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Being as how I'm on leave for three weeks, we (me and jo&stv) just had four days up the West Coast in Riebeek Kasteel, which is a one-horse town whose notional horse is exceptionally beautiful, and is generally pleasingly empty and non-touristy. And very Afrikaans. I had a slightly surreal experience buying inordinate amounts of olive products in the olive place, realising only after the transaction ended that the nice cashier lady had addressed me entirely in Afrikaans, to which I'd responded entirely in English without actually noticing the dual language thing going. Apparently Afrikaans comprehension has settled on me, like lint.

We stayed in the same Air B'n'B we did a couple of years back, the one up on the hillside over the town, with the view from the front porch looking like this:

We did a desultory amount of wine and olive shopping, and walked a bit, and cooked or ate out, but mostly collapsed on sofas or in the pool and read a lot. It was incredibly relaxing and, with the trifling exception of pining for my kitties and the absence of wifi, good for the soul. On the upside, apparently I have enough phone data to read fanfic via a tethered Ipad, although it's probably just as well I was boycotting Tumblr in a marked manner owing to ideological miff. Also, the two latest Naomi Novik novels (Uprooted and Spinning Silver) are brilliant, kick-butt fairy tale retellings and should be read immediately by all right-thinking people. Spinning Silver in particular has a phenomenal, intricate narrative structure and does phenomenal, intelligent things with the Rumplestiltskin tale and male power and Jewish identity. Unreservedly recommended.

Stv also had the brilliant idea of mounting a half-hour's driving expedition to the wind farm which is in the far distance of the house's view. Wind farms always please me enormously in concept, because clean power, but they are also weirdly striking up close. The turbines do the oddest thing to scale: they look huge when you see them in the distance from the house, and then seem a lot smaller when you are ten minutes away, and then when you're right there they are suddenly placid giants dwarfing everything around them. I found the vibe and atmosphere they create to be enormously striking: they have a sort of serene, remote, implacable presence, towering quietly over you while retaining a self-contained distance, calmly spinning in pursuit of their own mysterious ends, to which you are clearly irrelevant. I'm not sure actual humans actually made them, it seems more likely that they are some sort of inscrutable alien entity which simply grew overnight.

I wish I could say the heavenly ray of light in this last one was a deliberate artistic choice, but it was a joyous happenstance.
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I have achieved Relative Feline Harmony! in that Pandora, who is a grumpy old thing but quite sweet and affectionate really, has more or less accepted Jyn as a member of the family, submits with commendable grace to being pounced on at intervals (they have amazing chase games thundering up and down the house) and has been known to hold her down and wash her head ferociously. Peak Acceptance was demonstrated in the Food Bowl Sharing Incident, which as far as I can work out resulted from a weird thing both cats have where they prefer to eat from the bowl on the left even if there's more food in the bowl on the right or if the bowls are identical and I swap them. Something about corners. Possibly.


Jyn continues sweet and idiosyncratic: she's weirdly uncoordinated for a cat, she still hasn't learned how to jump through windows, and she picks her way over cluttered tables and recumbent human forms with a curious lack of confidence, I think she may have balance issues. She is affectionate while retaining the feist levels which caused me to name her after a noted rebel, which means that she'll growl at you if you try to stop her doing something she wants, like run madly into the street to demonstrate her complete lack of road sense. She loves looking out of windows - her favourite spot is still on top of the piano watching the street outside - and I often catch her on my bed, thusly:


I think she hasn't worked out, lacking object permanence in significant ways, that the world she can see through the bedroom window is the same as the one she can access through the glass door into the courtyard. She gets wildly frustrated chittering at the white-eyes footling around in the ficus, but won't ever run around through the door to get closer.

This Random Unsolicited Feline Update brought to you by a subject line from the Magnetic Fields's "Irma", by way of a loose chain of free association whereby Irma waits by windows and the bowl-sharing photo contained, before I cropped them out, the be-socked feet of the photographer (me. You can tell by the blurring).

Oh, fine.

Saturday, 28 March 2015 01:44 pm
freckles_and_doubt: (South Park Self)
Apparently taking selfies makes me look grumpy and suspicious. I suspect, actually, that this job is making me grumpy and suspicious. I'm developing this pronounced frown line between my eyebrows, I shall have to practice looking more cheerful. Anyway, this is off centre because I am a complete neophyte selfie-taker and all the centred ones made me extra-grumpy and extra-suspicious.

