Back from travels

Am taking the afternoon off at home, having arrived jetlagged from New York, two hours later than planned, at 3 pm. Quite a good trip, all things considered:

Saturday – conference in Berlin, considerably enlivened when in the first session a friendly but sincere dispute broke out between two different wings of the large organisation sponsoring the conference, which made the rest of us feel much more relaxed about speaking our minds – indeed, I can’t recall a conference I’ve been to in Germany that was quite so good-humoured. (The point at issue was, “Is a new EU constitution necessary before any countries join the EU after Bulgaria and Romania?” Discuss amongst yourselves.)

Sunday – mainly a travelling day, with lots of work when I could get the laptop to cooperate. Arrived in New York at 8 pm local time. Went out for a chicken burrito, went to bed.

Yesterday – woke at 0330 NY time (0930 Brussels time, of course) and put in six hours’ solid work before rewarding myself with a trip to the Barnes and Noble on Union Square (recommended to me some time ago by ). Bought Counting Heads by David Marusek and Alexander Hamilton by Ron Chernow. Back uptown in time for:

Big Work Lunch. You can watch the promotional video which has a whole 5 seconds of me in it. The main point of the lunch was to present awards honouring the work of James Wolfensohn of the World Bank, Mark Malloch Brown of the UN, and, most movingly, Paul Rusesabagina, the hotel manager who saved over a thousand people from the Rwandan genocide in 1994. He got a standing ovation from those present, and I can’t have been the only one whose eyes moistened as this modest but heroic man accepted his award.

There was an unexpected personal spin-off for me. As an inveterate self-googler, I knew of a nineteenth century architect called Nicholas Whyte who designed this New York building at 101 Spring St. As it happened, the couple sitting beside me at lunch were an architect and an engineer; and it turned out, by extraordinary coincidence, that his firm is actually renovating 101 Spring St. He promised to give me a tour next time I am in New York for more than 24 hours.

(The lunch itself? Chicken.)

Then to the United Nations for the meeting which was the actual point of my visit. I had enough time to spare beforehand to buy a couple of books for F in the UN bookshop – the rather lovely For Every Child, A Better World, and a a big colouring book called The United Nations in Our Daily Lives which combines simple illustrations of, say, nuclear weapons experts looking at radioactive barrels of gunk, with simple explanatory text in English and Spanish:

Many countries have agreed not to build nuclear weapons. The International Atomic Energy Agency inspectors travel acroiss the planet to check whether these countries are keeping their promises.
Muchos países han prometido no fabricar más armas nucleares. Los inspectores del Organismo Internacional de Energía Atómica viajan por todo el planeta para controlar que esos países cumplan sus promesas.

Perhaps the text is a little advanced for their ostensible target readership, but F has been giving it a fair go this afternoon.

The UN meeting went well, and then it was straight off to JFK again to catch the plane, which was an hour late, giving me time to get into Counting Heads which I am enjoying so far, and grab a meal (chicken yet again). I managed to get some (but not quite enough) sleep on the plane. The delay meant a bit longer in Heathrow, where I saw a paperback edition of Anansi Boys and snapped it up. Also a discounted set of the Doctor Who DVD’s, which I was going to have as my Christmas present, so I bought them too and must now exercise self-restraint for the next four weeks.

And so home, and in pyjamas, and looking forward to a very early bed. And eating something other than chicken for my dinner.

One thought on “Back from travels

  1. I’m very much enjoying the current series of Torchwood. I have also faced up to the fact that I strongly dislike this current Dr. Who. There is something snarky and vicious about Dr. Matt Smith that has put me off watching the current series. Am I the only person in the Who-niverse who feels this way?

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