I got back from Florence (yes, I will post about it soon) at about 3 am on Monday morning. I wouldn't normally do this; if that were the only flight I could get, I'd consider the trip impossible, but for the sake of a weekend in Florence it was worth it.
I slept for as long as I dared, then did what needed doing at work, then headed to shul for the evening service that starts the New Year. The service was barely twenty minutes, which is too short even by the standards of a Conservative evening service. I was invited to dinner with some nice people, who got me to talk about cancer research and various fairly abstract philosophical things in Swedish.
One of the guests was a youngish guy I am sort of friendly with, who is a bit feckless and tends to bounce between short-term jobs. Right now he's working for the train company as a kind of security guard (the job doesn't really have an equivalent on English trains; it includes giving the signal for the train to leave the station, making sure that nobody is caught in the doors or whatever, as well as keeping an eye on the train CCTV and so on). So on the way back (the hostess lives right at the end of the train line), he said, I have keys, let's ride in the driver's cab. So my inner eight-year-old boy had a ball with that.
Rosh haShana itself was fine, but not inspiring. All the things I don't like about the style of services here is amplified in high holy day services, and there's not even a kiddush afterwards to give the people who haven't seen eachother in a year a chance to catch up, because the Orthodox communities use the meeting hall for their services. So it was a bit anticlimactic when a thousand congregants just had to disperse (quickly, so as not to create a security risk by hanging around outside synagogue). I spent the afternoon preparing my lesson for Thursday, which was more last minute than ideal, but never mind.
I worked Wednesday, which I shouldn't, but I decided I couldn't get away with asking for Tuesday and Wednesday off one week, then half of Wednesday and Thursday the next, then the next two consecutive Tuesdays, as well as the time I'm needing for travelling. I'd probably get permission, it's not that, but days in the middle of the week make it hard to do any experiments at all and I'd end up basically wasting a month. And there was a committee meeting Wednesday evening, which was productive and enjoyable but ran late, and then the whole incident with the keys.
Thursday my teaching was successful, in spite of a second keys disaster. (This one not my fault, but our designated key-holder lost the keys to the library, and we managed to get round it by using a small room in the community hall, which was serendipitously open because of a synagogue board meeting in the same building.) I lost control of the discussion slightly, which is both good and bad; I've been encouraging people to participate, and they've obviously taken it to heart, but at the same time my ideal lesson would be more structured than this one was.
Friday I had a really good meeting with my boss and closest colleague, following the news that our paper is conditionally accepted (the conditions being reasonably non-onerous). So it's not a great triumph or anything, a second author paper in a middle-range journal, but it's a whole lot better than nothing. And I got an unexpected and spontaneous invitation to dinner on Friday night, with some lovely people who are extremely skilled at interesting middle-class dinner party conversation.
That meant I lost the evening I'd earmarked for planning the discussion session I was leading Saturday, so I skipped shul Saturday morning and did the planning then. Very good discussion; I think I got people thinking about Yom Kippur on a deeper level than many would otherwise engage with. SA wanted to talk about whether we should bother with this whole asking God for forgiveness thing when God has behaved unforgivably in not preventing the Holocaust, and I cut her off and said we're not having this discussion right now. I think I made the right decision pedagogically, but I don't generally like cutting anyone off, especially not a friend. I think it amounts to saying, we're taking the validity of Judaism as read at this particular point, not to refusing to discuss something because it's too difficult and challenging. (Also, there are Survivors in the group; I didn't feel up to moderating a discussion between people who were personally affected by the Holocaust, and people having existential crises about it.)
After all that, the rest of the weekend ended up being a blur of exhaustion. I would have been better off spending most of it asleep, but I kept attempting, and failing horribly, to do all the chores and spodding I hadn't had time for since getting back from Italy.
Yesterday I went to a talk that seemed vaguely interesting and turned out to be really very interesting indeed. The guy is working on something with is exactly at the (very small!) intersection between my PhD work and my current job, so I did the proactive thing and went up to him after the talk to point this out and ask if he had any vacancies. He said he was going to be looking for people in about six months, and I said, that's perfect cos I'm going to be looking for jobs in about six months. I sent him my CV; I don't hold out any great hope, but obviously I have a far better chance than I would if I didn't try. It's just possible that the freakishly good match between my experience and his interests will lead him to consider me favourably compared to a candidate who's better on paper but less well matched. I will admit that I was slightly thinking with my hormones, as the speaker is one of the most arrestingly beautiful people I've set eyes on in a while (he also turns out to be scarily young, when I was looking him up in order to send the CV that he got his PhD only a year before I did, eep!) But I figure it doesn't do any harm if prettiness spurs me to do what I should be doing anyway, and get myself noticed by people who might be able to employ me.
In the evening I did some much-needed grocery shopping, and while I was in the shops, I popped into a shoe outlet to see if I could pick up some cheap plimsolls for Yom Kippur. I came away with the plimsolls, but also silver fake Crocs (which were free with another purchase), and the boots of my dreams which were reduced to about £4. On a practical level, that's unbelievably cheap for fur-lined leather boots, proper calf-high ones that will keep me dry when my ankle boots aren't adequate to deep slush. But aesthetically I am totally enraptured with them; I was bouncing at cartesiandaemon about them and realized that the reason I love them so much is that they're the right gender for me. They're practical and solid and maybe a little bit stompy, and look like you could have adventures in them, but without being too clumpy, pretty in a kind of this could be worn by a character in high fantasy way, but not girly. Also, they fit, they do not have pointy toes to hurt my square feet, and because those buckles are real, not decorative, they even go round my calves. They're almost the antithesis of stereotypically sexy boots, but I feel sexy in them regardless.
Other than planning the discussion session for Saturday, I haven't really done any spiritual preparation for YK, mind you. I haven't even contacted people to give them new year greetings (which is the Jewish equivalent of keeping barely in touch via sending Christmas cards). I've had good conversations with cartesiandaemon and pseudomonas, and corresponded a bit with darcydodo and lethargic_man. But I still owe lots of people lots of communication. It's always my number one resolution at this time of year, to be better at keeping in touch with people I care about, but it's an uphill struggle against disorganization.
It's very late to be leaving this, but if I've hurt you or you have any resentment against me from the past year, please talk to me and make suggestions of how I can make amends.