allochthonous: (the great outdoors)
2015-04-12 07:50 pm

and now the traditional Easter khachapuri

Owing to a happy conjunction of Independence Day and Orthodox Easter, we have had  a five day weekend, which I used to have a quintessentially Georgian Holiday, involving as it did churches in caves, churches out of caves, an earnest proposition from a fifteen year old (side note: I have apparently become old enough to pull off "What would your mother say?" convincingly), a taxi driver swigging from a bottle of wine while explaining to me how Britain was originally settled by Armenians, a very jolly Easter tea party with some monks, and immense quantities of food. Goodness, I'm going to miss this country.

I also reread all of the Steerswoman books (I love them so much, and am very sad that I can't spend my entire life wandering around being nosy and making maps. Damn you, GIS.), and settled in with The Elegant Universe, which I reread every couple of years to remind myself why I once thought I wanted to be a physicist (turns out I didn't enough to make the effort with the maths, but I enjoy mulling over the weirdness of the concepts). I suspect it's probably quite (well, very; it was published in 1999) out of date now? I'm not really sure that string theory is still a Thing, or at least not The Thing? But Brian Greene writes science extremely well, and the opening chapters on relativity and quantum mechanics are some of the clearest and most intuitive I've come across. Also he did a great TV series about it wherein he attempted to teach physics to his dog.

I am full of paskha (sort of like panettone, but tbh not quite as good) but it's the kind of thing that goes stale quickly so you are required to keep eating it. I wonder if I dare turn it into bread-and-butter pudding?

allochthonous: (Default)
2014-11-13 10:31 pm

Finger: still attached (mostly)

Have an easily accessible injury is the worst. I am unable to stop myself from taking off the bandages every few hours and poking it to see if it's better yet (it isn't).

Oh, we landed on a comet! I follow space exploration somewhat less obsessively than I used to, but this is a major, major achievement and I got rather teary watching live footage of mission control during the landing. Ten years. xkcd as usual is on the case.

I loved this article about The Knowledge, the test all London taxi drivers must pass before they can drive a black cab which requires the memorisation of all 25,000 streets within a 6-mile radius of Charing Cross. I defy anyone to watch the video in the article of an aspiring cabbie calling a route from Rotherhithe to the Natural History Museum and not be impressed. Puts my language-learning tribulations into perspective.

What are you reading now?

Racing through Foxglove Summer, the latest Rivers of London which turned up on my kindle this morning. Enormous fun so far, but the rural setting means I am missing Peter's geeking out over London.

What have you finished reading?


Dave Hutchinson's Europe in Autumn, which I think someone on the flist read recently and I thought sounded interesting. It's set in the near future as Central and Eastern Europe have splintered into dozens of tiny polities, and an organisation called the Coreurs facilitates the transmission of people and things across the new borders. It's mostly set in and around these new statelets, and Hutchinson clearly knows the region well - the world building really works, and there's a sympathetic protagonist. But it starts off (and continues for most of the book) as a pretty good spy story, then takes a left turn into something awesome, and then the book abruptly ends. I will pick up the sequel if there is one, but it would have been a better book if (twist) had happened earlier and the implications had been allowed to play out a bit more.

What will you read next?

I am hearing good things about The Goblin Emperor, but the kindle edition seems weirdly expensive. Otherwise I have a whole bunch of actual meatspace books from the frankly eccentric collection that ends up at our English bookswap that I should probably get around to tackling.

In Real Life, I am having to make decisions about my future and I don't like it. Georgia is wonderful and I have a pretty good job, but I'm getting a bit too comfortable here, and I want to move on (God knows what it says about me that getting comfortable somewhere makes me immediately want to leave). But to where and to do what is a little more difficult to work out. Real life is hard.
allochthonous: (cold reality)
2014-11-09 10:35 pm

Still some way to go

Most of the time I consider myself a reasonably functional adult, but every so often a staggering display of personal ineptitude makes me wonder whether I should be allowed out of the house on my own, let alone given a passport. Witness this afternoon, when a) I mangled my finger in the blender out of sheer carelessness, because I was too engrossed in an episode of Serial (which is gripping by the way; highly recommended to anyone who enjoys true crime and/or excellent journalism) to notice I hadn't unplugged it; whereupon, having washed and dressed the remains of my fingertip, I b), did my Russian homework, watched Doctor Who, ordered a pizza, consumed said pizza and generally pottered about for the next five hours, resolutely ignoring the blood merrily soaking through the bandages in the quite obviously delusional hope that it would just stop on its own because no one goes to the doctor with a cut finger, right?

