December 31, 2011

A new year is unfolding...

An optimist stays up until midnight to see the new year in. A pessimist stays up to make sure the old year leaves. ~ Attributed to Bill Vaughn

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 I recently became an aunty. It’s a strange concept and one that I thought might one day happen, but had no real consciousness of. I guess this is an obvious statement given that the mechanism and the biology of it are removed entirely from me.

Those who know me, know I have no real liking for children. They are strange little irritants that, until they develop to a certain level, and then after that in a lot of cases, you can’t do anything with them. They just are. My niece though, for the little time I’ve known her, doesn’t have that same effect on me. Perhaps it really is ‘all in the blood’.

My Mum, in an attempt to help my Sister out, has gone through her old diaries from the time that my sister was born. It makes for amusing reading as I was three at the time. Reading about yourself in this biographical format is interesting and at times, down right funny. You also learn some of your personality traits were cemented from before you can comprehend them.

I learnt, that in the month after A came home from the hospital, I spent a huge amount of time at my Grandparents house having “holidays”. I also learnt that when I was home I could be naughty. Something not elaborated on but entirely unbelievable. Perhaps the most surprising, yet obvious thing I discovered was where my early love for shopping came from. Every other day I was off, out the door with Dad, an Aunt or one of the three Grandparents. The irony of this, again, for those of you unlucky enough to have been shopping with me recently, is how much I detest it now. The detestation of shopping deserves a post in and of itself.

There isn’t really a point to this post. Not that any of the others always have a point either but I wanted to make the last post of 2011 about something that I’ve been thinking about recently.

2011, for many of us, has been an absolute shit of a year. One that we will look back on without too many fond memories. I know that will be the case for me. I don’t want to go back and rehash all the bad. Let’s just suffice to say that the lowest point of my year was the death of my Grandad. A man who I thought would always be up the road, ready to tell a yarn or build something out in the shed. The highest point has been getting back to Australia for Christmas, surprising everyone because they didn’t know I was coming and meeting my niece who if I have any control over it, will have a brilliant life. But then, with the people in my family, I don’t see how this is anything but the truth.

Happy New Year to you all. Here’s to a brighter day in 2012. See you on the flip side.

November 28, 2011

"If the apocalypse comes, beep me." -- Buffy

I do not understand the fascination with Twilight. I read the series over one weekend, and wish I could rewind time to get the weekend back, as the series is not worth the paper it has been printed on. If you trust wiki, Stephanie Meyer has had around 116 million copies of the book purchased by someone. 

Having grown up with Buffy, I can say Joss Whedon is god. I don’t think I need to explain that any further.

Now I know a lot who read this blog will adore Twilight and will have pledged their aleigiance to Edward or Jacob but I cannot take this seriously. I know there are arguments for “letting my 13 year old self” out and going along with it, but my 13 year old self was reading Stephen King.  King himself rubbishes the work of Meyer, stating  “Stephenie Meyer can't write worth a darn. She's not very good”.

Even Anne Rice, another notable in vampire fiction, sinks her teeth in, to pardon the very bad pun. Writing "
…my vampires possess gravitas.” 

Essentially, what you end up with, in regards to Meyer, is a series of books based around the idea of Mary Sue’s.  

I can’t really add much to the already overflowing wealth of internet ambivalence so instead, here are some of the funnier demotivational Twilight images I’ve enjoyed.

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Besides, everyone knows real vampires look like this...

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For some reason blogger isn't accepting my html coding today (except on the images) so these are the links I was trying to reference in text. - Wiki - King on Meyer - Rice on Meyer - Definition of a Mary Sue

November 22, 2011

All about the music II

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“Us” by Regina Spektor
“Shores of California” by The Dresden Dolls
“Thank you” by Alanis Morrisette
“Zombie” by the Cranberries
“The only exception” by Paramore
“All the things she said” by t.A.T.u
“Fuckin’ perfect” by Pink
“Rumour has it / Someone like you” Glee mash up
“Such great heights” by The Postal Service

November 14, 2011

Review: The Magicians by Lev Grossman

The MagiciansThe Magicians by Lev Grossman

My rating: 2 of 5 stars

This book, supposedly Harry Potter for adults, is plagarism and idea stealing 101.

The novel is set, in the majority, at a College of magic called “Brakebills” which can only be reached by those who are enrolled in the school and have access to the secret entry points. In the garden is a maze, which changes its pattern every semester. There is a game played called “welters” which has similarities to Wizard’s Chess. Throughout the book, there are three main friends, always two males and a female. The families are similar to those of Harry, Ron and Hermione.

