Saturday, September 06, 2008

What is the French for 'road trip'?

So, we're back for a brief moment before heading off again....

Leeds was great fun, even if the weather was uncooperative. (On the other hand: what would a northern English town be without torrential downpours? Um...yes...far more pleasant. Never mind...) Thanks are due to the organisers of a consistently enlightening conference on cutting-edge crime history.

It's nice to return home, if only briefly, to find a house intact, several more tomatoes in the garden and my long-awaited gun licence.

However, we're off again tomorrow morning...

The way back was also interesting. We very much appreciate the efforts of the station manager at Manchester Piccadilly rail station (apparently known by a radio call sign something like 'Foxtrot Alpha Hotel Terrier' or least that's what it sounded like) who helped to ensure that we got to Manchester Airport despite flooded train lines.

We also exchanged some interesting comments with him on the privatisation and fragmentation of transportation services in Britain. He was certainly a well-informed and opinionated man...who seemed to have a genuine sense of responsibility for the people in his station trying to get somewhere.

A rare characteristic these days.

We later encountered -- in some way -- both the best and worst of Brits abroad via the flight home. On the one hand, we were sat next to a 30ish woman coming over to Germany for some kind of DJ-related event who would not stop generating banal chatter about everything possible. Moreover, she demonstrated the heights of high-maintenance troublemaking by kicking off a minor fuss when the airline didn't have brown sugar. It was 'refined' she said, which made it All Kinds of Evil. At the same time -- for unexpressed reasons -- she was disappointed at the lack of 'real milk' to add to her coffee. Nonetheless: she had consumed about half a pack of Starburst fruit chews and scarfed the offered chocolate bar without a second thought about all the refined sugar and possibly questionable dairy products they might have contained.

She was, you might have guessed, rather an annoyance.

However, on the ground in Frankfurt and while waiting for our luggage, we encountered a delightful gentleman of a somewhat older generation (and rather working-class origins, as best I could tell) who raved to us eagerly about Berlin. 'A magical city' was the phrase he used, and he enthused about having walked down Unter den Linden as if it were the achievement of a lifelong dream. (Even if he had lost a pair of glasses on that trip.)

We spoke to him for all of five minutes, but his charm and normality were enough to (almost) wipe away the previous hour-and-a-half's torment at the hands of Rave Lady.

In academic terms, things went well, which means I made my point without having anything too sharp and pointy thrown at me. I learned a lot from what other people in my field had to say (and I have long thought that people in crime history are quite a good -- read sane, intelligent and creative-- bunch...this conference not giving me any reason to doubt that assessment) and I hope that they found what I had to say at least worth considering.

Tomorrow, it's off to France (as has been our practice in previous years, as also reported here). First to Normandy for a few days, then to Lyon (for another conference), Padern, Carcassone and then back to the Normandy coast for what will prove to be too short a while.

I'm bringing along a few books I've agreed to review in my field and some preliminary research for an upcoming project. Otherwise, I'll be delving into Richard Evans's The Coming of the Third Reich and H.P. Lovecraft's The Call of Cthulhu and Other Stories, giving me both a bit of real historical horror and some fantasy supernatural horror.

In our experience, internet cafes in provincial France are rather rare things. We will try to check in as much as possible, however, and might even post a few photos from what will be a rather long voyage de la route.

And, of course, we'll be thinking about you.

Well, some of you.

Uh....certainly a select few.

In any case: au revoir.

And keep those mooseburgers warm (note: four different links there...) until we return, you mavericks!

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