They're nice glasses. I'm very happy with how they've turned out, or will be once I've got used to them and they've stopped rubbing the bridge of my nose. However, because he's way more photogenic, have a Still Life With Hobbit.

freckles_and_doubt: (South Park Self)
This picture came over my Tumblr feed today, and is making me subtly happy. The artist is Brenoch Adams, whose site repays a browse, lots of lovely and slightly quirky sf and computer game concept art. I love that the tall, gangling, slightly threatening robot in this portrait is so utterly subordinated to the little black girl. And I love that she's black, with the kicky hair-style: not your usual sf stereotype at all. Mostly, though, I love her expression of slightly feral glee. That girl and her robot are going to take over the world. Watch out, world.

Brenoch Adams: Robo Guard

In the spirit of the power of small girls, have a piece of fanfic which crosses Roald Dahl's Matilda with Tony Stark. No, really. From the reliably readable copperbadge, and with extra X-men diss at no extra charge.
freckles_and_doubt: (South Park Self)
I have just found three CDs in the side pocket of my Ipad case. They are unmarked, save for a small, cryptic barcode sticker. They do not play when put into a normal drive. I have absolutely no recollection of these - where they came from, who gave them to me, what they're for. I have been reading enough dodgy fanfic that I am half convinced they're a sneaky hacker ploy, and the seven seconds the one spent in my drive making meditative and abortive read noises to itself is in fact the herald of my entire system melting into slag, because unlikely superviruses. This is ridiculous. I know my memory is bad, but this is ridiculous. Who's given me CDs lately? Why? What are they? How long have they been there? What is the meaning of life?

In the Department of Memory, Lack of, Total, there's also Bartholomew's Klip. We had that lovely weekend there over Easter - five-star luxury on a game farm with nothing to do except go on desultory game drives and consume early tea and muffins and biscuits shaped like rabbits, brunch, high tea, sundowners and godlike snacks, dinner, and the shortbread and decanter of sherry in your room when you went to bed. It was bloody marvellous. The group represented that happy confluence of 8 people any one of whom was interesting to talk to in their own right and who were downright hilarious in combination, which is pretty much the definition of a good weekend, although owing to the booze flowly-freeing more or less continually, it was also extremely argumentative. (In a more than somewhat entertaining way, although I do find myself wondering what the hapless staff thought). Jo and I don't agree about feminism, but a bottle of champagne soothes all ideological ills. The food was beyond excellent. Vi pwned me at Scrabble.

I've just remembered that there are a bunch of photos of the place on my camera, and have been since Easter. A full month later, here are some, in a spirit of memorial penitence. (There are a few more on Flickr).

DSCN2645 DSCN2644 DSCN2627

Lovely old farmhouse, lots of garden space, weaver nests in the tree outside the dining room, and if you hang around on the wicker chairs on the patio reading dodgy fanfic on your Ipad for long enough, someone brings you a gin and tonic.

The landscape is also very beautiful, in that sparse, self-contained sort of way I love about the Karoo.

barts klip stitch

There were inordinate varieties of buck, but my camera skills were not up to capturing them. Also, renosterveld, and heart-warming stories about endangered tortoises and invisible Cape leopards. And my dawn and dusk camera skills have not entirely deserted me.


We slid in on an off-season half-price, and booked out the whole house (five double bedrooms for eight of us), and it was expensive but bloody worth it. A++. Will spend absurd money on again.
freckles_and_doubt: (South Park Self)
I went in to the framing place in Claremont this morning, to drop off a complicated framing job. They're lovely people, and have done good work for me in the past, but they always look at me a bit funny owing to the fact that it's a slightly classic, pedestrian sort of shop, filled with fine art reproductions and local paintings, and I usually want to frame something-or-other I've acquired off the internet. (My art tastes run decidedly pop). So it was a bit weird when the nice man recognised the Star Wars characters; he didn't know Firefly, but when I said "space western" he rather shamefacedly confessed to a love for Star Trek. (He's a Voyager enthusiast. Someone lend me Voyager.) So, in the midst of pedestrian fine art reproductions we had an animated ten-minute discussion which ranged all over Star Trek, Ridley Scott, Prometheus, Blade Runner and all the Aliens movies, of which he is a fan. It was beautifully incongruous. Our tribe, apparently is everywhere. Lurking. Where you least expect them.

