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: (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: by ginnystar on lj (robin marian)
It's been snowing in much of the UK this weekend, although not in Cambridge. However, it has been freezing here — witness the frost as I walked in to the market this morning. I've just returned from a walk to and from Grantchester, and although it was around 2pm when I was out, much of the frost on the ground has not thawed at all.

Other than walking around in frosty landscapes, I've spent a lot of the weekend out — on Friday night Matthias and I went out to one of our favourite wine shops/bars for a few drinks and food truck dinner, and on Saturday it was my former academic department's annual black tie dinner. The number of current students/postdocs/lecturers I know in the department shrinks every year, but most of the time alumni come back for the dinner, so there's always a good handful of people I know to catch up with at the dinner.

My remaining spare time this weekend has been spent reading. As well as Roshani Chokshi's glorious The Gilded Wolves, which I finished on Friday and will probably review more extensively later, I devoured K.J. Charles's The Magpie Lord while lying in a pool of sunshine on the couch this morning. I know a lot of people in my circle are fans of Charles (if my Goodreads feed is anything to go by), and enough people whose reading tastes I trust seemed to have read some or all of her work, so I thought I'd give it a try. It was a sweet, undemanding m/m romance novel, a great blend of mystery, historical fiction and fantasy, and I thoroughly enjoyed it. It felt to me as if it could be an interlude within the universe of Susannah Clarke's Jonathan Strange & Mr Norrell — the way magic worked felt similar, as did the scaffolding of myth and folklore, although it lacked the literary-ness (and playful re- and deconstruction of the conventions of nineteenth-century novels). And it was just restful to read about fundamentally good and decent people being generous and brave, you know? As a bonus, the ebook also included a short story, 'Interlude with Tattoos', set in the same world, which temporarily fed my hunger for this series — although I suspect I will be buying the next two books in the series as soon as I've finished this blog post!

Other books I've read recently include Katherine Arden's The Winter of the Witch, which again I plan to review more extensively later, The Mermaids in the Basement by Marina Warner (a short story collection in the vein of Angela Carter's The Bloody Chamber, in which biblical tales, stories from Greek myth and so on are given a second-wave feminist twist), and The Prince of Darkness, the fourth in Sharon K. Penman's Justin de Quincy stories (historical mysteries in which the protagonist is a private detective of sorts working for Eleanor of Aquitaine). Both these latter two books had been on my 'to read' list for a very long time, so I'm glad to have finally read them.

What has everyone else been reading this week?
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: (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)
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: (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: (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: (emily)
    This has been a week of lovely things, capped off with a wonderful, restful Sunday of cooking, housework, and reading.

    After years of asking, I finally got a standing desk at work, and the effect has been miraculous. The difference between how I feel after a day's work at the standing desk and a day's work sitting down is palpable and welcome: for the first time in my working life, I finished the day without back pain, without sore wrists and hands and shoulders, without headaches, and without feeling exhausted. I know the evidence is inconclusive about the benefits of standing desks, but for me, at least, they seem to work.

    Matthias' parents left yesterday after nine days visiting us in Cambridge. We don't have room for them to stay with us (while I'm happy to offer up the uncomfortable sofabed in the living room to friends, I would feel terrible offering it to my sixtysomething parents-in-law), so they normally rent a holiday house and hang out with us during evenings and weekends. We had time on Saturday to go out for a bit, and elected to go to Kettle's Yard, a historic house previously owned by an art collector, with a gallery attached. The house has been kept in its former state, with the collector's art on the walls and lots of interesting little nooks and crannies. Entry is completely free to both the house and the gallery. You're allowed to sit on any of the chairs, and stay as long as the house is open, so it's common to see students, writers and artists just hanging out there and working - there's wifi, warmth, and comfy spaces to sit, so as long as you don't mind visitors wandering around, it's a nice space. For some reason I'd never been before, despite having lived in Cambridge for over nine years. I took a few photos, which you can see here and here, and will definitely visit again.

    Today I had to brave the cold not once but twice, in order to go to both the food market, and the library after it had opened. On top of these errands, I spent most of the morning cooking (leek, tomato and potato soup to take to work for lunch), cleaning various bits of the house, and doing laundry, but I'm looking forward to a more relaxing afternoon, sitting in my wing chair, drinking tea, nibbling chocolate, reading my book (the sixth and final book of the Lymond Chronicles, about which I have very mixed feelings), and watching the snow melt.
    dolorosa_12: (matilda)
    This weekend I managed to find exactly the right balance between social events with friends and hibernating at home, and between doing various bits of housework and finding time to read, rest and relax. It was great!

