Time For a May Update!

So it’s time for an update, it’s been a couple of weeks and I currently have a D on my foot, which means I’m stuck.

Send help and chocolate!

But, seriously, spring is … erm … springing. We have blossom and my windows are open/the Sonos are on half-pelt. Life’s okay.

My foot is going to sleep. Crap.

But, yeah, I survived London and Easter. S’all good. My mood has been relatively stable which is nice, though my anxiety remains through the roof. Not so good but it’s a work in progress. Shall we do this through the medium of bullet points, just for brevity?

 Okay then:

  • London was awesome. I really enjoyed it. I’m still paying it off but it was worth it.
  • Hidden Figures is even more awesome in the cinema. Bonus for having an actual American with me who can explain the whole political mess around it and the Space Race. Also, it makes me want to go back to my Space Race on an alien planet novella.
  • I am writing. My current focus is still on the Atridia books, specifically on a short story I’m calling “Bindings, Seen and Not” about a neutral gender bookbinder living in a city under state-sanctioned non-binary gender oppression.
  • The Handmaid’s Tale was amazing … and severely triggering. I want to watch the rest of it (I think there are like ten episodes). I’m not sure I’ll be able to though, it’s horrifically foretelling but incredibly relevant. I know a lot of people are noping out purely because of anxiety issues with the content.
  • In election news, I’m noping out. Due to a bureaucratic cock-up relating to the Great Name Change, I’ve been kicked off the electoral roll and won’t be back on it time for the local election. I’m very angry about this but also glad I caught it as I do want to vote in the general election next month. I just don’t want to have to listen to the election kerfuffle until then. Aside: I know it’s a cock-up because they have ZERO records of me under Old Name either and I’ve lived here for a decade and voted, both in person and postal. They also have no problems sending me Council Tax bills in my new name. It’s a work in progress but I don’t expect it to be resolved in time to vote locally (I have re-registered to vote and intend to give someone at Electoral a serious talking to about the legalities of this, I’m registered as a head of household and am not dependent of anyone else so there’s no reason for me to have been removed).
  • There’s no ETA on the guide dog front either. Sigh. The cats are picking up the slack though. Bramble and Gismo hugs are also helping.
  • I got an update on Uni’s progress and she’s doing so well. She’s happy and has a beach. That’s all I can ask for.
  • My mood has been yoyoing but nothing too hard-core though I managed to really trigger myself last weekend. It was unpleasant. Oh and I’ve been obsessing again, mainly on buying things, Field Notes and food. Oh and Midori, of course. But I’m starting to argue out reasons why I should wait (example: my phone is due an upgrade but, instead, I’m going to go sim-only for a few months/til the end of the year as it’s cheaper).
  • Money-wise, I sat down and worked out my income and did a spreadsheet. I’ve worked out a rough, date by date, payment plan and should be debt free just after my birthday. I even budgeted in a new Limitless card and my rent. 2018 should start out with a nice, clean, slate. If I can restrain myself and focus on the Big Picture.
  • At some point, I’m going to write that book on bipolar or, at least, how to manage things like money while dealing with the mood swings.
  • I’ve decided to teach myself bookbinding (I started learning it a couple of years ago), thanks to the help of YouTube. Actually, I’ve been a lot more crafty of late; mostly laminating stuff and experimenting with little things like making postcard-sized pictures for my fridge (mostly of upcoming movie posters and inspirational quotes) or laminating stuff for friends. I am now the proud owner of an awl, a craft knife, cutting map, guillotine and haven’t yet done myself any serious damage. Go me. My task for this week is to learn to saddle stitch and learn how to bind my own notebooks for my wallet (there’s more variety in terms of paper and cover colour). Plus it keeps my brain quiet which is the biggest thing.