The novel features a magical land called “Fillory” resembling strongly, Narnia and access comes via magical portals; mirrors and clothes cupboards. There are also talking beavers, a faun, a satyr, a talking tree, elves, which resemble Orcs and a final evil, very similar to Sauron.

The novel also features two powerful rams, who act as the gods of Fillory and desire to have humans on the four thrones of the country; two males and two females. The rams refer to the human characters as Sons and Daughters.

What concerns me most, is that the estates of Tolkien and Lewis and the lawyers for Rowling, have not queried or challenged Lev Grossman.

“Lev Grossman’s novel The Magicians may just be the most subversive, gripping and enchanting fantasy novel I’ve read this century.” —Cory Doctorow, Boing Boing

“This is my ideal escapist fantasy read, a Harry Potter book for grown-ups … I can’t imagine any lover of well-written classic fantasy, from C. S. Lewis’s Narnia books to the works of Diana Wynne Jones, who won’t absolutely adore it.” —Lisa Tuttle, The London Times

It is even more of a concern when reviewers call it subversive, best of the century, ideal escapist fantasy and compare it directly to the people that have been ripped off intellectually. I find it even more worrying that other authors like and promote this book.

I have rated this book with a 2 out of 5 because it was written with a nice flow but there was not an independent or original idea within this book. If you have read Harry Potter, the Chronicles of Narnia and the Lord of the Rings Trilogy, please do not soil your mind with this book. It is not worthy of the praise it has received.

November 08, 2011

Review: White Teeth by Zadie Smith

White TeethWhite Teeth by Zadie Smith
My rating: 2 of 5 stars

The book, while well written, does not deserve the praise it was given in early reviews. What starts of as interesting, quickly becomes an "us and them" situation. The ethnic minorities dealing with the wealthy middle class who have all the advantages. At this point the book becomes over simplified. I won't say this is a life changing book, nor that it is worth the time spent to read it. If you're interested in anthropology and sociology, this book would provide an interesting perspective, but it is so far removed from what many of us experience, and because it is 'fiction', with all the problems relating to that, there may be limited value.

View all my reviews

October 20, 2011

Thank You Sara, Thank You Faraday

Imagination decides everything. Blaise Pascal

Sara Douglass 1957 - 2011 - Australian Fantasy Author Image Source

B:        Reflexive memory is a funny thing.  All the strange, half remembered, half-ridiculous little pieces that flutter into your mind and then disappear again, just as quickly. Reflexive memory is also a source of frustration. I seem, never to be able, to remember the littlest, most important part of the memory.

Where has this morose little morsel developed from you might wonder. To answer, I can only give a name. Sara Douglass.

I think I was about 20 or 21 when an uncle introduced me to her first book BattleAxe. I was hooked from the first sentence and by the end of the book I could think of nothing but getting a copy of the second book, which, luckily, he owned.

This was another world full of magical beings that I could identify with, even though they were so very different from me. I wanted nothing more than to be an Icarii. This series of books was also the first in which I strongly wished for the death of one of the main characters. Faraday. How that woman annoyed me. Perfect at everything. No flaws. Irritating beyond measure. It was with relief I read one day, that Sara also hated her. Image.

Shortly after I began reading the series, I met one of my best friends, co-blogger and co-author of this post.>Surely Sarah.  She sat next to me in an anthropology tutorial and I saw she was reading BattleAxe and before I new it, I was asking her if she hated Faraday yet. Like most of the other memories around this, I cannot entirely remember what her answer was. I think she said not yet, and that I said, you will. It was an odd way to start a friendship but over a decade later it seems to have worked.

S:         “Don’t you just HATE Faraday?”

I looked up from my copy of "Battleaxe" – it was a girl addressing me. I probably looked at her in complete incomprehension. I tend to get completely lost in any book I’m reading.  But then I realized she was talking about the main character in the Sara Douglass novel I held in my hand. I was a first year uni student and I was early for my first tutorial for Introduction to Anthropology. I knew no-one at all and had been avoiding talking to people by burying my nose in Douglass’ tome.

