Saturday, 30 June 2007

Professors on the loose

I worked on the tills at M&S to earn some money when I finished my PhD. It's a sort of matriarchy there, probably loosely based on the WI. It was great because if, for example, an old lady came by who had a lot of shopping and was struggling, you could call up a young man from the loading bay to help her carry things to the car park, thus gratifying two powerful human impulses: the desire to help people, and the desire to order people around. And on the whole the customers there are quite polite. We got a lot of elderly people in and the queue behind would wait patiently while they hunted through their change or wrote out cheques in tortuous longhand. I was putting one old lady's shopping through one time when she suddenly remembered that she had got the wrong sort of milk, because the grandchildren were coming to stay, and they liked full-fat not skimmed. So I called up a young man to sort out the milk situation, thinking she was rather an old dear, and then she handed me her credit card and the name on it was U. Dronke. Suddenly I realised that I had met her before: she was Professor Ursula Dronke, an extremely sharp scholar. I had recently heard her give a very good joint lecture with her husband, Professor Peter Dronke; they're one of those old-fashioned scholarly couples where both are very good but the wife is the scarier of the two, with a mind like the jaws of a bulldog.

Today I went into Pret to get lunch. There were quite a few late middle-aged couples in their anoraks there who had gone in to get a cup of tea out of the rain. Squeezing past to nab a Classic Tuna sandwich I suddenly realised that one of the men there was one of the most eminent Professors I know. For a moment I wondered if it was my conscience paying tricks on me, because he ought really to be in Chicago or New York, and I owe him a major piece of work, deadline end of June, which I need to polish off this afternoon and e-mail off. He was there with his equally eminent Professor spouse, who is very nice but rather frightening -- she used to be a nun. Really these people shouldn't be allowed to wander the streets startling us at the weekends. (And I ought to stop displacement-activitying and get on with the work I owe him.)

Friday, 29 June 2007


It's a shame I couldn't go to Bec. If I were there I would have sung compline by now. It closes with Salve Regina, to an old plainsong melody, and asperging. Otherwise it's all in French, including the Psalms; it's a very good language to chant quietly, with its growly 'r's and soft 'j's:
Sur le fauve et la vipère tu marcheras . tu fouleras le lionceau et le dragon
Puisqu'il s'attache à moi, je l'affranchis . je l'exalte puisqu'il connaît mon nom.
It's very peaceful there. I wish I could have gone.

Nonetheless, I'm also glad that I stayed to look after my rats. They are being very friendly at the moment; I think the antibiotics are making them feel a bit more themselves. Muesli is beginning to put some weight on again, and for the first time in quite a while she climbed up onto my shoulder, leant on my chin, and started making the teeth-chattery noise which is the rat equivalent of purring. It seems like there's not really much meaning to caring about things if you don't give things up for them.

Thursday, 28 June 2007


Even if we've lost Scrubs, TV is still great. My Name is Earl is excellent happy television. I have also been catching up with Rome, which I missed yesterday because of graduation dinner. It has HBO swearing, full frontal nudity, exotically-coloured poisons, and gratuitous references to baboon training. Yay!

That shark

The pre-credits teaser of the new season of Scrubs has only just finished and I'm already worried that it has jumped the proverbial.

Tuesday, 26 June 2007

Abjuro te!

I abjured the Church Times some while ago, but in a moment of weakness after lunch today I picked it up again. I had only got to page 5 before it annoyed me very much and I have now reabjured it. There was a story of how young mothers are less likely than older mothers to want their children to grow up with religious values. Apparently we should be upset about this. But who on earth wants their children to grow up with "religious values"? I'm not even sure what religious values are -- a proper respect for the household gods, maybe. Tony Blair has religious values. If I had children I would want them to have Christian faith, and I would want them to question things. I'd rather they were atheists than that they attended church through faithless piety.

I texted my mother this Christmas from the Church of the Holy Sepulchre in Jerusalem, which was distressing me, and she texted back "Avoid religion where possible; it's the relationship that matters". This is because my mother is quite wise.