  • I cancelled my gym membership. The pressure of attendance (I’m not an evening person, especially not when I ‘have’ to do something I don’t want to do) and my continuing plantar fasciitis had been driving me nuts. Said PF was getting better, then I went to London. Sigh. On the upside, I’m not missing the place and much prefer walking around Eaton Park with my guide dog owner friends and their hounds.
  • I’m eating better food. Simple meals which are easy to cook and fast (or involve the minimum amount of prep). This week it’s garlic and bacon pasta with chorizo and lots of herbs. Healthy and tasty.
  • My faux Midori wallet is working beautifully, as is the free diary I got from JP Books (though it runs out in September and I kinda want a dated one. Dates are hard.). I’ve been playing with the inserts and now have a zipper pouch, a kraft folder and a notebook inside each other on the first string and my diary and expenses ledger held together with a band on the second. It works perfectly. Oh, I added a Neo Queen Serenity tiara charm onto the string and it sits beautifully on my yen coin.
  • Guardians of the Galaxy Volume 2 is freaking awesome. End of. I didn’t look at my watch once AND I’m going back tomorrow.
  • I’m looking forward to so much TV and so many movies. I have tickets to Alien: Covenant and Wonder Woman already. I’m actually going to the cinema physically and ordering in bulb because the Odeon site only lets me book two performances ahead online (in person I can book loads). It’s annoying and cramping my social life.
  • Doctor Who is actually kinda good this season.
  • American Gods starts tomorrow. YAY!!!!
  • I’m managed to keep on top of household stuff, though I’m yet to put my washing away. Small steps, Asha, small steps.
  • I’m back in therapy and it’s helping. Reddit is helping more in terms of a support group which is just odd but so welcome. Ditto my very closest chosen family.
  • Ramen is still awesome.
  • I finally got my hands on a Lindt 1kg Gold Bunny in the post-Easter sales and I don’t regret it. Not for one second. 😀
  • We are Groot, people!
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Secret Cinema X: The Handmaiden (아가씨)

I’m trying to focus on filling life with experiences as opposed to things and when Shannon asked if anyone wanted to go to Secret Cinema X with her for her birthday, I stuck up my hand and went ‘what the hell, yes!’ in a very enthusiastic manner. Suddenly we have tickets (technically I have a ticket and Shannon is my +1. Disabled privilege FTW!) and I’m booking train tickets and trying to figure out what we’ll be seeing.

You see, Secret Cinema X is like the adult cousin of a mystery tour. Rather than going with the themed movie (like the widely touted Moulin Rouge experience currently running), you really have no idea what you’re going to see until you turn up. I’ve wanted to do Secret Cinema, a friend went to Back to the Future, but I really like this idea of not knowing, of avoiding spoilers and literally ‘tell(ing) no one’.

So we get this mysterious hint and we wagered. Shannon wanted to do it because she was convinced it was a very explicit, Korean movie (coincidentally out this week) called The Handmaiden (아가씨). I’d not heard of it but she won me over by going ‘there’s lot of sex and plenty of Japanese dialogue’. I do actually really enjoy Korean movies too, if that helps. Her argument was the style was Japanese and that the snake and the very vaginal looking cherry tree are big motifs in the movie.

So Tuesday night comes around and we’ve received this cryptic message (the meeting point was in an older part of London, hinted at by the limes) and had dressed accordingly. Yes, I own an evening dress. Shush. Getting gloves was another matter but achievable. My only complaint, noted here just to get it out of the way, was there was no cloakroom at this event which irked me as I was carrying a backpack and felt really uncomfortable (I’d come straight from Norfolk and hadn’t had the time to go back to Shannon’s to dump it). Fortunately, as there was table seating, it was an easy enough thing to deal with, just annoying.

So, we turn up at this meeting point, coincidentally right outside an old art deco picture house and I see people dressed in very Korean garb. Shannon won and I was so, so happy. I don’t like surprises, it’s a part of autistic me and I’d been really hoping she was right. We were ushered in (blindness +1) through the front door and into the main auditorium.

It smelled of hanging smoke and incense. The main mezzanine contained a bar and the middle-level tickets (which we’d paid for). Extra bonuses go to us for being early as we were able to snag the best seat in the house and get to the bar in short order. Servants wandered around, guiding people to tables, holding lit paper lanterns, the soundtrack (which is beautiful) was playing over the speakers and, once seated, I went and bought us a £30 bottle of Prosecco to celebrate my loss.

