Borobudur Temple

I always smile wryly to myself when first year undergraduates say goodbye at the end of term with a “Have a nice holiday!”. They tend not to realise (at least until I’ve enlightened them) that they may be on holiday, but we academics are not. Summer can be one of the busiest times, when you try to cram in research, conferences, and updating your teaching for the coming year. This year has been no exception, and I have barely stopped since the Spring. I have just got back from a return trip to Indonesia1, this time for a conference. It was a productive and useful trip, but as is often the case for conferences, we spent most of it in a windowless room, listening to talks, rather than exploring the country. The one exception was a brilliant visit to the Buddhist temple complex at Borobudur.

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Natural sounds

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We’ve just got back from a week’s holiday in North Norfolk (I’ve posted a few photos here). In recent years, we’ve taken to renting a cottage in Blakeney, which is a bit unadventurous, but it has exactly what we need: the sea, huge skies, open spaces, and best of all, quiet. I think quietness is what we both crave most from a holiday destination, and it is the thing which is most difficult to find at home. We’re not looking for silence (that would be creepy — particularly in Norfolk if you’ve watched a lot of MR James adaptations!), but a predominance of natural sounds, particularly bird song.

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A bit of rest and relaxation

On Friday, we got back from 5 days away in North Norfolk, staying in a cottage we’ve rented a couple of times before. It seems to have been a rather long summer, and we were more than ready for a break. As much as anything, we wanted some of the peace and quiet that we get in the cottage and the surrounding countryside. I count myself lucky that we have a home at all, but I do wish that our environment was quieter.

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Back from the non-foggy Tyne

It seems like I’ve been away from here for ages, but I’ve just been at an academic conference for about a week. I was also pretty busy with preparation before that, so this weekend I have been mostly relaxing and decompressing a bit. The conference — held in Newcastle upon Tyne — was great, and there were some very interesting talks. But as I’ve written about before, being an introvert makes these kinds of events difficult for me, and I now find myself completely exhausted after 5 days of trying my hardest to be sociable and interactive.

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Holidays and relaxation

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As you might have noted, I've been on holiday for the past two weeks. For the first part of that time, we were staying on the island of Anglesey (in Wales) in a gorgeous cottage belonging to a colleague of Mr. Bsag. We've both had a very busy year, and it was wonderful to get away from everything for a while. What made it even better was that my parents very kindly offered to come and stay in our house for the duration, to cat- and house-sit for us.

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Off to the wilds again

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I'm flying out to Brazil again this afternoon, having finally finished my packing. For new readers, this is a work trip, supervising students doing their final year projects in the Pantanal region of Brazil. I'll be away for 3 weeks, with no internet access, so things will be very quiet here. Mr. Bsag is looking after hearth, home and the cats while I'm away, and I'll miss all of them dreadfully.

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Rested

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We got back yesterday from a week's holiday split between Surrey and Sussex. Our original holiday plans went somewhat awry for various unavoidable reasons, so we had to book something at the last minute, and ended up splitting our week between staying with my parents in Surrey for a few days, and staying in a B&B in Lewes, Sussex. Despite the fact that it was a last minute thing (or perhaps because of that) it was a wonderful break, and I finally feel properly rested.

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In praise of Transport for London

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Provided that I've got enough done by then, I'm planning to go to the MacExpo on Friday. I was in two minds about whether to bother, because I felt that it was a bit lacklustre last year. Now that I'm living in Birmingham, it involves a lot more time, effort and money to get to London, so I want it to be worthwhile. However, this year the show is at Olympia rather than the Design Centre in Islington as it has been in former years, so I'm hoping that they might have beefed it up a bit.

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Brazil: Corumbá Airport

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I flew back from the Pantanal; a journey which involved two taxi rides (one of an hour and one of an hour and half), two flights and three airports. The first of these was Corumbá, an elegantly faded town on the border with Bolivia. Corumbá Airport must be the smallest I've ever been in. It's modern, clean and very comfortable, but absolutely tiny. There's almost no need for a boarding call, as there's only one gate and the pilot can practically tap you on the shoulder personally as he picks up the keys to the plane.

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Brazil: Pantanal

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The Pantanal is a truly amazing place for wildlife. It should come with a health warning for biologists (or any wildlife enthusiast): "WARNING: liable to cause heart palpitations and shortness of breath". Here are a few of my favourite wildlife encounters, and there are more photographs on my Brazil flickr set. Capybara Troupials Troupials are the most orange bird I've ever seen. Their plumage is made up of highly contrasting patterns of black and the shade of orange usually seen on fluorescent safety jackets.

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