Anyway, I think I might have to give up on the idea of posting happy things, and reserve this blog as the place where I rant about things that annoy me. The web-related concept of trolling is a good one, I think, for describing the media as a whole, and there's sadly no reason why the Church Times wouldn't join in.

Monday, 25 June 2007

I heart my rats

One of the endearing things about rats is that sometimes, when you're offering them a treat, they stretch out to take it, and with their mouth open, just millimetres from the yogurt drop or whatever, they pause and look at you sideways, as if to say, What's in this for you? Cats tend to be all Of course you adore me, while dogs are more Of course I adore you, but rats sometimes stop and wonder what's really going on. You can't say that's not very lovable.

Sunday, 24 June 2007

Plea for help

If by some chance you have read James Wilson's The Woman in the Picture and understand whether or not her mother killed herself and if so why and if not what happened then could you let me know? I was enjoying it til it suddenly ended without telling me; it made me feel all stupid, and that's really not the point of reading Borders 3-for-2 novels.

In other entertainment news, the first half of the Rihanna album is the better. Some of the songs are a bit Nelly Furtado and some a bit Kanye West; I'm betting Timbaland was involved and whoever produced Kanye West too (maybe Mr West himself, I don't know). "Don't Stop the Music" is absolutely brilliant -- it has this excellent beat like the sound of loud music on the other side of a door. It has gone to the top of my itunes favourites playlist, together with the Freemasons remix of Beyonce and Shakira's "Beautiful Liar". (Don't listen to any version which wasn't mixed by the Freemasons.) Between them they're helping me not to lose the will to live as I tackle the Old English boundary clauses of the charters of Wilton Abbey, one of those unpleasant tasks in which you know you're bound to make a total fool of yourself. It's going to take a lot of hard work and a lot of knowledgeable help before I can even get them into a state in which they can bearably be sent to some experts to have the errors pointed out. This is because there are people out there who really care about boundary clauses. They are not necessarily the same people as the ones who really care about Tolkien, but they share some attributes.

Saturday, 23 June 2007

It seemed that out of battle I escaped

Now I have to go and find out my students' results. I've been looking after about a fifth of my department this year, and vicariously caring about their results has given me nasty flashbacks to my own results experiences. First year wasn't fun because my boyfriend got a 2.i not a first, which made him grumpy. I bought him a nice runny camembert, but somehow this failed to make it all OK. My whole second year was unpleasant, and I just stayed in bed until someone phoned me to tell me the results at about half past two, and then I went back to bed again. This worked well: I would recommend it as a strategy. But in my third year I went down to the boards alone, feeling as pressured as I ever have in my life, because unless I got a first I was not ever going to get funding to do an MPhil. I had to recite poetry in my mind to stop it exploding -- as I recall it was Strange Meeting by Wilfrid Owen as I was walking past WHSmith's. If my mind had exploded I don't know what I would have done -- run about the streets waving my arms shouting The horror! The horror! perhaps -- I'm amazed one doesn't see more students doing that at this time of year. Anyway I got the first, so it was OK, but the sheer terror of the whole thing is still vivid in my memory ten years later.

It would have made a big difference to my life. Most likely I would then have become an actuary. Although they like you to have a scientific degree I had looked into it and some firms would be happy with my predominantly-science A-levels. It's about seven years' training, so I don't feel it's really an option at my age, but by now I would have been qualified, established, earning pretty large amounts of money... I'm sure I would have regretted not knowing more about medieval manuscripts, but I'm also sure I would have been quite fine. I would probably have eventually done some evening classes, like the ones run by the wonderful Michelle Brown in London, and by now I might have been looking into a career-break self-funded masters. Or maybe I would have gone another direction -- hieroglyphs or cuneiform, perhaps.

I know with complete certainty that I would have been alright -- maybe even better because of not being exposed to the particular unhealthy neuroses of academia. That's a good thing to bear in mind when I check my students' results, I think. It makes me sad to think of all the stress we put the students through here, to drive them on to achieve things which are good but not of overriding importance.

Another picture

Clearing up the next day

Friday, 22 June 2007

A picture

This is a grab from the Corpus webcam, showing the May Ball.