All the ordering was done in silence, pointing and gesticulating. Not a word was uttered.

Ordering is hard when you can’t talk.

The venue offered food for a price; obento boxes which looked delicious but were essentially epically-oversized polystyrene containers. The bar was well stocked and offered plenty of lovely things. Each table also came with a mysterious card reminding guests of the rules of the House, as well as sheets of card for writing on, origami paper and instructions and a lollypop (which plays a roll in the plot).

Once we sat down, it was actually incredibly atmospheric. The Library seating, below us and right by the screen, was focused on a stage and, periodically, a servant would walk across, acting out pastiches from the film. Then a specially-constructed shoji screen would open and a woman in full kimono and wig (supposed to be either Hideko or her Aunt) would appear and read passages (from what I caught of them in VERY NSFW Japanese) from the movie. Think pornography as literature focusing on the careful, doubtless very carefully researched, description of female genitalia.

I got a little hot under the collar, I confess, and that was just from the use of very particular onomatopoeia.

During the movie, the screens were also used to add extra dimensions to certain scenes and it was timed beautifully, the costumes identical and it really made this more than just your average screening. I mean, the film was amazing but this really made it stratospherically beautiful. Smoke hung in the air and sakura blossoms rained down on us, maids moved with lanterns and figures hurried up steps between the three tiers.

It made an otherwise two-dimensional experience much more real, much more immersive.

Eventually the movie itself started and I was spellbound. Honestly, wine and cider helps (of which there was copious amounts) but we were close enough that I could catch some of the subtitles and all of the Japanese. The movie is Korean, as are the actors, and favours the language but there was more than enough Japanese for me to follow.

Visually it’s stunning and is an adaption of Sarah Waters’ The Fingersmith (which sums up everything, IMHO). Except, rather than Victorian London, the movie is set in Japanese-occupied Korea and focuses on a long con involving Sook-hee becoming a lady’s maid (the Handmaiden of the title) to Lady Hideko, a wealthy Japanese aristocrat enslaved by her uncle-by-marriage. She’s there to help her arrogant employer, the self-proclaimed ‘Count Fujiwari’ steal Hideko’s heart then wed and bed her, so the money will follow. However Hideko’s uncle also wants to marry her for money (and is also Korean) just happens to be a connoisseur of pornographic books, as well as a sadist and the film reveals, over three acts, not only how Hideko and Sook-hee fall in love but also how others are fighting for mastery of Hideko’s fate as well as her fortune.

Shannon tells me this is the cut version but that doesn’t make this movie any less explicit. The scenes are gorgeous, the sex … well … I’m very attracted to women so, yeah, wow. Oh and bonus points to go managing to teach the audience a few choice Japanese words (including how to say ‘vagina’ and ‘penis’) as well as throwing in a couple of nods to Tako to Ama (that link is NSFW BTW), one of Hokusai’s most infamous creations better known in the west as The Dream of the Fisherman’s Wife. The final reference was much more subtle and turned my stomach.

The whole movie has a very surreal feel to it and sometimes it’s hard to figure out what is reality, or whose version of events we’re seeing. The soundtrack is really quite beautiful and the cherry tree is true to its connection with death, though there was some humour in there that sent the audience laughing. Actually, most people really seemed to take the movie well and it’s very surreal watching an 18, very deserving of it’s rating, in a hall with a hundred other people, most of whom seemed to be couples.

Did I mention I got flustered? Good. Because, damn, this movie is gorgeous in so many ways.

The ending is an odd one but perfectly placed. It’s not a romance, but it’s romantic. There’s pornography but the love scenes aren’t pornographic. The acts merge into each other, though the first one feels longer and better paced, than parts two and three.

