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After booking my holiday, it occurred to me that Sorrento and Naples are not too far from Rome, where my friend Nathalie lives, and when I got in touch with her it turned out that she was free on Monday, so we were able to arrange to meet up.  Nathalie generously agreed to come to Naples, and as Monday was my last full day, and I had a very early flight home on Tuesday morning, I'd booked a hotel in Naples for Monday night, so I travelled from Sorrento and checked in there, and Nathalie travelled from Rome, and we met in the lobby.
The weather had broken overnight - I was woken at 2 a.m. by a tremendous thunder storm - I thought for a moment the hotel was falling down around me! the rain lowered the temperature, which was nice, and it also meant it was a little clearer, although not by as much as I would have expected.
We set out to explore Naples - we started with the cathedral of San Gennero, as it turned out it was the day for the annual miracle, when some vials of St. Gennero's blood are brought out of the bank-vault in which they are normally kept, and the dried blood inside 'miraculously' liquefies. As a result, the church was very full, overflowing with nuns, and men in cassocks, and local dignitaries; we saw the tail-end of the procession going to the Church, but didn't wait for the miracle itself (although I gather this took place as advertised!)
'Dissillusion' (Pic from museum

We also visited the Cappella Sansevero, which houses a very famous sculpture of the 'Veiled hrist'. Unfortunately they have a very strongly enforced 'no photography' rule - however, the sculpture is incredible - really gives the mpression of a body covered with a veil, through which details such as the wounds on the hands and feet can clearly be seen. The veil itself has delicate carved lace along the edges.

The sculpture is in the entre of the chapel, which also contains a number of other statues all having allegorical meanings, and with many references to freemasonry. To me, the most impressive is the statue depicting  disillusion, which has intricately carved stone

Below the main chapel,  is a smaller chamber which contains two 'Anatomical Machines' which consist of two human skeletons, male and female, showing all the veins and arteries, and at least some of the internal organs.

These were made in the 1760s, and no-one is entirely sure how they managed to do it. One theory is that it was done by injecting something, but according to the reading I've done since, it's now believed that the circulatory systems were made using wire, and plaster and beeswax, but it is still an incredible achievement - not least as it displays a much more accurate depiction of the circulatory system than was thought to be current at that time! The two bodies are looking somewhat the worse for wear, but very interesting, in a slightly gruesome way.
We went to the church and cloister of San Chiara, which
features a cloister with majolica tiled pillars and seats. Most of the tiles feature either daily scenes of trading or hunting, or of maginative scenes of coaches drawn by lions, or peacocks, or sea monsters. Inexplicably, the scene in which the lions turn on their grooms and devour them, llustrating why cats are not suitable for this kind of work, is omitted.

We could only find one scene which related to the life of the convent, showing a nun feeding cats - two of which we identified as Bengals...

The church also has a small museum, in which none of the exhibits are labelled, so you find yourself looking at a mummified leg in a gilded case wondering who it (is supposed to have) belonged to.
We also visited a number of other churches, and we tried quite hard to visit Castel Nuovo, but unfortunately it was closed. It has a pretty impressive gateway, though!

We did, however, manage to find a nice restaurant where
we ate pizza and drank beer, and later, we had coffee at Gambrinus,
which is the oldest coffee shop in Naples, and still serves excellent

We were also unable to return to the archaeological museum, as that, too, is closed on Mondays. We did however, pass through the Galleria Umberto I, which is a huge shopping area, built in the 1880s, and featuring lots of angels, and glass ceilings and plasterwork. As shopping
centres go, its pretty impressive.

There were a few more churches, and admired some .. interesting.. pieces of sculpture. I personally have no problems with Artemis of Ephesus or with one-legged Sphinxes as part of a tomb in a christian church, but I'm curious to know how they came to be approved, and what they were deemed to symbolise to make them acceptable for such a place!

We also spent a sensible amount of time sitting drinking granita and chatting, and
simply wandering around, looking at streets and graffiti and stalls selling crib-figures, (and some figures *not* suitable for cribs, such as statues of Berlusconi and of various other celebrities and politicians.)
I really enjoyed the day - spending it with a friend made a wonderful finale to my holid´╗┐ay!
(Although I did realise, when i got back to my hotel, that I had forgotten to give Nathalie the jar of home-made bramble jelly I brought all the way to Italy for her...

And then on Tuesday, I got up very early in the morning, and caught my flight home.

marjorie73: (Default)

Monday meant having to leave Ireland, which was sad. Very sad.

