dolorosa_12: (tea)
After my month of posting every day about books, I seem to have completely vanished from the internet, and Dreamwidth in particular. This was mainly due to illness, brought on by intense stress about the political crisis in the UK and the impending Brexit catastrophe. More about that below.

But first, I'll talk about nice things.

I spent last weekend in Germany for the wedding of one of Matthias's cousins. The cousin (and indeed that whole part of the family) live in Iserlohn, and the wedding and reception were all in that part of the world. Matthias and I flew in to Dortmund on Friday afternoon and were collected by his parents, who drove us to the hotel where we were all staying (and which would also be the reception venue). We all had dinner on the Friday night in the hotel with another aunt and uncle. The wedding itself was on midday on the Saturday, in a castle on the top of a hill, and sadly I didn't get any photos of the ceremony itself, but trust me when I say the setting was very picturesque. We then returned back to the reception for what ended up being an entire day of being fed. The reception meal at German weddings (at least in my experience) is always dinner, but as it was about 2pm at that point and no one had had lunch, we were given open bread roll sandwiches as canapes with our sparkling wine. This was then followed by coffee and a variety of cakes at 3pm, and finally the huge buffet dinner in the evening. There was also apparently a midnight snack of cheeses and fruit, but I was certainly not hungry enough by that point to investigate!

There was a DJ playing (as always) the cheesiest collection of both German and English-language music, and I danced for hours. We finally staggered up to bed around 1am. Now normally I would be able to sleep fine, even with the DJ still going several floors below, but because my body's been in panic mode pretty much for the past three weeks, my sleeping abilities are wrecked, and I ended up not being able to sleep at all that night, even though the DJ finished up around 2.30 and then it was deathly quiet. Luckily I didn't need to do anything on the Sunday beyond being driven to the airport (with a detour to a nearby lake which we walked around in the sunsine).

On Monday I went down to London after work to go to a panel discussion at the Piccadilly Waterstones between Samantha Shannon, Zen Cho, Tasha Suri, and Zoe Marriott, moderated by their fellow author Katherine Webber. It was a fun talk — all, with the exception of Marriott (who was a bit rambly) were great speakers, and although it didn't really tell me anything new about their books, it was great to see them in conversation, bouncing ideas off each other and gushing over one another's books.

From the heights to the depths: the ghastly, stressful political, economic, social and psychological catastrophe that is Brexit. For several weeks, I was feverishly following every moment: Twitter open with various commentators live-tweeting sessions in the House of Commons, the Guardian's frenzied politics livefeed open in the next tab over. This did serious damage to both my mental and physical health (I couldn't sleep, I had panic attacks that lasted all night, I had nightmares, the lack of sleep gave me a cold, at one point I literally vomited from stress at work), and in the end I had to stop. I had been following every moment because I was afraid something terrible would happen and I would miss trying to stop it. On Wednesday last week, after a particularly bad night of panic attacks, I realised that I had to just completely switch off everything. So no Twitter, no news — I can't even go to news websites to look up articles on something else, in case I see anything Brexit-related. I've been living in a sort of cone of silence for over a week now, and it's helping, mostly.

I do know that the EU allowed Britain a longer extension, because Matthias told me this morning, meaning that the country will still be in the EU tomorrow, and I will still be an EU citizen for now. I'm assuming we'll have to hold EU parliamentary elections now, although even that was unclear (but surely the EU would be mad to offer an extension to October without making the EU parliamentary elections a condition?). But the panicked uncertainty was too much for me, so I think I'll have to maintain my distance.

I see also that Scott Morrison has finally called an election, so that will be another thing to vote for in May. I'm hoping desperately that all the polls are right and we're going to get a change of government (although the prospect of Bill Shorten being rewarded for essentially not being Scott Morrison is pretty depressing; I met Shorten at a dinner party before he was an MP and I was not impressed). I'm imagining that the campaign will be dismal and ugly.

So that's been my life for the past couple of weeks. I've been listening to a lot of M83. Carry on, carry on/ and after us the flood indeed.
dolorosa_12: (sokka)
Thirty Day Book Meme Day 9: Film or TV tie-in

You know, I don't think I have ever owned, or even read, a book in this category. I've read lots of books that went in the other direction (i.e. were adapted for film or television), but not tie-ins. So rather than rack my brains trying to think of a book that I know doesn't exist, why don't those of you who do read tie-ins use the comments to tell me about your favourites?

The other days )

Matthias and I are heading out later today to catch up with two of our friends who are visiting from Vienna. They're just two among the many people I know who have left the UK because of Brexit. It will be good to see them (we're all going out for a curry at a new restaurant), but I'm sad about the circumstances.

