Sunday, April 15, 2007

Emotion at high altitude

My very dear blog,

I’ve been in London nearly a week, now, and a little surprised to find I haven’t had time to update you. It’s not as if it’s been technically hard to do so, either. My laptop’s wireless function allows me to sit in the British Library and order books from the catalogue without leaving my seat; I’ve paid a modest sum so I can also access my email and the web there; and have even worked out how to take pictures on my new cheap little phone (which has a thousand more features than the old Australian one) and download them (see below). My hotel also has free wireless in the lounge. Here's the view from where I'm sitting in the lobby.



I also realise that the nature of the blog means that I could write, as normal, from London and still seem to be writing from within the blogspace, but I feel so far from home that it is as if I am writing back to my desk at home, hence the epistolary style.

The flight over was pretty punishing, as always. I had a nice seat, but the plane was crowded and we were stuck on the tarmac for two hours in Singapore before we took over for the second leg. I read a little (Sebastian Faulks' Human Traces) and watched a couple of movies: Shakespeare in Love and The Holiday, and wept, indiscriminately, at various points in both. My friend Peter calls this "emotion at high altitude", and it's true that there's nothing like a long distance flight for exacerbating and accentuating emotion. This trip seems harder than some too; and it's true that this last week has been rather mixed, workwise. If I'd been smart, or able, I would have finished the paper before I left Melbourne, but it just wasn't to be. I've thus been uncertain as to how best to use my time here: in the archives, at London or Windsor, or just writing the paper. It's an awful feeling, not knowing what to do, what to transcribe, what to read, what to write. However, the pressure of the paper has come to the surface, and I've written a punishing 1200 words today. Still, it's the usual mix of anxiety about conference papers; again, what to read, and what to write.

Having friends and family in London makes it much easier, I must say, and I don't get a chance to be lonely. I'm also keeping up some little routines. I get up and have breakfast, then head out for a good 40 minute walk. The first few mornings I looked for a nice route around Bloomsbury; now I just settle for several turns around Gordon Square:



This takes me past the house where Woolf lived:



So I guess, as I take my "turn" around the square (though at top pace, and about eight times!), I am walking in paths she trod. I then skip over to the slightly larger Russell Square, for more of the same, where there is a rather odd floral display:



I then come back and shower and head off to the library, along with thousands of others. The library is under financial pressure, so they have allowed undergraduates to come and use it, to make it look as if the service is being used. Which is fine and dandy, except that it is unpleasantly crowded, and you cannot always get a seat. Which, if you've come a long way to read Edward VI's drafts of his changes to the Ordinances of the Order of the Garter, and know that your seat has been taken by a student falling asleep over the notes for their first-year biology exam, is not conducive to happiness and calm.

Well, I've spent long enough at the computer today, so I'll sign off for now. I hope you're checking out all the other blogs for me while I'm away.

Wish you were here,

Stephanie

6 comments:

J J Cohen said...

I hope you enjoy London. For the first time ever I am taking the whole family with me when I do my annual early summer research visit. I'm looking forward to showing my kids the places that have meant so much to me as a scholar, especially around Bloomsbury! Though I am certain that by then it will be scorching hot and everyone will e saying their usual "It never gets this warm in London!"

meli said...

Looks like you've got nice weather for it, anyway - the blossom in the park is beautiful. I hope you enjoy the conference - it looks amazing, I wish I could come down for it (my friend and fellow York graduate James Wade will be there). Thanks for your comments about my article in your last post, by the way. I can commiserate with your altitude emotion - I always cry my eyes out on the trip between Australia and the UK. Once I cried so much that the husband of the Italian matriarch who'd appropriated my aisle seat made her give it back. It was so embarrassing. And last time the novels I brought with me were both about failing long distance relationships. I had to keep reminding myself that my life wasn't terrible, it was just the characters... I'm sure your paper will be brilliant, although it's sort of nice to know that proper academics write last minute papers, too...

Pavlov's Cat said...

Of course your paper will be brilliant. And conference papers are never as good when they've been all done and dusted for weeks before they're delivered, so a little pre-session anxiety will pay off on the day.

You sound homesick. Take care of yourself.

Zoe said...

A lovely post. Knock their socks off at your conference.

Meredith said...

Nice photos! In the air I'm either crying, laughing like a maniac or reaching for the air sick bag. Have a lovely time, you sure deserve it.

Stephanie Trigg said...

Dear all, thanks for posts and comments. And it seems from other emails, too, that this business of sobbing in the plane is not uncommon. It's worse when you leave loved ones behind. Why do I do this to myself? I wail. But if you are spending every day in the library, it's perhaps kinder not to bring them along... Good luck, Jeffrey! I had a lovely email from my son last week. Not the first, but the first time we had used email for long distance correspondence. Needless to say, I read it over and over, and it helped big time.

Hey, and JJC, I was reading Medieval Identity Machines in the British Library last week, and quoted you in my paper: you're already here!