“You haven't blogged for four weeks”, Staffan points out. He is right. I haven't. When I don't blog for a long time, it can be for two reasons. 1) nothing has happened. This doesn't happen often. 2) far too much has happened. This happens all the time. When it happens I don't know where to start and let still more time pass and more things happen.
With reference to my account of imminent events, the viva went well, but I was so worn out when I came back that I cancelled all travel until Christmas, except Stockholm where I had too many important commitments. The Stockholm trip went fine. Staffan took me to Stansted. I was picked up at Skavsta by my oldest son who “happened” to be in the vicinity (which he has now admitted implies that someone dear to his heart lives close by). He took me to the place where I was staying, which is the International Writers' Guesthouse, in the very centre of the city. It is a small, but comfortable flat with three rooms and shared bathroom and living room-cum kitchen. During the week I stayed there, I saw a glimpse of my neighbours twice.
In the morning, I went down to a cafe for breakfast. It felt weird. The guesthouse didn't have wi-fi, only a USB cable, while I had brought my paddy. But every cafe with self-respect has wi-fi these days. Some of them have “coffee” for password. Then I bought some stuff for future breakfasts and topped up my travelcard. I had a long, pleasurable lunch with a friend, ending in incredible luck in a thrift shop where I found some remarkable dollhouse miniatures and spent more money I would be prepared to spend “at home”. But I wasn't at home, I was travelling, and then you are allowed to spend more. In the evening I went to admire how the youngest and his girlfriend had re-recorated their flat and to taste her famous and fabulous onion soup. The next day was also full of children and grandchildren, and that night I got horrendous neck pain. I often get stiff neck and know how to deal with it, but this was unbearable, and eventually I gave up and went to Emergency. It transpired that I wasn't a resident. “It will be expensive”, said the receptionist. “How expensive?” I asked. She named the fee. “Do I have a choice?” I said. So much for having paid taxes in my own country for twenty-five years. I got painkillers, and my clever daughter made me buy a wheat pillow, which is a bag of wheat that you heat up in a micro and put on your neck. I have now become addicted to it. I sat with it on my neck throughout the conference.
It was a very strange feeling because normally you go away to a conference, and although technically I was away, I also was kind of at home, but not really, since I didn't stay at home, but in a hotel. In the middle of the conference I escaped to attend a family crayfish party which was marvelous and far too noisy. It was also weird to travel back to Cambridge with the students (back home) and with my friend Kin (going away together) who was to stay with me for a couple of days. On top of it, Staffan was going to Stockholm the day after, but I won't go into more detail.
Kin and I had fun together when I wasn't busy with examination boards and crisis team meetings. We did all the necessary sights in Cambridge and around, went to Formal Hall (where I was obliged to say grace, as I happened to be the most senior at table) and even watched a movie. Then the pre-term business hit me: meetings, business lunches, early supervisions, arriving visiting scholars, a row of formal dinners with details I wish I could write about, but I shouldn't. And the next week it finally starts for real: PhD induction on Tuesday, masters induction on Wednesday, academic assessment meetings and meetings about the new Head of Faculty, more supervisions (I have four new PhD students), more formal dinners, various committee meetings, College Council, research seminars – all this in addition to teaching which I, according to my job description, am supposed to do “every now and then”.