Presidential condoms: the ultimate stimulus package
I have just been in Madison, Wisconsin -- giving a lecture on Pompeii as part of their Year of the Humanities celebrations. Was it sensible to go away from Cambridge for the last two days of term? No it wasn't. I had so little sleep that I was close to weeping at the very slightest provocation (like "how are you?") by the time I had left.
Was it worth it? Yes it was. And so many people turned up that we had to move to a bigger room. OK, a boast -- but, I promise, I have done my time turning up to lecture in rooms laid out for 250 to find some 20 faithful followers, most of whom were relatives. So I know what it's like when you don't get an audience.
I had last been to Madison something like 20 years ago. I remember, first of all, the cows. Wisconsin is the Dairy State and it's not hard to spot (one lunchtime I had some delicious deep fried curds, which were not wholly in step with the current diet). And I remember that State Street had been full of intriguing little shops and cafes run by left over hippies. I thought that these would have long since disappeared, with the hippies. But in fact they were still there.
So this gave ample retail opportunities at modest prices. And I am coming home with, inter alia, a pair of leopard skin tights (50% reduction), some birthday cards with slogans for the middle aged ("Hello is this the police department -- I'm calling to report my missing youth") and some novelty band-aids. But I was particularly taken with the gift pack condoms, themed to the President (which I bought as a present for someone under 30). "Hope is not a Form of Protection" blazons the package of one of the "Obama Condoms", "The Ultimate Stimulus Package" runs the other. I bit predictable, but you cant imagine a Gordon Brown branded condom, can you?
And the other thing I did was have my hair cut. If you neglect your hair like I do, you cant go to a hairdresser in your home town -- as they will cluck about your split ends and pressure you into a regular fortnightly appointment to get some of that bounce back, or whatever (as well as adding to their own coffers). So I have taken to having an inch or two cut off only when I am somewhere I am not likely to go back to within the decade. On this occasion I had a great view of the wonderful capitol building in Madison.. and I'm not likely to be back for a decade or so.