January 6th, 2003

Fishy Circumstances

Travel, or lack thereof

It's good not to be travelling any further than campus today. The last week or so has consisted of all sorts of trips, by trains, planes, and automobiles.

We saw the rare sight of sunshine in Cardiff, watched Victorian gentlemen demonstrate walking stick fighting at the Leeds Armoury, and spent a few hours in the dying and overcast sunset in Durham. Mostly though, we saw friends and C.'s family, ate lots, and read lots of fiction. I have trouble reading fiction during term time since it always distracts me from work, so vacation was my chance to read many things. The best was the one of the older books, but one I'd not read before: Diana Wynne Jones' Howl's Moving Castle.

One of the best bits of the trip was being able to drag cwjat around to visit friends and sites and spend New Year's together. We even briefly had a chance to meet some of her Cardiff friends! She seems nicely settled in, to the degree that she'd done no touristic activities at all since arriving. We took her to the Millennium Stadium to make up for it. She still hasn't been to the castle, but we have.

It's a good castle. The Norman keep is within the walls, partially built on the lines of the Roman ones on the same site, but the main complex is a separate building. In theory, it has fourteenth century roots, but most of it was completely rebuilt in the 19th century with spectacular results. It's a good example of the Victorians being more medieval than those people who lived in the Middle Ages. The mid-19th century owner tore up 7 or so rooms in order to built a large medieval-style great hall, for example. The tour guide quite effectively confused any sense of chronology anyone in the group might have had by discussing on the Medieval things portrayed around the building, all brightly painted in Victorian gilt shininess.

I felt mildly guilty going around the Leeds Armoury, and quite unnecessarily. I study medieval technology, so most people presume I must know something about medieval warfare and weaponry. Therefore, I feel I ought to know something about the subject, especially since my advisor's area is the history of gunpowder. Currently, however, I really don't know very much. Thus my sense of guilt: the feeling that I ought to know quite a bit about what I'm looking at when going around a good armoury with a medieval collection when, in fact, I don't.

While passing through on the train I waved to Wigan for pittenweem's sake, while passing through in a car, I waved to Chorley for targaff's sake, and while passing through Manchester between car and plane, I waved rather gratuitously for hilly02's sake - rather gratuitously since she gets to see lots of it currently, unlike the other two and their respective places. We passed through Atlanta while pittenweem and f_butterfly were there, but didn't stop to do anything more exciting than stand in long lines for passport control. Sadly, I know begin to understand hilly02's loathing for going via Atlanta. If I can avoid it in the future, I will. It's probably a good airport for domestic changes but quite poorly designed for international arrivals.
Fishy Circumstances

Epiphany

We intended to open presents the night we returned, but we were too jet lagged and tired-worn yesterday to do the second part of Christmas then. Instead it was tonight. It's particularly appropriate since it's Epiphany today. It's the most decadent way of celebrating the Befana's arrival I've ever had! More presents! The highlight is something that looks like a cross between a watering can and a purse and it's blue. I'm fairly certain, although not absolutely convinced, it's actually meant to be a watercan, nice and transportable for people who move frequently, and not too heavy.

My parents, with wonderful consideration to my career, gave me my very own copy of Agricola's De Re Metallica. C. thinks that someday I should try reading it cover to cover and not simply use it as a handy reference book.

It seems fitting, given that this was my second Christmas, that it snowed a fair amount last night, 6-8 inches. Unfortunately, it all compressed quite nicely and the world was full of messy slipperiness. I slipped quite a bit but happily never actually fell. Unsurprisingly, although I saw snow in the Pennines shortly after Christmas, the day itself was above freezing and sporadically sunny.