    After work on Friday I joined Matthias, [profile] ienthuse, her husband, and two of our other friends for the reopening of Thirsty, a wine/beer/spirits seller whose shop also doubles as a small bar. They closed for a month to renovate and expand the bar area, and Friday was their first night open. It was extremely busy and crowded, but we were able to get a table. It was a bit loud to be able to talk properly (I can never hear in bars or restaurants, and generally don't even attempt to have proper conversations), but it was nice to see everyone. One of our friends has just got a new postdoc which would see him leaving the UK — he's Italian, and he and his (British) wife have been trying to leave since the EU referendum result, making them the sixth and seventh people I know who have chosen to leave the country specifically because of Brexit — so my happiness at his new job was tempered with sadness at Brexit chasing so many of my friends out of the country. I suppose it will be nice to visit them in Vienna, at least.

    Our night out at Thirsty also marked the beginning of what would be a weekend of foodtrucks: [twitter.com profile] GuerrillaKitch were out Thirsty, and we followed that up with pizzas from Neapolitan Street Food at a tiny Cambridge brewery on Saturday. It was rainy and freezing, but Calverleys (the brewery) was still packed, though quieter than Thirsty and thus possible to actually have a conversation. I was there with the same friends as on Friday night. We moved on to another nearby pub to watch the rugby (which I don't care about, but Matthias and our friends do), after which we had curry for dinner and then headed home in the rain.

    Today I've stuck much closer to home, cooking meals for the first few days of next week, pickling vegetables, and reading. I read two short stories in the latest issue of Lightspeed, 'Four-Point Affective Calibration' by Bogi Takács, and 'The Quiet Like a Homecoming' by Cassandra Khaw. Although they're very different stories, they both had this undercurrent of anger running through them — a righteous fury at injustice and dispossession and cruelties done to their narrators — which turned them into something of a linked pair.

    I also read Robin McKinley's Chalice, which I would describe as a very, very McKinley book, with a lot of her tropes (a bookish, competent heroine overwhelmed with the enormity of the task at hand who focuses on her vocation — in this case, beekeeping — as a way to ground herself and give shape to her interactions with other people; a practical, earthy magic system; a monstrous main male character) and weaknesses (everything ambles along at a leisurely, dreamlike pace, and then rushes towards a hasty, inconclusive conclusion), and, like all her work, is essentially a retelling of the Beauty and the Beast fairytale, but it was diverting enough for a grey Sunday afternoon.
    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!
    dolorosa_12: (emily hanna)
    I went straight back to work on Tuesday, and was thrown straight into it: a lot of teaching, a lot of students back and studying, and a period of downtime as we switch from one library management system to another. This latter meant that we had access to neither the old system nor the new, but were still expected to issue, return and renew books, and register new users -- quite hard to do when you can't access the required program, but we found workarounds.

    This weekend has been slightly busier than I would have liked, given the work week I had (and given how busy January is shaping up to be), but I still found time to snatch a bit of reading. I'm just over one hundred pages into The Will to Battle, the third in Ada Palmer's extraordinary Terra Ignota series, and I'm as awed by this third book as I was by the first and second. My husband sent me a link to great article by Palmer about her use of social science (as opposed to 'hard' sciences) in her science fiction, and it's reminded me all over again how intricate and clever her books are. [personal profile] naye, you might be interested in reading the article; it's here if anyone wants to read it.

    Two of my four sisters (Kitty and Nell, sisters #2 and #3) are about midway through a trip around Europe with their grandparents (for new readers of my Dreamwidth, the reason I say their and not our grandparents is that my three youngest sisters only share a father, not a mother, with me and my other younger sister -- and thus only one set of grandparents; these are their maternal grandparents). This past week they were in London, and I organised for the four of them to take the train up to Cambridge and visit me and Matthias. I hadn't seen these sisters since 2015, and although we stay vaguely in touch via social media, they are quite young (Kitty is fifteen, and Nell ten), and it's been harder to stay a part of their lives than it has been with relatives and friends who are adults. In any case, I showed them and their grandparents around Cambridge, and we all had lunch together, and it was easy to pick up where I left off. I was struck once again by what wonderful people the two girls are: so thoughtful and clever and kind. Obviously I'm a bit biased -- I think all my sisters are amazing -- but my heart sang to see what good people they were.

    Other than reading and hanging out with my family, it's mostly been a weekend of cooking and chores. I've got this slow-cooked pork recipe roasting away in the oven, and it's filling the whole house with the smell of apple, redcurrant and rosemary.

