Monday, January 23, 2012

DSC_0288 [ps] - Camberbridge GreenI'm guessing the bridge over the river the town is named after is the cycle-path one I can see from the window.

So I'm in Pontycrisised, staying in halls (yay, no towels of any description anywhere shared, he said, shaking his hands), with an age-old friend (I can call her that; she's two days younger than I am, and I was just called 'old chap', so it needs passing on).

And there's nothing quite like arriving in an unfamiliar town, following the flows from the station to get to the town centre, then guesstimating my way to her half-remembered doorbell, to be presented with a butternut squash to peel and dismember and then being sent out with vague directions to buy bread from a petrol station that didn't stock it and so improvving my way back into town, then walking in the opposite direction to the Sainsbury's bags (my route, when mapped, does look a bit like a rodent exploring a maze).

So back to cooking in a massively under-equipped kitchen (GA's meagre kit seems to have become common as the other cupboards yielded three rice cookers. The sole capable of cutting knife is about half the width of the loaf. The recipe required every saucepan going, and then some, so was batch cooked and recombined later. Turns out it feeds 8 not 4).

Then unfortunately I thought going to a lecture the friend had mentioned before I arrived might be interesting (ok, I thought it polite with an outside chance of interesting). Not so much. Small room, a dozen or two round a table, and the eminence grise, who, being so fond of his own voice, as is his due [he said this, not about his voice, just his life. Charming man], failed to convey very much in quite a long time, even to those who understood the points he wasn't making. BTW, if quoting from your latest book to illustrate a point, limit extracts to just the one chapter. I ended up reading the titles on the bookshelves on the other side of the room (impenetrable on many subjects and Michael Crichton). And then people watching. Couple in the corner who started off subtle and then, well, I'm sure she was just cold. Next to them a beautiful man, from certain angles, in ironic Christmas jumper (I'm not sure which layers of irony were intentional). Beyond a couple of dull people a cute, touching, literally, probably Italian, nigh on undoubtedly gay, in the architect glasses, with the slightly too frequent eye contact. A bit further up mezzo-cute probably Italian (he was, I saw him at the museum) in the corner, reminding me a lot of one of GA's friends (if you're gay and have been to London he's probably in your Facebook friends, and not just for general trollopiness), so fairly good looking, but thinks he's better looking than he is. I noticed the fairly senior, somewhat arch couple, perhaps in multiple senses, at the end of the table late on, but they had cleared which to people watching too.

[Did I mention the drugs seem to be making me more dyslexic? If you don't understand the last phrase above try reading it aloud. Done that? Hello, welcome to a brain with coding difficulties]

It's not many academic discussions I've been to that have ended at half-eleven at night (I had to resort to subtly writing out "His email is on the paper (HINT)" and tilting it towards GA who was asking questions about as long as the answers to the visible exasperation of the host. Except it turns out she didn't notice either). And it wasn't all that good for her PhD proposal, which is why she went.

Best line: These are unmodellable systems [trans: I don't know]

Fortunately the barman in the college bar, where we adjourned recuperatively, is mighty cute (that no-staff rule doesn't count if they're doing a PhD, right?).

And so to tomorrow, which involved deciding on a list of places to go while GA writes, and thus spending all day in one of them, the WitzFilliam:
- A thousand and one uses for St Sebastian.
- When the end comes all that will be left are cockroaches. And stone torsos.
- Ancient Egyptian Cyberman.
- The perverse, persistent ingenuity of humans makes me cry (that or it's the pills).
- I need to go back, not least find the Hokusai irises they were selling in the shop, but also because, although it's like a small British Museum it's a lot less crowded than there, but does have some true grumps of staff, and I started to glaze over (celadon about right?).
- GA's right; the figurines whichever relative donated to the museum are bloody hideous (though I wonder how she came have the three best seasons).
- Only 20th century humans have body hair.
- Possibly related: one model did have polite genitals on the adult male. Except they were identical to those on an attached putto.
- Rape is so terribly beautiful, or so we are led to believe.
- The world will assume they're brothers.
- The expressions of Ganymede and Leda.