Thursday, 21 June 2007

Now that's a fridge

So it doesn't have a temperature indicator on it, but the shelves feel cold and the milk is no longer chewy. Yay!

In other news I am enjoying the Rihanna album. I feel like I shouldn't somehow, but then life's a bit short to feel guilty about things that aren't actually morally wrong. Wikipedia has a picture of her with an umberella.

Also good was the first episode of the second season of Rome, the TV series. A list of historical errors is available on wikipedia, including things like "it is historically unlikely that these two ladies talked to each other at this point", for fact-spotters.

Tuesday, 19 June 2007


I've just bought a little icon off ebay described as "three wise men with animals", which is a nice description of the Holy Trinity with the signs of the evangelists.

Also on ebay, I really wanted this handmade congratulation from Miranda July, but it's gone out of my price range.

Sunday, 17 June 2007


There's an excellent series of murder mysteries which have this particular episode where two attractive young lawyers, Selina and Julia, go to a louche party as part of their investigations of the death of an heiress's cousin. On arriving they almost immediately regret it -- the music is loud, the lighting low, people in various states of undress are indulging in wild behaviour, and alcohol and even stronger intoxicants are pressed upon them. They partake, perhaps unwisely, of what our Welsh cousins call "y mwg drwg". Julia tells the story later; at this point, she says, Selina shocked her greatly by throwing off all social constraint, and giving herself over entirely to pleasure. She took from her handbag a small hardback copy of Pride and Prejudice, and sat on a sofa reading it, ignoring all conversational attempts.

I'm being a bit like this at the moment, ruthlessly not doing social things I don't want to do.

The books are by Sarah Caudwell, and are great, though you might not like them if you dislike things which are arch, like Stephen Fry's The Liar, or Kyril Bonfiglioli's Mortdecai books. Her detective, Hilary Tamar, solves crimes using the principles of textual criticism, which is quite cool if you've studied textual criticism, though I do realise that's a pretty niche market.

Friday, 15 June 2007

Happy birthday to me

Today is St Eadburh's day. She was a saint of Winchester, daughter of King Edward the Elder, who at the age of three was given the choice between a nun's habit and a princess's robe, and chose the habit. Her life went on from there in similar vein. The same tale is told of St Edith, who made the choice at age two, and I'm afraid Eadburh has always seemed to me like one of those saints about whom not much was known, and who therefore attracted pale copies of other people's stories. (I edited the life of another one, St Cuthburh, an echo of St Æthelthryth, for my M.Phil.) Not that there's anything wrong with shared stories. In the anonymous Life of Gregory the Great written at Whitby, probably by a nun, there's an excellent bit where the author says that if she has attributed anything to Gregory which was actually done by another saint it doesn't matter because we are all members together of the body of Christ.

It's also St Vitus's day, he of the spasmodic dance of death.

I've got the portiforium of St Wulfstan out, one of my favourite books of all time. According to a fourteenth-century inscription it was the portiforium of St Oswald, but it was obviously written after Oswald's death, besides containing hymns to St Oswald, which would be unholily arrogant of him to have carried around with him... The fact that it is now associated with the more plausible St Wulfstan instead says a lot about the human tendency to anchor objects to well-known figures, and see the past in terms of people. (I don't think there's so very much wrong with that either.) St Wulfstan is another lovable saint. He was bishop of Worcester and by far the longest-lasting Anglo-Saxon bishop after the Conquest -- famous to palaeographers is the 1080-something Canterbury profession where all the bishops write their names in small crabbed Norman hands except for Wulfstan with his beautiful round Anglo-Caroline minuscule. He was also a bit of a loony. Fond as he was of King Harold II, he saw the Norman Conquest as a judgement on the English nobility for wearing their hair too long. He used to carry a small pair of scissors around with him and cut the hair of young men who he felt needed it. (He'd cut off one lock, confident that they would then get the rest trimmed to match.) The Normans with their pudding-basin haircuts obviously deserved to inherit the land. (This is disturbingly like Rimmer's theory on warfare in Red Dwarf.) But he took his pastoral roles very seriously, and rode around the countryside preaching to ordinary people, baptising, and doing other stuff than sitting about eating in his palace. When they built the great Norman cathedral at Worcester, Wulfstan is said to have cried -- he said, we are tearing down the house of saints to replace it with our own works.