Fortunately for my future manual dexterity, a friend turned up and politely pointed out that when sensible people start dripping blood on the floor they do something called "seeking medical attention" and pushed me out of the door in the direction of the nearest clinic. So now I have two stitches, a telling-off from the doctor, a fistful of antibiotics, and sense of mild concern at my apparently total failure at self-care. Project Proper Grownup is clearly some way off completion.

allochthonous: (we make the golden journey)
2014-07-22 08:12 pm

Good enough, just not transcendental

That's it, I'm done. I've reached the pinnacle of my professional ambition of the past three years - someone is actually paying for me to go back to Central Asia, specifically Kyrgyzstan - and that achieved, I'm not entirely sure what else I want from work. Mountains! Yurts! Kumis! Felt carpets! Plov! Oh, and I have to give some presentations or something, but I'm sure I can muddle through that.

I also lucked out on my timing with visits home and managed to obtain a Chinese visa (a bugger to get outside your country of citizenship, these days, unless you do it in Hong Kong), so I will finally, finally get to see Kashgar. You hear that almost all of the old town these days has been destroyed, and the Sunday bazaar become a complete tourist trap, but some places you just have to go. In the absence of any knowledge of Mandarin at all, I am pinning all of my hopes on the fact that I bought a train ticket in Uzbek once and Uzbek is sort of maybe a bit mutually intelligible with Uighur if you squint. I have no idea. I'll figure it out. I miss travelling, I miss being on a journey, and it's hard to get that sensation back in only two weeks, but I love Kyrgyzstan so much, love the mountains and the smell and the immensity of the landscape, and Xinjiang sounds like it's going to be a proper challenge. I am so happy and excited to be going back.

In the meantime, I hope everyone is enjoying Pi Approximation Day! "Good enough, just not transcendental" has been my life motto for a while and so far it hasn't let me down.
allochthonous: (then you can tell if it's summer)
2014-07-16 11:16 pm

London theatre roundup

It is so disgustingly hot. The warm water dripping from air-conditioning vents makes it feel like even the buildings are sweating and everything is flat and heavy and there is squashed fruit underfoot everywhere which normally I find charming but now is just yuck. In protest I have holed up in my flat with three books of Russian grammar and a bottle of wine in an attempt to crack Russian dates. No luck so far, but a lot of Sebastian Stan (I have finally worked out what tumblr is for).

I was briefly in London the other week, which meant (almost) All The Theatre.

Julius Caesar, The Globe )

The Crucible, The Old Vic ).

Titus Andronicus, The Globe )

I had a ticket for Antony & Cleopatra the day before I left, but sadly had to go emergency shopping instead (stupid Sunday opening hours). My annoyance at missing Eve Best and Clive Wood is mitigated by the fact that the Globe now DVDs everything, and they usually do it quite well too.

The forecast is for 37 C tomorrow. I am so ready for autumn right now.
allochthonous: (i cannot rest from travel)
2014-05-06 06:50 pm

A Sipsmiths-shaped hole in my life has been filled

My parents are visiting which would be wonderful even if they hadn't bought gin and baking ingredients (why is brown sugar so hard to find in 90% of the world?), which they did. We had a lovely weekend wandering around Tbilisi and appreciating all the twiddly art nouveau bits, and went to Mtskheta on Sunday to admire 1500-year-old churches with miraculously floating columns (sadly a saint almost immediately came along and miraculously made the column stop floating. Spoilsport)). Unfortunately I have to work this week so yesterday I waved them off to find the bus to the mountains; evidently successfully since I received a rather incoherent text at about midnight saying that they were drinking toasts with three policemen from Kutaisi and their cousin from Moscow. I was a bit worried that they wouldn't really enjoy Georgia and that I wouldn't be around enough to make it fun for them, but fortunately it seems that Georgia itself has stepped up to the plate admirably.

Long weekend to be spent in the wineries and churches of the south east. God, I love this country.
allochthonous: (spirit)
2014-04-26 10:46 pm
Entry tags:

In today's adventures in Viennese performing arts

Going to a concert in Vienna is pretty much obligatory, even if you manage to avoid being mobbed in Stefansplatz by all those students dressed as Mozart, so I grabbed a last-minute ticket for a performance of The Messiah which did at least promise to be in English. I assumed it would be a standard concert setup, but apparently this isn't weird enough for Austria, and it turned out to be an arrangement into a kind of operetta that told a story which was not the one you might expect from the libretto, and in fact I never quite worked out what it was.
 
