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Reading, planning

I've been feeling a tad excited at the prospect of a trip to Iceland this Xmas. I've wanted to go for as long as I can remember. Perhaps one of the reasons I haven't made the relatively short flight thus far is that I don't want to be disappointed by the reality - the imaginary idyll can be a far greater place to inhabit and hanker after. I hope, then, that when I go I am not disappointed too much. I feel the need - have long felt it - to be awed by nature; the northern lights (even 'chasing' them could be a metaphor for soul-seeking), the whales of the icy waters, the geothermal waters, the possibility of volcanic eruptions, the puffins... All of it. I found myself in the BBC's Green Room at Television Centre on Thursday morning. I was accompanying a young woman engineer who was to comment on the launch of the Queen Elizabeth Medal for Engineering - a £1m prize to encourage innovation. Sir John Beddington, the government's Chief Scientist, was there, commenting on the same subject. Iceland came up as we waited for the call - he said that he was given a few days notice of Icelandic volcanic eruptions and none seemed likely for a little while - which I felt was a shame. Perhaps Iceland could do pre-eruption packages? Maybe I will go and not want to come back to London? Whatever response I have it will be a welcome break for I have long needed one. This time next month will see - I hope- the end of my studies, as the viva looms ever closer (9th December). Everything that I have done since 2003 - when I returned to full-time education - has been in service to it.

I've started a reading group at work. I was surprised at the level of interest. Most readers I know want to talk about it afterwards - whether they liked it or not - it's almost like both a closure and a new, extended opening to the book and the time and energy spent reading it. I had proposed Moby Dick as the first group read, but this was usurped for The Help by Katheyn Stockett. My first thought was. 'it's a best-seller of the Richard & Judy variety. And it's been made into a film. But, like other occasions when I've ignored my readerly and cultural discriminations, I've been rewarded. I'm about a third of the way through and I'm enjoying it. Stockett's conceit - a multiply narrated tale - is a good one. At first it felt a little too contrived but then the story and the characters took over. More anon.


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