Britain still does that thing to me where a random piece of landscape is like an unexpected blade to the heart: a combination of a sharp, intimate sort of realisation with a sense of slightly deadened loss. I suppose it's the legacy of a colonial upbringing with a highly British-centred experience of children's literature, so that the land itself is above all an imagined space, and its sudden reality poignant and shocking.
I was last actually in Edinburgh when I was about 8 years old, on a family holiday which I remember only in snatches (Edinburgh castle was cold
and the hill was steep). But today the bus took me past the Spitfire memorial on a roundabout near the airport, and my response was one of visceral memory. We didn't fly to Scotland on that family holiday, as far as I can recall. I don't know if we even drove anywhere near the airport, but my subconscious firmly believes my dad was all enthusiastic about the replica of the old plane mounted in flight. My dad was a frustrated pilot, who flew gliders and spend his national service in the air force as a packer. The memory, even if it's a false one - the sense of familiarity - was very strong, with the same sense of not-quite-real distance.
The potential horrors of a 12-hour plane flight with a DVT in my recent past were, in the event, not as horrible as I feared. I think the challenge of this sort of trip is really in the expectation: once you're actually on the ground doing what needs to be done, it's just one foot in front of another, logically in sequence - paper-writing, packing, not having ones knees explode en route, the slightly complicated bus journeys to traverse the ordered, fertile country between Edinburgh and the university. The bit I was really dreading, actually, was injecting myself with anti-coagulant just before boarding, and in the event it was a total non-event - a nifty little self-contained syringe which is thin and sharp enough that it slides in with rather terrible ease to the soft tissue of one's stomach flab. (Reasons, I suppose, not to have a toned stomach). And I leaped up religiously every two hours and stood in the galley area waving my feet around in a circulatory sort of fashion.
I feel better than I usually do after that flight, actually. No sleep, of course, but less stiffness or swollen feet. Also, I have watched the latest Mission Impossible
(silly plot, excellent cast except for Tom, that Jeremy Renner lad is really growing on me, Tintin
(fun, faithful and rather beautiful in every aspect except Tintin himself), the new Muppet movie (awwwwww) and the second RDJ Sherlock Holmes. This last was a dreadful movie: RDJ's Sherlock has become a caricatured buffoon who owes nearly nothing to the source material. I'm not angry, just disappointed and a little hurt.
The town of St. Andrews - or, really, the university with a sort of frill of town on it, since I am in the midst of campus in a rather lovely
B&B on the high street - is beautiful, medieval, green, immaculate. I am typing this on a wireless connection which randomly refused to work when I first booted up, I expect because of rogue Windows upgrades stuffing with my settings. I don't have the technical skill to work out why these things happen, it appears to be some sort of implacable enmity between long strings of arcane acronyms tending heavily to P and T and V, but I spent an hour systematically changing every setting I could think of until something worked. I feel obscurely triumphant. Not a geek, really: slow and inept, but persistent. Ah, Barracuda.
I am also, as you can tell from the flow of consciousness, suffering the logical effect of having not slept in nearly 36 hours, 20 or so of which have been spent either in airports or in aircraft. I'm a bit punch-drunk. I shall have dinner with the conference organisers tonight, count myself ahead on points if I actually remember or consciously control more than about a third of what I say, and shall go to bed extremely early
. Tomorrow I give a keynote which is apparently being filmed for the benefit of the UK media attention this conference is randomly garnering, and which I suspect is about twice as long as its slot and will have to be ruthlessly pruned on the fly. Wish me luck.
The owner of this B&B apparently sold his old house in Edinburgh to JK Rowling herself a while back. I am obscurely cheered by this.