Poot.

Monday, 16 April 2007 17:18
strange_complex: (Penny Dreadful)
I have finally heard about the house. Apparently, someone has put in a higher offer than me.

Damn. Back to square one...


strange_complex: (Snape writing)
1. Last Wednesday - went off for the day with Mum on the Severn Valley Railway. We saw partridges, pheasants, rabbits, butterflies, great crested grebe, elephants, bison and gazelle. Although I suppose it's only fair to explain that the last three were in a safari park visible from the railway. Enjoyed a lovely picnic at Arley, then walked along the river a bit, glorying in the warm weather. All the way there and back, I examined properties along the route with a buyer's eye. I can't help it now - force of habit.

2. On that note, I'm still waiting to hear about the house. My first offer was rejected; I raised it to what was my absolute upper limit and said so; the seller relayed that it was rather less than she wanted but she'd think about it; I enquired again of the estate agents on Friday, but they said she still hadn't decided. I do know that no other offers have been made, though. So ideally she'll wait a bit longer, see that no-one else is offering and accept my bid. Two people saw it over the weekend, apparently, but I know a lot of people have seen it by now and very few have offered, so I'm cautiously hopeful.

3. Thursday to Saturday saw me attending the annual Classical Association conference. Well, actually it carried on this morning too, but I decided to bunk the last part for the sake of a lie-in and some more relaxed parent time. I must say it was probably the best CA conference I've been to (out of three altogether) in terms of papers and general conviviality. Logistics perhaps not so great - it was in a fairly second-rate hotel, with not wonderful food and tedious queues at the lifts to move around the building. But I spent the conference dinner last night (in the much nicer surroundings of the University of Birmingham's Great Hall) with a big grin on my face, feeling on a high from the whole experience. There's too much to record now, of course, but highlights were the comedy caretaker during John Henderson's opening lecture, some cracking panels on Roman cities and all flavours of Classical Receptions (including Buffy and Achilles / Patroclus m-preg fanfics), and all the lovely people I got to catch up with.

4. Did some enjoyable shopping in Brum on Saturday afternoon - scheduled as excursion time for conference-goers, but I'd been to all the places they suggested visiting many times before, having grown up here. Surprised myself slightly by buying some baseball boots - not my normal style, but I really was desperate for new shoes by this stage, and I think they can become my style. Also got CivCity: Rome, which I've wanted for about a year now, ever since I first heard it was coming out, and was reminded of by a great session on Classics in computer games at the conference. And I enjoyed just generally wandering around Birmingham city centre, experiencing the weird combination of things which haven't changed at all and things which are totally unrecognisable, and exploring the various memories which streets and buildings threw up in my mind. I'm proud of my roots here.

5. Term starts again tomorrow. Wah! Only two weeks of teaching and one of revision classes, but they're going to be pretty tough. I'm more-or-less ready, but have a lot to do over the next few days.

6. Haven't seen this week's Who yet, as I was out at the dinner last night, and now my parents' cable box is broken! So that will have to be squeezed in over the next few days too. Have been reading people's online reactions, though. It seems to have provoked quite a lot of discussion and some division.

7. I am travelling home first class in the train tonight, because there was a cheap weekend upgrade available, and I've always wanted to try it out. It'll be a bit different from the Severan Valley Railway, where we were in a third-class compartment!

Easter weekend

Monday, 9 April 2007 14:31
strange_complex: (Cocoa beans)
On Saturday, my Mum and I went shopping in Solihull - an extremely posh suburb of Birmingham which likes to pretend it has nothing to do with Birmingham whatsoever. There, I noticed that both John Lewis and Beatties sold miniature morning coats and pinstripe suits for tiny little children - presumably so that they can be page-boys at weddings and so on. SO CUTE!

My main mission was to buy shoes and bras, since I'm getting dangerously close to having no wearable examples of either. Since I was effectively going to have to start my bra wardrobe again from scratch, I got myself measured up, figuring I might as well do it properly. For years, I've believed I was a 34B, but it turned out I'm actually a 32C - a significant (and rather pleasing!) difference, as female readers will realise. So I'm now feeling a lot more comfy in the bosom region.

Pity I can't say the same for my feet, though. Of course, when I say 'shoes', I actually mean 'ankle-boots', since that's all I ever wear. But there are next to none in the shops at this time of year, and what there are are all hideous. So I gave up in the end, and consoled myself by buying a posh frock for my cousin's wedding in June, instead.

In the evening, still in my old, nearly-dead shoes, I went over to [livejournal.com profile] hollyione's parents' house, where she (like me) was spending Easter weekend at the family homestead. We watched Doctor Who with her two-year-old daughter, who was allowed to stay up for it specially, and then ate yummy kebabs and played Trivial Pursuit with her parents. The game never quite got finished, as everyone became very merry and eventually had to toddle off to bed, but it was lots of fun, and [livejournal.com profile] hollyione and I as the last two players agreed to declare an honourable and amicable draw.

Sunday was mainly Verulamium-article-writing, but there was a bit of chocolate-egg-exchanging too, while in the evening we ate a delicious juicy duck. I then wound up the day by rewatching Doctor Who, as there were quite a few bits of dialogue I'd missed the previous day while [livejournal.com profile] hollyione's daughter was trying to decide whether she was scared of the witches or not!

It definitely rewarded a second watching, though. I got the chance to notice things like the conversation over the TARDIS console at the very beginning of the episode, where Martha is asking how exactly the TARDIS can travel in time, and the Doctor replies with something like, "Oh, you've got to take the magic out of everything haven't you - it just does!", thus establishing the magic / technology issue right from the opening scene. And how cool that Queen Elizabeth is his sworn enemy, even though he's never met her! I can't see an obvious episode in the coming series where that will be resolved, so I take it as a long-term promise for an Elizabethan story involving her as a character - ideally while we still have David Tennant, to explain how she recognises him. And I like that we're dealing with a series which troubles to set up long-term plot elements like that.