First, there was PACKING. This is interesting, when you have 9 books, one jar of honey, some jewellery and a poppet more to take home, than you had when you arrived. Not that I didn't want all those things, just that they all take up space.
Then, pausing only for pancakes and tea, we headed out to Blackrock to visit Louisa at her beautiful bookshop, Raven Books. For me it was a very fleeting visit, as I had to get to the airport to catch my flight home, but it was never the less a fun morning.

We got a train out there, and spent a long time browsing the shop (and I found a copy of Gail Carriger's 'Changeless', which is a Good Thing)

Louisa met octokitty, and then we went for lunch. And did I mention that Anabek gave me a handful of eyeballs, to make up for the fact that unlike the others (and Finn) i would not be going on a Ghost Bus  for the evening.

My Octocon Swag!
I was fortunate enough to have a smooth (if ltime consuming) jouney home And oh,so very tired!
I haven't posted all my pictures in the blog but if you want to see more the full flickr set is  here .

Oh, and did I mention the glorious steampunk earrings and Cthulhu pendent I bought, from Ukapala. Nice, aren't they?

marjorie73: (Default)
In my memory, Dublin  seems to include a lot of interesting meals at odd times and places. Saturday night we went out for a quiet meal with Catie Murphy, which turned out to be a not-so-quiet meal with dozens of people (although I'm pretty sure I *saw* Catie, across a crowded restaurant...

George RR Martin
On Sunday, it was a very very late lunch  (or possibly, I suppose, a very early supper) at a place named Green 19, with Lorraine, and Brian, and Nathalie, Hellie and Anabel., which was lovely, and leisurely and relaxed.

We got back in time to attend the Octocon closing ceremony, during which many, amnypeople were thanked, and George RR Martin was given a lifetime achievement awardin the form of a rather nice steampunky pistol, or possibly blaster.
I cannot now remember what we were pkanning to do after that, but what we actually did was make it as far as the comfy chairs in the lobby, and then stop.

C.E.Murphy, Fabulous Lorraine, R.F.Long
I seem to remember tea. and then later we bribed Lorraine with tea and hobnobs and footrubs until she agreed to play her fiddle for us. It was wonderful. And I also loved that she was able to sit down in the corner of the hotel lobby (bearing in mind the Con didn't have the whole hotel.

There were *normal* people there too) and play, and no-one turned a hair. Maybe they have random ninja violin gigs in the lobby all the time. it wouldn't surprise me at all.

I think it was around this time that Catie Murphy turned up and gave us lots of books. Don't you love when that happens? I have a huge big stack of shiny new books (including a copy of 'Hands of Flame'  which unexpectedly starts on p.33. I asked whether Catie could summarise what was missing and she said "stuff happens" .

So that's clear, and, I am sure, accurate. But I think I shall go and buy another copy, too. Maybe one which does have those first few pages, even if it lacks the author's signature.

Oh, and a certain small skeleton boy was spotted...
I think that it was round about this point that sleep deprivation really kicked in, as although I'm sure there was conversation and interesting things I don't remember any of it very clearly.

I know I was enjoying myself, though.

I'll leave you with a random Octokitty picture.

I think Octokitty made a lot of friends.

marjorie73: (Default)
Tragically, the cake cafe where we had breakfast on Saturday doesn't open on Sundays, so we couldn't hve breakfast there. We ended up in the Boulangerie RF Long and her family,m which was a consolation.

Then, as there was some sort of convention going on at the hotel it seemed reasonable to go to a panel or two...

I started with "Ethics in YA Fiction"; the panel included Michael Carroll, author of the 'Quantum Prophecy' series, Peadar Ó Guilín (the author of 'The Inferior', which I belive involves teen cannibals) Siobhan (who is a knitter and linguist, and may well have other qualifications I know not of) and Clare Hennesy

The panel started with discussions about what can and cannot go into books marketed for children, Michael Carroll explaining that on the basis of concerns about the sensibilities of some parts of the USA, he has had to excise the occasional "damn" or "Bloody" from the books, and has therefore invented his own expletives. There was also some discussion about age banding and labelling and how libraries are (at least in part) trying to cater to those parents who don't know what might be suitable for their child, rather than trying to censor books.

The panel then moved towards issues which I found more interesting - some of the ideas and presumptions that may be found in (some) books - one example given being that in the Harry Potter books, there appears top be the idea that 25% of wizards are evil, based on selection at age 11. I had to leave at this point which was a shame, as it felt that the panel was just getting on the area I found interesting...