His portiforium is great, whether or not it's really his. The calendar contains his obit, added on the 20th January; Obitus pie memorie domni Wlstani episcopi. The script is wonderful late static Anglo-Caroline, and the ruling is a complete mess. Whoever went through removing the word "pope" as required by the Reformation-era Act for the Suppression of Superstitious Books and Monuments, did so rather carelessly. All in all my favourite sort of book.

Thursday, 14 June 2007

Separated at birth?

Mr Kidd just sent me this:

Great apes

A while back I read lots of stuff on animal intelligence, and the idea of animal culture, including an interesting book called The Ape and the Sushi Master. The reference in the title is to the way that a trainee sushi chef spends years watching the master at work before even trying to make sushi, and is apparently then pretty good at it from the off.

The thing that surprised me in the book was the author's definition of culture as something which was of material benefit to the animals involved. He was looking at different groups of apes with different ways of obtaining the same foods with basic tools like a stripped twig. But I think that culture among humans could almost be defined as not having a material benefit. What have I gained from reading War and Peace? I've gained a lot in some indefinable way, but it hasn't increased the protein in my diet. Examinations of grooming habits seemed much more like culture to me -- there was some fascinating stuff about a group of zoo apes who held hands while grooming each other and then developed a very distinctive habit of clasping their hands together above their heads while grooming, and the way that this habit was taken up by new apes joining the group, and sometimes spread by apes who went to other zoos.

Anyhoo, the point is that the idea of learning by looking was making me happy this morning, as I was checking out a manuscript for damage. Usually I'm such a responsible manuscript reader that I wouldn't order one up without a sound reason for needing to see it, and I would have digested the basic bibliography on the stuff and know all about it, etc. Checking things out for damage means I have only a very basic sense of what they are beforehand. Today I had something which I think is Luxeuil minuscule, definitely Merovingian. It's distressing how challenging it is just to read that sort of stuff, let alone decide anything else about it. I think it's from the eighth century, and it might be from Corbie. The g is definitely where Caroline got its g from. I wonder whether the initials, with their cheerful large-eyed birds, had any influence on Type-II initials from England? It's quite Insular, this stuff, that is it has the sorts of features which might more popularly be called 'Celtic', with interlace, strange animals, and red dotting around initials. It's quite Insular in its extravagance, too, a sort of sense of letters doing more than just conveying words.

Monday, 11 June 2007

Happy thoughts

I'm afraid this blog has become very bad-tempered. I haven't even got any good reason for it as I have tons less marking than most people and much less than last year. Maybe it's my forthcoming 31st birthday. My mother, who usually asks me what I want for a present, is insisting that this year she is going to buy me some sensible shoes, and has sent me a sensible shoe catalogue so I can make my choice. I had to negotiate hard to prevent her stipulating that they had to be sensible sandals... But usually I find this sort of thing funny, so I don't know why I'm being all irritable about it. Mothers are allowed to worry about their children in strange and creative ways.

And I should say, I'm not against marriage as such -- it's not something I'd put on my list of where I see myself in ten years' time, but then, as Michael Ball put it, Love Changes Everything -- who knows what the future will bring, &c. I just get bad-tempered when people act as though the subtitle to my life is "Rebecca's search for a man" rather than "Rebecca's attempts to live honestly while exercising her brain in some way".

So to make up for bad-temperedness I am putting below a nice picture of some flowers. This is Rosa cymosa var. Rebecca Rushforth, flowering outside my parents' house. It has pretty vicious thorns. My Dad named the variety after me quite a long time ago. I think he found it in Bhutan. It amuses him greatly to refer to the plant as me, and say things like "You're looking a bit straggly this year".

Sunday, 10 June 2007

Impertinence makes me angry

At my brother's wedding three people asked me when I was going to get married, and at one level I felt rather good about this as it was precisely the number I had predicted when chatting to my brother beforehand. Of course on another level it annoyed me immensely -- not least because one of those times I was with my cousin Jo, who unlike me is rather keen on the whole getting married and sprogging up thing, and who is sensitive about her singleness.

