Friday, 12 February 2010

Various -ographies

I am at a glossography conference in Rome. It's one of the best conferences I've been to in ages, but is also very exhausting. Favourite moments so far:

1. Flying out on easyjet from Bristol I was forced to overhear teenage girls (about 15, 16, obviously thinking themselves very grown up). Some had arrangements with male friends that if they hadn't managed to find anyone to marry by a certain age they would marry each other -- the age in question was 25 years old. Daft puppies. Also they were asking each other if when they were 30 they would rather go out with an 18-year-old or a 50-year-old, and all went for the 18-year-old. Luckily for university professors few women live this principle.

2. On the first night we stayed at a place just like in Father Ted where versions of normal things are intended entirely for priests. This was a priest hotel. Everyone there was a priest, except anyone doing anything practical, who was a nun. The rooms were plain and functional with en-suites -- no hairdryers, but a helpful notice informed us that if we wanted to concelebrate mass we could borrow an amice and purificator from the reception desk.

3. Now we're in the Domus S. Marthae. The view from my window, across a piazza to St Peter's, is spectacular, and every time we go in or out of the Vatican the Swiss Guards salute. This is a lodging house for cardinals when they elect a new pope, and again there is a heavily ecclesiastical clientele. (The reason that we couldn't stay the first night was because of a sudden influx of cardinals.) It's nice and plain in the rooms, without even bad religious art (the first place was full of terribly saccharine madonnas) but downstairs it's really rather lavish and gilded. And everything is carefully adapted to the elderly, as many of the cardinals are not young. Anyway now I know what a cardinal has for breakfast: it's disappointingly like a normal breakfast. There are Coco Pops, and All Bran "Per La Tua RegularitĂ !". But today was Friday so maybe it's a plain breakfast for religious reasons.

4. Wonderful conference moment: southern gentleman from Baton Rouge, plays washboard in a band, short grey beard, intrinsically relaxed, is having a little trouble with his powerpoint. "Clic! Clicca lĂ !" shout lots of Italian women from the audience, at a high pitch of excitement and urgency, and with some degree of contradiction. He stops fiddling with the computer and looks up at his audience. "Do not worry", he says, in his wonderful unshaken drawl, "Everything is going to be alright". And it was alright. I think I need to record him saying it, to keep about me for moments of high stress.

5. Snow in Rome. Unfortunately we couldn't get to the Pantheon to see the snow falling into it. Actually it was a pretty pathetic snowfall, but it made the people from Sicily very happy.

6. I have been at dinner with Big Names, loudly defending palaeography after too much wine. And possibly telling too many anecdotes, and being my usual socially maladjusted self, but I've had just the right amount of wine not to care! Hurray!

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