Stephanie Burgis
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Well, I just couldn't resist that title. It was either that or "Bristol Walks, Oxford Nights," anyway, so the cliche still felt like an improvement. ;p

I can't believe I'm finally finished with travelling! This past month has been ridiculous. I don't want to step into another car, train or plane for a long, long time. The trip to Michigan was fun and satisfyingly snowy, but we spent most of the first week jetlagged, and got over it just in time to fly back. We got back to England Monday morning after 24 hours of sleepless travel, found out some of our luggage was lost, crashed briefly, and had to take off again Tuesday morning to drive the 5 hours to Bristol for the next leg of family visits. (A very short leg, year, it WILL be longer!)

We went on a really gorgeous walk near Bristol on Wednesday, to a place called Woodspring Bay, off the Severn estuary. We were traipsing up big, green, sheep- and rabbit-covered hills, that turned into cliffs overlooking the sea. It was incredibly windy--at one point I had to cover my mouth with my glove just to breathe easier, against the wind and the spray--but the combination of bright green and blue and a cloudless sky was so beautiful, it felt piercing.

It's inspiring AND discouraging to take Nika on these walks. Every time we came to a seriously difficult section--a long scramble down a muddy slope, against the wind--I'd falter, and wonder if I should turn back. She'd just zip ahead, wagging, and dart all the way down--inspired, I'd follow--and then I'd spend the whole time scrambling slowly and awkwardly after her! So I didn't quite match her speed and grace, but oh, she had so much fun, and so did we. It was amazing.

Stayed up too late on New Year's Eve and New Year's Day (darn it, it FELT earlier, still--bloody jet lag), and took off again Friday afternoon after a panicked dash into town to get an overhead transparency made for my conference paper. We arrived in Leeds again late Friday night, I spent an hour cutting my paper down even more (my off-and-on LIFE in the past few days), and hopped (or rather rolled, tiredly) onto a train to Oxford early Saturday morning.

So. Oxford. It's so beautiful and weirdly ancient that I always feel displaced and disoriented when I go there, despite fiercely loving it at the same time. Medieval buildings, glorious bells (which sadly woke me up every night, tolling the hours) cell phone wouldn't work the whole time I was there--no reception on the Oxford campuses!--which I took as a sign that it really is a university displaced from time and the rest of the world. Lovely and weird and wonderful. And hey, my paper went really well. There were lots of people there, and they asked good, thoughtful, interested questions which I was able to answer, pretty much. Yay! And I learned lots of cool stuff about eighteenth-century literature and life that I'd never heard of before, by listening to other presentations from different fields.

So all in all, it was a great conference...but oh, I was so happy to step off the bus in my neighborhood last night, after six and a half combined hours of traveling to get back (from Oxford campus to train station, first train delayed, connection missed, much time spent lingering in the Birmingham train station...if anyone else is ever stuck there, try "Millie's Cookies", near the front! Very nice).

Home home home home. Thank goodness.

Apologies to everyone whose emails I haven't answered yet--there was no internet access at the conference in Oxford (was I surprised? NO! further proof of my theories!), nor at the house in Bristol, so I've been offline for a while, and now I'm feeling a bit overwhelmed. I will catch up soon, I promise!

Happy belated New Year's, everybody. I hope the year's starting out well.

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