My second panel was Lorraine's panel "Neil Gaiman: Behind The Curtain" - which sadly clashed with Brian's horror panel, which I should also have liked to attend. Lorraine talked about her job, and answered questions from the floor, Including revealing that she had initially said No to Neil doing "13 Nights of Fright" (Because he didn't really have time), but relented when he explained he had always wanted to come out of a coffin....!)

I thought it went well, although the room had a bit of a problem in that it seemed to have only two possible settings as far as heat was concerned - very stuffy & overheated, or frigid. . .

I stayed on for the next panel, which was about invented and inventing languages, and worldbuilding, which was fun - wandered on  into issues of Irish accents/language on TV.

As if to make up for no panels yesterday, today was pretty busy. Straight after  the language panel was a panel about the Care and Feeding of writers, which featured Lorraine (of course), Parris, (GRRM's partner) Pat Fanning (R.F.Long's husband) and Ted Lee (C.E.Murphy's husband). Topics covered included The Importance of Feeding Your Writer,  Socialisation and Human Contact, lots of anecdotes  -very interesting to hear about the writing habits of different writers. I think for me one of the most amazing was Ted saying that Catie wrote her first book while on trains commuting to and from work. How impressive is that?.

Parris spoke with feeling about how absorbed and un-distractable George can be - she once got fed up and went in to tell him that that the tyrannosaurs were invading and  the volcanos erupting, and  got a "good...." and "fine, in a minute" reply. . .
I noticed a number of nods of recognition from the other panellists!
marjorie73: (Default)

Today started well, with a wander down to the canal to admire the swans and the skeleton-on-the-wall, followed by pancakes for breakfast at the wonderful  cafe where we had lunch yesteday, in the company of Lorraine, Nathalie and Anabel
We then went to the Octocon opening ceremony, where Lorraine, and George RR Martin, and the other guests were introduced. I have to confess I have still not read any of GRRM's books, but I can report that he has a magnificant beard!

Then out to explore Dublin!

We started by visiting Christ Church, because, as Lorraine so rightly says, it has a wonderful crypt. The cathedral on top is pretty nice, too.

We spent more time in the crypt, though. There was tea.

It turns out that Tea in a Crypt is, indeed, an ideal way to spend a Dublin morning!

It turns out also that there is a food market on Saturday morning at Temple Bar, where one can buy all sorts of cheeses (If one didn't have to worry about packing or customs)  and breads, and delicious, freshly baked blueberry scones the size of your head. 

Not that I stole any of Lorraine's scone, obviously. I would never do that.

Then, as 2/3s of the party missed out on the Bog Bodies yesterday, we went to the museum. We saw no more grafitti warning of the dangers of toast, on the way but there was other street art...

At the museum we acquired Hellie, (slightly sleep deprived) and went to look at bog bodies. I can't begin to compete with Lorraine's flawless description and archeological expertise. So you should just go and re-read her blog here .

Those people got bogged alright. Also they all had red hair.

And as well as the bog people they have other stuff in the museum. Viking and Celtic jewellery (and, for some reason, buckets).  And then there was the whole zombie arm. They said it was a reliquary for some saint's arm, but you only have to look at it to see it's really the remains of some cyborg zombie. Be very careful in dublin. Who knows wht else there may be here.

As well as mummies and zombie arms and bog bodies, they have a tea shop in the museum. I like that in a museum.

Visiting culteral sites and artifacts such as crypts and bog-bodies is wearing . Some of us found a taxi and headed back to the Con, where Q scheduled a new panel, located in the hot tub and entitled "getting bogged with Fabulous Lorraine" It was a small but perfect panel. With bubbles and hot jets. More conventions should consider scheduling hot-tub based panels.

I think the next thing which happened was the chrity auction where various things, including some of Neil's honey, boks and games signed by GRRM and other authours were autioned off - over 900E was raised, which is pretty impressive.

Then dinner, and a party, with music from the Fabulous Lorraine (on violin) a guy whose name I didn't catch (on guitar) and various rmadom people providing choral singing and interpretive dance. Musically, I think it perhaps lacked that certain something (I'm nearly sure that it traditional to sing & play in the same key) but for sheer fun, it was right up there with the best.

As was the whole day, in fact.

marjorie73: (Default)

I have been looking forward to, and planning, this trip to Dublin to see various fiends and to attend Octocon, for months, but as often seems to happen, it appears to have been a long time in the future for ages, then suddenly it was week away, without any warning!