And so out into the fen replenishment, skipping the mooted genomics lecture because GA was caught academicking, and cold and dark and stormy nights are not the best time to explore, especially with a blood sugar level below the water table.

So instead emergency shortbread, hanging round till GA returned, and then watching Aladdin because I needed an antidote to yesterday but thought I might fall asleep in anything too worthy. Except we're both too old not to understand the double-entendres, thus sniggering into giggles at A Hole; New World.

Childishness never fades.

And then GA decided we had to head out for pudding, because, er, that's a normal thing. Turns out calories don't count if there's someone else at the table, and that diets can be ignored if the other person can remember the slimmer version. And so to the student pub on the millpond a few doors down, with a small glass of wine becoming a bottle because the rest of the bottle was free, and a pudding that had a Twix sticking out of it, which is just obscene (and I don't just mean the position of the round chocolates at the base of it).

And so, buzzing, to bed.

The next day we went back to WitzFilliam to discuss things and seek out the missed (guess which of us had discovered more). And so found:
- Turns out the three seasons are because distant-relative-of-friend was having an affair with the man who donated most of the collection, so she got first dibs, and presumably didn't like winter (or couldn't find it).
- Totes a "comradely gesture" (the Assyrians left of the main entrance); they're just very good comrades. Cue discussion about how the modern interpretations written in museums and galleries invariably seem to forget that the objects to their left were made by humans, so beings with both a sense of humour and sexual mores (and a variety of those). Occam is rarely applied, instead what is not sought is not seen.
- The Hokusai irises might be in the shop, on WitzFilliam branded merchandise, but they're buried in the archives, and that's appointment only (they actually seemed willing to help arrange one).
- GA's taste is, despite my best endeavours, not identical to mine. She liked, to the extent of describing it as her favourite, the sub-Richard Scarry thing that's on the right on the right-most room up the right stairs. I'm trying not to think about what it means that her favourite painting in the whole place is the first one most people get to (incidentally, when you go into shops, most people look, and then drift, to the right).

Out to explore and find the signature cake shop has sold out of its huge mound of signature cakes by still-sometime-in-the-morning.

Then a wander up the backs (faintly remembered from the last time I was here, when my brother was deciding he wasn't all that keen on the place. Unfortunately my other navigation point, where I got a tin I still have [some of you will be able to work this out], seems to be long gone, despite being pretty damn touristy [a corner in CoGa for example]. Trying to find it led to the curious Google result of "X, Midsonginterludevidivici" bringing up "X, Cowinriver") and some more wandering.

I liked the parish boundary markers on the hollow lower ground (spot the building on the flood plain) of Threesome College, complete with the lingering 1904 charcoal graffiti. And the stories in the less-public masonry. And not being the cause of the bicycle crash. And being able to read architecture and urban form well enough to thoroughly best GA's idea on which was the eponymous bridge.

And then we got to Potcalling's Callitametre, which brought in a whole new level of like. We went from the temporary exhibition, which turned out to be a room (looking remarkably like a small part of the Vorticists exhibition that was on a while ago somewhere arty; they even had the exhibition catalogue), failed to borrow the key to the sweet little church on the hillock because they're working on it, and then waited to be let into an idiosyncratic house, and that's just the entrance policy.

But, wow, and woah, and I like, and thoroughly approve, and want, and golly, and yes, and can I, please?

Basically a house, or four, of an ex-curator of somewhere else I like the collection, who clearly got access to all the stuff his employers didn't buy. And there's slightly, um, distinctive guardians wandering round drinking tea by it all and quibbling with each other on whether the houseplants need watering.

Then more wandering, discovering places on GA's list of galleries tend to be shops (but it's still art) and so eventually to WeThree's for evensong, because that way you get to see inside the chapel without having to pay, oh, and hear the Christmas Eve lot.

