I had a reasonably awful journey to England, arriving at my parents' at 7 am. Since it is a rule in their house that nobody is allowed to be in bed after 8, I didn't actually go to bed at all. In spite of this, I dragged myself to cartesiandaemon's party in the evening, though I would have had a very valid reason to cry off in the form of about 6 hours' sleep in the preceding 60 hours. I'm glad I went; the party involved lots of excellent conversation, even if I was rather giggly and not as intelligent as I'd like to come across. I was very much the Only Girl but this wasn't a problem. I was quite amused (and not at all offended) by fivemack and ewx completely failing to recognize me...
pseudomonas kindly invited me to stay over, and we were enjoying eachother's company enough that I didn't even go straight to sleep even though I was ridiculously sleep-starved and it was after 1 when we got back to his place. Somehow or other I got up for shul in the morning, and took the chance to catch up with lots of lovely people from the community. They are palpably hurting from Peter's death though. Then pseudomonas fed me stew with DUMPLINGS and we talked some more and doseybat showed up and we had more fascinating and discursive conversation. Dragged both of them back to my parents' place for supper and more chatting, yay.
Then there was Limmud, which meant that I never even got started on making up the sleep debt. Limmud was almost all the people I've ever connected with from the Anglo-Jewish world all in one place for just five days, as well as hatam_soferet briefly freed from evil geography. I saw two teachers who were very important to me when I was a teenager, R Maurice Michaels and R Hadassah Davis, and lots of people I know from youth movements and Oxford and interfaith and CCJ stuff and the previous Limmuds I attended in 1997 and 1998. I was so occupied with catching up with everybody, and spending as much time as possible with hatam_soferet, that I didn't leave myself a lot of space for making deep connections with new people. But a large part of my reason for going to Limmud was to reconnect with the Jewish community, so I'm not too disappointed by that.
There was learning as well; I went a bit crazy doing fairly high level Talmud sessions, which is just about the ultimate intellectual stimulation. hatam_soferet was an absolute wonder about going over the material with me so I think I actually absorbed some of it. I feel more privileged than I can say that someone as scholarly and far ahead of me as she is is prepared to learn with me. But we couldn't bear to bring our chevruta to a close until we'd completely thrashed out each Talmudic argument (and I'm very slow, through inexperience), which often meant not getting to bed until well after midnight. I also did some bits of Bible with very interesting teachers, and a little tiny bit of Jewish-Muslim dialogue, and a couple of musical things though I mostly avoided the arty and spiritual bits, instead concentrating on getting high on Talmud.
List of teachers, so that I can come back later and write some of these up:
Another highlight was the last night when I was sitting working through Boyarin's stuff with hatam_soferet and the Tabick boys started up some spontaneous singing across the room, and lots of people joined in, harmonies, dancing to the music being made, it was just so very, very Limmud. The downside was definitely the aforementioned failure to sleep, and not getting to talk to lethargic_man enough. This was partly for the good reason that he was busy talking to other people and enjoying other parts of the conference, but also partly for the bad reason that he was ill and I was disorganized.
Friday gave us somewhat of a chance to recover from all that. I gave blood in the morning, then joined hatam_soferet and pseudomonas in town for a short while before having to dash back in time for Shabbat. We ended up spending most of the time in Tatties, chatting and just enjoying the chance to be together for once. Shabbat was nice, even though hatam_soferet's approach is rather different from ours and this caused some degree of awkwardness. But in some ways I'm glad I didn't go to shul, by that point I really needed some time just to unwind and of course hang out with hatam_soferet, and pseudomonas who joined us in the afternoon. The five of us (with my parents) put in some serious crosswording and I taught my parents to play Fluxx, which went down rather well.
