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f/e 2023-10-08

Obviously much of the action of the past fortnight is recounted in yesterday’s post about our holiday in Italy. I was pretty anxious about the trip beforehand. I think I’d been getting more nervous about travel already, anticipating all the things that could go wrong, but this was my first journey abroad in nearly four years. Which had given me more chance to come up with more possibilities for disaster. But it was all fine and we had a great time!

The main logistical difficulties were thanks to the UK’s rail system, and now living in Not London – it took us a car, a train, another train, the Elizabeth Line, and a third train to get to Gatwick. On the way there one train was late, which wasn’t a big deal, but the train after our first one was canceled, and we were glad we weren’t supposed to be on that – they’re only once an hour. On the way back we arrived on a now common Train Strike Day and, given it was already late in the day, we stayed at Premier Inn Gatwick rather than struggle to a friend’s in London. I’m grateful to be able to make life easier by shelling out £112.

One thing that improved the trip was more planning. I’m usually terrible in that I arrange travel and accommodation and then… just turn up and wonder what to do and where to eat. Resulting in wandering around, increasingly hungry and tetchy, looking for the perfect place to have dinner. This time I’d made lists of places to visit, places to go for lunch, and places to go for dinner, and a provisional schedule. It was great to have a plan! I 100% recommend to do this entirely obvious and basic step when traveling!

M&K’s wedding in Nomaglio – the reason for our trip – was amazing, although these days I’m leery of sharing photos of people online without their consent. But here’s a video from just after the ceremony, when everyone was in the little square outside the chapel. The bride wore a replica 19th(?) century Hussar’s uniform, and the groom wore a long green gown and red leather boots. Rather than rings they exchanged swords.

The little band in the video then led everyone through the village and down to M&K’s house, a large chalet-style place with amazing views, for chat, drinks, food, and dancing. Then back to the village for an evening meal, sitting outside the trattoria under lights, the band occasionally striking up again. Then, for those of us who didn’t go to bed, the band led everyone off to a hall for dancing into the night.

It was just like a movie, hard to believe it was real. All these nice friends of M&K, talking English, German and/or Italian, all helping make the day work and having a lovely time. Such a great and perfect event.

§ Before going away we watched the last two of the three episodes of Sensationalists: The Bad Girls and Boys of British Art. On the whole I loved the series, which two friends had independently recommended. My knowledge of the rise of Damien Hirst et al was sketchy and it was good to see it chronologically, with plenty of stuff I didn’t know or appreciate.

It flagged a bit in the third episode, probably because it wasn’t clear where or how to end. It’s into the 21st century and the Young British Artists were now successful and so a few disparate events are covered, culminating in the 2012 Olympics opening ceremony because… at one point the ground is a giant Hirst spin painting? That ceremony is a great point to start or end different histories of British culture but this felt like a stretch.

§ We’ve now finished the fourth and final season of Sex Education and enjoyed it. At first I was very under-wowed but it picked up and there were some beautiful moments later in the season.

Unfortunately I found most of the new characters – and the new college – incredibly annoying, so I found myself hoping the next scene would involve Otis, Maeve, Eric, Ruby, Jean, or Adam. I couldn’t quite decide how much Cavendish Sixth Form College was supposed to be an aspirational place of bright colours, happy people, and no nastiness, or an over-the-top parody of “wokeness” designed as a warning of taking everything too far. Maybe it’s one for some people and the other for others, and I feel old and bad for leaning towards the latter interpretation.

§ I started reading George Eliot’s Middlemarch a month ago because it’s one of those classics I see referred to very often, and also heard it was a good read. After reading 188 pages out of 838, and returning from holiday, I’ve given up on it. So very, very slow, and I really don’t care which dull man is going to be the chaplain, or whatever the next chapter’s quandary is. I feel dim (on top of old and bad) for finding it boring, but life’s too short to spend the next four months plodding through that.

I’m clearing my palate with a re-re-read of the short and excellent Accident by Nicholas Mosley.

§ I’m trying not to worry about the fact it’s 8th October and it’s been too hot to comfortably sit outside in the sun.

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