Monday, 22 April 2013

We've been away

It's been a busy few weeks, and it's rather pleasant to be returning to the usual routine.

First, we had a weekend silversmithing course on the Hereford-Worcester border.  I've blogged about these before, so will spare you the detail.  Suffice it to say we had a great time, stayed in the Talbot at Knightwick as usual, enjoying excellent food both evenings.

The following Tuesday we drove to Crickhowell in the Brecon Beacons of South Wales, where we stayed for several days.  Jenny had been asked to consult about some fossil fish and we'd extended the trip slightly so she could visit the National Museum of Wales in Cardiff to look at some other fossil fish.

Crickhowell is a lovely old-fashioned sort of village, with lots of different kinds of shops, but no supermarket anywhere near.  We stayed in the Dragon Inn, which was fine and served us decent food.

The fossils were all a bit disappointing.  An amateur palaeontologist had collected some Carboniferous fish fossils on Anglesea, but they were very small, scrappy and fragmentary.  Jenny put lots of post-it notes into the specimen boxes with comments on each one, but there was nothing there to encourage her to return.

We visited the site up in the hills that she was being consulted about, along with a couple of folks from Natural Resources Wales, but that was disappointing, too.  The site is being designated an SSSI because of the stratigraphy of the rocks, but abundant fish fossils had been reported from the site too, and they wanted to know if they should designate it an SSSI because of the fossil fish, too.

We walked the length of the exposure, past where the fish were supposed to have come from, and found barely a thing.  This actually tied in neatly with what Jenny had found in the research she'd done beforehand. She'd read several papers and somebody's unpublished PhD thesis, and although there were several references to the fish, at no point did anyone say "I found fossil fish there" nor could she track down any specimens anywhere.  So even before we arrived, we suspected we'd find nothing.  We did see specimens of very concentrated deposits of Devonian fishes in the National Museum in Cardiff, but they had come from quite a few miles away from our site.  So it won't be an SSSI on the grounds of the fossil fish!

Last week we went to Milan.  Jenny had been invited to give a couple of lectures at the University, so on Monday we flew out from Gatwick.  We were staying in a curious place, part student accommodation but with one floor for visiting professors.  It was OK, but not brilliant.

The student who had arranged it all took decent care of us, though the whole thing was rather stressful, and indeed, must have been so for him just as much.  He'd booked us tickets to see Leonardo's Last Supper, which was great, but hard work as his only choice was 08:45.  We had to rush over there with no breakfast!  It was worth it, of course, and we breakfasted twice afterwards!

 Milan is not a particularly beautiful place, and we suspect it was badly bombed during the war, as much of the centre is modern.  The Duomo (Cathedral) is fabulous and we really enjoyed visiting it, especially the walk around the rooftops.

We also spotted an exhibition of pictures by Modigliani and some of his contemporaries.  This was also disappointing.  The Modigliani's were good, especially his Blue Caryatid, but most of the work by his contemporaries, by far the bulk of what was on display, was simply not very good at all.  Jenny summed it up well when she commented that you could see work of that standard in any village art show.

On the other hand, the city was full of elegantly dressed, attractive women, and there were masses of scooters and motorbikes rushing around the place, so we were kept entertained the whole time.

I'd read recently that Spanish and Italian are so similar that a Spaniard and an Italian, each knowing only his own language, could understand about 70%of what the other was saying, so was able to practise my Spanish, which worked well!

Jenny's talks were well received, after which it was possible for us to relax a bit, and it was all very satisfactory.

On the way home, we saw warning signs of long delays anticlockwise around the M25 so went the other way, and discovered that whichever way you go, it's more or less the same distance and takes pretty much the same time.

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