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A conference ends

Even before I went down to breakfast, I could see the trickle of people, laden with suitcases, heading for the railway buses and cars, away from the conference. The final day of the International Medieval Congress was a half-day, edging into the early afternoon by only forty-five minutes, plus a handful of debriefing sessions and tours. Still, consulting with fellow bus-riders later in the day, the morning sessions were quite well attended. For some reason, I didn't mind going last for once. It was a Thursday, somehow less of an indignity than the prospect of going last on Kalamazoo's Sunday.

Avista sponsored two sessions this morning, which accounted for my agenda. The first was on woodworking - what evidence for tools there is - and how imprecise that evidence is - geometric ratios and lutes - recreating medieval woodworking. The most unexpected and exciting revelation I took from the last paper was the use of pegs through workbenches in lieu of vices. It makes such sense. It works so well and accounts for oddities in imagery.

My own session was on metalwork, hardly my area of expertise, but I could stretch to the Medieval history of metalwork quite easily. The first two papers were given by confident, experienced archaeologists equipped with Powerpoint presentations and the ability to speak coherently off of the top of their heads about sites and digs. For once, I had no images to accompany my talk, but it went well; it was even under twenty minutes. The audience latched on to the association between the history of metal and that of music. It might be worth pursuing further someday, a longer paper in some context. I suspect some of the work has been done - but probably not incorporating all the sorts of histories I work on. Best of all, my advisor approved; and so did a certain senior professor of Medieval economics, who still remembered the story of our original meeting, if not that I had been the person involved. Now he knows, but that's probably a good thing. I'm more memorable for it.

Halfway through the second paper, we paused. We all paused - the session, the congress, the country, the continent. We paused for two minutes in honor of the victims of last week's bombings in London, momento mori.

And then there was a final lunchtime, catching up with old friends and colleagues and other session attendees, learning about the forging of early cannons and anchors, the possibility of more encyclopedia articles to write and a really exciting research-and-publication project. We scraped chocolate sauce from the bottom of bowls with our profiteroles and said our goodbyes. We scattered to the winds - China, Iceland, London, Leeds. It was a good conference. I mean to return, quite probably next year. (Trivia: c. 1200 people attended. And I did go to the dance after all last night.)

And now I'm still in Leeds, only I'm not in the greenery and expanse and trees, but in the twist and loom and pavement of the city center. I've learned that oysters can be cooked to liquid softness, and that I'm capable of fully enjoying a leisurely three-hour meal all by myself under the right circumstances.

Tomorow, another conference begins.

P.S. I have access to email again, although with per-minute charges, it's not yet worth it to do much involving web browsing. I'll catch up eventually.