I spent the rest of today grading job applications from psychologists and counsellors and social workers, oh my. The occasional pained yells were at the grammatical and stylistic solecisms in the cover letters. If I had to do this sort of thing more often (and had more authority in the process) no-one would ever get hired. Twenty years teaching university English will give you a lot of deal-breakers.

(The Firefly posters in question are these ones by Secret Alice. I love them. Have a random Captain Tightpants.)
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I am not, alas, of the cellphone generation. My phone is not a prosthetic limb, it's an occasionally useful communication device on which I probably receive more spam/sales calls than social ones. I am capable of, as I did this weekend, turning it off for a meeting on Friday morning, and suddenly and vaguely recollecting its existence on Sunday afternoon, at which point it had accumulated about eight texts and missed calls, and had caused me to leave hanging several people who were trying to visit. For which, my apologies. Note to readers: I am very firmly of the internet generation, and will infallibly read email way before I'll remember to look at my phone.

It also has a camera. I occasionally remember this, and occasionally take photos with it, and then completely forget that I've done so, until the guilt at not looking at the damned thing for three days prompts me to dig around in its innards in a spirit of enquiry and reveals all sorts of images going back months.

This was taken at the Kingston-on-Thames conference, and is a rather conflicted combination of a truly beautiful river-surmounting evening sky rendered generally exquisite by London's insane and terrifying density of aircraft vapour trails, the contemplation of which invariably gives me a punch to the solar plexus with eco-fear.

This is a stitched composite which has a chunk missing as I apparently didn't take any photo which covered that patch of sky; however, it gives a much better sense of that amazing repeated bow effect than the better but narrower stitch which is also on my Flickr.
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There's a piece of Harry Potter fanfic I read lo, these many moons ago, about which I can remember nothing except that it featured Draco Malfoy on the run through Muggle England by train. (It may, on mature reflection, have been an A. J. Hall). At some point his train stops in the middle of nowhere, and a soothing voice on the public address system advises passengers that there will be a slight delay because "there is a sheep lodged in the high-tension cables." I always thought this was pure hyperbole. Hah.

Today my otherwise calm and well-planned trek from Golders Green to Kingston was stopped for a total of about half an hour at two stations on the Northern Line, because (a) "they're still having that bit of trouble at Belsize Park" (precisely what kind of trouble history does not relate), (b) "the Fire Brigade are examining Chalk Farm station", and (c) "there's something stuck under the rails in the tunnel." It's a little disconcerting to be told all change, this train has been discontinued, please cross the platform to the other train, oops, sorry, that's also been discontinued, please cross the platform back to the first train, which has now morphed from the desired Charing Cross iteration to one that goes via Bank and is thus perfectly useless for purposes of Waterloo. (And what's with a station called "Bank", anyway? I don't know if it's meant to be taken in the financial or geographical sense, but either way, it's a sad failure of imagination).

It is, I suppose, faintly inevitable that passing through Mornington Crescent repeatedly for several days should cause hallucinatory fragments of the game to circle vaguely and continuously through my skull.

I managed in the end to change at Camden Town without undue trauma, and there was a lovely taxi at Kingston Station who took me and my suitcase (which is, I have to say, doing that inexplicable suitcase thing of becoming heavier and more overfull despite the fact that I'm actually taking stuff out of it rather than adding) to the B&B. It's a slightly downmarket B&B, rooms not en suite, but chintzy and comfy and right on the mighty river Thames, which this evening looked like this, with added swans, sculls and vapour trails:

Achievement Unlocked: Visit All London-Resident Ex-Boyfriends Whose Names Begin with A. (My romantic history has some strangely specific trends, at least in the geo-alphabetical sense). I had lovely lunches with lovely people on Monday and Tuesday, and [ profile] egadfly and Iza were princely hosts (the latter allowing me to feel useful by assisting her to cut up and laminate untold oodles of stuff for her class full of teeny titchy kiddies, which is absolutely the closest I care to get to kiddies, teeny-titchy, for the use of, en masse, and was rather fun).