After a while I found it worked better when I thought of it as a random selection of possibly improvised scenes which included the soloists crashing a funeral to sing at people,  "The People that Walked in Darkness" delivered to the accompaniment of the singer vigorously thumping a coffee vending machine, and "How Beautiful are the Feet of Them" sung at an actual pair of feet, and occasionally a lady wandered on and signed part of the libretto and wandered off again,and the final scene involved the chorus building an enormous tower of chairs in the middle of the stage. None of this particularly mattered, as the singing was gorgeous, even when it had to be done from a slightly odd position (stiff competition with last night's Hamlet in the writhing around on the floor stakes; full credit to the bass soloist for managing most of the beginning of "The Trumpet Shall Sound" in this way), and the countertenor and tenor in particular were sublime. Fantastic orchestra as well, taking it at a good pace (I like my Messiahs zippy) and I thoroughly enjoyed myself. Future Messiahs without drunk funeral-crashing will be so disappointing.

That said, I think I'm going to make cake the focus of my final few days in town, as it appears to be reliably less surreal than the arts.
allochthonous: (Default)
2014-04-26 12:42 am
Entry tags:

The rest is FINALLY silence

Full of glee because I achieved my Azerbaijan visa (no mean feat) and my Georgian work permit today, so I am all set to get back home next week. Vienna is nice and all and has good cake and drinkable coffee, but I am missing khachapuri.

For reasons of misplaced cultural enthusiasm I ended up this evening at a performance of Hamlet at the Burgtheater which I think is effectively the Austrian equivalent of the National. What I did not realise was that this was entirely uncut, although the 5.30 start time should perhaps have tipped me off; we didn't get out until 11. Bum-numbing qualities aside,  it was actually pretty good (well, Hamlet and Gertrude and weirdly, Rosencratz, were excellent; everyone else sort of so-so and they did some weird thing where a different actor played Ophelia when she was mad which I thought was just odd) with a  young Hamlet which makes him so much less tiresome (he still is fairly tiresome, but I find it way more forgivable when played by a 20-something as opposed to a pushing-40, which seems standard in the UK these days), and a slightly bizarre set like the interior of a sad 1980s conference centre, but five and a half hours of Hamlet is generally far more Hamlet than anyone needs.

But the final scene was entirely worth the preceding five hours as after all that Serious Acting everyone let rip: I've never seen such stupendously histrionic death agonies. The duel was great, which it isn't always, but was totally overshadowed by Gertrude rolling around on the floor behind them while Hamlet wasn't going to let deadly poison prevent him from emitting earsplitting shrieks between every line. Meanwhile Claudius sort of stood around forgetting to act until it was time to die and then he collapsed tenderly into Osric's arms, and then young Fortinbras came in and giggled like a psycopath and beat up Horatio. It was superb.
allochthonous: (Default)
2014-04-17 02:49 pm
Entry tags:

What are you reading Thursday is full of sachertorte

If your day so far has lacked joy, I highly recommend this photoessay about a young girl who is training to be an eagle hunter in Mongolia.

What are you reading now?


Finally out on kindle in the UK is Hild, by Nicola Griffith, which I have seen praised to the skies all over the place. Lovely so far, and what Griffith does very well is the sense of what it’s like living in the ruins of a far more advanced civilisation, which is something I have always thought must have been very strange in Dark Ages Britain. The book is set about two hundred years after the Romans have left Britain, and in Caer Luel (which it took me a while to work out was Carlisle) there’s a fountain that still works. Hild’s wonder at the fountain, a piece of technology so much more advanced than anything she’s seen before. I have to read it with google handy to work out the place names, but it has got me fascinated by a period of history I knew almost nothing about, which is never bad.

What have you just finished reading?

Also recently out on kindle was Blood of Tyrants, which is Temeraire… 8? Given that there’s only one more book, I’m in it until the bitter end, but I’m finding the books increasingly less interesting, with too many near-identical aerial battles and lightning visits to various countries to learn about their dragons, but nowhere near enough character development. The amnesia plotline here dragged like crazy, and they could have skipped the whole Japan bit. I love Laurence and Temeraire, but it would have been a far better series if it were all about Jane Roland and Excidium instead.