We had a predictable rush as soon as shabbat went out to get changed, get all our stuff together and get on the train to London for my much-anticipated party. The engineering works amazingly made the journey easier, because we had a direct train from Shelford to Hackney Downs, which doesn't normally exist. There are few experiences more wonderful than walking into the Pembury and seeing a large crowd of people I love gathered round a big table enjoying themselves and waiting for me. I turned into a little ball of squee, running round trying to hug everybody and talk to everybody and just having the most wonderful time. At one point I almost forgot to pay for my order I was so happily distracted by so many lovely friends all around me, which was kind of embarrassing! I avoided getting drawn into Scrabble as I felt that would take me away from the main socializing, but I did have a quick and interestingly close game of backgammon, which I realized I'd been missing. And I drank some kind of strange Christmas beer with a rather scarily high alcohol content. Oh, and I wore the DRESS, which was much admired. I really hope someone took some photos so I can show off. I am also pleased that other people chose to dress up too, yay pretty people.
Presents! I intended to request no presents, and didn't get round to it, and my friends are all amazingly generous. My parents gave me a hamsa (the stylized hand symbol that many Sephardi Jews wear) made out of Roman glass from Cesarea; I was rather surprised by this as it's almost unheard of for them to give me jewellery. My grandmother and great aunt gave me money towards my planned trip round Sweden next summer. hatam_soferet carried all my heavy books from America for me, and made me a card with pretty Hebrew calligraphy. syllopsium gave me some fancy chocolates and a thing that is supposed to quack, though I haven't quite figured out how to work it. deborah_c gave me some very esoteric forms of chocolate which I can't wait to try. midnightmelody and neonchameleon gave me a book of obscure words, with some particularly nice typography. darcydodo phoned me to wish me happy birthday, which made me miss her all the more but it was very much appreciated. doseybat gave me a strange purple stripy aardvark. lethargic_man gave me Cyteen, and rysmiel has posted me some books which will hopefully be waiting when I get back to Sweden. loreid gave me some absolutely gorgeous scarves, one floaty and silky and yummy and one purple. Which made it all the more embarrassing that I failed to get organized to give her anything :-( And blue_mai gave me the most amazingly gorgeous bottle green velvet jacket ever, which fits and suits me just perfectly; she claims it wasn't a present, but it made me very happy. Thank you so so so much to all you lovely people spoiling me, and even bigger thank you for showing up to my party, especially those who made epic journeys from the other side of the country in the middle of the Christmas week.
Sunday morning, timeplease revived us with tea after far too few hours of sleep. And I said goodbye to hatam_soferet, and consoled myself for the party being over by heading to megamole's party. That was fun, though I was too tired by then to be incredibly scintillating. Much as I was sad to miss the Pembury NYE, I think I made the right decision to come home and recover for a few days, rather than staying over in London couch-surfing until it's time to return to Stockholm tomorrow.
I did manage some amount of catching up on sleep Sunday night. But ended up following a mad impulse to go into town yesterday. To my amazement I actually found something nice and affordable in the sales, and it even fitted me: a nice turquoise corduroy skirt from Monsoon, long, sitting relatively low on the hips without being ridiculous, vaguely A-line with some nice pleats and embroidery. So I had an outfit for the New Years Eve party last night, made up entirely of new clothes, the skirt, blue_mai's jacket, and the new necklace. Said NYE party was a little embarrassing; elemy had invited me on her parents' behalf, but when I showed up with my parents, they couldn't really remember who I was and elemy didn't make it to the party after all. However, they were very gracious about it, and we had an excellent evening. Mr Brown, the old DT teacher from school, was there, so that was a bit random.
We didn't stay for the fireworks, and I didn't even watch the Shelford ones from my bedroom window, as I was just too exhausted by then to wait up to see the New Year in. But I couldn't have wished for a happier way to end the old one, at least.
Anyway, HAPPY NEW YEAR to everyone. I am enjoying reading all the retrospectives and thoughtful posts about aspirations for 2008 on my flist, and I'm almost tempted to go through and comment with "happy new year" to everyone, though that would probably be a bit corny. Lots of you are just reminding me why I like you.