The girl promptly sat down next to me and we started to talk about the series. Her name was Brooke, and she had already read all the series and probably the next one. Being only halfway through the first book I had no real fixed opinion about Faraday either way, but Brooke was adamant that she was an insipid half-wit who was possibly the most annoying character in literary history.  As it turned out, she was right – even the author later famously wrote that she would like to drop a spiked pumpkin on Faraday’s head.

The most important point was that I had made a friend, and it was all because of Sara Douglass, her insipid Faraday and the Axis trilogy.  I went on to read the rest of that series and the next. Brooke continued to read everything Sara Douglass ever wrote and we always shared a love of reading.

I was deeply saddened last week to hear of Douglass’ passing as a result of ovarian cancer. Always close with her fans, she will be dearly missed not only for her wonderful writing, but her sense of humour and the encouragement she always offered to those who were budding authors. I recall in the early days of the internet, she was very involved in her website and I found it a wonderful resource not only for interacting with other fans, but for writing tips as well.

The writing world has lost a great author and friend - but her legacy lives on through all of those who share a love of her work.

The book that started it all...

B:        I don’t really know what to say about Sara. I never met her. I never spoke to her. I only knew about her from her website and blog. And I realise I am writing about her in the past tense. Sara Douglass left this life on 26 September 2011. I find that with the number of deaths surrounding me this year I cannot bring myself to write more.

September 27, 2011

It's all about the music...

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You know how some days you simply cannot stand the silence. Today, this is me. I have nothing to write about or say, but I wanted to share with you what I'm listening to. In part, this is because of what I'm reading, it's about what I'm researching, it's about the death of Sara Douglass, it's about running the office solo for four days. It is also about not annoying everyone on Facebook and Twitter with all the links I want to post. One big blog post at the end of the day might seem a little more user friendly. So please, enjoy what I've been listening to... Prisoner of Society by the Living End Heads will roll by the Yeah Yeah Yeahs Hey Ya! (OutKast Cover) by Sarah Blasko Too many dicks on the dance floor by Flight of the Concords Dog days are over by Florence + the Machine  Us by Regina Spektor Sweet the sting by Tori Amos  Hell by Tegan and Sara Get Ur freak on by Missy Elliot In the End by Linkin Park Forsaken by Jonathan Davis (from Queen of the Damned) Scar by Missy Higgins The only exception by Paramore Something in the water by Brooke Fraser A night like this by Caro Emerald – I stumbled across this woman and wow! She’s fantastic. I may have to find an album… Back if up by Caro Emerald Bad Romance covered by Caro Emerald (Lady Gaga original) I’m yours covered by Caro Emerald (Jason Mraz original) Stuck by Caro Emerald

September 19, 2011

Out Of This World

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(This is the "lecture" I gave to the Arts in London class about the British Library Summer Exhibition)

Take a moment and think about your first science fiction memory. Is it Stargate in and of its three inceptions? Terminator? Honey, I blew up the kids? Men in Black? Lost in Space – either the original television series or the movie? The Twilight Zone? Battlestar Galactica – original or re-imagining? Sea Quest DSV? Buffy the Vampire Slayer? Futurama? The X-Files?

These are only a small portion of what has been created for view since the 1950s. The history of sci-fi goes back as far as at least the ancient Greeks and while it may seem that Britain and America have the monopoly on sci-fi many examples can also be found in France, Germany and Russia. Some of these examples pre-date what has been produced from Britain and America (Ashley 7).  So too does the ‘fan-fiction’ commonly associated with many mediums today. The Bronte’s, and their early stories, reflect popular characters of the time in new situations and new universes, outside their original cannon. This is only one example of ‘fan-fiction’ as numerous others can be found online with a quick Google search.

Sci-fi, as a term, was coined in 1929 by Hugo Gernsback as a way of increasing the public’s knowledge of what was scientific fact and what was visionary (Ashley 6). According to Roger Luckhurst, the sci-fi movement continues to become more and more mainstream compared to twenty years ago. Even so, sci-fi faces continued stereotypes of smelly, pimply teenagers in unfunny t-shirts who live in their parents’ basements and communicate in Klingon and Elvish.

Joe Cornish, responsible for Attack the Block (2011) notes “we’ve (the British) never been able to really do sci-fi movies with quite the same consistency that Americans do” even though Britain has produced Shaun of the Dead and 28 Days Later which, is aiding a revival of the medium. Admittedly, this is contradictory to the statement from Ashley; however, flux is a natural part of the medium. Cornish adds, “there is something particularly great about British sci-fi partly because you simply don’t expect it”.