Life After Life by Kate Atkinson, which is an otherwise terrific book where the central conceit (of a woman living her life over and over again) is almost entirely unnecessary. The story works well enough without that, and the constant rehashing of events again and again without any apparent reason behind it began to irritate me after a while. The parts set in the Blitz will stick with me for a long time, though.

It took me until halfway through David Mitchell’s first novel Ghostwritten to realise that I had in fact read it before and I wasn’t just getting flashbacks to Cloud Atlas. Really feels like a dry run for the later novel, and while there are some lovely bit (the China and Mongolia stories were my favourites), it doesn’t really hang together terribly well and the stuff about technology and artificial intelligence feels pretty dated (I think it came out in the late 90s).

What will you read next?


A colleague gave me And the Mountains Echoed as a leaving present. I somehow haven’t read any Hosseini so far, so I’m looking forward to that.

Off to Prague tomorrow for the long weekend. Happy Easter to all who celebrate, and extra day in bed to everyone else!

allochthonous: (Default)
2014-04-03 08:08 pm
Entry tags:

All mod cons

Vienna update: weather amazing, new job pretty good though very busy, and the flat where I am staying has a Nespresso machine.Viennese supermarkets seem strangely short on chile peppers, fresh coriander or any spices beyond cumin and some rather dubious-looking "curry powder", but I have found out that there is an Asian supermarket not too far away, which will presumably sort me out for key cooking ingredients. I am enjoying being back somewhere with easy access to rocket, and I am having it with everything (chicken curry with rocket stirred in? fried mushroom and poached egg on a bed of rocket? It's all good) . Tomorrow I am planning to sleep for a very ling time, and then find some cake.

In other news, Martin Freeman is apparently going to play Richard III at the Trafalgar? I... don't quite know what to think about that.
allochthonous: (we make the golden journey)
2014-03-04 03:04 pm
Entry tags:

Living in interesting times

Gorgeous long weekend lazing around in the mountains (actually only a bit of lazing, I also climbed the occasional hill). I also wrote about my enduring love for the bath houses of Tbilisi on my Proper Blog, and spent a lot of time catching up on my enormous pile of bookmarked links.

Talking of Georgia, this is a lovely article about eating and drinking there (a Georgian feast is one of the best eating experiences you can have). Another from a  few years ago highlights the huge number of varieties of fruit in the region, far more than people in the west are familiar with (I can vouch for the figs, which are amazing). Agronomists from the US are searching for new cultivars in the Caucasus which could eventually be grown in the US under changing climatic conditions.

Which smoothly segues into new research showing the link between the collapse of the Indus civilisation and the drying of the climate in the Middle East towards the end of the Bronze Age. I love paleoclimatology, it's just a shame that actually doing it involves spending so much time looking at bloody foraminifera.

This is a remarkable story about a highschool dropout from rural India who spent years developing an affordable machine to make sanitary towels for rural women. His single-mindedness-to-the-point-of-obsession meant that he lost his family and almost all his money on the way, but the final product has been very successful (and his wife came back, so yay, happy ending!).

I have also spent a lot of time side-eyeing the situation in Ukraine. I read an article last week from a liberal Russian journalist, written before the Russian troops moved into the Crimea, and this paragraph, on how he felt when the Russians moved into South Ossetia in 2008, really struck me.

In my picture of the world, nothing of the sort [Russia sending troops into Crimea] can happen, but I remember my picture of the world in August 2008 – back then, in my picture, Russia couldn’t have sent troops into Georgia, but it up and sent them. On the morning of August 8, 2008, I flew to Moscow from Chelyabinsk, and watched the events in South Ossetia from an overflowing waiting room in a little southern Urals airport. There were a lot of people there, but I was the only one surprised by Russians tanks in the Roki Tunnel; the rest of the passengers perceived this as a given. Because I built my picture of the world by reading independent political analysts, independent media and social networks, and the rest of the passengers didn’t read any of that, but read Komsomolskaya Pravda and watched state TV channels. And that morning it turned out that their picture of the world was closer to reality than mine. On the whole, that morning produced a very strong impression on me.