Oh, yes. *speaks urgently into Secret Service wrist-mike, à la Chuck*: [ profile] wolverine_nun, I am happy to report that the bok has bumpied. Repeat: the bok has bumpied. *skulks off*.
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I am a sad fangirl. I still get an unholy kick out of sharing a birthday with Joss, who is 50 this year and still comfortingly older than I am, and who moreover validates my fangirling utterly not only by intelligently being born on the same date I was, but by producing things like The Avengers, thus neatly conflating several of my personal fixations. (I shall leave identifying the exact fixations as an exercise for the reader).

I have had a lovely birthday, doing not much in an entirely self-indulgent way - playing computer games (which is no different to a lot of other days, then, but without the guilt), eating chocolate, chatting to random lovely friends who dropped by for one reason or another, and going out to dinner with the usual crew to La Mouette, whose winter special tasting menu is a damn fine thing. There is still a ridiculous amount of chocolate in the house.

The computer games have not been materially assisted by the affectionate nature of the Hobbit, whose favoured position is recorded for posterity below. I need my right hand in Amalur for moving forward, parrying, swapping weapons and chugging healing potions, so it's not an entirely felicitous confluence of cat and gamer. The aching wrist from the heavy Hobbit-head, however, neatly balances the aching wrist on the mouse hand from clicking "attack" and clenching all my muscles while I swear.

I should point out that the weird brown box/paper thing behind Hobbit's left ear is my Evil Landlord's idea of a good birthday present, which is to wander into Tomes, the larney chocolate place in the Waterfront, and request two of every kind of dark chocolate they have except the ones with coconut. He is a civilised man and knows me well. Have also scored tea and chocolate biscuits, groovy clothes, cute cat-toys, interesting plants and umpteen wishes from people all over the show, for which my happy, grateful thanks.

the empty sky

Sunday, 20 May 2012 08:32 am
freckles_and_doubt: (Default)
Scotland is beautiful. Cold, and bleak, and windswept, and beautiful. Apparently these are the sands from the race in Chariots of Fire. The local industries appear to consist of education, golf and Chariots of Fire jokes.

The St. Andrews cathedral is a rather picturesque ruin, having been abandoned during the Reformation, after which it spent the next few centuries gently falling down. Its slightly unusual position right on the sea probably had something to do with this. The wind off that sea is, as the Scots say, a bit stroppy.

A feature of our Saturday morning stroll around the town was the unexpected American harrier hawk, with attendant falconer, parked off on a park railing. Apparently the falconer has seven of them, which he keeps strategically tethered to rooftops in the town to prevent the seagulls from nesting. This probably works rather well: a harrier hawk is one of your more disagreeable raptors (in the photo it's objecting to a passing labrador). When not tethered on rooftops, they're flown on the golf course to combat the undermining of the greens by rabbits and moles, which I should imagine they also do rather efficiently.

Unfortunately, proximity to a falconer and bird apparently makes me cry. I miss my dad.

I now face the next 24 hours in airports and aircraft, to fortify myself for which I will now descend and partake of an enormous Scottish breakfast, although without the black pudding. See you in Cape Town.
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The bird life in this garden is vaguely increasing, most notably in the case of the hadeda who has spent portions of the weekend sitting on the highest point of the house roof and whooping meditatively to himself in the approximate tones of someone being slightly distractedly murdered by inches. I blame global warming, myself.

Unusually, I can't also blame the cats for the unhappy dove corpse I found on the front doorstep the other day: it had clearly broken its silly neck flying into the big dining room window, and was moreover otherwise intact. If the cats get hold of a dove or pigeon it always explodes into approximately ten cubic metres of feathers all over the house, in an area effect which is in no way in keeping with the small size of the bird. I think it's something to do with quantum.

I am saddened by dead ring-necked doves, they're pretty and inoffensive creatures who are not prone to the slightly lobotomised, avian snickering of pigeons. What I have found, very weirdly, however, is that the dead dove appears to have left an absolutely perfectly bird-shaped impact mark on the window. I have spent all weekend wandering out there at intervals and attempting to photograph it, from a variety of angles and in a variety of lights. This was last night, and seems the most successful: while it's not a great photo, I'm pleased with the detail.