I don't have much to catch up on in terms of reading. I finished P. Djèlí Clarke's novella 'The Haunting of Tramcar 015' (another story set in an alternate, steampunk Egypt when djinn and other supernatural beings live openly among the human population), which was excellent, although as with all of Clarke's work, it left me wishing that it had been expanded to novel length. I also read 'Lullaby for a Lost World,' a creepy, gothic short story by Aliette de Bodard (freely available on the Tor.com website should you want to read it), and have begun reading God's War by Kameron Hurley. I'm nearly finished it, but it's left me with the conclusion that Hurley's writing is just not for me. It's grimdark in a specific way that I find really repellent, and I particularly dislike that she writes societies where women are uniformly violent, cruel, and exploitative (I do know that this is kind of her thing, so I wasn't unaware of this element going in). This is the second book of hers I've read, and I think it's probably time to stop trying her writing.
dolorosa_12: (ada shelby)
Thirty Day Book Meme Day 8: Have more than one copy

Since Matthias and I moved in together and amalgamated our libraries, technically I have two copies of a lot of things (most notably, perhaps, pretty much every Discworld book), but I'll go with The Tiger in the Well by Philip Pullman here.

When I got married a year-and-a-half ago, my sraffie friends (people I'd met through a fansite for Pullman's His Dark Materials series) gave us a joint present of a crate filled with books, each one representing a story that was important to the individual giver, and each with a message written inside for us. The crate they came in was decorated as if it had previously stored Tokay from Jordan College, the fictional Oxford college in which His Dark Materials begins. And wonderful [twitter.com profile] thelxiepia, my sister by choice, the best friend I made through those sites, and one of my bridesmaids, gave me The Tiger in the Well.

She did this in full knowledge that I already had a copy of the book, a battered version first bought from what I now know was the Waterstones in Gower St, when I was fourteen and on a trip to Europe and New York with my mother and sister. But it was a book for which the two of us shared a deep love — our favourite in Pullman's Sally Lockhart series, and one we'd discussed avidly at various points over the years. It was the perfect gift, and I'm glad I now have two copies as a result.

The other days )
dolorosa_12: (pagan kidrouk)
Thirty Day Book Meme Day 7: Forgot I owned it

You know, I'm actually really struggling to come up with something for today. Even as a child, I had a librarian's inclination to catalogue and classify, and the majority of my old books are still back in Australia in my old room at my mum's place, arranged on the shelves exactly the same way they were thirty years and four family homes ago. I can still visualise those shelves, and tell anyone exactly where to go to find any specific book. While my collection of books here in the UK is less extensive and less well organised (just alphabetically by author across multiple bookshelves), I still know which books I own, you know?

What I have forgotten is what the hell happened to my copy of Untold by Sarah Rees Brennan. I know I owned the whole trilogy at one point, I've certainly read the entire trilogy using books that I owned — but this book in the series somehow vanished into the ether, possibly during the month in which I left my student accommodation in Heidelberg to travel around Germany, returned back to the UK to the share house I had previously lived in and in which Matthias was still living, and we moved into the house we still live in now. There was a lot of moving, a lot of suitcases, and a lot of different people's stuff being boxed up and transported to lots of different places, so maybe that's when this book was sucked into the void.

The other days )
dolorosa_12: (startorial)
Massive Attack was everything I could have hoped for and more. I'm not, generally, someone who gets overwhelmed with the experience of live music, but there are rare exceptions, and this was one of them. I didn't quite realise how emotional it would make me, to see the album that I've loved so much since I was a teenager, in awe at its wordplay and dark bass and vocals both soaring and cthonic, brought to life. To hear those words, that have been at once formative foundation and the armour in which I've wrapped myself for more than twenty years, sung aloud. I was lost the minute I walked out into the Tube station and saw this (as I said to Matthias, it's moments like this that I love London, that ridiculous city). And then they sang my favourite song of all time: not just my favourite Massive Attack song, but my favourite song by any artist. I've heard Robert Del Naja whisper-growl we can unwind/ all these half flaws, and it's making up for two decades of concert regrets.

(Two links that probably sum up the concert very well — a review of the show, and an interview with the band.)

We stayed overnight in London after the concert — leaving the O2 to dense, atmospheric fog which somehow felt perfectly in keeping with the mood evoked by the music, and which was still around on Saturday morning, shrouding the post-apocalyptic wasteland which is Canning Town at 7am with a vaguely Luther-ish air. After a quick breakfast in one of my favourite Bloomsbury cafes (oh, London coffee), we wandered up to the British Museum, joining the thronging crowds on the penultimate day of an exhibition on Ashurbanipal, who was an Assyrian ruler. If the self-aggrandising quotes from his letters are to be believed he seemed rather like a more competent version of the menace currently President of the US — he won the vastest empire through battles, he solved all the complicated mathematic problems, sages and soothsayers contacted him for his predictions of the future, and so on. I was mainly struck by how much material had survived — so many letters and stories and tax records on clay tablets, so many incredible carved decorative stones, and so on. As most of this material comes from very dangerous parts of the world (mainly modern-day Iraq and Syria), there is great concern for its safety, and the final room of the exhibition had a video with interviews with Iraqi archaeologists, who had worked on the exhibition and who had been trained by the British Museum in 'disaster archaeology' (i.e. working in high-risk areas with materials that are under threat), and these archaeologists are currently excavating new sites in the region, with the aim that the materials unearthed will remain in Iraq. They were all very passionate about this work, but it sounds at once very dangerous, and a race against time.