It chimes with this article on how the west (and the US in particular) and Russia operate almost on entirely different planes of reality when it comes to their understanding of their relationship. I am watching Putin's press conference,and I have absolutely no idea what is going to happen next.
allochthonous: (Default)
2014-02-28 05:30 pm
Entry tags:

What are you reading Friday has snuck off for an early long weekend

Long weekend courtesy of Georgian mother's day (or something, no one at the office seems quite sure), so I have buggered off to the mountains for some Scenery and quality reading time. Not getting much of the former as yet owing to the large snow cloud that has descended over our hotel, but all forecasts swear blind that it'll be clear tomorrow, so photospam appears likely.

In the mean time, have a very delayed reading meme.

What are you reading now?

The Secret History of the Pink Carnation, which so far seems to be a cheerful ripoff of the Scarlet Pimpernel etc, and there is clearly going to be cross dressing and swashbuckling and hijinx galore, and is great fun.

What have you finished reading?


I spent much of last week staying up until 2 am reading, which is something I haven't done for a very long time.

The Golem and the Djinni, Hellene Wecker. Lovely fairytale-esque story of new arrivals in New York in the nineteenth century. The backstories of every character were so well written and engaging that I could put up even with the longeurs in the middle where nothing much happens apart from a lot of wandering around the city. Absolutely fascinating for someone like me who knows bugger all about the history of NY, and from a basis of total ignorance, it really seemed as thought the author had done her homework about the Syrian and Jewish immigrant communities of that time.

The Rabbit Back Literature Society, Pasi Ilmari Jääskeläinen. Amazon appears to be filing this under Nordic Noir, but it's not quite like anything else I've read: a strange and unsettling thriller set in a small town in Finland. It doesn't really go anywhere, but is thoroughly creepy and peculiar en route.

Gone Girl, Gillian Flynn. I can see why this has been praised to the skies - it really is gripping - but good Lord, everyone involved is a terrible, terrible person, almost to the point of caricature. I finished it in two days flat but was disappointed that the ending (spoiler!) did not not involve every single character getting struck by lightning simultaneously.

The Thousand Autumns of Jacob de Zoet
, David Mitchell. I have never run into a Mitchell I didn't like, and damn, that guy can write, but it took me a while to accept that  in this one no one was going to turn out to be the incarnation of a character in the book they'd been reading two chapters previously or similar, and was just going to mope about forbidden love in Edo Japan in exquisitely written prose. There was a Mystic Cat though, that was good.

What will you read next?

Glory be, all of the Attolia books are finally out on kindle (for ages Queen of Attolia wasn't) so I can spend a peaceful long weekend lounging around inhaling the lot of them. I have only read The Thief so far, which I loved, but held out on the rest until I could read them in order. Also I have Serious Books (The Luminaries is apparently quite good?) but who'm I kidding, nineties YA fantasy all the way.
allochthonous: (Default)
2014-02-21 05:31 pm

We need to talk about Hal

So the RSC just released their trailer for this season's Henry IVs, and despite the Anthony Sher as Falstaff factor, I am a bit concerned:



I'm really not sure I can sit though six hours of bildungsroman for a member of the Bullingdon club*.

*This is perhaps a little unfair, but the actor reminds me very much of Toby Stephens when he is poshing it up to the max, which rather sets my teeth on edge. He's got the smugness well and truly nailed, though.
allochthonous: (spirit)
2014-02-14 12:10 am
Entry tags:

A mixed week

Tbilisi has gone overnight from -15 C to +11 C which, while giving one slight clothing-related whiplash, does mean that I no longer have to sleep in the living room right next to the heater on full blast, always wondering if I am not in fact going to wake up next morning due to carbon monoxide poisoning. Feeling the cold in your actual bones is interesting from an academic perspective for about thirty seconds, but then gets old pretty rapidly.

Mixed week. My best friend is getting married, which is fantastically exciting (and long overdue), and I have a new job starting in April (full time with the Tbilisi crowd, means I get to spend a month in Vienna too) which is also excellent. Then Mum emailed to say that our much adored Buffy had had to be put to sleep. She was nearly fourteen, which is old for a big dog, and she had been going downhill for several months, and just wasn't able to stand up anymore. She'd been blind for a couple of years, but that hadn't really seem to put her off, as she ricocheted very slowly off fences, walls, stray furniture en route to her food bowl. Right until the very end, despite her reluctance to go on walks she could still make it up twelve stairs to steal the catfood whenever Mum had her back turned. Feels very much like the end of an era - any other dog my parents get won't be "mine" in the same way.