Oh! And a thought: since Shakespeare is set up earlier in the episode as being so very perceptive (noticing how old the Doctor's eyes are, and how Martha looks at him as though she can't believe he exists), does this mean we are to take him 100% seriously when he says to Martha that the Doctor will never kiss her? (Excepting, of course, the fact that he already has - I mean kiss her in lurve?) Or is it just a corny line to get himself a snog? Discuss!

Meanwhile, in the realm of the scarily-real, I have made an offer on this house. But not heard anything back yet. Wah, the frustration! I'm on tenterhooks about it all the time, waiting, and wondering, and trying to second-guess what's going on in the seller's mind. It's like waiting to hear about a job interview.

Well, you'll hear about it here when I do!

Weekending

Sunday, 18 March 2007 18:54
strange_complex: (Claudia Cardinale car)
Well, I had a very lovely weekend with my Mum.

The focus of her visit was really Opera North's performance of Monteverdi's Orfeo: one of the first true examples of the opera genre, which enjoys its fourth centenary this year. It was on at Leeds' Grand Theatre - a triumph of Victorian opulence which makes you crane and peer around the auditorium in a mixture of horror and wonder while you are waiting for the show. Nonetheless, it still didn't quite make it into the same league as Belfast's Grand Opera House, by the simple dint of failing to have ornamental elephants.

The production was - interesting... The story, of course, is the straightforward tale of Orpheus and Eurydice, covering in this version their wedding, his journey into hell, his fatal look back, his despair at losing her a second time, and finally his transportation into the heavens by his father, Apollo. So a simple production could have cast the singers as alternately Arcadian nymphs and shepherds and demonic residents of the underworld, or perhaps gone for a 17th century courtly Italian look, in keeping with the anniversary and the work's original context. No-one can do a simple production of an opera in this post-modern age, though, can they? Instead, the cast were mainly dandies and bohemians, from a mix of different ages and cultures, looking on and laughing with ironic detachment at the somewhat crazed antics of Orpheus and his (decidedly unwilling) bride. A personification of La Musica, who introduced the performance, was a deliberately ungainly cabaret dancer with smudged make-up, while Apollo at the end was revealed to have been a stooped, greasy-haired, balding old man, who'd been sitting on the side of the stage all evening, ostentatiously recording Orpheus' every aria with a portable tape machine.

I'm sure it said a lot of profound things about the artificiality of spectacle, the cruelty of the human condition and the haziness of the lines between life and death, sanity and madness, spectacle and spectators, etc. etc. But, basically, it was overly-contrived showiness for the sake of it, and I wish they'd just let the music speak instead. Especially because it was so good - as a score and as a performance! It was rich, lively, varied, engaging, and really brought the story and the characters to life. In this case, of course, the effect was that two narratives were going on in parallel - aurally, Monteverdi's sincere love story, but visually, the director's crazy weirdness. Musically, my only quibble was that I wasn't very fond of the voice of the singer who played Orpheus, Paul Nilon. The rest of the audience obviously disagreed with me, as he got thunderous applause at the end, but I just found his voice too strident, and lacking in warmth or sweetness of tone. I guess Orpheus is always going to be a hard role to cast, though, if he's to be a convincing musical genius for everyone.

The rest of the weekend we spent mainly taking advantage of the fact that Mum had come up in the car, so we could get around and about the place more easily than I usually can on my own. We did a good batch of house-hunting on Saturday, seeing four properties around the Headingley area. In the end, I didn't fall for any of them, but we nipped round to a couple of others today to have a look at them from the outside, and they did look promising. So I've got a couple of leads, and will phone tomorrow to get appointments to see them properly.

Another little car job that needed doing was taking my old stereo to the tip - it's been sitting in my hallway ever since my new one arrived back in November! Unfortunately, I didn't bank on Mum deciding to make her trip up to Leeds into a jaunt for the parental second car (which doesn't get out very often), so we must have looked a right pair of prats turning up at the tip in a red Mazda MX-5 to throw away a stereo!

Anyway, from there, we progressed out from Leeds in a north-westerly direction in search of pub lunchy goodness, and ended up at the Red Lion in Burley on Wharfedale, whose Sunday carvery I can thoroughly recommend! Succulent honey-roast ham, soft, plump Yorkshire puddings, delicious gravy and very generous portions - we ate around 12:30, and even now at ten to eight I'm only just starting to think I ought to make myself some dinner.

Yes, definitely nice to have a weekend together - especially since it was (coincidentally) Mothering Sunday today. And I'm looking forward to early April, when I'll be spending about ten days with both parents in Brum - besides also attending the St. Matthew Passion and a conference.

Between now and then, I have the luxury of term having finished on Friday to enjoy - but a helluvalot of other things to catch up on!

strange_complex: (Prisoner information)
Julius Caesar answers are on hold until Monday, I'm afraid. I've half-written them, but was too snowed under to post them on Thursday, and then Mum arrived for the weekend so I'm busy doing stuff with her now - shopping, house-hunting and the opera this evening.

Just time to post a quick question relating to her visit, though. She's come up in the car, so we thought it would be nice to drive out to a local village tomorrow for a pub lunch. Does anyone from this part of the world have any recommendations? For example, which direction out of Leeds would we be best advised to drive in if we want nice scenery and pretty villages-with-pubs? And does anyone know of any particularly good places for a nice pub lunch?

Thanks in advance for any tips!

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