Sunday, 28 October 2012

Yet another conference

So I've done it again. There is no logic at all. First I cancel all conferences and guest lectures, then I accept another invitation. My motivation for cancelling old commitments or declining new ones is that travel is becoming too demanding. In which case, why did I accept an invitation to a day-and-a-half conference, sandwiched between two days of extremely long and stressful travel?

An obvious reason: I expected it to be a very interesting event, because it is a workshop rather than conference, with seven speakers, pre-circulated papers, discussants and plenty of time for general discussion. Expectations confirmed. It was a very interesting and gratifying event, in which I learned a lot, shared a lot, and received great feedback on my own work from colleagues who don't know me nor my work, who all come from different disciplines, and who had no prejudices against children's literature since they didn't know anything about it. But I have a feeling that they got interested, made the necessary connections with their own research, and definitely will consider reading a least one young adult novel.

A less obvious reason: one of the speakers is extensively referred to in my current research. He spoke about something completely different (and highly engaging), but his questions and comments on my paper showed that he at the very least understood what I was talking about. Actually, since the papers were pre-circulated, I didn't even talk from the paper, but set it into a wider context. All professional gatherings should be like that.

Reminder to myself: yes, it is increasinly more difficult to travel, unless it is a direct flight from Stansted of no longer than two hours. I had investigated all travel options, and I couldn't have won anything through flying from Stansted since the other end would have been awful. It was awful enough. You may think that 12.40 is a very civilised flight that does not require getting up before dawn. But see, it takes me almost three hours to get to Heathrow plus you must be there at least an hour in advance, preferably earlier for security check. Then a relatively short flight to Madrid, four hours until next flight, which was only 45 minutes. A good angel in the form of a shuttle-service driver. It was by then well over nine, and I was fully determined to go to bed right away, but when the host spotted me in the hotel reception and invited me to join the other participants for dinner (those late Spanish dinners!) of course I could not resist.

Then a day-and-a-half of exceptionally stimulating scholarly exchange, interrupted by long and plentiful meals. Then yesterday, a quick walk to the old city centre, mostly to be able to say: Yes. I have been to Pamplona. An expected bonus was an exhibit in the Cathedral. By then, however, it was plus four and raining, and I knew that I would have to make an early start in the morning. So rather than accepting (as I surely would have done ten years ago) the fellow participant idea of a cup of tea or a glass of wine, I withdrew and actually went to bed early. Really early if you consider the changing of the clock. It took me some time – and a few consultations on Facebook – to figure out the correct setting for my two alarms (phone and paddy), and to be on the safe side I also ordered a wake-up call. 4.30 in the morning is not a civilised time to travel, but I really had no choice. The worst thing was that I had no time to get coffee before I was on the second flight. Everything was pretty uneventful until I got to King's Cross. I had looked up the train timetable on my phone while I was heading East on Picadilly line, but there was something profoundly wrong with it because it kept telling me that the itinerary King's Cross to Cambridge was not available. I ascibed it to my tiredness and gave up after five attempts. But when I emerged from the Tube at King's Cross, my itinerary was unavailable. Which is not funny when you have been travelling since very early morning. I stared at the display trying to figure out a reasonable solution when I happened to realise that I had Information right behind my back  With some good advice, I took a train as far as it would take me, and then there was a replacement bus. (A definition by a friend: "A bus that pretends to be a train"). It only delayed me with an hour, and I saw some pretty countryside.

Summary: is it worthwhile.. etc? Professionally, yes, and if I were sure that all events I go to would be so fruitful, perhaps I should start travelling more again. Yet the travel itself is exhausting. Maybe if I learn Apparition.

Footnote: paddy has proved indispensable. I had all the papers on it, including my own, and I had several Kindle books. It is, I must underline, more pleasurable to read on Kindle than on paddy; the latter has a shiny screen and reflections. For checking email and social sites, paddy was perfect, but if I had wished to write something (such as a blog post), the keyboard is too small. But perhaps I will learn. For short travel, paddy easily replaces the combination of Kindle and laptop. So at least as the proof of the pudding, the experience was useful.

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