It seems we only have time to either blog or travel/study/work madly, and not both! Or at least this is my excuse and I am sticking to it.
The last two weeks have involved:
[edit: 0. a visit to Regents Park. There were some good photo ops there, and we shall shall have to go back and check out the London Zoo. http://inertia.smugmug.com/gallery/2213408 Note the canal boat blockade! The walk back also took us past Lords cricket ground - what is happening in the test series?!?!?!?!)
- travel with Jen to visit Trish in Battle. Battle is amazing, for several reasons. Firstly, it reinforces my view that the Australian unimaginative place names phenomenon (Great Dividing Range and Great Barrier Reef, I'm looking at you) is inherited - Battle is where the Battle of Hastings took place in 1066. Secondly, it's the first place I've been where you can see a ruin (Battle Abbey) that was smashed up five hundred years ago and replaced with a brand spanking new massive house, which is itself now ancient. Thirdly, I learned more about the Battle of Hastings there than in the 20 minutes we studied it in high school. Fourthly, it is a very pretty town indeed. And finally, they have a pub there with a beer called White Christmas, but being a bitter girl in every sense of the word I was afraid of it. Oh, and of course we liked it because the lovely Trish is there! Photos of Battle.
- quick trip with Jen from Battle to Hastings, on the English Channel. I LOVE this town. It's got kind of a faded elegance to it, although having grown up in Newcastle I am quite aware that even a few weeks of brisk salt air will fade elegance rather faster than usual. The fishing fleet is beach-based, apparently the largest of its kind in Europe. All the boats were safely tucked up on shore though because the weather was fairly exciting that day and the Channel was verrrrrrrrrrry rough (Dover ferry closed, even). It was absolutely freezing, but between downpours the wind was strong enough to dry one's clothes in seconds. Hastings has a "new town", quite shopping mall-esque, and an "old town", complete with mossy rooves and one church for every ten people and tarred fishing tackle house things and the whole bit. It also has the steepest funicular railway in England up to the top of the cliff, which while not as steep as the tram up the peak in Hong Kong is nevertheless quite steep. My ambition is to go back to this place and gorge on seafood, which can in some cases be obtained in pint glasses. AWESOME. Photos of Hastings.
- panicked study for me, as my thesis has been giving me gyp and I am suddenly picturing myself as navigating the treacherous seas of past research in a very leaky theoretical boat. I decided to deal with this by reading more and more junk to the point where I could no longer remember what I had wanted to write about in the first place and had rewritten my introduction 4 times and had started to wander around the flat sobbing "I'm stupid!". My supervisor then took this timely moment to schedule a meeting and request a draft first chapter, which I tried to avoid to no avail. Fortunately, he is experienced in the management of the breakdown of Type A personalities, and not only doled out the required ego boost but also took my frantic babblings and wrote down the structure of my thesis for me in diagrammatic form based thereupon. Then he told me to stop reading, already, because there was nothing new under the sun anyway. I feel like my head has been spring cleaned. The lesson of this story is twofold. One, that one's relationship with one's thesis will have the same pattern as any other: the giddy honeymoon (I don't know a thing about you, but I love you!), the horror once information as to the other party becomes available (oh my God, what have I gotten myself into?) and finally acceptance (let's make the best of a bad job). Two, one should never attempt such a crazy endeavour without a level-headed thesis supervisor or friend-slash-relationship therapist as the case may be :)
- a trip to Italy viz Venice/Morsano where Robert's father's family comes from, but as Grant has already written about this, so I will put it in his words:
All up it took almost 15 hours. I thought Europe was supposed to be small?
The rest of the weekend was spent visiting various local attractions, spending time with The Wife's family's family and then in to Venice on Sunday.
For some cycle-related content, there happened to be a cyclocross race on in Morsano on the Saturday. I was impressed - when we first arrived it was the kiddies racing, and there was a pretty decent turn out. Plenty of team vans and support persons.
(warning, some not-very-exciting pictures of Venice are in there too)
 not a bad way to start a job, only been there 3 days and I asked
to leave early and take off a friday!
 need I say more?
 the trip home (straight from Venice) took considerably less time,
but still didn't get to bed until about 3am this morning! [ed note - Monday morning, when Grant had to be at work at 8.30am and I got to sleep in until 9.30am or so]"
I should add that we have a really lovely time. The weather was pretty rainy for most of the Friday and Saturday but thankfully we are now used to being rained upon, and also we now have RAINPROOF HATS, take that UK weather! We saw Udine which has a beautiful gallery walk thing up what looks like the only hill for miles around, so you can see quite a distance of domes and pillars and streets and all things Italian. Also I picked up my much beloved 50 Euro long down-filled coat thing there, which is like wearing a doona and which will hopefully see me through the rest of what a European winter has to offer (Jen - coat really would have been useful in Hastings!). My story regarding purchasing same with frantic sign-language reduced an Italian fellow student to hysterical laughter. You may wish to picture me using sign language for "showerproof" at this point for full effect.
We also saw a walled city whose name I can't remember, and a restored old villa by which I mean giant palace covered with statues, also can't remember the name. Annoying! Fellow Italian student above noted that there is not much English spoken where we were (except Venice of course) and while that is true (a) Robert translated everything for us and (b) as I noted to fellow student, it is rather arrogant to stride over the earth expecting people to speak your language, and I'm thinking next trip I'll at least learn some basic phrases ahead of time (NB: student's response was "it's only arrogant if you don't realise that other people do in fact speak other languages").
On Sunday we went to Venice on the sunniest day I've seen in a good long while. It was touristy but sort of transcendently so. The San Marco piazza defies belief really. I mean, there is a lot of Victorian architecture in the UK that is opulent in the extreme/covered in gold leaf, or what have you, but this took it to the next step. And also there were about a million different kinds of marble involved so it was geologically educational, too. We went ahead of Susan and Robert with Harry and Gus and it was really great to spend some time with the cousins. We had rather a lot of fun on the ferries, too. Warning re Venice: they will make you pay to pee. Photos of Italy (no bathrooms, I promise, but lots of airport shots).
On return to London we avoided bread and cheese like the plague for a few days, but we're ready for more pizza now.
Highlights of week: thesis supervisor spring cleaning my brain; students demonstrating the enunciation of "h" at lunch.