I spent most of yesterday faffing about with last minute work stuff, as my quiet day in theoffice to ensure everything was up together turned into a lot of firefighting. And then the evening was taken up with packing. I don’t know whether it’s just me, but I always seem to end up in a state of panic in case I have packed the wrong things, or too little, or that I will discover that my choices of clothes etc. are wholly inappropriate to the place, or the weather, or the event. Knowing how foolish this is does not seem to change anything. *sigh*

Still, I did manage to be quite restrained when it came to packing books, on the basis that if one is attending a Science Fiction/Fantasy convention in a major city the chances of being unable to acquire extra books if needed are fairly low…

I was disappointed but unsurprised to find my first train of the day was running late (Thank you so much, First Great Western.) Probably just as well I booked the train an hour earlier than I thought was necessary, really….

However, the train did make up much of the time and I arrived at the airport with plenty of time in hand, and was able to go through security with only a minor check (apparently books look suspicious under x-rays, Who knew?) happily, Southampton is a dinky litle airport which, at least on a Thursday afternoon, is not crowded. I actually walked past the entrance to the security without realising it as I was loking for a queue, and had to turn back!

The flight was short and uneventful. I was disappointed that low cloud meant I couldn't see much.

Then Dublin, and a long bus ride brought me to the hotel.Several very friendy and helpful Dubliners ensured that I got off the bus in the right place, and shortly after checking in I met up with Lorraine and her Spirit Guide, @Nemone7. (Check out Lorrraine's blog to see what they'd been up to all day - way more exciting than my uneventful journeying!) for dinner and chat and plaanning of nNew Fun Stuff to do tomorrow. I believe graveyards will be invovled. And maybe tea. 

Also, unfortunately, Early Rising.
marjorie73: (Default)

It's been a funny old week. Lots of stress at work, and (probably in part as a result)  have not been sleeping well.

and I have been feeling very sorry for myself over the weekend. Sometime I wish I believed in Creationsim - it'd be nice to have someone to blame for the joys of female biology, sometimes, and one cannot really get a proper rage up against evolution. . .

Still, at least I have something to look forward to  - Thursday will see me off to Dublin for Octocon and, even more importantly, seeing the Fabulous Lorraine, and Nathalie and Louisa and Hellie. And hopefully to meet others, too.

If I can just get through the next three days.
marjorie73: (Default)


I do get annoyed with with bloody utility companies. I got home this evening to find a letter from my Gas & Electricity Company, who were writing to tell me that they have noticed my bill was quite high so have decided to increase my direct debit.

Now, the payment plan I have is that I pay a fixed amount each month, rather than a variable amount based on the amount of fuel actually used, which works for me because it allows me to budget. Obviously, it also means that some months you overpay, and some you underpay, the idea being that the direct debit is reviewed from time to time and adjusted if you are building up a substantial credit or debit balance.

At the end of the last quarter, my statement showed I'd paid for more than I'd used, and had built up a credit balance of about £150. Scottish Power's suggestion was that I should pay a bit less for a while to use this up.
My suggestion, having down some sums and worked out that on their figures, they would get to keep my money for about 14 months til it was used up, was that they should give me my money back, and then set a new regular payment at a more realistic level.

After a bit of pressure, they agreed.

Today, they wrote to point out that (quelle surprise) the amount I'd paid for December-Jan was less than the cost of the fuel used, so "to help you to avoid building up a debt", they propose to increase the monthly payments. Because, obviously using the 3 coldest months of the year (in the worst winter for a decade) as representative and working out a payment schedule on the assumption that I will be using the same amount of gas and electricity in every other month as I did in January makes perfect sense.

Cannot help but notice that it only takes them 3 months to try to change things when the balance is in my favour, and 12 months when it's in theirs.

(Originally posted at )

After holding on the phone for 10 minutes and explaining several times that yes, I understand that I might end up with a bigger bill later, yes, I understand that I will have to pay for the fule I use, plus pointing out that it's fairly likely that I will be using rather less gas and elecricity in (say) April & May than I did in January, things will even out, I eventually managed to convince them to change it back to the original payment.

But honestly, they couldn't work out for themselves that January is colder than June? Or that their own selling point for this plan is that you get to average the costs out, over the year?

(Yes, I know, I could change suppliers. But I doubt any of the rest are any better, and as I have pretty low bills (one of the few advantages of living in a terrced house and only having central heating in half of it) the possible savings are not worth all the faffing about to research and change)

In more cheerful news, the organisers of OctoCon have finally fixed the dates of the Con, so I have registered, and will be going to Dublin in October, and meeting up with Fabulous Lorraine and SpacedLawyer, and no doubt seeing RavenBooks too, all of which should be fun.

Of course, this may involve flying with RyanAir, which takes the gloss off a little, but such is life.

And it turns out my library books are due back tomorrow, not, as I thought, yesterday, so no fines for me after all!


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