strange_complex: (Cities Esteban butterfly)
So - yeah. Now that I am over the immediate trauma of breaking my glasses (but not by any means the underlying *grrrrr*), let me tell you about my weekend.

Friday night was very sociable - you could even have accused me of being a bit of a butterfly. First an hour in the Wrens with [livejournal.com profile] nalsa, [livejournal.com profile] maviscruet, their young ladies and assorted other friends, during which we discussed flickr business cards, the top three best-known British monarchs and the fall of the Roman empire. Next, a curry at Hansa's with [livejournal.com profile] hieroglyphe and [livejournal.com profile] johnnydefective, over which we talked about academic job prospects, [livejournal.com profile] johnnydefective's naughty office pranks and filmage in general. Finally, down to the station to meet up with The Sisterly One and her partner (Nicolas), who were coming to stay for the weekend.

We were all kinda knackered after we got back to my flat, since they'd had a whole day of work plus a long train journey, while I'd been cleaning the house all day and then butterflying all evening. But not so knackered we didn't have time to chat for a while and for me to give Charlotte an early birthday present (her actual birthday is today - woo!).

Saturday saw us heading off on a big adventure - to Roundhay Park Tropical World! Yay! It was very hot inside, but we saw lots of extremely cute and interesting animals, such as ring-tailed lemurs, bushbabies, lion-faced golden tamarins, blue macaws, enormous carp, bats, striped grass mice, turtles, snakes and meerkats! (*squee-squee-squee*) They were definitely the best - and come to think of it, I'm not sure I've ever seen them in real life before. So that was cool.

After Tropical World, we ate much-needed ice-creams, and took a long walk round the park, seeing people playing cricket, a fake castle and millions and millions of seething tadpoles as we did. Then it was across Leeds by bus to show off my new house and have coffee in Headingley, before heading on down to the Hyde Park Picture House to see Sunshine - more about that in a separate 'films watched 2007' post.

Sunday was quiet and chilled, after a lot of walking around outdoors the previous day But we did find time to simultaneously look at architecture and do some shopping in Leeds city centre. Charlotte got some nice skirts, I got rechargeable batteries for my digital camera and some pretty sandals for the summer, and Nicolas got some good photos of the Edwardian arcades.

Finally, they headed off to catch their train, since Charlotte wanted to be back in London for the day of her actual birthday, and I pootled off home to enjoy the previous evening's Doctor Who. Which seemed solidly back on track after the slight wibble that had been the Dalek two-parter.

So nice all round, really. Just a pity I had to top it off today by breaking my glasses!

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!

Deck the halls

Saturday, 23 December 2006 18:11
strange_complex: (Saturnalian Santa)
Tonight is the final night of the Saturnalia, the Solstice has been accomplished successfully, and tomorrow is Christmas Eve. What could be better?

I'm up in Brum at my parents' house, and, as in some previous years, we are holding a Christmas party tonight. We've spent the day preparing, and now we've entered that lull where it's not yet worth getting dressed up and attending to the last-minute tasks like taking things out of the fridge and putting them on the table, but we've pretty much finished all the medium-term preparation. We have ham, pâté, salmon, cheeses, salads, olives, peppers, quiches, pizza, ciabatta, mulled wine, chocolate brandy cake, fruit salad and about a dozen other delicious things I can't remember now. Seasonal music and musicians are on standby (I shall mainly be playing the recorder this year), silly crackers are waiting to be pulled, the tree sparkles beautifully in the corner, and I have a lovely new dress hanging in the wardrobe. It should be a good 'un.

Going out into the garden this morning, I found that the mild weather we've had this autumn / early winter has meant a real profusion of interesting leaves, berries and even flowers which I could incorporate into the display of winter greenery that I normally put together to go on the mantlepiece above our fireplace. And, at long last, my Dad and I together also came up with a solution to the logistical problem I usually have when putting the display together - that the mantlepiece is rather narrow, the greenery gets quite heavy once you've got a few holly branches and bits of variegated bushes in there, and a blob of blu-tack just isn't adequate to hold it all together. Instead, this year, I picked out a suitable log from the wood-pile, and he split it in two and then drilled some holes in it for me, so that it could sit on the mantlepiece and have twigs poked into it. It works very well - and is making me wish I'd brought my digital camera up here to photograph it. Oh well - I'm sure it will be appreciated by the party-guests tonight, and maybe I'll be able to borrow the parental camera for blogging purposes? Yes - I'll go and enquire about that right now, I think!

