allochthonous: (the great outdoors)
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 I suspect it's probably quite (well, very; it was published in 1999) out of date now?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)
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)
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: (i cannot rest from travel)
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: (we make the golden journey)
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)
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: (spirit)
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: (Default)
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: (Default)
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.
allochthonous: (the great outdoors)
A question for the ages: why do all Georgian mini-marts carry a minimum of six different brands of tomato paste, but you have to go to the international supermarkets to get actual tinned tomatoes? Although, now that I think about it, this is no doubt down to the fact that I could have bought actual fresh tomatoes instead. Lateral thinking is not my strong point.

Back from a gorgeous long weekend rafting in Racha, which is full of beautiful, rolling, densely-forested hills with low clouds and the occasional patch cleared for some grape vines, and pigs sleeping peacefully at bus stops. Owing to some unseasonable rain, the rapids were rather more interesting than I think had been anticipated, but we ended up with the same number of people we started out with which I understand is the general goal of these kinds of expeditions, and those of us that fell out of the boat got pulled back in pretty promptly, and there was plenty of wine and vodka (although not in the boat itself), so a good time was had by all. Plus I reacquainted myself with one of my favourite sound in the world (raindrops on the rood of your tent) and one of my least favourite sensations in the world (the growing dampness around your toes as said raindrops permeate smoothly through the not-wholly-waterproof walls of your tent).

Now I come back from 72 internet-free hours to the less-than-surprising news of an England batting collapse (good to see the natural order of things reasserting itself) and the to me, anyway, thoroughly surprising new of a new Doctor. I am of the camp which would rather not see a female Doctor while Moffat is in charge, and while I would have liked to see and actor of colur for a change, I do think Capaldi is an excellent choicek: he's a superb actor, and his age should mix up the Doctor-companion vibe a bit (I bloody well hope, anyway). My main concern is less with him than with Clara, who I've never really got a handle on. Last season she was a Sassy Plot Device whose sole purpose was to save the Doctor; it would be nice to get a tad more characterisation this year.
allochthonous: (the great outdoors)
Kitchen view!
Shiny new apartment is now shiny new apartment with added internet! Still no wifi so I am constantly tripping over fifteen metres of cable, but it is double the speed of the office internet, so I'm not complaining too much. I am (almost) at the top of a hill steep enough that the road sort of dissolves into tiny narrow stairways through people's back gardens full of stray cats and vines and fig and pomegranate trees which makes nipping back when you realise halfway to work that you've forgotten your colleague's birthday present a bit of a pain. The view's worth it, though, and there's enough of a breeze up here that even I, drizzle-loving miserabalist that I am, can dispense with air conditioning. I still have not established a) how to correctly pronounce the name of my street or, more pertinently b) what name the street actually goes by among taxi drivers, which I am pretty sure differs from the one on the map, so for the moment I am getting an awful lot of exercise, and perfecting my Russian debating skills.

This weekend I am going rafting, which is not an activity I have indulged in since I was eighteen, which was *gulp* ten years ago.now. That is not a good thought. What has disturbed me even more than the inevitable passage of time is the discovery that I have somehow manged to come to Georgia so poorly-equipped that I have neither a sleeping bag, Swiss army knife or headtorch. Eighteen-year-old me would not have been so lax. Still, there will be mountains and old churches and excellent barbeques as well as white water, so I suspect a good time will be had by all. Must remember to pack wine though.
allochthonous: (spirit)
Orthodox priests and protestors attacking a tiny rally in Tbilisi held to celebrate International Day Against Homphobia and promote gay rights.

Last year's rally to celebrate IDAHO was the first time any kind of public gay rights rally had been held in Georgia, and was broken up by religious and ultra-nationalist counter-protestors. This year, the IDAHO opponests weren't going to let them get that far: the rally was abandoned before it started and participants had to be bussed to safety by police after thousands of people accompanied by Orthodox priests occupied the proposed site of the rally and attacked anyone they believed to be associated with it,

Video footage shows some thugs apparently chanting the Lord's Prayer as they attack the demonstrators; others are content with the more prosaic "Kill them! Tear them to pieces!". Some of the protestors are bearing stinging nettles, for their curative properties, to "beat the gays" with.