I had grand plans today for writing book reviews, and a letter for [community profile] waybackexchange, but other than a bit of pottering around in the garden (we now should hopefully have home-grown zucchini and radishes in a few months' time) and reading a KJ Charles book in the sun, I've failed dismally to have a productive Sunday.

At least I seem to have got my reading groove back. I read Tara Westover's memoir Educated on the train to and from London, which, given how much of it involves studying at Cambridge (indeed, Westover was a friend of one of my Cambridge friends during her time there), seemed fitting. She's obviously lived a very interesting life — brought up as the daughter of fundamentalist Mormons who spent most of her childhood as Doomsday survivalists, completely neglecting her education, and raising her and her siblings in a wholly abusive environment, self-educating herself to the point that she could go to university, and then ending up a PhD student at Cambridge — and if I wished that she would condemn her parents in stronger terms, that probably says more about me than it does about her.

I also read a handful of Tor.com free short stories — three on the basis of recommendations from [personal profile] eglantiere ('What Mario Scietto Says' by Emmy Laybourne, 'Cold Wind' by Nicola Griffith, and 'The Tallest Doll in New York City' by Maria Dahvana Headley), and one of the basis of a review by Amal El-Mohtar ('A Dead Djinn in Cairo' by P. Djèlí Clark). I liked them all except the Laybourne, which, given that its point-of-view character is a survivalist prepper experiencing an apocalypse, and given what I said above about the Westover book, was never going to work for me. I really find it hard to engage with a narrative that expects me to sympathise with survivalists, or which implies that they were right to prep for the apocalypse.

Matthias and I also found time last night to finish off the fifth season of Luther, which didn't work for me for a variety of reasons, the main one being that I felt the writers lost their sense of the characters, who all behaved in ways which were for me widely out of character. I'm not sure if there'll be another season, and I'm not sure if some of the writing decisions made in this one are salvageable, but in any case I was not particularly impressed.

How has everyone been enjoying their weekends?
dolorosa_12: (newspaper)
First up, nominations have now opened for [community profile] waybackexchange, so if you're thinking of participating, you have until 20th February to get your nominations in. I've already used up all my nomination slots, but if anyone has any free, please do drop me a comment here (or a DM) as I have at least one other fandom I'd love to get nominated.

[personal profile] ladytharen has created a great new comm for Leigh Bardugo's Six of Crows duology, so if you're interested, please do think about joining!


Join Here!
| Community Profile


This week's books )

This week's TV )

Other weekend stuff )
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: (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: by ginnystar on lj (robin marian)
My weekend has been a bit of a mix in terms of activity. I spent quite a bit of time working on various Yuletide treats. So far I've got the main assignment and two treats pretty much finished, and one final treat that needs a bit more work. I would like to be able to manage a fourth treat, but I don't think it's doable in the time remaining, as I generally find it too draining to write after work during the week.

On Saturday I met up with [personal profile] nymeth for coffee, and we talked books, libraries, and migrant life. We met in a new-to-me cafe, which is always astonishing to me, as I always think I've tried every single independent cafe in Cambridge.

Today was mostly spent shopping in town. I normally avoid central Cambridge on weekends, particularly Sunday afternoons, as it gets really crowded with tourists and shoppers, but this couldn't be avoided. Matthias was collecting various new items of clothing that he'd ordered online and had sent to the shops, and we needed a few bits and pieces for the kitchen, and this was probably the last chance to sort all this out before the new year. We did take the chance to have Vietnamese food for lunch, and stop off for some beer (him) and mulled wine (me) at the temporary winter beer garden organised by one of our favourite Cambridge businesses, [instagram.com profile] thirstycamb. They had a fire pit!