    How have everyone else's first weekends of 2018 been?
    dolorosa_12: by ginnystar on lj (robin marian)
    The weekend has been a good mix of social and hermity stuff, and I think I managed to strike exactly the right balance between the two. On Saturday we had four of our friends over -- [tumblr.com profile] ienthuse, her husband E, and our friends V and P. Last year, another friend had given Matthias and me a jeroboam of champagne as an engagement gift. Now, as much as we'd like to, the two of us are incapable of drinking three litres of champagne in one sitting, so the bottle had sat undrunk in our house for a year and a half. We finally decided that we'd have an afternoon party with champagne and snacks to celebrate various successes in our friendship group: Matthias has just started a new job, E recently got a new job (actually working as a library assistant in the library where Matthias is now working), as did [tumblr.com profile] ienthuse, V recently won a very prestigious translation award in Iceland (she translates Icelandic books into English), and I'd recently started a new and challenging secondment.

    We had been intending to have the party outside in our courtyard, but it ended up pouring with rain, so instead we sat in the living room, eating, drinking the champagne, and generally having a good time. Given that most of my Cambridge friends are people I met while we were all MPhil/PhD students together, people tend to move on once they've finished their degrees, so I'm glad that at least these four are still around. Afternoon snacks turned into dinner, and we ended up getting really delicious takeaway from the south Indian restaurant down the road, which I hadn't eaten at for ages and really enjoyed.

    Today I woke up good and early and made my usual trip to the markets in central Cambridge. It was a really beautiful misty morning, and everything looked gorgeous. I love this kind of weather, so cold and stark and still. Once I'd got back from the market, Matthias and I went out for brunch, and then stopped by the food fair (which happens about four times a year in one of the parks in the centre of town) to pick up stuff like olive oil, vinegar and other sauces.

    I've spent the afternoon finishing off Ruin of Angels, the sixth book in Max Gladstone's Craft Sequence, which was absolutely wonderful, as all the books in the series are. I realised about midway through that about 95 per cent of the characters with speaking roles were female, whiich pleased me immmensely. The world of the series is just so clever and inventive, and has this unbelievably lived-in feel, and a sense of place that's stronger than pretty much any other fantasy series I've read.

    I'm now just hanging around online while tonight's roast dinner bakes in the oven. It's proper autumn here in Cambridge now, which is my favourite time of the year. There's an icy undertone to the air, the trees are at their most beautiful, and my nesting tendencies go into complete overdrive. This weekend's been a good start!
    dolorosa_12: (pagan kidrouk)
    Today is a public holiday, which has meant a three-day weekend. We've been very fortunate with the weather -- although summer in the UK hasn't really been a summer at all this year, it's as if we got the entire season these three days in Cambridge, with warm weather and bright sunshine. Although I have spent some of the weekend doing rather boring life admin-type stuff, I have managed to pack in just the right amount of fun stuff too.

    On Saturday evening, Matthias and I joined a lot of friends from our former academic department to farewell one of our fellow PhD students, [twitter.com profile] BeccaMerkelbach, who, having completed her PhD, is returning to Germany for an academic job there. It was a somewhat bittersweet farewell, since she was leaving in part due to Brexit (that is, while the academic job market being what it is meant that she was willing to move countries for a job, Brexit meant she was not prepared to look for jobs in the UK at all) -- the first of many friends I know of who are leaving the UK for that reason. I'm glad she's got a job (they're not easy to come by in medieval literature!), but I'm sad, as always, to see a friend move on.

    Yesterday we went to a farmers market/temporary outdoor beer garden with food trucks run by Thirsty, which is a wine and beer seller that also runs a bar out of its store, if that makes sense. They've been holding the beer garden out near the Museum of Technology by the river for the entire summer, and we haven't made as much use of this as we would have liked, partly because it's a good forty-five-minute walk from our house. Given the summer is almost over, we're determined to get there as much as possible. Yesterday were were there around midday, and met up with [personal profile] naye and [personal profile] doctorskuld, and hung out for a few hours eating food from the food truck and catching up. After that, I met up with [personal profile] nymeth after she'd finished work, and we sat in a park drinking coffee, revelling in the sunshine.

    Today's been a pretty lazy day. Matthias unfortunately had work to do, so holed up in our study to get it done, and I've just been doing a lot of reading. I finished off Sunvault, an anthology of solarpunk science fiction short stories, poetry and art, and read every one of the Booksmugglers' recent Gods and Monsters series of short stories. These are all free online, and I would definitely recommend them!

    Once Matthias has finished his work, I'm hoping the two of us can go for a run, and then settle in for a lazy evening, winding down before the work week starts up again.
    dolorosa_12: (pagan kidrouk)
    I had my PhD viva nearly three years ago now, but it still reverberates in weird ways, even though I've long since left academia.

