And today in 2017 in London has been a very cold, grey day, finishing with some rain. In more personal terms it’s been mostly work on a fascinating paper I’m co-writing with two colleagues from former iron curtain countries. The paper looks at psychometric data from one particular former communist country, Albania, comparing it with data from the same questionnaire also in non-clinical samples from Germany and the USA. Albania had spectacularly awful and dictatorial communist era under Enver Hoxha, and its earlier history included nearly 500 years of Ottoman occupation to 1911 and then a 20th Century history which, even by Balkan standards, was spectacularly troubled. It’s a fun paper to co-write but challenging: what rights do I have, with my personally priviledged history, and my country’s pretty priviledged history, to want to put a slightly different spin on some things my colleagues write from their own and their families’ and friends’ personal experiences? (Oh, it’s one of the many countries in the world where the UK’s historical rôle was pretty grim and slimey. One magnificent exception being the extraordinary Edith Durham (1863-1944) who is so famous there my colleague went to school at the Edith Durham school in Tirana.) One interesting challenge is that it’s one of those papers where perhaps we all three care a bit too much and that can make it hard to write in a way that will be acceptable for an academic journal. We’re getting there.
That’s all very different from what I was doing a year ago!
A year ago it was another beautiful sunny day and I got up and explored the cathedral at Beauvais. I thought I had seen it before but I really don’t think I had. It is a very odd shape as it’s essentially unfinished and a mix of gloriously ambitious middle to late gothic with some very plain earlier bits. The sun was so strong many of my ‘photos were burned or flared out and I did question my decision to leave a good camera at home and rely on my ‘phone camera. Some of the shots are OK but again I’ll try to find a way to do them more justice than just pasting some in here. The interior of the cathedral had a number of absolutely massive wooden internal bracing constructions clearly trying to prevent potentially catastrophic structural failure.
With some difficulty I eventually tore myself away and pointed Toto-to-be southwards aiming for Giverny and thinking I could see the Monet collection there. This was not a good day cycling as it was a day when Google maps really messed me around. I look at the GPX trail with its spikes of completely wasted cycling and remember ending up in a completely impassable farm field and, less well, some other lost kilometers and time. I got to Giverny to find that this time there really was no room at the inn, though it took some time to establish that. I don’t really understand how a hotel can be unsure whether it’s got room or not but that was what I hit: twice!
Eventually I realised I had two options: to cycle some way in one direction to the nearest camp site, or a similar distance in the other direction where there might be hotel or B&B space. The camp site got dialled first and had space so, very tired now, with a good 75km already done on a hot day, and not yet really used to this rhythm, the warmth, the weight on the bike etc., I set off to find it.
Of course, that involved a couple more Google maps detours I really could have done without. Then to cap that, the final few km. to the campsite were on a very potholed rough road where my ‘phone bounced off the bike without me realising it until a good kilometer later. Fortunately I found it by retracing my steps. Then the final bit of road to the camp site was absolutely lethal gravel track on which I managed to put the bike over when I failed to control a skid. Why the skid you ask? Just from turning a very slight angle to avoid a pothole. I arrived very, very tired and a bit grazed to find the only really unfriendly and pretty horrid camp site of the trip, and to be told they no longer had any food on site, not what it had said on Google, and that I would probably have to go right back to Giverny to get anything. Running that gravel gauntlet twice to do that: no way!
Oh and in all that, I hadn’t had time to see the Monet. I promised myself I would come back another time, stay in the nice looking hotel near it, and savour it all at leisure. I went off to sleep easily despite a grumbling stomach: physical tiredness does really help with any insomniac challenges. Wow, two days a year apart with great satisfactions but also significant challenges but so, so different! Oh boy, I have been a lucky man really. Onward!