Other than these various outings, I've spent the weekend watching my Tumblr queue to import to Wordpress (it's still queueing, but having poked around in their forums, it seems that it's taking about five days for the imports to start, due to volume, so I'm not particularly worried), and finishing off a couple of books. Thornfruit, by Felicia Davin, had intriguing worldbuilding, and a great central f/f relationship between a wild, confused teenage girl with mindreading powers and the ability to wound with direct touch, and another teenage girl who yearns for something more than her family's farm and market stall. They also live on a tidally-locked planet (their city is in perpetual sunlight, other regions in perpetual darkness), which I thought was really cool. It's the first of a trilogy, and I'll likely buy the other two to read when I'm in Germany over Christmas. The second book, The Boneless Mercies by April Genevieve Tucholke, was a loose Beowulf retelling where instead of a lone warrior fighting monsters, we have a band of dispossessed teenage girls seeking heroism and glory. It's an interesting exploration of female anger, monstrosity, and otherness, but I felt it was a concept that really screamed for at least one f/f relationship, and was weakened by this lack.

I'm now baking some salmon in the oven, and planning to spend the remainder of the weekend watching TV with Matthias. What have the rest of you been up to?

I'm also going to close this post with a fabulous fan art rec, which I saw linked at some point on my reading page and have had open in a tab ever since. It's an absolutely gorgeous work, depicting Esme Shelby from Peaky Blinders, leading a deathly, supernatural horse, and I love it to bits.

Chovihani (0 words) by motetus
Chapters: 1/1
Fandom: Peaky Blinders (TV)
Rating: Teen And Up Audiences
Warnings: Creator Chose Not To Use Archive Warnings
Characters: Esme Shelby
Additional Tags: Art, Digital Art, Fanart, Extra Treat, Horses, ToT: Monster Mash, Trick or Treat 2016, Supernatural Elements, Trick Or Treat Prompts Challenge
Summary:

Esme has a gift for taming horses.

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: (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: (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: (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: (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: (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...
    dolorosa_12: (le guin)
    Matthias and I decided to go out on a little bit of an adventure today. We're limited in Cambridge by where we can reach by public transport and/or walking, and a lot of the villages surrounding the city are not served by buses at all (or only served by one bus that goes into Cambridge in the morning, and another that returns in the evening, which is obviously no good to us at all). However, Hemingford Grey - the site of one really good pub with excellent food - is reachable, even on Sundays, so we decided to make the trek out there for Sunday lunch. This involved catching a bus to St Ives, walking for about half an hour (although we made the walk last for an hour by continuing along the towpath beside the river), and then settling down for a really fantastic meal. We returned to Cambridge via Swavesey, as Matthias wanted to stop for a drink in the pub there (which was also pretty nice), and got home just as it was getting dark. It was a nice way to spend the day. I've put a little photoset up on Instagram, which shows the pretty fields, river, trees and flowers we walked through.

    This week also involved seeing three films: Pride (which the university was screening specially as part of LGBT History Month), Black Panther, and I, Tonya. I enjoyed them all immensely.

    Pride was just so joyous and defiant, at once an upbeat romantic comedy and a pointedly political call to arms. I had been feeling really worn down by the state of the world, so it was nice to watch something that was about two very different groups of downtrodden, despised and dispossessed people (LGBT people, and striking miners) making common cause and taking on a powerful enemy with unlimited resources with little more than handpainted signs, collecting tins, and the determination of those with moral right on their side.

    Black Panther was a glorious, timely addition to the clunking juggernaut that is the MCU. I adored all the female characters, I adored the music and the costumes, and I loved that it didn't hold back in its critiques of colonialism and US (in particular) antiblack racism. We saw the film in IMAX (although not in 3D), and it was well worth it.

    Given we've frequently had the Winter Olympics playing in the background at home, I, Tonya was highly thematically relevant. (I wonder if its release was timed to coincide with the Olympics?) I had a vague idea of the historical events on which it was based, but as an Australian (we don't really do winter sports) and as an ex gymnast (that is, someone whose quota of over-the-top performatively feminine acrobatics set to music was already filled) I wasn't really aware of them at the time they were happening. The film is really well written and well acted, blackly comedic while also underscoring how truly messed up competitive elite sport can be, particularly sports which, like figure skating, involve image (i.e. performance of a particular kind of femininity) and long hours of training from a very young age. I hope it picks up some acting Oscars, because it truly deserves them.

    All in all, it's been a pretty good week.
    dolorosa_12: (Default)
    I've added a bunch of new people as a result of the post-Yuletide friending meme, so I thought it was high time for another intro post. If you've been friends with me for a while, none of this will be new, so please feel free to skip if you'd like.

    Isn't it time to reinvent yourself? )

    I look forward to getting to know all the new people I added through the meme. Please feel free to ask me anything!

    Profile

    dolorosa_12: (Default)
    a million times a trillion more

    April 2019

    S M T W T F S
     123456
    78910 111213
    14151617181920
    21222324252627
    282930    

    Syndicate

    RSS Atom

    Most Popular Tags

    Style Credit

    Expand Cut Tags

    No cut tags
    Page generated Apr. 19th, 2019 04:29 pm
    Powered by Dreamwidth Studios