My only other complaint comes with the end of the movie. After one small hiccup with the print stalling, the movie ended … and they destroyed the mood by promising a dance floor and going straight into playing 1940’s music. Specifically In The Mood. You could hear that beautifully crafted ambiance shatter like a dropped glass. This was only made worse by the sudden talking as the lights came up and the noise level rose.

Damn, guys, damn.

But props for everything else. The care, the attention to detail, the costuming and the servants (who even scribbled in-character replies). The effert put into the staging was brilliant and I loved the shoji screens and the extra on-stage shadowing that popped up at important parts while the movie was playing, including during the sex scenes. It didn’t drag your eye from the screen but just enhanced the movie to a new level of wow.

I absolutely loved it, every aspect of it from the secrecy (kept as far as I can tell). No cameras were allowed inside the venue (the vow of silence mentioned in the image above), hence why I’ve had to be really descriptive. i’m actually glad of that because it allowed us to totally focus on the experience, on being there, and getting very merry.

A totally awesome night and something I’d love to do again.

Edit: Secret Cinema X posted an image from one of the showings, it’s explicit but is also a perfect example of the event and the immersion they were trying to aim for. Enjoy!

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London (April 2017): Fantasy, Soup Dumplings and Secrets, Oh My!

The main reason for my visit to London is something embargoed until tomorrow (more a condition of sale, than a strict NDA) but let’s say it was Shannon’s birthday and she wanted to do a thing which also happened to coincide with some other, equally awesome things. The kind of serendipity that can only be the result of awesome karma and sweet planning.

Like, for example, the Women in Fantasy panel at Waterstones with Vic James, Aliette de Bodard and Zen Cho (moderated by Stevie Finegan). I initially told Shannon about this (she’d missed the Gollancz Festival) and jokingly suggested I come to down visit. It was something I really wanted to do but on a pipe dream level. I never actually expected it to, you know, happen. But then this other thing came up and suddenly I’m on a train heading to the capital. Score!

I came down on Tuesday afternoon and met Shannon after her shift ended, we hit Tokyo Diner for food (because it’s delicious and cheap), got our glad rags on and didn’t get back to her place until nearly midnight. Talk about dirty stop outs! More on that tomorrow though … patience, dearies.

Wednesday was my day, spent basking in gloriousness, while Shannon was at work. It was actually just long enough that I didn’t break my credit card or succumb too badly to the wonders of London’s shopping opportunities. I left her at Leicester Square, headed off to Paul’s bakery to grab my preferred lunch (it’s one of the rare times when all I want is a specific sandwich, the ancien mixte) then wandered Covent Garden. I stuck my nose in Moleskine’s store, bought ice cream at Godiva, didn’t buy any Traveler’s Company stuff at the London Graphic Company but did stock up in Muji. Finally, I headed to the Starbucks reserve for delicious coffee, my sandwich, and a few hours actually writing.

The Starbucks Reserve is fast becoming my favourite place to just sit and chew the fat. I even got given some lovely rose gold by the baristas, along with a few compliments to go with them. It sounds boring but after the franticness of London, I need the quiet of a coffee shop. Free WiFi also helps.

I made a point when planning this trip that there was one thing I really wanted to do: try soup dumplings (xiao long bao, 小笼包). We went to the highly recommended Dumplings’ Legend on Gerrard Street mainly because it was top of the list in an article I read but also had veggie options for Shannon. Soup dumplings are basically small bundles of deliciousness where the soup is inside the dumpling, separate from whatever is inside (pork or fish usually) so when you bite into them you get this amazing mouthful of soup and stuffing.

My friends, eight of these is not enough.

I actually forgot to take a picture, we were too busy eating. But they come in a steamer and the trick is to eat them without breaking them (which reminds me of the original article that caught my interest). The down-side is they come out piping hot and I accidentally burnt myself when one burst. However, leave them a little longer and they cool, the filling gets absorbed by the meat and they even more moist and amazing.

We, stupidly, ordered other dishes. Next time it’s going to be all soup dumplings.

