allochthonous: (then you can tell if it's summer)
There is such a back-to-school feel about September. Even when the weather is lovely, you feel you should be cracking out the boots and opaque tights.

But! September is also Great British Bake-Off time, aka the highlight of the televisual calendar. Even better, the gospel is spreading and this year courtesy of Youtube, there is also the Great Australian Bake-Off (I think I love Dan Lepard and Kerry Vincent even more than Paul and Mary on the original), Heel Holland Bakt, Hela Sverige bakar and Den Store Bagedyst (it almost impossible to watch a Danish TV programme without trying to guess whodunnit. My money's on Annemette). Upside-down cake panic is universal to any language, and I love seeing what other countries pick for their technical bakes. I may be a little obsessed.

What are you reading now?

Nearly done with A Place of Greater Safety, which I have been enjoying, although it could have used an editor (I find it tricky to judge book length on kindle, but I think in hard copy it runs to nearly 900 pages, which, no book needs to be that long (are you listening, George R R Martin?). Mantel sure does enjoy writing lengthy books about doomed lawyers, doesn't she? You can really see the beginnings of Thomas Cromwell in Danton, although Cromwell is much more sympathetic, even when doing awful things. I am not too fussed about the fact that everyone is going to end this book headless (OK, maybe I am sad for Camille and Lucille), but I am actively dreading the end of Cromwell #3.

What have you just finished reading?

My holiday fluff of choice was The Girl King, a cheerfully swashbuckling retelling of the early life of Queen Tamar, national icon and all-round Good Thing, who presided over Georgia's medieval golden age. The focus on the romance with her second husband is a bit silly (she probably thought about other things, occasionally), but as a whole it rattles along, and Shota Rustaveli turns up as palace steward, thus ticking all the boxes for Famous Medieval Georgians.

I also read Mansfield Park for the first time since I was eighteen, and liked it a lot more than I remembered. It's more difficult to relate to, I think, than some of the other Austens, because of the extent to which the reader is invited to join in the moral outrage about adultery and, erm, amateur theatricals, and the assumption that anyone involved in this or who doesn't express the correct sentiments of disgust towards these things is A Flawed Person and almost as bad as the participants themselves, which is obviously a little peculiar to modern sensibilities. That said, I had a good deal more respect for Fanny this time round; yes, she's far more passive than other Austen heroines, but it takes a huge amount of strength to consistently refuse Henry Crawford in the face of all her relatives' desires, and even though Edmund is a terrible prig, she doesn't strike me as the kind of person who is bothered by that, so while they won't have as much fun as Catherine Morland and Henry Tilney, they'll probably do OK.

Oh, and Snow, which is the Pamuk one is obliged to read if one is visiting Kars. I didn't like it very much (except for the bits about the local politics), and was delighted Ipek decided not to go off with Ka in the end, because no one deserves that. Fortunately the real Kars was short on black-clad, whiney, man-child poets and military coups so that was a relief.Maybe they only happen in winter.

What will you read next?

Ugh, whither Temeraire #8? No UK publication date for either the kindle or hard copy, but fortunately I have a conference coming up with US colleagues who I think I can probably suborn to bring me a copy. Otherwise, A Short Walk in the Hindu Kush was on sale on Amazon, and deserves a reread.

allochthonous: (Default)
This weekend's mission - source all of the ingredients (or reasonable substitutions) for hot cross buns - has been successful, and I have Dan Lepard's recipe on the go. I can't stop picking at the dough, even though they still have another hour and a half left to rise, which I think can only be a good sign. Lazy day today with coffee, laptop, dark chocolate and new Doctor Who, with aforementioned buns to look forward to later on. Conveniently, tomorrow I switch from my old contract (Georgian public holidays) to a new one (Dutch public holidays), so Monday's a day off too. If I wake up early enough, I might go and have a look at the Stalin museum in Gori, although apparently they've taken down the massive statue there, which is a shame.

Although it isn't exactly tropical, it is bright and reasonably sunny here, the almond blossom is out, and spring is generally doing a reasonable impression of having sprung. I am glad for every reason to be two thousand miles away from the 100-year winter, which BBC World is getting enormously excited about. I find some of the reports very difficult to watch: the farmers with no insurance who have lost three-quarters of their lambing ewes under snowdrift, spending days and nights walking over their land trying to find living sheep to rescue. Five years of mild winters and early springs have apparently encouraged famers to let their ewes lamb outdoors, which backfired badly this year; interestingly, the melting arctic sea ice seems to be responsible for the greater extremes, both of warmth and cold, so this probably won't be a one-off. Even though I know academically that climate change is ongoing (hell, it's my job) and happening now, and has a strong link to the increase in extreme weather (hell, "how do we help people cope better with more uncertain and extreme weather?" is the question behind most of what I do at work), it's never not unsettling to be confronted with what it actually looks like.

So anyway, northern Europeans, I hope you warm up soon (please get it sorted before the end of April, as I don't want to have to bring back all my winter clothes with me when I visit). Now to go and pipe some flour and water crosses.

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