“One of the key legitimations for science fiction is said to be its power to extrapolate, offering thought experiments in taking one scientific or sociological element of the present and speculating  on the futures that might develop from it” (Luckhurst). This placement of sci-fi can essentially be said to correlate well with the socially inclusive museum. Museums, also including libraries and art galleries, but from here, referenced singularly as museums, face greater pressures to re-characterise themselves than previously. Museums promote study; contribute to spiritual interest, and engage communities with social and civic values and the response of museums then, needs to be both compatible and appropriate. As Sandell (2002) argues, museums act as potential catalyst for self-determination within the community environment.        

Appadurai and Breckenridge (1992) examine the idea that museums, libraries and art galeries have the ability to create their own cultural biographies. Often though, these biographies are overshadowed by the conglomerates of cinema, sport and arena style entertainments. Individuals continually desire more information, more knowledge, and greater chances to transform their understanding of the world around them. This works well with “Out of this World” because it endeavours to be “populist rather than purist” (LC). The exhibit itself is extensive and does not restrict itself to any narrow confines but manages to prove a history and a context without being too academic about it (LC). Museums exist in a unique position, able to examine the preservation, suppression, distortion and demeaning of cultures. “What we wanted to do was avoid as far as possible the really pervasive images and look for things which would be relatively new at least to some of the people who came to see it” (LC).

Sci-fi on many levels is dependent on technology levels available, which then influences human action, choice and institutional change – ultimately, sci-fi is arguable about freedom (Vargish 323). What we need to remember, as participants, is “technology usurps and empowers simultaneously. It usurps authority at precisely the moment of empowerment and this paradoxical effect means that all serious discussion of technology must involve a discussion of values (Vargish 323). This space, occupied by technology and sci-fi, begins to define, in anthropological terms, the ways in which, we all villanise the ‘other’. This space leads us to create perversions, technological dystopias and a means of oppressing. George Orwell’s “1984” is an example of this. Throughout the book, little facets of what was beginning were inflated; CCTV, the one, all-powerful State. Elements of fear via lack of control of person and life were triggers leading to a new group of thinkers who desired to challenge this trajectory; much like others historically had done before. Can humans and technology work on a neatly duality of alliance and conflict. Will fear of technology influence the way we envisage our freedom and autonomy? (Vargish 324).

The idea of using Mary Shelley’s “Frankenstein” as an example is not new. Many previous examples exist, which examine the numerous tenants of humanity the story raises. An amazing accomplishment for Shelley who found inspiration for the book at 19 and saw it published at the age of 21. Would Shelly have wondered if, in the next century her book would be part of the undercurrent of popular culture, the developing technologies would aid her work in being produced on scales beyond those available in the early 1800s. I believe she knew her work was powerful, but whether she knew of “Frankenstein’s” continued popularity, is a ‘what if’ so popular and fascinating in sci-fi.

Before this becomes an unwieldy, philosophical debate, I want to constrain it to one area, or group. The museum, the library, and the art gallery. How can a display about science fiction be seen as inclusive? Perin (1992) writes that the construction of communication as sender and receiver in museums, underestimates the visitors’ capabilities, leading to stereotyping, impoverishment, and patronising exhibitions catering to a unitary public. Perin (1992) argues further that the communication, occurring between all participants, is not linear; messages and ideas originating in the museum are complex and the audience that views the exhibit, equally so. Visitors are not cultural blanks, untainted by information received from newspapers, movies, and nationalist political themes (Appadurai 1988).

Museums, libraries and art galleries need, then, to look at the types of visitor, age groups etc., which, are likely to make their way through an exhibit. Museums face greater pressures to re-characterise themselves than previously. The Hollywoodisation of the museum, and our increasingly shorter attention spans, means museums must work harder and smarter to keep the public’s attention placed on them
(Hooper-Greenhill 1994, 2006; McLean 2004). This re-characterisation of a museums performance could leave them in a perpetual void that is “ambiguous and indeterminate” (Turner 1977). Ideological notions of whom access should be granted to has not diminished in recent years and ideas of control and representation remain common themes and contested areas (Ames 1992). This leaves museums in a unique position, open to challenges and progression – moving away from Ames’ (1992) diagnosis of museums as ‘cabinets of curiosities’ and away from the air of exclusiveness held over the past few centuries (Bennett 1995). “We live in a profoundly museological world... our world is unthinkable without this extraordinary invention” (Preziosi 2006).    