Shannon was keen to visit the newly-opened Lego store on Leicester Square which just so happened to be on our way to Piccadilly and JP Books/Waterstones. I did the blind thing, approached a security guard and asked how long it was to get in (there was a line of children and fear-filled adults). Two seconds later, we entered my personal hell.

Now, look I like Lego and I’m sure it’s a lot more awesome when not packed out with small humans but it was just far too busy and bright for me. I can tolerate a lot but there’s a point where my autism and vision goes ‘nope’ so I took myself off back outside into the cool evening air. No problems. But it was very impressive with a two story high Big Ben, a ‘life-sized’ Chinese dragon, a mock Tube train and an underground map made from Lego. Oh and all the Batman Lego Movie and Star Wars stuff you could ever want.

It was also very, very red and yellow.

I must admit I’m still amazed by the range and some of the sets were gorgeous and complicated (think Creator ones where you remake buildings using tiny pieces). There was a pirate ship and the Simpsons house, oh and a mosaic-maker that cost £100 and rendered you, passport pictureised, into a literal Lego portrait.

I actually saw someone buying one of those and totally WTFed.

Seriously.

The important thing is Shannon loved it. Oh and it’s right across from her version of Hell: the M&M Store. We’re both okay with this. We also got to stare at the even longer line of people wanting to buy a dessert called Bubble Wrap.

Cause that’s a thing now. With a 90 minute wait.

JP Books was next, mainly so I could grab the next volume of my manga-in-progress. Oh and grab a few choice Midori essentials (another free diary, some kraft paper and a passport-sized ruler). I was restrained in my purchasing and constrained by both time and bladder as we wanted to get to Waterstones early enough to secure a good seat.

We actually scored on both points. Waterstones was packed but we managed to grab two seats in the front row and free wine. I actually didn’t realise Vic James (author of The Gilded Cage) was attending so it was really interesting as I’d heard of the book but hadn’t had any author exposure. I mainly wanted to pick up a signed copy of The House of Binding Thorns to go with my recently-won paperback of The House of Shattered Wings.

The talk was a lot of fun. Zen Cho is loud and extroverted in the best way. She’s become my hero just because she’s so confident. It was basically a back and forth between the three authors, with poor Stevie in the middle trying to keep as much order as is possible when Aliette and Zen are in the same room. It was brilliant. Much laughter and a mixed crowd which made it even more awesome. Afterwards, I got to say hi to Aliette (finally in person) and Zen as well as playing photographer because there are times when selfies just won’t do. I got my book and we were back in Harringay by 10, I think.

Shannon has the best housemates (they call me ‘Ash’; I want to take them all home with me and mother them) and, to finish the night, I ended up on their pallet sofa watching two men squealing like terrified children as Shannon tried to outwit the titular Xenomorph in Alien: Isolation. I called it a night pretty early but they were still screaming though I have to admit, the death where the Alien stabs its tail through your stomach gets me every time.

Sneaky Alien …

But it was fun. Lots of fun. I got to say goodbye to everyone before heading home on the noon train, spending a lovely hour sipping coffee and listening to my Audible copy of The House of Binding Thorns. So far I’m three chapters in and loving it.

So that is London.

Come back tomorrow when I can tell you of secret and special things.

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London Spring 2017: Boardgames, Aquariums and Matilda the Musical

When Shannon first suggested I come down to visit her, she asked if I wanted to go to Theatreland for a show. Now I’ve done theatre before and never really like it but a show in London was too good an opportunity to pass up, especially when Shannon found tickets for Matilda the Musical.

I did know one thing: that if you ring some theatres and explain you’re wanting to book tickets on behalf of someone with a disability, you can often get a discount or just a plus one. The same works with other attractions (like the London Aquarium), as long as you can prove things (which I can). But the theatre took us on Shannon’s word and we ended up with nearly £60 worth of tickets in the stalls, six rows from the front of the stage.

Epic win.

