dolorosa_12: (matilda)
I came across this book meme a while ago, and had been waiting until I had a clear month or so to complete it. It looks like it will be a lot of fun, so feel free to steal it and do the meme yourself if you'd like.

Day one is a tough one: favourite book from childhood.

Now, depending on how old I was when you asked me this question, the answer would change quite a bit. I am a fairly loyal reader, and even in childhood I tended to have long stretches of time where a particular book was my favourite — and these can roughly be set out as follows:

Books behind the cut )

As I said before, I can talk about favourite childhood books forever, and would love to hear about yours, or discuss any of my favourites, in the comments.

The other days )
dolorosa_12: (sokka)
Firstly, and most importantly, [personal profile] firstaudrina is hosting a multifandom friending meme. If you're interested in participating, follow the link below:

multifandom friending meme

A few people have added me as a result of the meme, and rather than doing an entirely new introduction post, I'll point you towards my most recent one, done in January after my post-reveals Yuletide friending meme. Feel free to ask me anything about stuff I brought up in that post.

I'd also like to put in another plug for [community profile] waybackexchange, a fic and art exchange for fandoms older than ten years. Nominations will open in a couple of days' time, and in the meantime, the mod is going through a review period where you can make the case for borderline canons (such as works older than ten years which have been adapted more recently, or canons with various continuities, such as comics). Given most of my favourite canons are old, this is definitely the exchange for me, and I'm looking forward to taking part!

A few links to things I found interesting )

What I've been up to this weekend )

You might have noticed that after my flurry of posting about books read in January, my reading has slowed to a crawl. I can't say I've read anything that's blown my mind: I read a theological history of Judaism in the centuries on either side of the BCE/CE dividing line, as well as early Christianity. While many of its specifics were new to me, its overall argument was not (to sum up: Judaism was in a great deal of flux during this time, and Christianity, when it emerged, was in no means contrary to Judaism at that point because at that time there were several competing understandings of what Judaism was, and basically religions are fluid, evolving things that change to address the concerns of the times), so it didn't exactly blow my mind. I guess it would do if you had a much more rigid understanding of religion, maybe? The other book I've read so far this month, The Pale Queen's Courtyard by Marcin Wrona, is historical-ish fantasy set in an alternative version of ancient Babylon, with fake fantasy Babylonians, Persians and I guess Egyptians. Matthias and I have been on the lookout for books set in this region (not so much Egypt, as it's fairly well served), but there seems to be a real dearth. I found this novel frustrating: flimsy characterisation, cartoonish female characters, and an anachronistic understanding of religion which the author admits in his afterword he added for a sense of conflict. Basically his 'Persian' characters try to impose their religion on others and stamp out the worship of a particular goddess, but in pre-monotheistic times (and even afterwards), peoples might decide to worship a single god, or that other nations' gods were weak or evil, but they generally accepted that other pantheons existed. As I say, the book was frustrating.

I'll wrap this post up here, as it's a bit of a mishmash, but as always, I'm keen to hear what you're reading, watching, cooking and so on. How have your weekends been? And, new people adding me from the friending meme, feel free to ask me anything about stuff raised in my intro post.
dolorosa_12: (le guin)
BBC Scotland has been posting little interviews on Twitter with people who migrated to and made their homes in Scotland. They're all really wonderful, but this one in particular really resonated with me. The specifics are obviously very different (he's a Polish baker living in Scotland, I'm an Australian librarian living in the southeast of England), but the underlying foundations of our respective migration stories — as far as I can tell from a heavily edited three-minute interview — are the same. Our adult lives in our countries of origin didn't feel right, like a coat that didn't fit. We were restless, directionless, not sure how to be where we were, and, like a last, desperate throw of the dice, we left, as if changing our location would enable us to change ourselves. And, astonishingly, that is what happened.

I forget, sometimes, until I compare my life ten years ago with what it is now, how miserable and uncomfortable and frightened I was. I felt like I had lost myself. I didn't realise how depressed and afraid I was until, in complete desperation, I emigrated, and realised, after about a month, that the fog had completely lifted. That the fear had gone. That I felt like myself again, for the first time in my adult life.