It's amazing how often people will ask you these things. I brought my ex-boyfriend in to the first feast I ever went to in college, and a few weeks later at dinner one of the other fellows asked me why I hadn't married him. Which is some chutzpah if you ask me. I dislike it most when it happens in a religious context. I was about the only teenage girl I knew who didn't assume she was going to get married and make a home, and I expressed this opinion in my church youth group when I was about fifteen. The curate who led it thought me very strange but as a favour found for me a book he thought I'd like. It had a byline about "the increasing numbers of Christian women who through no fault of their own are finding themselves single". I smiled sweetly and said Thankyou. And I went on a retreat early this year where we all had to go up one by one to be prayed for, and when I went up the leader prayed for me "to love again". This was someone I had met two days before and hardly talked to since. He knew nothing about me (at least if he did he didn't get it from me). Unfortunately it was right at the end of the retreat so I couldn't work up the courage to ask him about it, and it made me boilingly furious for a couple of weeks. (This is the problem with the church: it's so often two steps forward, one and a half steps back.)

I'm thinking I ought to get proactive about it -- I need a good story in reserve, because hardly anyone who asks that sort of thing deserves a proper answer. Something like, I have vowed not to marry until the return of the true Stuart kings to the throne of England; or I can only marry the man who can solve this riddle: [need good riddle here, which is a bit of a drawback].

Some good things

1. Sophie Ellis Bextor's new album, Trip the Light Fantastic, is very listenable. I used to hate her but I have reluctantly accepted that her pop is quite disco. Oddly the album doesn't include the excellent Dear Jimmy off of the popjustice compilation CD.

2. The internet! It means I can pretend to be a knowledgeable geek instead of the loser geek I am, because of all the nice people out there sharing their knowledge. I have set up a .bat file so that my USB pen automatically backs itself up when I plug it into my computer. It sounds all intelligent of me but I got it from this website. I added a "/D" after the xcopy command on the recommendation of one of the commenters, which means that it only alters things which have been changed since I last plugged it in. This is good because I have about 7Gb of data on it. So much more satisfying than the backup programs I have on my computer, which won't deal with removable drives, even though these must be pretty widely used right now. Bad Norton!

3. The Temple Gallery, which sells icons, sends me its catalogues for free even though I haven't ever bought an icon from them, and am unlikely to be able to afford one for many years if ever. Also, it's possible to visit the gallery and I'm going to do that next weekend, to see their current exhibition. If I could afford to I would buy an icon like this one of John the Theologian in silence, or this one of him dictating to his disciple Prochorus.

Friday, 8 June 2007

Ceci n'est pas un fridge

And yet there are four pints of milk in it.

Academia again

Cambridge University Press has brought out in paperback two excellent books from its Studies in Palaeography and Codicology series. Bischoff's very important Manuscripts and Libraries in the Age of Charlemagne, helpfully translated by the excellent Michael Gorman, and with added Bischoffness put in by the man himself, is just £14.99; while the useful and heavily-illustrated The Palaeography of Gothic Manuscript Books by Albert Derolez is a very reasonable £19.99. If you're a member of the university you get a 20% discount and if, like me, you are a C.U.P. author, it's even more. Go C.U.P.!

(OK, so I'm just the author of a chapter in a C.U.P. book which has been forthcoming for a long long time (actually since I was in primary school, though I was not at that stage a contributor) but it all seems to count for the shop staff. Go C.U.P. shop staff!)

My review of Derolez is online here: I met him many years ago when he gave the Sandars lectures in Cambridge, on the topic which eventually became this book. I was a second-year undergraduate, and our palaeography teacher, later my PhD supervisor, invited him to dinner at Girton, together with twelve of us students. (I did wonder about that number even then.) After the starter, our host cleared his throat, and said, "Professor Derolez, what my students are wondering is why you are so dismissive of Lieftinck's system when they have experience of its excellent results for Insular script?" The poor man then had to sing for his supper, and I'm really pretty sure none of us were wondering that. Either our teacher had misunderstood him or he then changed his mind on Lieftinck's system, as the book is very pro it.