Oh God, my kettle has apparently been on fire the entire time I was writing this entry. This is what happens if you don't have a smoke alarm. Fortunately it's just the wooden handle that's gone (FFS why would you make a kettle with a wooden handle?) and has done nothing worse than stink the kitchen out. Note to self: keep a closer eye on open flames.
allochthonous: (london)
2014-01-29 12:15 pm
Entry tags:

What are you reading Wednesday is all about the gin

I think I may have a new job. It's kind of dfficult to tell. More on this as it emerges.

For reasons best known to themselves, over Christmas Amazon decided to replace my broken and very out of warranty Kindle Keyboard with a Kindle Touch. The touchscreen alarms me somewhat, but hey, free kindle, and access to books again! I had reached the stage where I was forced to try and play sudoku on the in-flight entertainment to distract me during take off (I find I like flying less and less the more I do of it. I took 38 separate flights last year. It's becoming a bit of a problem).

What are you reading now?


Let Our Fame Be Great
by Oliver Bullough, which I bought without looking too hard because I thought it was about the South Caucasus; it’s actually about the North Caucasus and all the more interesting for it. Whereas the primary cultures of the SC (Georgians, Armenians, Azeris) more or less came to terms with the Tsarist armies and in several cases actively preferred them to the Persian and Ottoman threats to the south and west, the north Caucasian peoples were less convinced, and consequently got genocided (under the Tsars) and mass deported (under the Communists) in a pretty hideous way. Fascinating and depressing reading, and gives you yet another reason to feel icky about Sochi (slap bang on the 150th anniversary of the Circassian genocide).

What have you finished reading?

A reread of Wolf Hall and Bring Up the Bodies, just because. Also, I have been having great fun with Amanda Downum's Necromancer series. The Drowning City is a cheerfully swashbuckling fantasy in an interesting SE Asia setting (protagonist is from a fairly standard W Europe setting though) and The Bone Palace isn't too shoddy either. Good female heroine and large percentage of female characters not defined by their relationships (not all heterosexual either). Depressing that this should be such a selling point, but there you go.

What will you read next?

A lot of people on a forum I frequent have been raving about Gun Machine, so I'll give that a crack. I've also got the first volume of the Earthsea Quartet (can't believe I've never read those) on reserve at the English book swap.
allochthonous: (Default)
2014-01-26 11:28 am
Entry tags:

A very belated happy new year

I've started so many posts the last few weeks and been distracted. Lovely time in London over Christmas (although I'm not sure we had a single dry day) but back in Georgia now, which is a great relief because I can curl up on the sofa with a bag of walnuts and a massive hunk of sulguni cheese and a cup of coffee and not have to move because someone needs to watch The Holiday or whatever. To ease myself in, have some links.

An absolute must-read  photoessay from [livejournal.com profile] zyalt on the street battles in Kiev (getting a lot of traffic so you may need to reload); couple that with Ten Things the West Needs to Know About the Situation in Kiev. The protests may have originally kicked off about the backtracking of the government on signing an Association Agreement with the EU, but the violence is now very much in response to the massive clampdown on civil liberties from the government.

This video from the Donmar Warehouse of the cast preparing for a performance of Coriolanus. If you are anywhere near a theatre showing the NT Live screening of this production on Jan 30th (later dates in the US), beg, borrow or steal a ticket (or, you know, ring up and book one like a normal person). One of best bits of theatre I've seen for a long time, and one day I will actually finish writing up my review of it.

The new Sam Wanamaker Playhouse next  to the Globe looks so beautiful. It's a reproduction of a Jacobean theatre, complete with lighting via candle  (candelabra descending from the ceiling! It sounds delightful, but how do they ensure people don't get wax dripped on them? Or maybe that's an essential part of the Jacobean experience). It's tiny, and I wonder if it is going to prompt a Donmar-style scramble for tickets every season, which is something those of us who are less orgnanised really don't need.

The list of things for which I need to return to London this summer grows ever longer: Simon Russell Beale's King Lear, Wolf Hall and Bring up the Bodies at the RSC (I am curled up on my sofa with a cup of coffee rereading BUtB for the umpteenth time and doodling little hearts around Mantel's writing, I love these books so much), and the British Museum's Viking exhibition. I do love a good viking, and I even more love the glee with which the press are making Ikea jokes about the BM being sent an entire flat-pack longship from Denmark.