This very powerful post by a gay rights supporter details some of the threats received by the IDAHO rally participants in the days leading up to the event and emphasises just how brave you need to be to publicly align yourself with this cause (she also has a good post about her experience of the IDAHO rally last year). Public attitudes towards homosexuality in the Caucasus in general are not what you would call enlightened: a 2009 survey suggested that 92% of Georgians believe that homosexuality is totally unacceptable. This infographic about the experience of LBGT people in Georgia seems to bear out that statistic, but I have difficulty believing that the majority of people in the country would agree with this kind of violence. Maybe they would. It's incredibly hard to reconcile the hospitality and generosity I've experienced here with these images.

It is true the Georgian government generally makes the right noises about LBGT rights (got to tick those EU boxes!) and legislation is fairly enlightened in Georgia compared to some of its neighbours (it is illegal to discriminate on the basis of sexual orientation) I suspect that this kind of legislation is upheld on a rather casual basis. The prime minister (whose repeatedly-stated opinion on the subject is the philiosophical but not perhaps hugely proactive "people will get used to it") has just released a statement saying that the perpetrators will be "dealt with according to the law", and whether that happens will be a pretty good indication of the way things are going under the new government (mind you, the law itself has a few questions to answer here; the police didn't exactly cover themselves in glory).
allochthonous: (Default)
In the week I've been gone, all the leaves have come out and Tbilisi has become bright green. I had a great time in Ethiopia doing lots of interesting work things, but it's very nice to be back somewhere with a good internet connection and where it's not 32 C in the shade and where drinking the tap water is not considered an extreme sport (hardship missions: I am not cut out for them).

What are you reading  now?

Midnight Mayor, which is book two of Kate Griffin's Matthew Swift series. These are yet more of my London Supernatural Detective crack, quite good fun and set in an eerie, Un Lun Dun-esque London. Full points for originality of the hero's magic source (the blue electric angels are either genius or batshit, I can't work out which) which is unusual in this genre, but so far there seem to be rather more breathless things-go-boom action set pieces than plot which make things difficult to follow. I am spending an awful lot of this book mentally imploring Matthew to stop running around so much and just once, go to bed early and get a decent night's sleep.

What have you finished reading?

I spent a lot of time on planes and in cars the past ten days, so I finally read Wolf Hall and Bring Up the Bodies and OK FINE they are brilliant, despite the occasionally confusing narrative voice and tha fact that every second person is called Thomas. I enjoyed Wolf Hall more, possibly because I've read far more about the downfall of Anne Boleyn than the early days of that particular crisis. But I love Mantel's characters, and the decision to focus on Cromwell is genius: his sheer competence is so thoroughly appealing (I love a good manipulative bastard). Good portrayals too of Anne (gets demonised or idolised far too often) and More (who I have never liked), and a good attempt at making Henry's constantly-shifting personal and political allegiances seem understandable, if not necessarily rational. Mantel does what the best historical novelists do, which is to use the reader's knowledge of history to heighten the tension, not decrease it: knowing the fate of every main character did nothing to spoil my fun as I was enjoying the journey far too much. One thing I didn't know was  the significance of Wolf Hall itself, and when we finally find out who lives there (not until about 80% of the way through, as far as I remember) it was a lovely "oh.... oh" moment.

I recommended the books to a Dutch friend who doesn't know the history of that period at all (but loves a good historical novel), and I wonder if that will make them tricky to understand or even better? I can't imagine reading them without at least knowing that we were only on wife #1 of six and that we had the split from Rome and many, many rolling heads to look forward to, but maybe that would make them even more exciting? We'll see.

What will you read next?

After all that Literature, I have my eye on a hilariously terrible-looking romance I picked up at the local English book-swap meeting. The cover has acres of heaving bosom and ripped shirt. I think Sheikhs might be involved.
allochthonous: (Default)
“…and as for the husband, neither the Royal Geographical Society’s list in their ‘Hints to Travellers,’ nor Messrs. Silver, in their elaborate lists of articles necessary for a traveller in tropical climates, make mention of husbands.” – Mary Kingsley, Travels in West Africa

Happy International Women’s Day, one and all! Being as it was originally instituted to celebrate the contribution of Soviet women to “communistic construction” and commemorates the day in 1917 when Russian women went on strike for “bread and peace”, precipitating the revolution, it is a day off here, which is most civilised. I am celebrating with bread (well, a croissant is close enough) and peace (a long lie-in) of my own, and by dusting off my blog with the pictures, which is definitely due a resurrection.