(I ended my review by urging C.U.P. to bring it out in paperback. But to be honest I had heard already that paperbacks in this series were a possibility, so I can't claim clairvoyance, or any sort of influence on their publishing decisions.)

Thursday, 7 June 2007

Smart clothes: fight the power!

I'm not naturally a sociable person, or much of a one for joining in, but when I started my fellowship I decided to throw myself into the spirit of the thing heartily, and I have since found myself, with a varying sense of unreality, entertaining visiting bishops; giving my official opinion on pelmets; or dressed up in full academicals, my square doffed, presenting my fingers to be clutched by graduands whom I am recommending to the vice-chancellor in flowery Latin. And why not?

But recently I had this interesting idea to spend more time doing the sort of stuff I like, stuff that is, if you will, a bit more me. Tonight I am not attending the Name Day Feast. I have just received an invitation to a "black tie/white tie" dinner in May Week, but after that I am aiming not to go to any more black tie events for the rest of the decade, and no white tie ones until I am at least fifty. Hurray! People say that dressing up is fun, but they are lying, it is not fun, it is a big hassle, and the requirement to wear smart shoes is costing me significant sums in Scholl Blister plasters. Women often claim that men look better in black tie, but this is another error. All men look like prats in black tie, except for the very thin vacuous ones who look like Bertie Wooster. White tie makes men look like they have disproportionately squat legs, and at this level even women usually don't look good, as they tend to overdo the shiny fabrics. I also very much resent the idea that May Balls, for example, are an intrinsic part of the Cambridge experience. I have never been to one and I've been here for thirteen years. (Although my objections to them are no longer so much political -- oh those posh girls who would leave Student Poverty marches early to go hat shopping! -- as aesthetic.)

To be honest I have long since reinterpreted black tie to mean "no jeans, nice earrings" anyway, and that dinner in May Week will not be getting anything more. And for my birthday next week I am going to have a curry with a friend and watch some DVDs. (I want to find out who Vaughn really is.) Yay!

Wednesday, 6 June 2007


Are google ever going to bother taking anything out of beta again? I suppose on the grounds that it's free it's a sort of "don't blame us" strategy. Google gears is just what I need, if it works.

And, what has happened to Matthew Collings? He isn't on TV any more telling me about culture with his gentle intonation. Why is that? Nobody knows.

Some books

I've read some books recently. Hurray! Most of them were good and some were very good. I have decided to pay tribute to these in this very public forum.

1. Christopher Brookmyre writes interesting and well-crafted thrillers which are quite funny. I will take one next time I go on an aeroplane or a long train journey. He is a not very subtle fan of Robertson Davies, who wrote The Cornish Trilogy, which I think is the best book of the twentieth century.

2. Michael Chabon can really write. He's such a good writer it's annoying of him. I read Wonder Boys, which is even better than the Amazing Adventures of Kavalier and Clay. Clever Michael Chabon! -- as Matthew Collings would say.

3. I also read The Lies of Locke Lamora by Scott Lynch, which my inner teen/pre-teen enjoyed. I wouldn't have bought it if I'd realised it was quite so Fantasy, but it's very readable. Probably good for a kid who was moving on from Harry Potter. I'll read the sequels when they're out, and when I'm feeling the need to veg.

4. The Brief and Frightening Reign of Phil by George Saunders is brief and quite frightening. Could be more engaging.

5. The Famous Writers' School by Steven Carter is very good while in progress but the ending was a bit meh.

6. Z. Z. Packer's Drinking Coffee Elsewhere is definitely worth reading and very gripping, but my enjoyment was slightly spoilt by the worry that since she's American I should have been thinking of her as zeezee rather than zedzed.

The twelfth century, or, where it all went wrong

Today I get to look at the Red Book of Darley, one of my favourites ever. There's a nice early modern annotation at the back:
This booke was sumtime had in such reverence in darbieshire that it was comonlie beleved that whosoeuer should sweare untruelie uppon this booke should run madd.