Migration isn't always big, and bold, and part of something larger. It's not always for a broader reason: fleeing danger, seeking a better life, moving towards concrete opportunities. Sometimes it's small, and personal, flailing about in the dark, moving blindly forwards without knowing whether what awaits you will be better. And, if you're very, very fortunate — and if your new home welcomes you and allows it — you shed your skin, and figure out who you are, and how to be that person again.
dolorosa_12: (dolorosa)
Welcome, new people who have subscribed as a result of the friending meme. It's great to see so much activity here on Dreamwidth, and I'm really looking forward to getting to know you all.

Due to this flurry of activity, I thought it best to do an updated intro post. People who've had me in their circles for a while, please feel free to read or skip as you please. And both new and old people, please feel free to ask me any questions!

Those things they see in me I cannot see myself )
dolorosa_12: (doctor horrible)
So, I woke up to the news that Theresa May has described EU migrants in the UK as 'queue jumpers' (or, to be more precise, that making use of — entirely legal — EU freedom of movement rights is somehow jumping a non-existent migration queue) and implied that most of them are worthless people whom Britain has been forced to accept at the expense of hordes of highly skilled non-EU migrants such as 'software developers from Dehli' and 'engineers from Sydney'. Moving on from the utterly despicable ploy of trying to pit different groups of migrants against each other (and make British people sort us into categories of 'good' and 'bad' migrants), Theresa May in her capacity as Home Secretary oversaw most of the law changes that made it more and more difficult as a non-EU migrant to migrate to the UK, even more difficult to stay here permanently if you'd migrated on a temporary student or work visa, and vastly more expensive to apply for all visas, so it's a bit rich for her to suddenly deplore this situation as if it were out of her control. She's trying to make it seem as if the EU is to blame for this state of affairs, whereas in fact non-EU migration has always been something for individual countries to handle according to whatever laws they set. And let me tell you, as a non-EU migrant who's lived in the UK for ten years, I have a pretty good idea what sort of welcome her hypothetical Indian software developer and Australian engineer are likely to get from the UK government, and it is an expensive, stressful and hostile one.

At virtually the same time, the prime minister of my country of origin (Australia) made some ghastly statement about migrants being to blame for overcrowded schools and traffic jams, clearly gearing up for an election that's going to be fought on ugly anti-immigration terms. (In Australia, these kinds of elections are ... not good. Not that I think there is a good kind of anti-immigration election campaign.) When Morrison came to power (a few months ago, in the revolving door of opinion poll results paranoia, backstabbing, and coal industry manipulation that has been Australian federal politics for the past decade), I posted despairingly on Facebook that any upcoming election would now be fought on despicable, anti-immigration grounds, and most of my Australian friends and family handwaved my concerns away, or said that it would be over quickly (Australian election campaigns are, thankfully, brief) and Labor would win, anyway. It gives me no pleasure to constantly be right about this kind of thing, but here we are.

I'm so tired of it being acceptable to give migrants a good rhetorical kicking whenever political leaders are looking threatened in opinion polls or within their own parties. I'm so tired of us being talked about as if we're thieves and parasites whose very presence in the countries we've made our homes is illegitimate, a drain on resources we have no right to access. I'm so fed up with this going largely unchallenged, other than in outraged Twitter threads or a few hand-wringing op-eds in The Guardian or similar places. And I'm so tired of being told to have empathy for people's 'legitimate concerns' about migration when those same people are never told to spare a scrap of thought for the experiences of the migrants who have made a home beside them.
dolorosa_12: (le guin)
Matthias' birthday is 16th November, and, in a rather uncharacteristic manner,* we celebrated it early, in London, on Friday night and most of Saturday. This is because four of the '90s Eurodance acts that he grew up adoring — but, as a young teenager never had the opportunity to see live — were performing together in a club in the O2 Arena, cashing in on Gen Y nostalgia, on Friday night. Given the closeness of the event to his birthday, I offered to get us tickets as a present, and he overcame his squeamishness about 'pre-celebration'. While theoretically it would have been possible to make the last train back to Cambridge after the concert, we opted to stay overnight in a budget hotel, in order to see the British Library exhibition on the Anglo-Saxons (which covered history, and Old English literature and intellectual culture) on Saturday morning.

Both the concert and the exhibition ended up being all about international connections, openness, intercultural exchange, and the 'outward look' more generally.

