The Surface Breaks by Louise O'Neill (a feminist retelling of The Little Mermaid), and The Queens of Innis Lear by Tessa Grattan (a retelling of King Lear and my current candidate for favourite book of the year). You can read that review here.

    The other review is of Hild by Nicola Griffith — historical fiction with fantasy elements about the Anglo-Saxon princess Hild, who went on to become Abbess of Whitby and was later canonised as St Hilda. This book is absolutely brilliant, and I'm ashamed of myself for avoiding it for so long. You can read my review here.

    What has everyone else been reading?

    Repeal

    May. 27th, 2018 02:54 pm
    dolorosa_12: (Default)
    The Irish referendum caught me by surprise. I mean, I was aware of it — the British media can be rubbish in covering Irish politics (or anything about Ireland in general), but it did cover the referendum, and I have enough friends living in Ireland who were posting about it almost daily for the past couple of months — and I knew how much the result was going to mean both to my friends, and to Irish women in general, but I was surprised, in the end, by how emotional it made me.

    It was the #hometovote hashtag that did it. Ireland allows citizens who have been outside the country for less than eighteen months, and who intend to return, to vote, but it has no postal or other form of absentee voting, so eligible Irish migrants have to return to Ireland if they want to vote. And they did so enthusiastically, and in great numbers, for the referendum. People passionately caring about things, and being earnest about democracy and their right to vote always make me super emotional, but the Irish people travelling home to vote in the referendum did more than that: they lifted my spirits and made me feel hopeful. To see so many people travelling home by plane, train, ferry, bus and car — sometime from very great distances — to cast their vote is incredible, but it's more than that. People crowdfunded people's travel costs, organised carpools to and from airports, and connected with other people on their flights, sitting in packs with Repeal jumper-clad, Yes/Tá badge-wearing strangers at airports and train stations and ferry terminals, or shared taxis. People with banners welcomed their fellow voters at Irish airports.

    Many people in the hashtag noted that their journeys were in stark contrast to those made by so many Irish women — alone, fearful, in shame and despair — in the other direction, and hoped that their own journeys would render such other travel a thing of the past. And, with their votes, they did so.

    That was the other thing that was so powerful and moving. Things all around the world have been so awful for so long, and the virulence of misogynistic attacks on women seem to have increased exponentially, so it was just so vindicating and healing to see a campaign that put women — listening to women, trusting women, giving women the space to tell stories that had for so long been buried in silence and hypocrisy and shame — front and centre. And then, as the results rolled in, it was clear that almost everyone — rural and urban, in almost every county, in almost every age demographic, male and female — were acknowledging, with their votes, the great historic wrong that had been done to so many Irish women, the damage it had done, and were determined to consign such things to the dustbin of history.

    I generally have a policy of not commenting on the politics of countries in which I'm neither a citizen nor a resident, but I was so overwhelmed with emotion at the referendum result in Ireland that I had to break my own rule. I'm so happy for all my friends, for those strangers helping other strangers get to the polls, and for all those women who will no longer have to get on a plane or a ferry to get the health care they were so long denied at home.
    dolorosa_12: (emily hanna)
    What a difference a few days make! The previous weekend was blissful and sunny, and warm enough, even in the evening, to sit outside. Although it was still colder than it had been in Australia, Matthias and I spent the Friday night drinking cocktails by the river with [tumblr.com profile] ienthuse, as the darkness fell, and as what appeared to be the entire population of Cambridge crammed into the small park, drinking beer, cider and Pimm's from plastic cups. Then, on the Sunday we walked out to Madingley — a walk of one-and-a-half hours there, and the same to get back — stopping at Coton on the return journey, revelling in the glorious sunshine. Everything was floral and blue skies and sunbathed, as my photoset should indicate.

    And then this weekend will be rainy, preceded by two days of rain, and followed by two more. It's cold, and wet, and the outside world is very uninviting. This is clearly going to be a time of hibernation, spent doing canon review for [community profile] nightonficmountain, drinking tea, reading books, and cooking things that can be roasted. I'm definitely going to leave the house as little as possible!

    This weekend also seems to be the perfect time to watch the 'emotion picture' accompanying Janelle Monáe's Dirty Computer album, as many of my friends seem to be doing! If you've liked the music and videos she's released so far from this album, I'd recommend doing the same!

    As for me, I'm going back to burrow under my pile of blankets...

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    dolorosa_12: (Default)
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