It's a rather pleasingly strange and ghostly phenomenon.
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Jumping through all the hoops set by the British in the visa obstacle course has caused me to go back to old blog posts in order to work out where and when I travelled at various points in the last decade. (Couldn't find my old passport, so thank heavens for the online diary). This has vouchsafed to me the revelation that I used to post an awful lot more photos than I do currently. I'm not sure why, although I suspect the post-exhaustion reconfiguration of my working day not to start at 7am has cut out a lot of the early-morning-Common shots, alas.

Thus, in mitigation, have some random cats. This photo demonstrates, variously, (a) the beautiful colour graduations in our feline population, (b) a slightly illusory instance of their actual and amicable co-existence, (c) something of the reason behind all the jokes about the Left Wing of the Evil Landlord's Bed, (d) the ineradicable fact that I still haven't got this focus thing quite down, and (e) ears.

Working at home is very civilised. I am contentedly noodling through a week's worth of plaintive student plaints, putting out fires with no more interruptions than the occasional need to replenish the tea supplies, dodge the nice charlady's vaccuuming endeavours, and wind the clock.
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The two Egyptian geese who spend a lot of their time posing on the chimney of the residence opposite my office window are clearly a couple. This morning they've been rootling around in the res garden with a whole outbreak of baby goslings. It's ridiculously cute, although possibly unwarrantedly early. The weather has been unseasonably warm in the last couple of weeks, but you know Cape Town still has hailstorms up her sleeve. Poor fluffy birdies.

While we're on the subject of things variously avian, [ profile] first_fallen, who is a Mad Knitter in spades, gave me a pair of beautiful knitted fingerless gloves for my birthday, with a cable-stitched wol pattern. In purple. I adore them. She wanted to put a photo on her Ravelry project page, so I set out to take one. A spot of fuffling around revealed that they didn't photograph at all well without hands in them, so I was faced with the interesting challenge of trying to work out how to hold the camera and photograph both my own hands at the same time. In the event, this entailed:

  1. Placing camera on top of a pile of books, carefully judged for height, on my desk.
  2. Placing black cloth over monitor and holding hands up in front of it.
  3. Adjusting distance of camera to frame hands correctly.
  4. Slowly and carefully pushing the camera button with my chin while not moving my hands at all.
  5. Repeating ad nauseam with various blurry or out-of-frame results, then giving up and asking stv to take the photos. (This resulted in a 45-minute photo shoot in which my hands in gloves were carefully posed in fifteen different positions against five different artistic backdrops, including Jo's tweed jacketed back).

They're lovely gloves. But I am fighting a desire to sew little black beads onto all their eyes, just because.

Image obviously by stv, aka Max Barners. Closeup of wols here, for all you mad knitters.
freckles_and_doubt: (Default)
I really am a fundamentally law-abiding creature, which is useful when in hospital for ten days, because it means I have a tendency to trust structure. Hospitals can be confining and intrusive, what with the rules and the bed-baths and the searching personal questions about your bowel movements, but mostly I found it reassuring. If my knee has to Go Evil and mount a flank attack on my lungs, at least I'm in the right place and all the right highly-trained people are around to repel it appropriately. Likewise, even in ICU my feeling was not "aargh could have life-threatening embolism at any moment", but a sort of calmly fatalistic sense that I was being Looked After in an agreeably high-tech and beeping-machine way, and that if a Great White Whale blood clot did actually surface, either they'd deal with it or it couldn't be dealt with. Either way, there didn't seem much point in worrying about it, so I didn't.

I'm not sure if this makes me ridiculously unimaginative, ridiculously well-adjusted, or inherently fatalist, but there it is. I darkly suspect that me being in hospital was actually harder, emotionally speaking, on my family and friends than it was on me.

As an enjoyable offshoot of this "takes pleasure from structure" thing, I spent most of the morning happily constructing the Lego version of Hagrid's hut, which was the EL's birthday present to me, and seems to be ideally suited to my current state of convalescent brain-deadness. This process causes my mother to laugh at me a lot and make comments about her "sweet little daughter" playing with her toys, but once again, this fails to penetrate my calm. I like Lego, and the jig-saw-like process of construction has perfectly obvious and abstract satisfactions about which I decline to be embarassed in any way whatsoever. Besides, I can fire back with a beautifully accurate guilt trip about never having had Lego as a child owing to sanctions and the family state of brokeness, so we're about even.