I had been dubious about how four groups/singers — Maxx, Masterboy, Haddaway, and 2 Unlimited — notorious as one-hit, or at best two-hit wonders, were going to find enough material to fill an entire concert, but I shouldn't have worried. They knew why they were there: to play that handful of hits, and get a crowd of nostalgic thirty- and forty-somethings dancing, and on that they delivered. It certainly worked for me, and as for Matthias, he was bouncing around in sheer energetic joy. If the bands resented having to play the songs that made them famous circa 1992-1995 they gave no indication of it, and treated the audience in that tiny club as if it were a sold-out stadium tour.

As we queued to go into the club, we heard no languages other than Polish, and, judging by the makeup of the audience, I would say it was mainly Polish, Romanian, and Lithuanian people. And, as I jumped around enthusiastically, being elbowed in the face by the extremely tall, very perky, glowstick-covered Lithuanian guy in front of me, and being hugged and danced with by the very drunk, very friendly Irish woman next to me, while an ageing Dutch popstar yelled 'TECHNO, TECHNO, TECHNO!' at us, I felt a bittersweet kind of joy at this easy, effortless, pan-European sense of community, at home together in London, brought together by cheesy Eurodance nostalgia, and a fury at how easily it is about to be taken away, by people who never saw its value.

The Anglo-Saxons exhibition was excellent.** I didn't really learn anything new — although my major in undergrad, MPhil, and PhD are in medieval Irish literature, my department where I undertook the MPhil and PhD are multidisciplinary, focusing on the languages, literatures, history and material culture of medieval Ireland, Britain, and Scandinavia, so it's impossible not to learn about Old English literature and Anglo-Saxon history by osmosis in an environment like that (and indeed, as the exhibition makes plain, to study any medieval culture in isolation is absurd). However, it was great to see so many important manuscripts all brought together in the one exhibition space. Matthias was like a child in a sweet shop, and in particular was deeply moved to see the Vercelli Manuscript, Junius Manuscript, Exeter Book and Beowulf Manuscript — representing the entirety of extant Old English poetry — side by side. (Whenever I'm reminded that those four manuscripts are all that survive of the Old English poetic corpus I am deeply grateful that I chose to study medieval Irish, with its embarassment of riches when it comes to vernacular manuscripts!)

The exhibition as a whole was mainly manuscripts — the vernacular poetry ones I mentioned above, law codes, religious writing, hymn books with musical notation, saints' Lives, grammatical texts to teach Latin, legal codes, medical writing, history, and charters — with a few other artifacts of material culture, such as jewellery (including the famous 'Alfred jewel'), pottery, and weapons. What I particularly appreciated (and overheard many other exhibition attendees remarking on) was the relentless emphasis on the international component and outward-looking nature of Anglo-Saxon societies. The enduring networks, reinforced by diplomacy, political marriages, trade, and the exchange of ideas, were mentioned in all the displays' descriptions: the movement of manuscripts between ecclesiastical establishments in Britain, Ireland, and continental Europe (and even, in some cases, from places further afield such as North Africa), the movement of people between royal courts on both sides of the Channel, and the exchange of ideas apparent in more prosaic form — in the design of jewellery, belt-buckles, coins, or calligraphy. On one level it was dispiriting to overhear so many other attendees remarking on how astonishing they found all these connections, because this made it plain how pervasive is the common perception of medieval insularity. But I suppose on the other hand at least those attendees will go away with a new understanding of how international, interconnected, and outward-looking medieval people could be, and that the concept of national borders and identities has always been fluid and complicated. That the ocean was not a barrier, but rather a highway. That the lies nationalists tell about the peoples studied in my former academic discipline are just that — lies, deceptive myths designed to comfort and simplify for people who find complexity discomforting. That the wider world has always been there, and even premodern people engaged with it. That intellectual and creative culture has always been a collaborative effort, in conversation with itself, open to 'outside' influences.

In other words, there has always been migration, and migrants. And, as was made clear in the Eurodance concert on Friday night, we migrants are still here, and this is still our home, and we will remain, and we will go on dancing.

__________

*'Uncharacteristic' because, as a German, he has a deep aversion to celebrating birthdays in advance, which is felt to be tempting fate.
**Inevitably we bumped into someone we knew from the department at Cambridge where we did our degrees. She was there with her husband and small son. Cambridge is a very, very small town, even when it's in London.
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.

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