Saturday, 29 January 2011

Egypt, 24/7

For my second book, I'm going to write a collection called "People Who Erroneously Thought Appointing a Novel Pick for Vice President would Save Their Chances at Executive Office." It currently has two chapters.

Watch Al-Jazeera's coverage here:

Friday, 28 January 2011

Tea(rs) and Crumpets

I've just hit 70,000 words on my DPhil - all quantity, not quality, don't get excited, everybody calm down - but the best part is that thanks to Mike, I finally have a provisional title for my follow-up book, which is "Tea(rs) and Crumpets: What I Ate During My Dissertation." It will be a bestseller among the kind of people who would like a coffee table book showing literally hundreds of crumpets with Nutella on them and nothing else because I have devolved to the food level of a three year old. I need to find Gushers or I'm going to get scurvy.

Wednesday, 19 January 2011

A Night of Blackmail, Which is So Much Less Intriguing than It Sounds

The fact that I can still trick myself into pulling all-nighters by promising that they'll only be half-nighters blows my mind. Hullo, 6am.

Monday, 17 January 2011

Back to the OX1

We're finally back in Oxford after six weeks away, and I have never been so glad to come home to a drafty firetrap in my entire life. Against all odds, the tiny bit of milk that I forgot about in the fridge seemed weirdly fine after SIX WEEKS, and somehow did not smell at all, which makes me never want to buy or drink that kind of milk again. Our rosebush is alive too, despite not being watered in six weeks, and even still has a very sad looking flower growing on it. Hooray!

I'm anxious to get back to work, but have actually spent the better part of the day trying to internationally fax a set of police reports and documents to various airlines, airports, and police stations after realizing that it wasn't just my camera that was taken, but about $200 worth of other stuff, including emergency cash and - very weirdly - two Uniball Vision pens. (I like these pens too, but not enough to jack them from a stranger.)

The gaping hole in my very small pantheon of possessions has been filled by a modernist reproduction of one of the fat ladies of Malta, a set of very heavily glittered stacking dolls I picked up from the market in Budapest, and a mug from one of the law schools I applied to, which was waiting for me when I got back to Oxford. It's kind of interesting how the fat lady alternately looks very thoughtful with her hand on her head or very hopeless with her head in her hand, depending on whether I'm finally getting back to work on my DPhil or the umpteen publications I have ignored for the past two weeks or incompetently trying to file insurance claims, combine PDFs, and send international faxes. I've spent way too much time today looking at her suspiciously.

Thursday, 13 January 2011

The Blog of Job

We left Pisa and made it to Malta today, where I got to our apartment and promptly realized that somebody had stolen my camera from my checked luggage. It's not the worst thing in the world - I've had it for two years, and I had just uploaded all my photos from Italy and didn't lose any of those - but the staff of both airports and of RyanAir have literally been as unhelpful as possible, and it's probably not covered by my insurance unless I can hunt down the receipt. I probably would have handled it better, except that literally every person I talked to reminded me that this was my fault, seemed to neither be surprised nor care that my camera was stolen, and refused to take any personal details to contact me on the off-chance that somebody actually did find a camera. I'm bad enough at dealing with airports when I'm not paying to use my cell phone internationally to be belittled in multiple languages and dialects.

After a brief visit to a very dusty but helpful Maltese police station, we looked for lunch and realized that it was now nearly 4 and everything was closed, and ended up sitting on a park bench eating a greasy but kind of excellent chicken pie. The day picked up when we found cappuccino, went to the National Archaeological Museum to see the fat ladies from the ruins, and I got a duck salad. It took a sudden turn for the worse when I found out that my trip to Joburg was scheduled two days after a launch event I was supposed to help with, took a turn for the better when we successfully took a bus back to our apartment, and more or less evened out when Orbitz allowed me to cancel and rebook my flight for only $10.

And then I found out that they updated the zodiac, and it turns out I'm a Libra and not a Scorpio, which is awful. I will be robbed and mocked and coerced into eating approximately 75g of saturated fat in my lunch, but I absolutely refuse to acknowledge that I'm not a psychotic tempestuous narcissist. That will not stand.

From the Annals of Silver Linings

David and I left for the Cinque Terre yesterday, which was beautiful except a) the train we planned to take had decided not to exist, b) when we arrived in La Spezia, we found out that half the route was temporarily closed because of landslides, and c) virtually everything was closed until early February for the holidays. Yay!

Somehow, this did not stop David from hiking half the route and insisting on visiting all five towns - and not only visiting them, but going through all their streets with a Pac Man like thoroughness. (We also managed to find one restaurant we'd wanted to go to that was open, and had ridiculously good seafood risotto. They were like, "it takes 25 minutes to make," and we were like, hooray, please bring us a half liter of wine.) I'm all pastelled and cobblestoned out now, which is perfect, because we're about to take off for Malta for four days, after which we'll finally go back to Oxford and not be transient and have clean pants and reliable internet, which will be kind of thrilling in itself.

Monday, 10 January 2011

The Bois Do Bologna, and Other Terrible Puns About Italy

This is about the first time I've had wifi since Vienna, save for the random spurts of connectivity that I've been able to hijack on my iPod to update the NYT Crosswords app so I have something to do on planes, trains, and buses besides re-read the one Nadine Gordimer novel I brought with me and become clinically depressed. Over the past two weeks, we've left Vienna for Budapest, and then flown to Italy to trek from Bologna to Florence to Pisa and then to the Cinque Terre tomorrow. It was freezing, but Budapest was tremendous - David and I spent two days there wandering around the city and going to the baths before Emma joined us, when we tackled Castle Hill and ate ridiculously well. (My favorite dish was what appeared to be an entire chicken encrusted in fried cornflakes, served on a bed of inexplicably green couscous. I thought it was awesome, and David thought it was gross, which is a reversal of how these things normally work.) After that, the three of us flew to Bologna and did all of the usual stuff in Bologna, most of which I did seven years ago and promptly forgot until I returned. Emma had to fly back to London to start classes, but David and I made it to Florence for two days, where we rented an apartment from this woman who a) thought we were minors and b) very clearly expected that we would burn down her apartment. (She had nothing to worry about, since our wildest night involved lying around the apartment drinking chianti and watching a BBC special on electric cars.) I expected Pisa to be the worst part of our trip because I booked us a double room in a hostel for 20 euros a night and we really had no idea why we were going to Pisa except that it had cheap flights to Malta, except that we randomly got upgraded to a boutique hotel and I just had a mushroom pizza that is literally the best pizza I've ever had in my life. It's also getting warmer as we head south, meaning that we have stopped piling on layers and trudging through snow and have started sitting outside without coats drinking wine at noon. Win!

Saturday, 1 January 2011


We're shutting it down in Vienna after a fantastic two days with Yussi and his parents, which began with dark orange hot chocolate and a visit to the UFO in Bratislava, clipped through St. Stephen's, a bunch of markets, a phenomenal exhibit on Picasso's political works (along with an exhibit of William Kentridge's work) at the Albertina in Vienna, and ended with a very late party for New Year's with punch and fireworks and a cheese hedgehog (which I will have at every party that I host for the rest of my adult life) that meant that we didn't do a whole lot today except schlep out to the palace for a tour, found a little hole-in-the-wall restaurant for dinner, and went out for coffee before packing for our bus to Budapest tomorrow. And then it's only t-minus two days until we meet up with Emma in Budapest, and Team Fabulous rides again.

"I hope you know that as we visit a few castles, my expectations are going to change."
- David, after visiting Schloss Schonbrunn in Vienna