Being at home again is, for some reason, giving me really odd dreams - or possibly it's the result of the more than usually insane amount of reading I've been doing (seven Patricia McKillips in a row has to be good for something). Saturday night: wandering around a medieval village festival in the snow, being a young blonde thing having an affair with JRR Tolkien, and listening to his sadness about his distant Elven wife. Last night: being, for some reason, a beauty contestant, attending complicated gala dinners in giant shopping malls. Mostly, I think, this one was about being able to move.

Obligatory Reverse Inside-Out Australia Blog photograph: I found Sydney, while rather lovely in its waterfront nature and beautiful skies, incredibly glitzy and touristy and ultimately somewhat heartless. I was in quite a lot of pain by the end of the trip and didn't do a lot of sightseeing, but there was a Wildlife World park thingy quite close to the hotel, so I managed to pack koalas and kangaroos and wallabies and duck-billed platypi, oh my, into a fairly quick limp around. Not in any way an authentic experience, I really wish I could have gone out into the country, but still rather fun. This shot, with the koalas sleeping improbably and uncomfortably up bits of stick right against the cityscape, exemplifies the experience for me.
freckles_and_doubt: (Default)
Hospital food is truly terrible. Or, at least, food in this hospital is truly terrible. I have choked down about a quarter of what they give me, on average. Today's lunch was "sweet 'n sour" chicken, which tasted almost but not quite completely unlike sweet n'sour chicken. It was served on spaghetti. With a gem squash on the side. Honestly, it would be endearing, how hard they try for interesting food, if the results weren't so perfectly balanced between bland, stodge, glutinous and weird. Also, never order the fish. *shudder*

The hospital food thing seems unusually cruel in that I have been, over the last couple of weeks, subjected to a bewildering array of dreadful airline food and excellent Australian food in rapid succession. Gawsh, but the Aussies take their food seriously. Our delegation was wont to wander out fairly randomly and pick the first restaurant we saw, which netted us, in order, superlative Chinese, excellent Greek, superlative Spanish tapas, excellent Moroccan and superlative Indian. Even the arb hotel breakfasts had a create-your-own pancake option. On the other hand, Qantas does some cruel and unusual things to innocent beef, which is served in small, gelatinous cubes. I have culinary whiplash.

The hospital food is really not an issue, anyway, as I have approximately the appetite of a small bird at the moment. Other than that, clearly perceptibly cheered by the arrival of my mother in Cape Town, I am feeling much better - chest pains minimal, leg pain down to "ouch" rather than "aargh" levels when I try to stand. If I can refrain from throwing out any new, exciting symptoms when the nice doctor examines me tomorrow morning, I may be able to go home. The current definition of "home" is "that exciting mirage on the horizon which they keep showing you, then withdrawing, before poking you lots with sharp things." I fear it's official, and my knees actually hate me.

You seem to be getting the Australia trip inside-out, on the instalment plan. The tapas restaurant in Melbourne was in this fascinating little alley given entirely over to graffiti. It was one of the approximately 386 times this trip when I wished I was stv, to do it justice.

lurgi strikes back!

Tuesday, 28 June 2011 11:17 am
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So, here I am in Brisbane, all about to beset you round with dismal stories. Brisbane is very pretty and has a rather nice vibe, and the considerable contingent of Durbanites in our group keep exclaiming "But it's so like Durban!" at random intervals. I might have to strangle them quite soon, although otherwise they're rather nice people.

Arriving here was not without quiet incident. The Cape Town/Joburg leg went fine, but the volcano gods are still doing their thing, necessitating the Australia/Joburg flights taking a giant detour which sticks a few hours and a refuelling trip onto the journey. Our plane arrived late from its previous flight, and lifted off the tarmac at 10.15 instead of 6.15, which means we missed the connecting flight from Sydney to Brisbane and had to take the 9pm one instead of the 4pm one. We trekked into the hotel at about 11.30 in the evening, weaving a little from that curious way in which the better part of a day folds up neatly into hyperspace when you're not looking. So this is jet-lag, is it? Huh. Actually not as bad as I expected, possibly because I seem to be a deeply photo-sensitive creature, and my battered bod goes 'Oh, ok, dark, then? let's sleep" in a relatively obliging sort of fashion. It remains to be seen what the return trip will do.