Tbilisi is not looking so hot at the moment. So here are some old paintings I found of Tbilisi looking exciting and romantic and far more dramatic than it actually is (it is pretty dramatic, though).
allochthonous: (london)
2013-11-24 10:17 pm
Entry tags:

I dedicated the script to you

Yeah, yeah, The Day of the Doctor and An Adventure in Space and Time were great and all, but for my money the best thing to come out of Wholapalooza 50 was The Five(ish) Doctors Reboot, a superbly funny half hour film by Peter Davison about the quest of Five, Six, Seven and Eight to take part in the 50th anniversary special. Cameos and in-jokes galore; I defy any Who fan to watch the trailer and not immediately inhale the whole thing.
allochthonous: (we make the golden journey)
2013-10-15 08:20 pm

At least it's not three days this time.

About to get on the sleeper train from Kiev to Minsk. Coming to the realisation that while this kind of thing is great fun if you're a backpacker who already smells a bit and doesn't have to do anything on the other end, rocking up to a business meeting straight from the station in the clothes you slept in, having been woken up twice in the night to cross the border, maybe isn't something that responsible grownups do. On the other hand, it's cheaper, my WWF colleague has been mollified by my reduced carbon footprint (entirely undeservedly as I have at a rough count taken 25 flights this year so far, which given the nature of my job, drives a tank straight through "ironic" and out the other side) and I apparently have serious ex-Soviet sleeper train nostalgia, which proves that there is no experience so uncomfortable that time can't work its magic.

On the other hand, new episode of Welcome to Night Vale. Neat.
allochthonous: (Default)
2013-10-03 07:05 pm
Entry tags:

no one's safe place

It is National Poetry Day in the UK, so Twitter informs me, which is a good moment to link to this post by Sofia Samatar, who wrote  . the beautiful-but-not-very-plotty A Stranger in Olondria. Samatar has done translations of some classical Arabic poetry by women; my favourite is this, by tenth-century Cordoban Aisha bint Ahmed al-Qurtubiyya, who knew how to send someone packing:

I'm a lioness.
I'll never be anyone's safe place.
And if I did choose that, I wouldn't love a dog
when I've been deaf to lions.

There are some lovely (and very funny) poems at the link - do have a look. Aisha herself sounds awesome:  she died in 1010 having never married, but she seemed to have far more fun being an excellent calligrapher, writing copies of the Koran, collecting books and being keen on science. And living in Andalucia, which no doubt was pretty OK, too.

I am having an unusually delicious day: determined to break out of my carrot and ginger soup rut, I made spicy aubergine, apricot and tomato soup for lunch (it still has ginger in it. Baby steps.), and carrot, cumin and bean burgers from A Girl Called Jack for supper. Working from home has its upsides.
allochthonous: (Default)
2013-10-02 01:46 pm

What are you reading Wednesday has an "Oktoberfest" hangover

I have had a fairly hectic couple of weeks - a nastily timed bout of flu means that I am about two hundred quid out after missing two flights to the Netherlands, and then I was at one of those conferences last week which has stuff basically scheduled from 7am to 9pm, and you find yourself having extended meetings until 1 in the morning while the restaurant staff are just begging you to leave. But now I am back in Tbilisi, which is lovely and autumnal, and I had the odd realisation that for the first time my flat feels more like home to me than my parents' house. Better late than never, I suppose.

Surprisingly, I went to the theatre a bit in London!

Edward II )

Much Ado About Nothing )

What are you reading now?

Nearly done with The Moonstone, which was free on the kindle, and long so good for plane trips. It is apparently one of the first detective stories in English, and very similar in tone to the Sherlock Holmes books (though obviously much longer). Good fun, give or take the very of-its-time attitude towards those wacky Hindoos (sic).

What have you just finished reading?

Seraphina by Rachel Hartman, which I got from a recommendation by someone on my reading list. One of the best YA fantasies I've read for quite some time: dragons, excellent worldbuilding, ace female characters, and a love interest that doesn't overwhelm the whole plot. Although I agree with the original rec post, which said that it would have felt slightly more realistically if Seraphina herself had been aged up a bit. She pinged me far more as late teens/early twenties than sixteen.

What will you read next?

It's nearly Republic of Thieves time! I loved The Lies of Locke Lamora and Red Seas Under Red Skies (now containing actual women!) and can't wait to see what Lynch does with this.