In the context of sci-fi, the theory on visitors would be linked to the ‘nerd’ or the ‘geek’ population but it also includes men in business suits grinning at the open pages of Neil Gaimans ‘Sandman’ comics. It is the elderly gent having a ‘conversation’ with a computer – each letter carefully selected on the keyboard. It is women like me who discover they know more elements that make up sci-fi than originally thought and it is kids who think sci-fi is all Dr Who, Amy Pond, Sarah Jane, River Song, aliens and the Tardis. On this one level, it can be said, sci-fi has something for everyone.

Does this make an exhibit inclusive? At one level, the answer is yes. Museums have always been exciting places, filled with interesting titbits of history, containing the dramas, challenges, and joys of people’s lives in previous eras and act as accessible gateways for exploration and learning. Museums have also been a way to escape into romanticised versions of the past, free of the smells, diseases and other unpleasantness – a time machine of my own design. On another level, I have to say no. The exhibit is very niche and marketed at those who have an interest in the field. When looked at though, on the larger scale, the exhibit, viewed as a small part of the whole of what the British Library has on offer, the result is more promising. The last offering from the British Library, in the same space, was ‘Evolving English’; a small but exciting glimpse into the development of the language. Running in cohabitation with the current display is a smaller display on the lost novel of Sir Arthur Conan Doyle – tying in neatly with the pending release of Guy Ritchie’s second Sherlock offering – not forgetting the BBC adaptation recently screened starting Benedict Cumberbatch (Atonement / Tinker Tailor Solider Spy / The Hobbit parts 1 and 2) and Martin Freemen (Hot Fuzz / Shaun of the Dead / The Hobbit parts 1 and 2). ‘Alice Through the Looking Glass’ is another favourite as are the Salvador Dali sketches, illustrating ‘Alice in Wonderland’.

Richard Sandell (2002) asks, “what kind of difference can museums make to people’s lives and to society in general? What evidence exists to support this view?” and Michel Foucault (2004) reminds us “we do not live in a kind of void…we live inside a set of relations that delineates sites which are irreducible to one another and absolutely not super imposable on one another”. Sandell (2002) also notes that some critics believe a museum cannot function outside the dominant narrative. The only way to achieve this, Sandell (2002) argues is for social and community examination of problems existent within their political realm and for the museum to ignore calls to be impartial observers as this is not a realistic expectation of them.

Where some museums and art galleries and libraries may struggle with social inclusion, like, many in Australia seem to, the British Library and others around London do not have the same challenges. It is a naïve expression to end on, but for my own personal reason, it must be said English history is so much more exciting. In the hyperbole of life and globalisation, it is the quaint, the odd, the fascinating and the scary, which will have the masses begging and coming back for.

August 22, 2011

Three days in Alexandria

The start of this journey, could have seen it ending badly. I left the hotel Ange and I had been staying in, and we found a "taxi".  It had all the signs of a taxi, until you got in, and the driver attempted to start the car and put it into gear. With a look of fear on my face, I looked out the window at Ange and mouthed "I love you" fearing I may never see her again. I then faced the longest 20 minutes of my life as I was taken to the Cairo railway station. What an experience. The driver offered to drive me to Alexandria a couple of times, saying he'd do it for 300LE. I quite politely thanked him and declined. God, could you imagine the horror. Three hours in the back of a car that stunk equally of petrol and tobacco, had no air con and no suspension.

Once aboard the train, a little boy, about four maybe, came on with his parents and stopped still. He stared at me in open amazment. The parents smiled at me, and pushed him into the nearby seats. The little boy was having none of the sitting still business - much like most kids his age. His intent though was different. He came over to me, placed his little hand on my arm and started stroking me like a cat. I may have been the first white woman he'd ever seen close up. After that, he got shy, and ran to his mother.

Part of me wanted this to be the ultimate part of the journey. A place both Egyptian and Roman, located on the Mediterranean. It almost was. I don't know what was missing, but it was something.