Its first text is an almost unique English poetic dialogue between Solomon and Saturn: it's a sort of riddle contest in the Scandinavian tradition (as carried forwards by Bilbo and Gollum). The "O"s in Solomon were often written like fat hollow crosses. Then there's an excellent missal, with masses against idle desires, and for brotherly love, etc. It's surprising how many of the Anglo-Saxon liturgical books I look at have excommunications copied later into blank spaces; this one has a twelfth-century version, very long. The language is fiery enough to be slightly comic, as in Stedman's The Jackdaw of Rheims:

The Cardinal rose with a dignified look,
He call’d for his candle, his bell, and his book:
In holy anger, and pious grief,
He solemnly curs’d that rascally thief!
He curs’d him at board, he curs’d him in bed,
From the sole of his foot to the crown of his head!
He curs’d him in sleeping, that every night
He should dream of the devil, and wake in a fright;
He curs’d him in eating, he curs’d him in drinking,
He curs’d him in coughing, in sneezing, in winking;
He curs’d him in sitting, in standing, in lying;
He curs’d him in walking, in riding, in flying;
He curs’d him in living, he curs’d him in dying!
Never was heard such a terrible curse!
But what gave rise
To no little surprise,
Nobody seem’d one penny the worse.

But above it an early modern hand, perhaps associated with Parker, has written "detestanda execratio", detestable execration, which is a sympathetic statement, at least to my mind. (Assuming it's a judgement not a description...)

Monday, 4 June 2007

Grumble grumble

The newest version of Firefox has changed how you close tabs, which is annoying because it slows me down, and also it has a sort of sideways scrolling thing if you've got loads of tabs open, which is also very irritating.

But most seriously of all it now suggests search terms from other people's searches when you start typing in the google search box at the top right of the screen. I wanted to find a quick detail about Britney's "comeback" to send to a friend, so I typed in Britney, and then Firefox helpfully suggested all the words which other people had put in after the name Britney, many of which were unedifying in the extreme. Eventually I found the option to turn suggested searches off, which has desmutted my computer satisfactorily. But really, who ever thought drawing on other people's internet searches would be a good idea?

Just to resmut my computer a tiny bit I am putting in a picture of the Firefox kitteh:

Saturday, 2 June 2007

Wedding: some thoughts

I love my brother to bits. He's a complete sweetheart and always has been. (I still feel some guilt for being pretty mean to him when we were kids.) His wedding yesterday was genuinely moving. I'm not very good at weddings -- they always make me feel like I missed some sort of handout or pamphlet which everyone else read years ago. Other people were crying away, though, and even I got a lump in my throat during my brother's after dinner speech, when he said glad he was to be spending the rest of his life with Charlie. They're a lovely couple, and I'm very glad to have her as a sister-in-law.

Well, I'm proud of him. I think he has the quality I've long admired in my parents -- a sort of innocence which is not ignorance, knowing about the world and living in it with an air of being untouched by it. I don't know how they do it; I always feel thoroughly traduced by the world I live in.

Friday, 1 June 2007

Ashill, the day before my brother's wedding

It's pretty much impossible not to be yourself around your family, even if you're not sure you're really the same person they got used to all that time ago. I'm not thinking of my parents but my aunts and uncles &c, and although they're not here yet there's already a sense of them hanging in the air. (Maybe because they're presumably mostly within a smallish distance from here by now, and they're a pretty pungent bunch of personalities.) My brother asked me to be an understudy for the readings tomorrow, but with a diffident air because one is a poem about marriage, and the other is that man's man, St Paul, on husbands and wives. He specifically alluded to the fact that everyone knows I'm violently against marriage, that notorious instrument of patriarchal oppression, as he apologised for asking. I'd be very sad if I thought he didn't know I'm very pleased for him; I think it's just that in this setting he still sees me as some sort of average of my 7- to 15-year-old selves. They'll all be amazed to see me eating vegetables.

On the plus side it does take some pressure off. No one will expect me to be very sociable tomorrow, or any practical use whatever. If I do succeed in doing something helpful, like maybe boiling a kettle, I will get disproportionate applause. No one would bat an eyelid if I ran crying to my bedroom after my uncle Graham made some sexist remark, and I think I'm pretty unlikely to do that these days, so I've got a lot of leeway to play with.