I'm back. In the movie version, the conference unexpectedly revived my passion and commitment to the discipline. By dint of witty, intelligent colleagues, a few quirky and surprising plot-twists and a montage of the fantasy of intelligentsia shot under sunshine-drenched skies with a yellow filter, I was reminded of why I love this so much.
In the grimy real-time world, it rained. It blew a gale filled with grit and builder's sand and left the tiny beige pockmarks of what was once dirty rain on everything. I stayed in a shatteringly well-designed room in the brand-new student village and watched the weather batter the young trees staked and strapped to the newness below, stretching their adolescent branches desperately into the vortices of scraper-generated wind-tunnels, drawing the shreds of their dignity around themselves as some artist's impression of the space where they stood mocked them with watercolours of huge mature broadleaves breaking up the gleaming lakes of asphalt and neon disabled parking stencils.
The rooms were like something out of the Fifth Element meets Neal Stephenson. My pillow was neatly wrapped in a crinkly, crumply plastic wrapper that made a hospital sound and made my throat feel funny. There was a tiny wet room, which is what would once have been a toilet cubicle but is now an entire bathroom because there is a showerhead where you would have hung your Ramones concert poster. Autowash, but with taps. A sheet of creamy paper outside the door like a giant oblong beer coaster, helpfully printed YOUR BATHMAT.
And doors. Everywhere, doors. My room was past six one-way automatically locking firedoors operated by swipe cards. Getting places was accompanied by a soft metallic soundtrack of beeps and the tiny green welcome of flashing LEDs. The trip to the lecture theatre a tiring, alienating obstacle course of doors that opened automatically, doors opened with swipe, doors opened with green buttons, doors opened with brushed steel plates marked PUSH HERE TO OPEN terribly intuitively situated in such a way that one's response was often TO OPEN WHAT?, doors opened with plain old fashioned brute strength after you'd made a tit of yourself standing abashedly in front of it wondering where the Opening Technology (TM) for this one was to be found.
I sat through sessions, chewed food born in bain-marie captivity and watched herring gulls raise their arched white brows at walking wagon-trains of foreign language students passing in a ganglion-jangling babble of newly-learned English expletives and tinkling mobile phone charms.
I'm sure I learned a lot.
Well, that pretty much wraps it up.
3 weeks ago