Saturday 17 November 2018

Why Blogging is Hard Right Now

Irine's Aristotle's Way Cake!
For the first time in years I haven’t blogged for six whole weeks. I’ve been no busier than usual at the beginning of the academic year, but in an odd psychological state. One reason is that the nestlings who have been under our roof more than half my adult life left home for university on September 22nd. I feel badly disorientated.

The public sphere has been as nonplussing as the domestic. It’s not that I don’t have views. But what we don’t need right now is yet another opinionated, self-styled public intellectual virtue-signalling, policing others' thought-worlds or sounding off about Brexit or Trump. Yet more acrimonious social-media ranting helps nobody. 

Minoan Headgear
So, for distraction's sake, here’s an old-fashioned travelog instead. In September I returned to Tblisi, where Prof. Irine Darchia has almost single-handedly rescued Georgian Classics from disappearance during post-Soviet Reconstruction. At my State University lecture she presented me with a cake iced to match Aristotle’s Way and the head-dress of the Cretan Snake Goddess. Not all at once.

British Delegation in Kazan
The next escape was to the Uni at Kazan, capital of Tatarstan, where Lenin met Trotsky. I went with British Friendship Delegation including old comrades Prof. Richard Alston of Royal Holloway and Dr Henry Stead, with whom I’m now finishing the book of the Classics & Class project. It was billed as the first ever conference on Classical Reception in Russian Federation. I recall an extraordinary city and a vodka tsunami administered by Vladimir from Omsk.

Rick, My Dutch Publisher in Schipol Airport Bookshop
Third stop was the Netherlands. Rick van Rijthoven is the most effective publicist I’ve ever worked with. The Dutch title of the Dutch version of Aristotle’s Way translates as What Would Aristotle Do?  At public events I was asked What Would Aristotle Do (a) to help a stutter; (b) if he had £100,000 but a terminal illness; (c) if he debated Brexit with Spinoza. I kept praying there is no afterlife in which I'll ever have to face Aristotle in person.

Cerberus, art from HMS SENTINEL (pic by O. Baldiwn)
Other highlights included Portsmouth Naval Museum, where with PhD student Oliver Baldwin I investigated ships’ classically-themed badges and figureheads. There I met some Grumpy Old Salts and discovered why many British ships in the Battle of Trafalgar had classical names.

Classical Name-Choosing
When Lord Sandwich, First Lord of the Admiralty, was bored/drunk at the gambling table, he used to call for Lempriere’s Classical Dictionary and choose names he fancied for new frigates. This was so exhausting that he got hungry. Since one hand was thumbing the book he asked for his meat to be brought enfolded between two slices of bread.

Is it still OK for a Bremainer to say she likes British humour? 

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