Now, where was I up to? Oh yes, I got back to England safely with lethargic_man. I then set off on a mad dash all round England trying to cram a year's worth of socializing into a couple of weeks.
lethargic_man was very lovely in giving me a place to stay when we got back late on Wednesday evening, and feeding me tea, and not being fed up after we'd spent the last three and a half days continuously together. In the morning I met up with ewtikins at Euston, which we picked as a conveniently central point. On the way there, I saw posters for the Sacred exhibition at the British Library, which just happens to be right round the corner from Euston. So we went along to that, and wow, it was absolutely fantastically amazing. They had some amazingly old stuff, and some amazingly beautiful stuff, and some really fascinating stuff. New Testament and Gnostic material dating back to the dawn of Christianity, a Qur'an written only a generation or so after Mohammed's (PBUH) time...
And generally lots of good explanations of why the exhibits were historically and artistically important, as well as the ways the various artistic traditions influenced eachother. That aspect was almost more interesting to me than the obvious pretties, because much as I appreciate pretty illuminated manuscripts, you can see examples in lots of places, whereas you don't often get to see Hebrew written in Arabic letters or Christian Bibles illuminated in the Arab style. There was a bit of warm fuzzy stuff about how all the Abrahamic religions have so much in common and peace n love n harmony, but it's the kind of fuzzy stuff that I have a hard time objecting to.
Then we met up with hobbitz and the PRI for lunch. Lunch was in a very nice veggie Indian buffet place, also just behind Euston. Then we headed into the park to sit around chatting and be impressed by ewtikins demonstrating her foraging skills (she found mulberries!). In theory it had seemed like a good idea to invite the PRI to join me in hanging out with some friends rather than setting up a big scary Date, but in practice the three of us were talking so much that he didn't get a word in edgewise, so it might not have been the kindest.
After that I headed up to Cambridge to see Granny and give myself a bit of a break, which I very much needed by that point. So I did nothing all day Friday except catch up on the internet and chat to Granny. Then I travelled to Brighton for the weekend, to see the sibs and the PRI (who wasn't too put off by the less than successful first meeting). In a way the timing wasn't great, because Screwy was just finishing his Masters thesis so he was both busy and stressed, and P'tite Soeur was working for most of the weekend. It was a good chance to talk to Thuggish Poet at least.
Anyway, Screwy decided that he was going to spend his study break at the World beard and moustache championship event. No, I'm completely serious. It was kind of like a beauty contest for men; I am glad that we showed up and saw some of the fantastic facial hair and elaborate costumes, but we all agreed it wasn't interesting enough to stick around for more than an hour. And that brief visit allowed us to say that we'd attended an event which seems like it should be too silly to exist. (The German and American contestants take it really seriously, by the way, whereas everyone else was just having a laugh!)
The PRI invited me to an exhibition of scientific art that some of his colleagues were involved in. I liked the idea of what they're trying to do, namely using art to make microbiology more popular and accessible, but unfortunately the execution was kind of awful. Some of the pieces were ok (I liked the lab coat embroidered with magnified images of various microbial cultures) but mostly gimmicky. And the talks were just cringeworthy in every way. Well, the actual microbiologist talking about why bacteria are interesting was cool, but the artists being wanky about their art were just the incarnation of every bad stereotype. When it came to the musician who was using bacterial RNA sequences as seeds for creating randomized "music", we gave up and left.
We had a nice evening, though, lots and lots of fun and interesting conversation and feeling quite relaxed and natural in eachother's company. And wandering around Brighton enjoying the warm evening while looking for ingredients for Screwy to make a stirfy. We realized that we were turning into the most awful stereotype when we caught ourselves complaining how difficult it was to find water chestnuts late on Saturday night... But anyway, the stirfry was good in the end and that made a nicely social end to the day.
Sunday we didn't get up terribly early, but we managed to get organized for the four of us sibs to go out for Sunday lunch together. It's been absolutely ages since I had a proper pub lunch with nut roast and decent cider and everything. Not to mention it's been far too long since we four were all in the same place. So that was a lot of fun.
I think I'll break this here so it doesn't get too long. There's still quite a bit more account of wandering round England to report; I spent the next week and a half in London, Manchester, Birmingham, Cambridge, Brighton, Cambridge, Bury St Edmunds, London and Cambridge, seeing all kinds of lovely people.