Despite having tiny seats, I loved this show. The music was amazing (and is my current go-to playlist on Spotify) and I really enjoyed the play. The acting was superb, especially Matilda and Miss Trunchbull. I also really liked the focus not on Matilda’s telekinesis but her story-telling abilities and her love of reading as well as the expansion of the Magnus back story. There was a small snafu in the form of one of the actresses being sick but once that was sorted (understudies FTW), the show went on an all was well.

Before the show, we went to Starbucks Reserve in Covent Garden. We actually came across it by accident, seeking coffee and a place to kill an hour. We had no idea what it was until we walked in and I realised we hit paydirt. Starbucks Reserve is basically a restaurant that happens to specialise in coffee; there’s even a Clover which I’ve been itching to try since reading about them in Wired. We were guided to our table (it’s basically the sit-down waitered form of a traditional Starbucks) and offered menus.

I wanted to try the Clover and, oh my gods, was it the best, smoothest coffee I’ve ever tasted. That said, I did feel a bit out of my depth, like we shouldn’t have been allowed in. It is a very high brow Starbucks and I’m looking forward to going back there in a couple of weeks.

We also visited the London Aquarium, getting there early on Saturday morning before everyone else turned up. We took the bus (which was free and actually okay, Shannon’s been trying to teach me the London bus system and it has its own twisted logic) to Embankment and walked to County Hall. I actually didn’t realise that the London Dungeon had moved there as well. It was nice and quiet when we arrived, which was a good thing because, by the time we got out around noon, the place was heaving.

Lots and lots of kids. Eugh.

The Aquarium itself was cool. I got to pet a starfish and ogle some jellyfish and a grumpy old turtle. Oh and the massive tank with Easter Island Maoi and lots of sharks, that was awesome. It’s not something I’d do again, except for visiting their new and in-construction jellyfish exhibit. That was a bit sad, walking through the final section all covered in sheets and empty tanks.

Bef0re heading to our showing of Ghost in the Shell, we actually went to a nearby pub to play boardgames. I got to learn how to play Carcassonne which quickly became my new favourite game. We also got to play Pandemic too, which is always fun, especially as I pulled ‘One Quiet Night’.

The most fun, I think, was meeting Shannon’s housemates and playing on the PS4. We tried Horizon: Zero Dawn and Shannon got to experience Alien: Isolation. We actually spent Sunday night watching the original Alien movie on Blu-Ray, which stands up amazingly well given its age. I definitely want a PS4 (mainly so I can climb mechanical giraffes in Horizon: Zero Dawn) but that can wait for now.

I’m actually going to the Women in Fantasy book signing at Waterstones (which I’m psyched about) next week so more London posts will be incoming. I’m also going to be making a point of doing interesting things, returning to the Starbucks Reserve and, hopefully, wandering Covent Garden.

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London Spring 2017: All the Japanese Stuff

I spent the weekend in London with Shannon eating a vast amount of cheap Japanese food and visiting all the shops, from Muji in Covent Garden to JP Books next to the Japan Centre.

Seriously, JP Books is an awesome little shop I’d totally forgotten about and look at all the amazing Midori/Traveler’s Company stuff they have! SQUEEEE! I was actually rather restrained; I bought a load of cheap Muji Passport notebooks the previous day which were much cheaper than Midori ones. I bought a single insert, an unmarked diary, to use as a bullet journal/to do list. Oh and a copy of the first volume of the Your Name. manga.

Muji was actually a chance encounter; I’ve seen them but hadn’t actually gone into one. It’s very minimalist, very chic and kind of like a mix of a department store and a 100円 store (except nothing costs 100円). They had a massive range of stationary and I did buy some cool scissors which are going to be great when it comes to saving space.

I met Shannon in Leicester Square and we went back to Chinatown for dinner, eventually settling on the Tokyo Diner for dinner (karaage, yum) and also picked up tickets to see the sub of Ghost in the Shell that happened to be showing on Saturday night. I’ve not actually seen much anime on the big screen and this is a classic. The seats were cheap (because my CEA card is FTW) and actually really comfortable considering the size of the Prince Charles Cinema.

