Monday, January 16, 2012

Catching up

I've been MIA all week because of a new laptop and the unconscionable effort it's taken to get it set up and transfer all my files. Worst of all was migrating my old emails which took an entire weekend of Googling and wrestling with nerd-speak, getting familiar with esoteric things like .dbx files and trying over and over and over to shift files from Outlook Express via Windows Live to Outlook (for which I'm going to have to pay actual money to use). Thanks a lot, Microsoft. But it's done. Yay.

So what has passed me by in the meantime? Australian soldiers on leave getting drunk in the Middle East - sign of the times that that was a news story, but they were in Dubai, where the official relationship with alcohol is uneasy and it's a behind-closed-doors, consenting-adults sort of activity. Westerners who live there - and there are very many - have to get a licence to buy wine from a few special shops and then have to transport it straight home. You can only drink in hotel restaurants, and even then you're meant to behave yourself. (They frown on PDAs too, public displays of affection between the sexes, though it's all on for women and men to hold hands with their same-sex friends: it's rather sweet to see a couple of swarthy young Arab men in robes striding along with their pinkies linked.)

A dinner-table conversation about an upcoming fancy-schmancy family wedding at Hampton Court House (presumably near the actual HC) led to a mention of Blenheim Palace, which was followed, according to the law of coincidence, by a TV documentary that night about that amazing place, with some fantastic photography. It's a private home, always has been, but it's truly called a palace, and it's awesomely beautiful. And then there are the Churchill stars: handsome John, the first Duke of Marlborough, and Winston of course. Unmissable.

And yesterday a cruise liner inexplicably did a Titanic off the coast of Italy, with shameful losses of life. I wonder if it will give pause to those people who have booked for that trip in April to follow the course of the actual Titanic? The last place their ship will call at before crossing the Atlantic is Cobh, in southern Ireland, where we went last year and were happily absorbed by the excellent exhibition in the old railway station there. They've got a lot of artefacts (though not as many as in the travelling exhibition I saw in Copenhagen, which will be back in Barcelona by now) including a letter in a bottle that was thrown overboard as the Titanic sailed and was delivered to the writer's mother after his death in the sinking. And then I imagine the tourists will call in at Halifax, Nova Scotia, where many of the recovered bodies were taken and buried. I'd like to go there one day. I wonder if I will?

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