Tuesday, April 22, 2008

Oh Henry Cavill

I am working through The Tudors at the moment. It's a very glitzy production - all jousting and dances and intrigue and sex and CGI versions of Ye Olde London. Henry Cavill plays an over-sexed knave - and it seems as if every gay blog in the world has posted pictures of him naked. As I try to make this a SFW blog, I will simply put up a picture of his perfectly shaped head. Maybe it will inspire you to write a madrigal to him.

All my travel is over for the next few months. I'm pleased. While I was away, the cat got into my bedroom somehow and used my bed as his toilet.

I tried to get rid of the smell by using a complicated formula involving vinegar and sodium bicarbonate I found on the internet, but it didn't really work.

(The disgusting results)

So I've had to buy a new bed. It has one of those new "pocket-sprung" mattress thingies and is incredibly soft - you kind of sink into it like the bed is trying to swallow you up. Still, I've slept amazingly well since I bought it - so I can't complain.

Thursday, April 10, 2008

Hong Kong Eccentric

It's 3.02 in the morning and I'm not a bit tired. I've decided not to try and bother adjusting to the 8 hour time difference while I'm in Hong Kong this time. I'm here by myself and not here long enough for it to be worth it. My world has shrunk to my hotel room and the room where I do my teaching in, with the street inbetween. I eat downstairs or get room service, use the hotel gym every night and watch DVDs and send email in my room. This is what I'd be like if I lived alone - an insular loner with set patterns and no social life. I actually ended up talking to my students for an hour longer than necessary today - they were grateful for the attention, but in a way, I was grateful to be having a semi-social interaction.

This is my 3rd hotel room. The first one had an ashtray in, which is always a bad sign, so I asked for a non-smoking room. The second one smelled of glue. I realised that they were doing maintenance on the room next-door, so asked to be moved again. This time the hotel manager was suspicious "We have already moved you once." He asked to check the room and then said that the glue smell would fade in a matter of hours. I made noises about moving to the Holiday Inn, so he just gave up and moved me. I know that if I tried, I could find fault with room number 3, but even I'm too tired of the whole thing now. (This isn't my worst game of Musical Hotel Rooms - my fella still shudders at a trip to Boston where I think he came very close to serving divorce papers.)

To pass the time I am reading a zombie trilogy - Island of the Dead/Nation of the Dead/Planet of the Dead. It's OK, though to beef things up a bit, the writer has given a few of the zombies special powers and they can think and talk. This means that some of the characters actually die in the book, then come back as zombies and on they go...

I'm also watching Greek - a depiction of the awful Greek college system in the US which is based on exclusion, privilege and social evalution (we need talk - hello Oxford and Cambridge). There's a closeted gay character (so it would be ground-breaking if it was 1993), and lots of skinny girls being bitchy to each other and sleeping with each other's boyfriends and saying things like "FYI Casey, if you want to run Zeta Beta Zeta then you're going to have to like sleep with Evan, the most handsome boy on campus." For true teen angst, I'd recommend reading the complicated and funny High School Confidential. Anyway, as I'm a good 17 years older than all the characters in Greek, I'm finding it a bit hard to empathise with their concerns at times. 17 years older! How did that happen?

Monday, April 07, 2008

Is Terminal 5 really as bad as they say?

So I'm flying to Hong Kong today via Heathrow. At Manchester airport, I sighed when I saw that I'd be flying from the dreaded terminal 5. After all, it's been in the news every day with a steady parade of incompetence and lost luggage. "Has my plane been cancelled?" I asked. "No, it's still running," said the ticket seller enthusiastically.

The flight to Heathrow was delayed by an hour, and when we arrived off the plane, we all walked towards a sliding glass door marked "International Departures". However, someone in a yellow fluorescent jacket said "You can't go that way, you have to go the other way." So we went the other way, and were told by someone else "You can't go that way, you have to go back the way you came." So we bounced back and forth between the two places, neither which were going to let us in and were adamant that we had to go in the other direction. At this stage, some of the business class flyers (especially the men under 5' 8') started to get a bit stroppy, making comments like "Couldn't organise a piss-up in a brewery!" I've never had that kind of breakdown of protocol in an airport before, and it was quite interesting - like how I imagine the first 5 minutes of the end of the world would feel like. I actually got a bit scared, and ended up stammering when I spoke. If you can't trust people to tell you what gate to go through, then can you trust them to fly your plane properly? So we waited and waited. A female employee started telling us that "they'd had a security breach yesterday and it was a code 97" or something - why on earth would we be expected to understand?

Finally, I got bored of waiting and wandered off in the opposite direction. I passed some British Airways stewards who looked expasperated "Well, it's not our problem!" one of them said. And they got back on the plane. Fortunately, it seemed as if the "gatekeeper" at the other gate had simply given up, so I ran towards a pair of sliding glass doors - escape was in my sight!

The glass doors suddenly closed on me, incredibly quickly and I was trapped. Another female employee in a headscarf, aged about 14, came towards me. I expected she was going to admonish me for trying to "breach code 97", but instead she swiped a keypad with a card - she was actually trying to open the door for me...

However, it didn't work. There was something wrong with her card. She tried again and again. Finally, the doors wheezed open a couple of millimeters. Then, ever so slowwllllllly, almost spitefully, the doors opened by about 10cm, not enough for me to get through. The woman in the headscarf sighed and gave the keypad another swipe. Finally, reluctantly, the doors rasped open fully and I was able to escape inside terminal 5.

So what's it like? Well, it looks like a futuristic domed city filled with fancy flatscreen technology. If they ever refilm Logan's Run - they could do it here. As I sit typing this, I keep hearing that flights are being cancelled. It looks like I might be here for a while.

Tuesday, April 01, 2008

A little bit of the real world invades my ivory tower

So I went into work today and noticed some graffiti in the men's room.

It said:


Fortunately, in the third drawer of my filing cabinet I keep, along with my "viva trousers" (proper trousers that I only ever wear when I am doing a PhD viva), are various cleaning products - because, frankly, the cleaners don't always do the best job in the world and sometimes need a little bit of help. So I got out my Cif and a cloth and removed the offending words.

But it's a bit depressing that you have to read such things, especially in a so-called "place of higher learning". If that stuff happens in universities, then I dread to think what it must be like in the real world, away from my ivory tower on a hill. I guess, for the millionth time I thank my lucky stars that I had a mother who read me Ladybird books every night when I was very young, instilling a love of reading in me from an early age, which meant I ended up getting a job where I pretty much get shielded from most of the horrors of everyday life.

There's something very cowardly about that sort of graffiti though. At least the BNP or Fred Phelps or whoever come out and own up to their homophobia. With graffiti, there's no comeback. I always make a point of scrubbing it out, whenever I see it - really, I don't think that anyone else should have to read their dreary opinions. And I'm not even going to comment on that "Z". Except - it's not clever.