We ended up passing the theatre showing Harry Potter and the Cursed Child a lot. Shannon’s been trying to teach me how to use the London buses thanks to the power of Google Maps and her local knowledge. But, on my own, I still tend to use the tube which is a whole other blog post re my continuing quest for a new guide dog. It’s sometimes faster, though I did quite enjoy the forty-five minute bus ride to and from Shannon’s as it gave me lots of time to look out upon London and, also, read.

Shannon’s learning Japanese and it’s kinda prompted me that I need to brush up my own skills. While in the Japan Centre, I picked up a copy of にんぎょうひめ(人魚姫)aka The Little Mermaid from the picture book stand and started reading. It’s kinda nice to know I can read kids books without much of an issue but that’s a long way from, for example, light novels or manga which doesn’t have furigana.

So I have a goal … that’s good.

Wandering the Japanese sections of London has made me want to go back to Kyoto, to Sendai and to other places. It’s a nice dream to have in mind and plausible even if it won’t be for quite some time. I do want to improve my Japanese however, as I’m woefully lacking in certain areas (grammar and verbs, for example) even though I can translate Japanese to English quite well.

So reading this is going to be a fun challenge:

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The British Museum’s Sunken Cities Exhibition

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Shannon and I have been planning to see this exhibition for ages. I’m a history geek but, specifically, the Classical period and nothing interests me more than the Cult of Isis and the melding of the Egyptian and Greek religions. If I’d managed to stay doing a Classics degree (something I’d still love to finish, when I win the lottery), I was planning to do a religion-centric dissertation looking into the spread of the Isian Mysteries and nowhere was this more key than in Ptolemaic Egypt, this is where Isis adopted the other forms of Greek deities (the Ptolemies originated with Alexander in Macedoniaa, after his death taking Egypt as their own and ruling successfully all the way down to Cleopatra VII, who was herself a devotee of Isis). Then, as the cult spread to Rome and beyond, Isis became the universal Goddess.

But back to giant sunken statues and half-price admission. Oh and £25 catalogues which I really, really wanted. Ditto the plush Bastets. I bought neither and don’t regret it.

The only downside is, to see the details of the statues, I had to use my phone camera to zoom in, getting me several tellings off from the staff despite my explaining I wasn’t taking photographs just trying to see. The staff at the outset were lovely, totally understanding. I still like to see things, especially the hieroglyphs and the intricacies of some of the pieces. It really didn’t help when Uni accidentally made me hit the flash button by pulling at me trying to find Shannon.

The big draw was, of course, artefacts pulled up from two sunken cities, covering everything from the giant statue of Hapy, god the of the Nile. There was also a gorgeous statue in the Greek style (which you don’t see very often) of a queen dressed as Isis. Oh and a gorgeous statue of the hippo-goddess Tawaret, along with similarly beautifully-preserved statues of Isis and Osiris which had me convinced they were resin replicas. The Apis Bull and the Stele of Sais … gorgeous.

Yep, total history nerdgasm.

They even had my favourite Herodotus quote.

Anyway, the exhibition had a big focus on Osiris (and Serapis, his melded avatar created specifically to make him more understandable to the Greeks), who got the entire latter half of the exhibition which was refreshing. I was really pleased with the size of the whole thing actually, it took us about an hour (plus ten minutes for the gift shop at the end). The last exhibition I went to and paid to go into was the Cleopatra one in 2001 and British Museum exhibitions are always amazing and worth paying to get into. They’re educational and interesting. It was a beautiful thing to see and I’m so, so glad we went.

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Research Trip: London (May 2016)

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On Monday, I finally got to go back to London. My friend Shannon lives down there and it’s been nearly six months since we last caught up. Plus Uni adores her (like top one percent of her Favourite Humans List) and it’s always hilarious when my dog goes nuts in a public place in full gear, behaving like she’s off-harness. Oh and Shannon is an adopted pack member; if we meet up and Shannon leaves her line of sight, Uni will whine/go find her.

Yeah, my guide dog loves her more than me.

Seriously she goes bonkers.