Of course, the ability to die promptly last night probably had not a little to do with (a) the fitful doze on the plane, (b) the oodles of drugs, and (c) making absolutely the appearance you rather hoped he wouldn't, Sid the Sinus Headache. For "headache" here please read "giant sinus infection sneaking south into the chest": the mild sinusoid lurgi I thought was over earlier this week has taken on a new lease of life under the rigours of inter-continental travel. Not only does my head pound and my body feel as though it's been pounded, but it hurts to breathe, and I have one of those amazing La-Bohème-style hacking coughs which has been intruding at intervals into the full day of meetings we had today. I sit in the corner trying desperately to suppress it while looking miserable and ineffectually attempting to interject occasional sensible comments. I have now, however, procured (in default of any ability to play a brass band instrument) the requisite Giant Evil Pink Bottle of Cough Mixture, and propose to go to bed early in a drugged-out haze.

On the slightly less pessimistic and plague-addled side, the Australian university people we met today have been uniformly lovely, and this city has some sort of weird vibe thing going which causes me to feel strangely at home almost instantly. Also, it has a giant river of the great-grey-green-greasy variety (one of the people we met today lost her house and car to the floods), and truly beautiful bridges.

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At home sick today, the sinus headache having got to the well-known and counterproductive point where it laughs at painkillers and causes me to not actually be able to see straight. A quiet day mostly horizontal, or bumping gently into things when cautiously vertical, seems to have seen it off. Mostly. Glandular stuff still gnawing at my neck. Also watched about five episodes of Castle, which continues cute, although Adrian Pasdar is inspiring me with a strong desire to kick him. Given that it was ungodly and stinking hot today, it's something of a relief not to have had to leave the house. I also seem to have been making serious strides in the not-feeling-guilty-for-taking-a-sick-day stakes: (a) it's more productive in the long run to actually rest, it just lingers for longer if I don't, and (b) after the stresses of the last month, I've bloody well earned it in more ways than one. Dammit.

Today's little piece of futility was to discover, on wandering out into the back courtyard in a lucid moment, that a misguided spider had, overnight, spun an elaborate and beautiful web across the door to the laundry shed. This is a terrible photo, my head was muzzy and the sun is all wrong, but it gives you a sense of the complexity of the structure. Little bugger must have toiled all bloody night.

Just as well I did tried to photograph it, because three seconds later, just as I was constructing detailed and labyrinthine plans for only ever doing laundry the long way round through the other door in future, Hobbit took a wild swing at the spider with one paw and ripped the whole edifice apart. I feel that this is deeply symbolic of something, I'm not sure quite what.

More importantly, I've always known the nursery rhyme referenced in my subject line as "Incy Wincy Spider". I believe strange and mutant variations exist out there, though. Any "Itsy Bitsy Spider" heretics out there? How do you reconcile it with your conscience?
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You may be aware, as per this post, of the array of kittie-photos on top of the TV cabinet - the full set currently comprises Todal, Golux, Ounce and the late, lamented Fish. Discerning witterers will immediately note the absence of Hobbit, which is because (a) I don't have another one of those frames, and (b) I don't take sufficiently good photos to have one I'd be happy displaying in that august company. (None of them are by me). The Evil Landlord is promising to make me a fifth frame "sometime in the next two years", which at least starts to address (a), and (b) had its hash summarily settled this weekend, when [ profile] maxbarners of photographic legend and song came around for a Hobbit-focused photoshoot.

I now have 41 Hobbit photos, any one of which would rather more than adequately fill the currently notional fifth frame. This is clearly a tribute to the skill of the photographer, but the sad truth is that I also have a ridiculously photogenic cat. He's cute! He's goofy!

He's really quite devastatingly beautiful. (This one's going onto the TV cabinet).

And he badly needs a LOLcat caption.

