Wednesday, 28 September 2011


1. I moved to London! This was despite the best efforts of a nasty cough which my Dad picked up in China. He was lured at short notice to an international conference on biodiversity, the organisers having suddenly noticed that their international conference had only one overseas participant. So they panicked and asked my Dad and a few other people including a Norwegian who is one of his oldest friends. Together they climbed a mountain to look at a particularly rare species of birch. (There are only eleven specimens known apparently, and they were taken to see just one of them.) He came back laden with souvenir gifts -- I think it was in the interests of the organisers to make much of their overseas guests in order to emphasise their importance. I have no idea whatsoever how scholarship works in Communist China but in this regard it sounds just like western academia, in that you have to have a big conference with lots of overseas visitors to demonstrate to your funders that you're doing international collaboration, and interoperability, and all that liaising stuff. They gave him a commemorative pot laser-engraved with the date and title of the conference in both Chinese and English, and a lavishly produced book about the region containing at its centre a gold medal commemorating the 150th anniversary of the independence of Mexico, for reasons none of us understand, being Mandarin-illiterate. I think he had a whale of a time. But he brought back a nasty virus which I caught off him and which, among other things, made me come out in hives on contact with sunshine. The doctor thought this so interesting he called in another doctor to have a look. So at least someone got something out of it. Anyway it seems to be under control now. Hurray!

2. I'll miss my excellent nephew. I'm sure he'll remember me, but I hope he won't miss me in a sad way. Apparently the other day he came across a big spider, and said to his mother "Very big spider scare Rebecca" so maybe I'm not always the best influence.

3. Oh how beautiful Devon is. I am going to miss the countryside very much. But on the other hand London has some big advantages. I have never lived here before but for the nine or so months when I worked at the British Library manuscripts department felicis memoriae I spent quite a bit of time here with people who were not well paid, and I know that it is possible to amuse one's self without huge expenditure. For example, the V&A does excellent free evenings like this one. And when I hear about interesting talks it will now be much easier to consider going to them.

4. On the other hand everything else in London is horribly expensive, and I am not living near any cheap shops. There's a little Sainsbury's but it essentially serves people passing through Waterloo station so it's hardly a good place to buy things regularly. I am going to be oh so very skint this year. But skint in the pursuit of knowledge!

5. In other news, the Amazon Kindle website suggests that the new Neal Stephenson is for people who are fans of Cory Doctorow and Charles Stross. This is wrong. Stephenson could eat Stross and Doctorow as a pre-breakfast snack. It's like saying Tolstoy is for fans of Henry James. I am loving Reamde so far. I had serious trouble putting it down and going to sleep last night.


  1. Exciting! Some of the Foyles Bookshop events look quite good too. Hope you're enjoying it!

  2. You are in London?! Excellent news. Come for dinner! I don't have your current email address but I'm at RHUL and you could try my email account there. Arantza