A rundown of Tbilisi’s myriad charms will have to wait, however; since today is all about celebrating impressive women (communistic and otherwise), I want to talk about a particular hero of mine, the explorer and ethnographer Mary Kingsley. Being someone who is fond of getting to interesting places whenever possible, and inevitably doing so while being a) alone and b) female, a state of affairs that still raises the occasional eyebrow, I have long admired the Victorian ladies who upped sticks and headed with enthusiasm for the farthest corner of empire and beyond, often on the most tenuous of excuses, at a time when a woman alone faced considerably more difficulties than the odd amorous taxi driver. They wrote books with excellent titles like A Lady’s Life in the Rocky Mountains, and had unsubtle between-the-lines affairs with all sorts of interesting characters and in general lived a life full of excitement and incident, at a time when this was considered somewhat less than decorous. The considerably less intrepid nature of my own excursions notwithstanding, it is sometimes comforting to know that whatever slightly idiotic situation I may have gotten myself into, someone else has got out of much worse, often while wearing long petticoats and a corset, and Mary Kingsley is particularly useful for this.

Reasons why Mary Kingsley is the greatest )

Travels in West Africa is available for free as an ebook all over the place (for example, here and here), and I thoroughly recommend it, because it contains some fantastic writing. While I am unlikely to ever head up a Gabonese river in a canoe or, frankly, engage in any kind of similar activities even in a more congenial climate, Mary Kingsley is my inspiration in situations when I am losing my nerve, sense of humour and occasionally, both. Because in the end, if she could do it in a good thick skirt, I really have no excuse.

Iran again

May. 15th, 2010 12:03 am
allochthonous: (we make the golden journey to samarkand)
OK, I suck at travel blogging. I'm sitting on no fewer than six half-finished posts including Afghanistan, Turkmenistan and India, which were months ago. But! I am stuck in Tblisi waiting for visas (Kazakhstan, the promotional literature that your consul showered me with assures me you are A Beacon Of Progress! I find this hard to believe when your visa application process is more convoluted than, to take an example at random, Afghanistan's.) in a hostel with free wireless, so that means spam time. First up is Iran, which had plenty of good bits which did not involve police stations.

Contains inept hijab-wearing, impromptu picnics and holy shrines )

Aaaand now I'm starting to brood darkly on Iran again, so that's enough of that.  A more positive side effect of visa-related downtime is that I am writing a lot of postcards, so if you would like some old building or scenery porn (tm [livejournal.com profile] lareinenoire ) with tiny illegible handwriting on the back then please leave your address in a comment to this post and I will get right on that, because I am in the zone right now.

Mixed bag

May. 8th, 2010 01:11 pm
allochthonous: (Default)
Things which are bad:

1. Ugh, Tories. And oh, Lib Dems. (And LET IT GO, Gordon Brown). Never has the word clusterfuck been more apposite. I was all about the Lib Dems this election but ended up voting Labour (by proxy, which always seems a vaguely dodgy way of going about things to me, but was easier to register for than postal voting - my poor mother had to queue multiple times as they‘ll only hand out one set of ballot papers at a time), because my home constituency was looking to be a Lab-Con marginal, and our Labour MP is a bit useless on national issues but is a good constituency MP (and the Tories control our council and this is what they are doing to my borough just so they can claim the lowest council tax in London for the sake of about £20 per household a year, and who the hell is voting for this shit?), and we returned him with reasonable majority, so that’s a small win. BUT THIS:

Labour: gained 29% of national vote, 40% of parliamentary seats, neeed 33 000 votes to win a seat
Conservatives: 36% of national vote, 47% of seats, 35 000 votes per seat
Liberal Democrats: 23% of national vote, 9% of seats; 125 000 votes per seat

is made of fail. WE CAN HAS ELECTORAL REFORM NOW, Y/Y? Clegg's in a bugger of a situation, but he'd be a fool to get into bed with the Tories unless he gets a much more solid guarantee on electoral reform.

2. Hostel dormitory snorers. You are sharing a room with ten other people. SLEEP. ON. YOUR. SIDE. All the earplugs in the world would not have been enough to drown out last night’s nasal symphony.

3. The Azerbaijani embassy here in Tbilisi. Every time I interact with Azeri officialdom, my desire to visit this country decreases further, but unfortunately it is between me and the Caspian Sea. Why can’t I be in Kazakhstan already?

Things which are good:

1. Khachapuri. It is basically a  cross between stuffed crust pizza with no pizza sauce and the best grilled cheese sandwich ever and it is the Georgian national dish and I have eaten entirely too much over the past few weeks. Sometimes they put a fried egg on top.

2. Georgian and Armenian churches and monasteries.

3. The Caucasus mountains. This sums up my feelings on the subject.

yay!

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