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I'm at home today. Annotating board schedules. 'Tis the season of course-counting, imprecations, mindless tedium, and the tendency to break off at intervals to shake my tiny fist at an uncaring academic system which refuses to use computers for their good and proper function, viz. counting boring stuff accurately. Bleah.

It's a horrendous time of year. Last night I dreamed I made a careless remark to the admin staff about BA Fine Art portfolios (required as part of applications), as a result of which they beamingly conducted me to a smallish lecture theatre they'd lovingly crammed with all the Fine Art applicants, waving their portfolios, plus all the Fine Art staff off on the sidelines watching, with a certain amount of eye-rolling and foot-tapping. It was, apparently, my task to assess all the portfolios. Next door an identical lecture theatre was crammed with ditto for the BA in Theatre and Performance, except they all had their auditions ready. I spent an interminable time rushing between the lecture theatres trying to find more chairs, while wailing "but I'm not qualified for this!", to the silent but resentful agreement of all the watching academics. Later I found myself in art classes, gluing bits of paper tastefully to each other.

My job hates me, and wants to break my brain. My brain hates my job, and wants me to suffer.

I'll just vanish into my 1.6cm-thick pile of double-sided printouts (I just measured it) with the traditional muffled squeak, then. If I never emerge, someone feed the Hobbit, he's taken to eating the bathmat.

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Bother. If I hadn't used that particular DR & Quinch quote for the subject line of my last post, I could have used it for this one. Oh, well. As it turns out, DR & Quinch have a quote for everything.

You may have seen that BoingBoing link to the shooting gallery photographs: one Dutch woman has gone to a shooting gallery almost every year since 1936, and shot at a target which automatically takes a photograph of her. In these sequenced photos, united by the repeating image of her stance with the fairground rifle, you have her life from a teenager to a determined 88-year-old who still goes and takes her shot, year after year. On one level it's the most amazing catalogue of history: pre-war, the significant gap in photographs 1939-45, then post-war, through the fifties and sixties and seventies, with all the concomitant changes. The interesting thing is how the people around her change: all the kids' fashions in their 70s and 80s glory, and the shooting gallery surrounds gradually filling up with cheap plastic mass-produced junk. She doesn't change, much. She gets older, but apparently your style is fairly set by your younger days. Particularly, I suspect, if you're strong-minded enough to stick to this kind of tradition in the teeth of all odds.

On another level the sequence is fascinating because of its documentation of technology: early black-and-white photographs, gradually morphing into cheap, over-exposed colour, and then better colour, and around her people are caught more and more often raising cameras of their own. In the last decade onlookers have video cameras, suggesting not only the ubiquity of the technology, but, by inference, the development of media interconnectedness - after all these years the ritual has become notable enough that she has a fan club, her annual gesture has become the stuff of contemporary media sound-bytes.

On yet another level, I am floored by this on in fairly emotional terms - partly, I think, because her clothing and body-shape and general air of cussed determination remind me of my own grandmothers, who were both ladies of personality perfectly capable of sticking to their guns, if you'll forgive the awful pun, to this degree. But above all, this is a testament to continuity, to the possibility of return and permanence which reminds us how increasingly such an annual return becomes impossible in the bulk of modern lives, particularly ours in Africa. I could not have gone to the same place every year since I was sixteen to record a photograph. I'm unusual in that I could actually have gone to the same place since I was about nineteen, since I've been in Cape Town all that time, but it would have to be a fairly immoveable landmark. I can't think of any sideshow attraction which would have endured that long, through all the political and economic and cultural changes we have undergone. A lot of my friends and family couldn't have done it, either, they've been all over the world at one time or another. We are far more rootless these days, drifting between towns and continents at the drop of a hat; it's not only that one small fairground sideshow is unlikely to keep going, it's that we're unlikely to be there to patronise it.

So the whole thing segues quite neatly into the other BoingBoing link this morning, which was to Douglas Coupland's radical pessimist's guide to the next ten years: the two articles are fascinating read in conjunction. Our present already feels as though it shifts and changes faster than we can catch up with; the future, he says, is going to feel even faster than it does now. On some level this is exciting, but at the same time there's a sense of nostalgic regret for the kind of life where a woman can raise a toy rifle and take a picture in the same place as an annual tradition for over seventy years. Perhaps I'd find it dull, but there's a part of me which envies her her life, and her times.


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