Plus we had plans. Shannon let me know there was a Leonardo Da Vinci exhibition at the Science Museum (one of my favourite places) and it was too good an opportunity to pass up. I’ve been researching computers and space travel for “When the Stars Fade” and The Fractured Era (which, while we’re on the subject is apparently the first book in a duology. The second book is currently titled The Broken World). I got to see a replica of Sputnik and the beauty above. Seeing a space capsule to scale, well it really hammered home how much claustrophobia and space travel do not play nicely when put next to each other.

Now normally, on account of my escalator phobic/untrained guide dog, London is freaking stressful. However I discovered that the TfL site now has accessibility options on their journey planner which includes the beautiful words ‘stairs, not escalator’. This meant I could easily plan trips to and from the Science Museum and we walked part-way, from the South Kensington tube station, in glorious sunshine and the beginnings of the hottest day of the year.

Now, though it takes my brain some time to engage in ‘summer mode’, Uni and I are pretty good at dealing with it. I carry cold water and douse her in it periodically, I carry a bandana which I can use to cool the blood flowing through the back of her neck (wet it with cold water then tie it = cooler dog). I  also carry an uchiwa fan from Nara which helps and is easier to use than the usual kind of fan. We needed it in the un-air-conditioned basement of the museum, even the staff were overheating.

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I admit I was a bit disappointed with the exhibition, it was a bit small and had some replicas but not the well known inventions. But it was a fun way to spend an hour. We then got the bus to Piccadilly (surprisingly easy and free for me as my bus pass works in London) which gave us time for a late lunch at Shoryu, a trip to the Japan Centre (which I could actually access). I got myself a couple of kitchen bits plus an awesome pair of zori, heeled tatami flipflops which are super-comfy, if expensive. They also give me an inch in height, which always helps when you’re five foot one-ish.

We ended up walking into Leicester Square via Chinatown which was just nice. The day was gorgeous and I got to see my first durian fruit (the ones which stink to high heaven) and ponder over how many fruit use the character for dream (夢) in their names. Oh and something called a Thai jackfruit (also massive). I love Chinatown from the dual-linguistics on the signs to the stone dragons that I can never tell apart (Shannon, who lived in China for a while, pop quizzes me on their genders and I always get it wrong).

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We ended a glorious day sitting in The Moon Under Water in Leicester Square, enjoying a frosty pint (I now drink once in a blue moon, which is awesome). I used to go there when I was a uni student and it’s, surprisingly, hard to spot given it’s next to the Odeon. Shannon had no idea it was there and it was far too hot to sit outside, especially when my medication means I’m light sensitive (from both a visual and an ‘I burn like paper’ perspective).

The downside was that Leicester Square’s tube station isn’t accessible so I had to get a cab back to Liverpool Street. I’d factored this in (it costs £20) because it’s a route I used to do a lot, though from Piccadilly Circus rather than Leicester Square. I’m not made of money but there was no way I was going to walk all the way to County Hall and Westminster in London heat and super sore feet.

I ended the day as I began it, sitting in first class watching Game of Thrones and bemoaning how much time it took to watch Sailor Moon Crystal. Even better the train had been upgraded with lovely new seats and, joy of infinite joys, power points! Seriously, I’ve been traveling that route for two decades and it’s taken that long for the train companies who run the route to realise that power is just as important as WiFi. Oh and air conditioning.

Oh and air conditioning.

On a scale of one to Hell, this was also one of the most stress-free trips I’ve done in ages. We got back into Norwich with plenty of time to spare, allowing me a leisurely hobble (I’d walked six miles over the course of the day) to catch my bus. Uni was a star everywhere we went, from sitting quietly under the table in Shoryu to snoozling in the wheelchair space while I wrote on the way home.

It was an exhausting day but it’s so nice to be able to escape to the capital and do stuff. I’m already planning another trip, both Shannon and I want to go to the British Museum to see the Sunken Cities exhibit opening later this month. Plus I will never ever skip a chance to eat proper ramen.

Nom.

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