    Quick description of how a PhD is examined in the UK, for those who want to know )

    I wake up almost every day grateful for the fact that I never have to do another viva again. Some examiners will tell you before you get started that you've passed, although they're not technically supposed to (Matthias' external examiner wanted everything done by the book, so he left the room not knowing if he'd passed or failed). Mine tried to tell me without saying so directly — they said something like, 'before we get started, we want to say that we do have some concerns, but you have nothing to worry about. Now let's talk about your PhD,' which helped a bit, but didn't do much to make the experience any more pleasant. Some friends have told me they enjoyed their vivas, but to this day (and I say this as someone who has had some pretty awful things happen to her), that viva remains the worst two hours of my entire life. A few weeks before it happened, I dreamt that the process would involve lying on a rooftop while two senior Celticist academics shot at me with sniper rifles, just to give you some indication of the state of my mind...

    Anyway, you get the idea. I passed, and although I couldn't look at my PhD or my examiners' reports for at least two months after the viva was over, the corrections themselves only took about a week of my time, and I got my PhD, graduated, and got on with a life outside academia. But because I still live in Cambridge, and still have a lot of friends within medieval studies, and because my former department is extremely sociable, I tend to come back from time to time to local conferences, free annual guest lectures, alumni events and so on. And because medieval studies is such a small world (and Celtic Studies an even smaller world within it), I tend to run into my examiners when I least expect it. And, inevitably, I bumped into my internal examiner at a guest lecture late last year. We fell to talking about my viva, and he told me something I found both hilarious, and a great source of perspective.

    The entire time that I had been in a state of extreme anxiety and panic, feeling besieged and terrified, he had been in such awe of my external examiner (who, for some reason, he had never met in person before) that he had reacted by being extremely formal, and more critical than he perhaps intended, because he wanted to make a good impression on his fellow examiner. It's odd, but it's nice to know I wasn't the only one in that room feeling scared and overwhelmed!

    Anyway, academia. It's a weird little universe.
    dolorosa_12: (Default)
    I've added a bunch of new people as a result of [personal profile] st_aurafina's recent friending meme, so I thought it was high time to introduce myself.

    Feel free to skip if you've had me in your circle/flist for a while )

    I'm really looking forward to getting to know you! Please feel free to ask whatever questions you like.
    dolorosa_12: (emily hanna)
    I'm sitting here drinking a cup of tea and eating salted caramel fudge in the late afternoon sun, and thinking it's been a pretty great weekend.

    Yesterday we mostly hung around at home, apart from an hour or so when we went out for one of the talks at Cambridge Festival of Ideas (this is a free programme that runs every year, a series of talks and panels by a mixture of Cambridge academics and other speakers on various topics, aimed at the general public). The panel we went to was about new media, and panelists ranged from fairly senior editors at Buzzfeed and Open Democracy to an academic doing research on the role of the media in Turkey, Morocco and Tunisia, and was excellent, although it didn't really tell me anything I didn't know. We've been trying to take more advantage of events like this — there's always a lot on in Cambridge, frequently free and generally right on our doorstep, so we're trying to make an effort to go to as much as we can.

    Today we went to Apple Day at the Botanic Gardens. This happens once a year; you can taste about fifteen varieties of apple (kinds you can't buy in supermarkets), and buy bags of them to take away. There are stalls selling stuff like apple juice, cider, jams and cakes, honey, and (our favourites) cheese and gin. We walked away with three bags of apples, cherry sloe gin, and some cheese. There are also a few food trucks, a stall selling coffee and cake, and activities for children. We went last year and it was overcast and occasionally rainy, but this year the weather held (always a bit of a gamble in the UK in October) and we had a fabulous time in the autumnal sunshine, eating apples, bumping into a couple of friends, and wandering around the gardens. The only drawback was that you had to queue for ages for everything, but we were aware this would happen and thus weren't shocked by the long, slow-moving queues.

    Now we're back at home and just lazing around until dinner time.

    Over the past few weeks I've oscillated between cheerfulness and moments of crushing despair, and had to do things like avoid reading any news or thinking about the state of the world. At times the darkness, cruelty and sheer violence of the world has been overwhelming, and it seems like many people I care about are going through particularly difficult times. It's left me feeling helpless and despairing, and struggling to know what I can do in the face of it all. But every so often there'll be these moments of kindness and gentleness, existing almost out of time, like a pause in which I can gather my strength. This weekend was one such bright moment. I have to store it up with the others, for later. These brief moments of warmth and light are a small, fragile thing, but I have to believe that they will be enough.

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