Commuting

Tuesday, 17 January 2006 12:48
strange_complex: (Penny Farthing)
I can, on occasion, be heard complaining about the three-hour round trip I have to do when I go in to work at Warwick for the day. But, y'know, it's not all bad.

For one thing, the journey time is actually only about quarter of an hour longer than it would take to drive to Warwick from where I live, assuming good driving conditions. This is partly a factor of me living so close to the station, but hey! I do live very close to the station. That's the way it is, so I may as well take advantage of it. Taking into account the smugness I can feel about my environmental friendliness and the utter absence of driving stress, the slightly longer journey time is easily compensated for. Also, in the morning, the trains are extremely reliable, so that I'm not at the mercy of traffic, and don't need to blow my top about whether I'll arrive in time for my lectures or not. This is not the case on the way home, which can be extremely irritating when you've had a long day and just want to crash. But I've learnt to be philosophical about it, and I'd certainly rather they were unreliable on the return leg than the outwards one.

There is also the matter of my morning cup of coffee, which I purchase with great enjoyment from the AMT kiosk in the station, and then sip dreamily as I sit in my favourite seat (all regular commuters have one), gazing out of the window across an early-morning countryside. That coffee really cheers me up, in that disproportionate way that only the small things can. It's the main reason, in fact, that I leave the house with a spring in my step when I go to catch my train. It's sweet, and flavoursome, and always served just right and quickly enough for me to make the 8:00. It sets me up, and sends me off on my journey with a positive note. It is also frequently served to me by a very good-looking young fellow called Ruben, who likes to give me a charming smile and ask how I am each day. I do not actually fancy Ruben, but it does a girl no harm in the morning to be gently flirted at by an attractive gentleman who is also giving her coffee.

But best of all, once on the train, my time is my own. I can sit back and relax, I can get work done, and I can enjoy the charmingly English landscape which slides by on either side. I see some genuinely beautiful sights out of that train window, which I would be sad to miss. For example, in the last fortnight:
  • Pale pink sunrises through the haze
  • Stark, silhouetted tree-tops emerging from successive layers of mist, retreating back layer by layer into the distance
  • Sparkling, frosty fields which look for all the world as though they're made of sugar-icing
  • A sole swan lazing around on a perfect oxbow lake
  • Three deer tip-toeing delicately through a field
  • A fox nosing around in undergrowth
  • A group of cows with two little calves (quite a surprise in January, but there they were - a nice precursor to the lambs who will appear in another few months)
  • Hearty people walking their dogs who allow me to think, "Gosh, I'm glad I'm curled up on a warm train with my coffee, and not out there yomping through the fields like you!"
  • And of course all the usual sheep, horses, cows, canal boats, rural churches and ruined abbeys that I normally see on that route
Yup, it could definitely be worse.
strange_complex: (Penny Dreadful)
I have just watched one of my blackbird chicks die after being pecked by a magpie. I banged hard on the window as soon as I saw it happening, but it was too late for that chick. It thrashed and twitched for a while, and then was still. I don't know where the parents are, and I can't tell if the other chicks are OK or not.

I feel really shaken up about it, although I did know that it was unlikely all four would survive. I saw some pigeons close by the nest earlier, too. I didn't think they were such ones for eating other birds' chicks as magpies, but it looks like they would, given half the chance.

I know this stuff happens all the time, but I had got really involved with these blackbirds. At this rate, I shall be sitting up all night with an air-gun, defending them whenever the parents aren't around.

Not happy.
strange_complex: (Wicker Man sunset)
1. Human parents (mine)

Their visit over the weekend went very well, and essentially consisted of us doing the things I'd said we were going to do in this post.

The play )

Our drive around NE Antrim )

Sunday )

2. Blackbird parents (also, obviously, my personal property)

The other big news of the moment is that my blackbirds' chicks have hatched! I discovered this on Sunday, when I took my parents into my office on the way to the pub to show them the nest (knowing that, as bird-fanciers, they'd be interested). At first, we thought the female was still incubating, but then the male arrived with some worms, and she got up off the nest to reveal three healthy little chicks, with their beaks gaping open for their dinner. Since I could never see more than three eggs in the nest (although the viewing angle means that there might have been a fourth one hidden by the nest edge), I'm taking this to mean that all of the eggs have probably hatched successfully.

What happens next )

I'm normally not that bothered about birds, but as both Carrick-a-Rede and the excitement of my front-row seat at the blackbird nesting process have demonstrated, I can get interested when they're either underlining the beauty of a natural setting, or close enough to me that I can get personally involved with them.

Regular Blackbird Bulletins will continue as there is more news, and anyone in Belfast is welcome to pop round to my office and have a look at them if they're interested.

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