I spent last week sorting out a lot of bureaucracy around grad student transitions as the academic year turns, and after masses of pushing and arguing suddenly everything fell into place and my institute decided to help me and my little group instead of obstructing us. For example, having spent months arguing over whether they owe me £1800 they suddenly went, oops, our mistake, we actually owe you slightly over £5K. (Not my personal money, research funding.) I hate to sound ungrateful but the money would have been a lot more use a year ago when we couldn't do the research we wanted to because we didn't have the money, but coming now it does feel like a nice windfall.
Further, a slight mixup meant that I am officially on vacation this week. So I went off to celebrate the new year on a high, looking forward to a few days' break, albeit with the hard work of leading the Rosh haShana service in the middle.
The weekend was really truncated with having to get back to Stoke in time for the eve of Rosh haShana Sunday night, but I managed to have a relaxing time anyway. Quiet day with jack talking and getting started on the much-neglected garden, and then a nice evening with cjwatson, when we got takeaway and watched Jonathan Strange and Mr Norrell ep 4. I didn't manage to blog about it, but I really enjoyed episode 3 with the gloriously creepy zombies. All the mirrors of the world is certainly good too, and I did like Petherbridge's King George III, he's not dramatically stage-mad, just a sad, confused old man.
I spent most of Sunday on trains; there was an accident leading to major disruption, but it was handled really well with good communication and advising people on alternative, albeit slower, routes. And then suddenly it was Rosh haShana, and in spite of spending lots of the week preparing for it and talking about it it seemed too fast. It's early this year, which is part of it. And every year I'm thrown by how little the Orthodox evening service is, it's almost a standard weekday evening service, which seems an anti-climax when it's the start of this big festival season. But it was just lovely, everybody was excited to see old friends and wearing their new clothes and full of buzz for the new year. And BC, a Keele alumna, turned up and she's just landed a really fancy job and she and I and GS went out for drinks after the service and spent much of the evening telling really silly jokes. Mostly the kind where words ambiguously refer to either parts of anatomy or annoying people.
And the service on Monday went really well. We had a minyan all the way through, and everybody participated in the service, doing honours or reading bits of poetry. And people paid attention to the showpiece bit in Musaf even though I just read it out rather than singing it. I preached about how the language of forgiveness can be misused to enable abusers, either in interpersonal relationships or in a community context. Partly sparking off this post by kaberett on differences between forgiveness and reconciliation, and referencing Pervocracy's missing stair post. I got quite a lot of pushback, partly from people who were very insistent that we're commanded to forgive and putting limits on that is against Torah, and partly from people who have direct experience working with criminals and helping them with rehabilitation. I'm really glad, though, I felt I got through to people and gave them something to think about, beyond the usual HHD platitudes.
I grabbed a quick lunch at Weatherspoons with GS, and then returned to Cambridge, yes, too much travelling, but it was worth it. I had a lovely evening in the Queen Edith pub, with friends who didn't mind that I was a bit tired and out of it. I didn't quite get the PIE I was hoping for as the pub didn't really have enough food for a party of nine, but never mind, they rustled up something vegetarian even if uninspiring. The pub's divided into two halves and we had a room mostly to ourselves, and also they had Floris honey lambic beer, which seemed pretty seasonally appropriate as well as being delicious.
And for once I was actually able to attend services for second day; I went to the exciting new Reform synagogue and saw lots of the people who remember me from a kid and enjoyed being just someone in the congregation and not in charge of anything. A musical, spiritual, knowledgeable congregation, too, which made it even more of a treat. It's hard to express how much that was good for me; I'm more and more thinking that I need to find a job in Cambridge and live there full time, and needing a Jewish community where I actually belong is part of the reason.
I did Tashlich in the Cam by Jesus Green, which combined very well with playing with ghoti and her younger kids in the excellent pirate-ship themed playground there. We all got pretty soaked; I usually expect good weather for Rosh haShana but even though it's early this year it's been miserable. So we went to Dunkin Donuts for hot drinks and sugar, and they had an apple-shaped and apple-filled doughnut on special, so that seemed like a good equivalent for apples and honey. jack joined us after work, and he and I went to my parents' for dinner, where I managed to catch my little cousin who's visiting from Australia at the moment.
Yesterday was really really frustrating; Dad and coz brought my Granny over for tea in the afternoon, which was really nice but we got the timing a bit wrong and missed the train I'd hoped to catch back to Keele. And then the trains I did catch were impossibly crowded, and I had a run of breaking things luck. I mean, you're supposed to celebrate the new year with new stuff, right, but I really did not want to be forced to replace my glasses and my netbook and my handbag. I'll try to use the last of my not entirely intentional time off work to see if I can get them repaired instead. Plus the cold that's been threatening for a bit is definitely here, I feel slightly miserable.
Anyway, all good wishes for the coming year to anyone for whom it's relevant.
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