I've had a very full week (well, technically 9 days), seeing some very dear and very far away friends, and going out more than I manage in most months.
Last Saturday DW came to visit. DW is someone I met when I did a summer internship at the Weizmann Institute in Israel in 1999. It was a very intense summer, with a couple of dozen talented students from about 15 different countries thrown together to do exciting science. A lot of close relationships were formed, including several which led to marriages. In my case, there were three people I was particularly close with: ID, whom I ended up dating for several months, a Russian biologist, NY, and DW. DW is American so I've not really had a chance to see her again since then, and I've not been as good a correspondent as I ought to have been. But she had a conference in Glasgow and arranged to come and see me while she was in Scotland.
I'm so, so delighted that she did this. It was absolutely wonderful to spend time with her again. At one point, when we'd been chatting enthusiastically for several hours, she pointed out that it was 5 years since we had last seen eachother. It really, really didn't feel like it, though; we were just carrying on a conversation that could have been broken off a week before. She is doing very well: she is pursuing a PhD at Harvard in astrophysics, specifically making instruments for telescopes, and got married to her long-term boyfriend a month ago. It's a very interesting exercise to catch someone up with five years of your life; it really made me think about what's important to me, what have been the defining events. I told her about Screwy, about living in Dundee and the Jewish community here, my dear friends, the three people I've gone out with in that time (she duly laughed at my truly hopeless inability to be single, having been present the first time I loudly delcared my intention never to get into any more relationships...) And of course I talked about work a bit.
The weather was utterly miserable, and she was only able to be here for an afternoon anyway, so we spent most of it just drinking tea and chatting. Though we did venture into town at one point, deciding that the rain wouldn't hurt us and we didn't want to be cooped up indoors absolutely all day. Of course, this did not go far to dispell her stereotypical view that Scotland is always wet and miserable, but hey. I fed her a veggie moussaka which I was quite proud of.
Then Sunday, just after DW left, RB came for lunch. He had decided to go back to London immediately after finishing his exams (he got a 2:1, by the way), and I had missed him because that was when I was interviewing in Dublin. He was only here for a few days last week, mainly in order to graduate and sort out the end of the lease on his flat, so I'm pleased that he made time to see me while he was here. We ate the remains of the moussaka, and some exciting olives; Tesco have introduced an olive bar which I found quite irresistable, especially knowing that RB appreciates olives.
I'm so pleased I've got to know RB; we wouldn't ordinarily have much in common except that (with LC) we ended up running J-soc here. When I first met him I thought of him as a puppy; adorable and full of enthusiasm, but really rather clueless. He's really grown up since then and turned out to be someone for whom I have real affection and respect. And now he's going out into the real world as an adult, or perhaps I should say, as a mensh. He's got a sabbatical job working for JLE; it's a position with a lot of responsibility and should be very interesting, but he's understandably nervous about it. JLE are an organization with basically admirable aims, but whose methods are regarded as anywhere from questionable to downright dangerous depending whom you ask.
Wednesday I went out with the lab for a farewell lunch for one of the postdocs, RP. RP is a lovely guy, a Glaswegian martial arts expert who is only saved from being scary by being extremely nice. He's been unlucky for various reasons and has fallen through cracks in the system and can't get more funding, so he's not only leaving the lab but leaving academia altogether. This is a guy in his early thirties (with three kids) whose career up to now seemed pretty promising; it's the kind of thing that could happen to any of us and this is a stark reminder that even working for the Überboss doesn't mean you're safe.
Anyway, we were all trying to brush this aside and have a cheerful outing. Since RP likes Thai food, we went to the new Thai restaurant that has just opened in the dockside area, Rama Thai. The place is very impressive, with a lot of interesting carved wood furniture and an ambience that is both exotic and congenial (admittedly I was getting major avodah zarah twitches with all the graven images, but that's just me). However, the food was distinctly less impressive, overpriced and not terribly exciting, and the service was pretty dire.
Then this weekend MK has been here. It's so amazing to see him, the more so because he put up with the unpleasantness of the overnight coach journey to spend a weekend here! He picked a good weekend to come, too, since it's graduation weekend and the whole town has a party atmosphere. There was a continental market going on all weekend, where I picked up some rather exciting baklava, and also a blues festival with all the pubs and clubs offering free live music all weekend. After a relatively quiet day chatting, we went out on Saturday evening with a friend of MK's, HF, who is also doing a PhD in Dundee.
HF suggested a new Bangladeshi restaurant, Dil'Se. This is really a very grand place, much more upmarket than anywhere I'd normally eat, with silver service waiters and ultra-modern decor. They had only one vegetarian option plus a fish dish, which I chose. The fish was absolutely delicious, probably ranking among the best Indian food I've ever eaten, but really at the price it ought to have been. I'm a poor student and I do not expect to spend £20 on a whole evening out, let alone just a meal. Still, there is a real shortage of good places to eat out in Dundee, even if one is prepared to pay serious money, so I'll probably bear Dil'Se in mind in case I ever want to do something grand as a real treat.
Then we headed into town for the festival. Since it was also the evening of the graduation ball we had fun admiring the over-dressed students who thronged the streets. I'm not really a blues fan but it was still great fun to wander in and out of pubs and listen to live music and mingle with crowds of people (of all ages, not just students) visibly having a brilliant time. The Balcony, which is a gothy pub in normal life, was rather surreal, being full of misplaced looking goths.
Today MK slept late to make up for two broken nights, while I made some faux coq-au-vin for lunch. And then we spent the afternoon chatting some more, partly at home and partly in Braes bar with HF. I heard the full story about MK's deportation from America; the problem was a visa technicality, as expected, but he's really, really angry about it, and has decided he's never going to work in the US from now on. For him, it's a case of missing out on an extra bonus on top of the research he's done; for his American collaborators it's a major disaster, since he is the only person able to teach them a particular technique that they really need to use. Apart from that he enthused lots about the position he's going to in Australia, which really does sound exciting.
And then he had to catch the bus back to London. I hugged him tight and managed not to cry; in a few weeks he's off to Australia for at least three years and he's thinking seriously of settling there permanently if things go well. Bloody geography!