When I arrived at the hotel, I sent this email to family and friends;

On 27/09/2010, at 3:11 PM, Brooke S wrote:

Oh my god you guys!! I wish you could experience this with me. The salt air, the virtually clean streets, the splendour of this hotel. Egypt tourism gives it 4 stars and from what I've seen, it's totally worth it.
There was a moment this morning as I got in the taxi where I feared you may have heard the last of me. Thankfully not. 
Arrived at the train station alive but couldn't see it. There are sheets hanging over all the awnings. Got inside, and found an "English" Information booth and was advised to wait on platform 8. Within minutes the train pulled up. I have never seen such a long train or platform. 2 and a bit hours later I was bundled off the train, onto a half completed platform that smelt of urine. Ten feet later, about 6 taxi drivers swooped on me. 15 minutes later we pulled up out the front of a grand building, built in 1906. 
The foyer, as I walked in had Frank Sinatra playing. There is a chandelier in the middle of the room. There are gold gilt edges, and marble, and carpet and people wearing suits as uniforms. The original elevator still works, there are mirrors everywhere. I was shown to my room by a lady who opened the door and the curtains and turned the aircon on. A bell-hop brought my luggage up. There is a kingsize bed. The bathroom has complimentary shampoo, conditioner, and body scrub. The toilet has a hygiene label.And yes, I did take a photo. My view is exactly what the internet shows.
This internet is free!! but the keyboard is shit.
I'm going to find food and a map now.

And I wrote this email for these reasons...

The view from my balcony

Same balcony, opposite direction

Having deposited my suitcase in the room, I had a quick wander around the hotel, and headed off in search of lunch. I found a little place a couple of blocks away that were doing an Egyptian version of pizza. I was going to take a picture but it wasn't it very good condition by the time I got home cause the toppings fell off. It was amazing though to watch the guys swinging the bases around their heads making them bigger and bigger and cutting them off as they reached the perfect size.

Inside the hotel, aptly named Windsor Palace, looks like this...

Night time...

The first day here I was lazy. I let myself rest in the glory of to cold aircon.

On my first full day, I went up to the dining room where the included breakfast was being held. So much fresh fruit and cereal and real coffee (not the mud I'd paid for the day before). After breakfast I headed downstairs, out the front door and turned right. It will not be a surprise to those who know me that I was headed for the Bibliotheca Alexandrina. An amazing site. The curator in me, is so impressed with what the Egyptians have done with this site. It is amazing and huge.

Heiroglyphs around the outer wall


There are about 4 or 5 levels inside. This is from the second looking up. All along the levels are computer bays for anyone to use.


Looking down one of the rows of stacks

Glass and resin light

I got up the next day and decided I was going to see the sites. I set off to find
On the walk back I did come across some strange looking wedding cakes...

I also came across a church of St Mary's. It was closed though, and the tourist police wouldn't let me in to have a look around. I think the only English they had was 'no service, no enter'.

The next morning, I was up and ready to go quite early. I didn't want to miss my train, and I also didn't want to see one of the hotel managers. The evening before, I had gone up to the restaurant for dinner and he was all charm and very helpful. As I went to leave though, he made it quite difficult. He wanted me to stay for the musical entertainment that was being set up on the balcony. He wanted to offer me a free desert. He wanted to offer me all my meals for free if he could come to my room when he finished his shift. That's right. You read correctly. I got propositioned. By this point, I was so freaked out I bolted the door to my room, I put the chain across, and then I put one of the chairs under the handle.  Not one of the more pleasant aspects of the trip.

Made it alive to the train station and was met with another frustration. Very few of the staff spoke English, and I kept getting sent back and forth across the ticket floor trying to buy a ticket. I was so hot and agitated I could feel the tantrum building. It was at this point I was rescued by an Egyptian man heading to Cairo. He was able to ask the ticket seller for the right ticket and show me where I had to get the train from. Just as I was starting to wonder if it would get awkward his phone rang, he moved off a ways down the platform, answered the call and that was the last I spoke with him.

Taken from the moving train...

In the end, I made it back to Cairo. The trip back took longer than planned, but unsurprisingly, there was a taxi waiting for me at the door, who conveyed me to the Cairo airport. Another life before your eyes drive later, I was in the terminal, my baggage was being scanned and I was through to the waiting area. A two hour delay later, I was on the plane, winging it back to London.

I had no difficulty getting back into the UK. The strangest thing was being able to put toilet paper in the bowl and flush it, followed by how quiet it was once I got off the train at Turnpike Lane to walk home. I know. Quiet. But after the noise and the honking of horns that I had been used to for the last month on and off, the city was still.

I had a fabulous time on the tour. I'm glad I did it when we did, given what is going on now. I will go back one day. I loved Jordan. It was a beautiful place. Who knows. Maybe I'll even get to Israel one day. I won't tell you till I'm back.