More golly goes here. The building is awesome, original sense, even when lit only by candles (or possibly when), and the choir are... human—stubbly, lingering Movember efforts, ironic glasses, upset and chewing the hem, making eye contact or sitting mute through the prayers—which makes what comes out of them ever more fantastic.

Admittedly the service was a bit, er, old testament, so God from the petulant, vengeful and misogynistic strand (though "whoredom" and "harlotry" are good words), and hearing pure innocence of a young boy's singing commanding His enemies to "lick the dust" did jar slightly (but perhaps this just means I don't go to church much. Lord's prayer: yes, creed: huh?). And the token female reading one of the lessons did keep stressing "ye" because it was an unfamiliar word, which didn't quite help.

And then, because we are two young adults and it was a Saturday night, we stayed in and watched The Third Man, sitting on a bed, pillows insulating backs, on a laptop, because neither of us had seen it. So now I know where that music comes from (and what Ferris wheel references refer to). Odd that those great holes and mounds of rubble aren't sets, but just what the world looked like then (it's almost like Manchester. I would duck, but I don't think he's reading ATM).

And so vegetable stew for brunch for the third day running (did I mention the unintentional feeds-eight thing?) and helping GA with World Bank data, so filling in the blanks in her economic zone categorisation, with occasional corrections (of course Bolivia is in Former Soviet and Eastern European states, and yes, I'm sure Pakistan would love to be classed as Arab World, just as Iran would be thrilled by that description too, and naturally Guyana and Papua New Guinea and Guinea-Bissau are all in the Caribbean, oh and Lesotho is in Latin America, just as Luxembourg and Liechtenstein are in Africa. To be fair though, San Marino does sound like it could be in the Pacific. But she is the same person who in English years ago used yellow taxis to set a scene in London).

Then I get sent off for an hour while GA struggles to adapt her findings to this new geographic knowledge. Except I wandered out of the Korean sector because I wanted to see what the rest of the town was like, found the Waitrose, then the river, thick with Sunday morning training (how exactly does one get distracted by a good mix of muscular and gangly young men flushed in cool, bright air and very-little-imagination Xchanging togs, while not getting run down by their coaches?), and then as swung round, back through town, the sun came out, so it turned into an hour and a half.

Suddenly in, to meet the beau, of whom I've vaguely heard, or studiously not been told much, and to discover the complicated route to their meeting (well, it'll make Christmasses easier). I'd say he's perhaps a bit old, but more importantly, not necessarily bright enough, and seemingly a bit patronising. But it's probably for the best that I didn't tell her that she ought to be able to do better (although understand her self-confidence is probably at the level where any is better than none; her social life seemingly solely ordered in from the outside).

Into town for lunch, in a randomly chosen pub, that turns out to have the same menus as the one next to the house (just checked, yep, that brewery have most of the pubs in town), then off for a walk to the end of the world (except we were just going for lunch so I didn't have my camera), which ended at the first village downstream, and the first pub there, and being almost the only people in the place, but that's because it didn't really imply it was open. The local newsletter on the bar looking forward to the royal wedding didn't really help the atmosphere (though it also advertised something happening in May 2010, so who knows).

Eventually back, chasing the dusk across fields, and then grabbing my things and fleeing for the train of one stop, which handily seems to have replaced the luggage racks with light fittings, which made for an uncomfortable start (through embarrassment over seat hogging). And so to dawdling my way home.


Barmen are a dead end and Arabs are persecuted in Iran. I know just that much, apart from things about the Fitzwilliam where I window shop a lot. :) x
Whereas I seemed to do most of my window shopping by the river.

So what did I miss out? Other than running along a certain road (weirdly I'm supposed to have already left to go to the same one two towns east).

PS. You named it! But what will happen to my utterly shot anonymity now?

I started Googlefudging names when I realised naming a small town with an uncommon name might not be wise, but by making that the only one changed made it obvious which one it was, and then it grew into silliness from there. Anyway, obfuscation is fun.
And I'd forgotten I'd used the free art materials in Pot's Court. What a fenny place, not unlike your apogee :) xx
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