Thursday, September 20, 2007

Random things

  • My mum's doing well after her knee operation. She is surrounded by 90 year olds on her ward and, as a youngster barely into her sixties, she's a real hit with her fellow patients - as is my dad who is enjoying the hospital visits but is feeling rather lonely at home without his wife laughing with him and nagging him and generally keeping him company.

  • I was in hospital myself today, for a routine checkup in Oxford. In the oncology department this afternoon, I was the youngest there by decades and everyone probably assumed I was a doctor. I felt quite sad walking through the corridors. I've been all clear for a few years now, but still the memories rock me.

  • Better memories enlivened me as I strolled through Oxford on my way back to the rail station. I sipped smokey lapsang souchong at The Grand CafĂ© on the High Street, where I used to meet my friends; I tottered across the Radcliffe Camera's cobble-stoned square, where I used to take a shortcut on my bicycle en route to rowing or the gym; I walked through the inner courtyard of the Bodleian Library - "The Bod" as we called it - and looked up with a touch of longing at the windows glowing orange, remembering the days and nights I was inside with my head in a book taking copious notes on things I've now forgotten. I've lectured, studied and given papers at other universities, but still I rate Oxford the most highly. The intellectual rigour of the place is superb and I met some amazing people studying there, from all over the world. And quite simply, the place so resonates with history that it feels magical, even unearthly. If I have children, I will encourage them to go to Oxford, just as my own family encouraged me.

  • I am deriving enormous amounts of pleasure cooking for M. The happiness spread across his face when he returns from another long day and smells all the aromas coming out of the kitchen is priceless. When his hours become more manageable again he will start taking his turn to cook during weeknights, which I'm really looking forward to as he cooks so well. But for now, it is just me. On Monday, I cooked a feta and courgette frittata and served it with salad; this lasted into Tuesday when I served it with steamed spinach and garlic. Tonight, I will cook a white cannellini, chorizo and tomato stew. That will most likely last into tomorrow too. If we can't go out to eat on Friday, then I think I will prepare a simple gnocchi, tomato and basil stew. I brought all these recipes and more back from my parents' house this weekend gone.

  • This week, I managed to nip out to see Taryn Simon's An American Index of the Hidden and Unfamiliar at The Photographers' Gallery during one lunch break. I would call it America's cabinet of curiosities. Simon's large-format lens casts an unsentimental eye across a range of things that are an integral part of everyday US life but remain inaccessible to most peoples' eyes: Playboy magazine in Braille; a retarded, in-bred white tiger in a cage in Arkansas; radioactive capsules glowing neon blue at a nuclear waste storage facility in Washington State (top photo); the device holding the dead bodies of the wife and sister of Robert Ettinger, a pioneer in the field of cryonics at the Cryonics Institute in Clinton Township, Michigan (photo below). The photographer is tenacious and often waits up to a year to gain permission to photograph in some highly secure zones, including C.I.A. sites and prison death rows. But it must be in the family blood, because her father worked for the State Department and photographed Soviet cities during the Cold War, restricted sites in Southeast Asia during the Vietnam War, and other inaccessible places around the world.

6 comments:

Little Nutbrown Hare said...

Mmmm I have never been in your position, so it will be superficial if I said I understood how you feel. It must be scary... I hope you keep well...

Planethalder said...

Thanks Tommy. As you can see from this post, it's still difficult sometimes, particularly around the time of my checkups, but now that I'm cured, I've never felt better physically to be honest. And my experiences have given me such a joie de vivre. Life can be very tough and can be very short so you may as well enjoy it! This can sound trite, but it's true for me.

Bombay Beauty said...

Glad to hear you are all clear, but indeed it is difficult to imagine the continual anxiety...

Found very interesting your post on Taryn Simon. Will try to visit it. From my blog, you would see that I would not recommend to Lomography wall in Trafalgar Square.

I've been eating leftover paella. I made it again to be sure I got the recipe just right. I've invested in a ginormous (don't really like this "new" word, but wanted to try it out) paella pan. Could cook for 10 people now with ease. My next goal is to to Indianize paella, which as someone pointed out would be reinventing biryani through the back door.

Nor sure about Oxford my dear. I know it's got great atmosphere, but I think it's too far from the frontier of knowledge. I suppose it depends what your kids will study! If they decide to study classics then I guess Oxford is still the place... If they decide to become engineers, I would suggest MIT. If they decide to get MBAs and become rich I would suggest Harvard...

Cheers,

BB

Planethalder said...

You're right of course, BB. I was writing in the warm Oxford afterglow and it melted away my objectivity ;-) Of course it depends on what you want to study...

Olivia said...

Good to hear your mother is doing well.

I had no idea you had a bout with cancer. I can surely now understand why you cherish the little things, and why you savour the sensory experience of just being alive.

Planethalder said...

Olivia, spot on!