I spent the weekend in Cambridge, partly socializing and partly job hunting. Apologies for not letting people know I was travelling or making arrangements; the weekend ended up so packed that I couldn't have fit anyone else in.
I got in late Thursday night, and there was cartesiandaemon to greet me with kisses and teeeeeea. And rysmiel, whom I hadn't seen in person since 2005. There aren't words for hugging someone so dear to me after so long.
We'd set aside Friday for hanging out together and catching up, so we got up slowly and drank more tea and chatted about bookies and cartesiandaemon fed us pasta bake for lunch. Then we walked along the river for a while, appreciating the spring (it's definitely not spring yet here, it's been snowing without a break since midnight last night) and talking more. cartesiandaemon went back out again to leave me and rysmiel in peace for a few hours. Really, much kudos to cartesiandaemon for hosting a friend of mine he knows only slightly, and even more than that, being tactful and friendly and preventing any awkwardness that might have arisen.
We went out to Alimentum for dinner; it's just about the only grand restaurant I've eaten in which really does strike me as twice as good as an ordinary restaurant. I can't really afford it, but I wanted to do something really special to mark the momentous occasion of rysmiel's visit and remember my three days in Montreal which was the culinary highlight of my life. rysmiel is a carnivore and was therefore able to appreciate the locally caught game dishes, but we veggies did pretty well too, especially when it came to dessert. Eye-wateringly lovely chocolate in various forms, including petits fours with the most delicious caramel filling, and a cheese board with two of my favourite cheeses, pont l'eveque and époisses, as well as some excellent English hard cheeses.
rysmiel gave me a pendant of elisem's! It's a squarish piece of jasper called The sea full of storms and the sky of blood, and it really does look like a complete miniature seascape made out of natural rock striations. I've been hankering after Lioness jewelry for a while, but couldn't make up my mind which to choose and anyway I don't wear a lot of jewelry. I don't think I'd have picked out this piece, but it's so much more wonderful than anything that would have drawn my magpie eye. Presents are a long way from being the most important reason why I love my friends, but that really is an extremely wonderful present!
Saturday we accompanied rysmiel into town and somehow ended up in Borders and somehow ended up buying bookies, cos rysmiel is far too persuasive. Then cartesiandaemon and I headed to forestofglory's college rooms where she fed us a very tasty stew and apple kuchen and teeeeeeeeea and we had a brilliant and laughter-filled conversation. I keep missing forestofglory since I'm often around during vacations when she's in Berkeley, so it was particularly great to see her. Thanks so much for hosting us, forestofglory!
Joined a very convivial crowd in the Carlton for the afternoon. I was fascinated to see the partial overlap between rysmiel's set and cartesiandaemon's. Also good to see megamole and pseudomonas among others. There was Cassels yummy cider, and a giant pot of teeeeeeeea, and delightfully geeky conversation. *bounce*
cartesiandaemon and I departed a little early to join his friends T&R for dinner at the lovely Turkish place Anatolia, and then the film Watchmen at the Grafton Centre Vue. We had great fun, including a conversation about moral philosophy which had all four of us in fits of giggles. I also discovered that I've been wrong all these years believing that Glen Close is a really good drag artist; in fact she's an actual woman who just has a male name. Go ahead and laugh. rysmiel was still up when we got in, and is really the most excellent person to post-mortem a film with!
Sunday morning we put rysmiel on a train to the airport, and I headed to my parents'. For once the interminable service disruptions worked in my favour: all the London trains were converted into slow trains to Stansted airport, meaning there were 5 trains an hour to Shelford instead of 5 in the whole day as is normal for a Sunday timetable. So I got the chance to chat to Mum, Dad and Granny and help Mum solve some Times Jumbo crosswords, which has become a habitual bonding ritual when I'm chez parents these days. We also went on an expotition to Wimpole Hall; I'd been hoping to take some photos of spring invading the beautiful grounds, but the weather was sort of iffy so we went round the house instead. Wimpole is one of the places we were dragged to a lot as kids, but it's nice to see again with an adult's appreciation. It's interesting because Kipling's daughter took the place in the 1930s and spent most of her life scouring auction rooms to buy up as much of the original furniture and art as she could lay her hands on. On this visit my favourite thing was the varied and elegant fireplaces, though the bath is pretty cool too.
We came home to more crossword and a batch of scones my mother made spontaneously. I joined the parents watching an episode of Lark rise to Candleford, a series I'd probably get into if I lived in the right country for it. It has Julia Sawalha in it, and she's even more awesome now she's grown up. My parents watched a bunch of other programmes too, while I sat reading papers in preparation for the interview and then playing on the internet a bit. We didn't bother with supper, which is the first time in my life that has happened; I'm delighted to see that Mum has finally relaxed enough not to feel obliged to provide three fully cooked meals every day.
Monday morning I dressed up in my smart red suit ready for the interview. I felt somehow like a little kid putting on a school uniform for the first time, pretending to be grown up. Mum made me the same packed lunch she's been making for a quarter of a century, and Dad gave me a teapot keyring sold as a fundraiser for a cancer charity (and a lift to the hospital early enough to beat the rush hour traffic). Granny, to my amazement, gave me encouraging and even complimentary comments, and a hug, which I think is the first time in my life she's done that.
I hadn't really believed that the interview would take all morning, but it did. It was very friendly and unstressful, though, and my talk went exceptionally well. And cartesiandaemon continued to be a wonderful Beau by meeting me at the bus-stop to hear about how things went and kiss me goodbye before I got on the bus to the airport. The journey home went without a hitch (the snow didn't start until just after I got back and settled down with tea and LJ.)
While I was away, compilerbitch posted something amazing and profound. You should definitely go and read it. Seriously, if you only follow one link this month, it should be this one.
If that moves you to care about the issue, read this article about a literal Catch-22 scenario which is preventing trans folk in Oxfordshire from obtaining treatment. Thanks to oxfordgirl for pointing to that. It's a bit long, but it's very informative, and among other things it provides credible, peer-reviewed citations for the somewhat counterintuitive point that sex reassignment surgery actually works to improve quality of life for a lot of trans people, whereas counselling and psychotherapy just don't.
Then, if you are a UK citizen or resident, go and sign the petition to get this stupid situation resolved so people can access the medical care they need. I'm not always a huge fan of e-petitions, but this seems to be exactly the sort of scenario where they're most useful. It's a specific, detailed issue of local policy which needs to be changed in order to make people's lives less miserable, and can readily be changed without changing the entire constitutional philosophy of the country or spending unreasonable sums of money. And note the .gov.uk site; this is official, and people with political power actually read it, even if there is a lot of crap there too.