Grounded -- with books
I had been going to New York this weekend, to do a serious piece of study on the new Greek and Roman galleries at the Metropolitan Museum, which the husband hasn't yet seen. I had been kicking myself, because our flight out to New York was just after the shut down of Heathrow on Thursday -- but I now see that if we HAD gone, we wouldn't have got back by Sunday evening (and that would have been a nightmare for the first week of term).
If there is a moral in this, it is that British Airways fixed me up with a new flight in June (it was a sort of holiday, so that was fine), the hotel we had booked into (The Library -- ok we were splashing out) generously didn't charge us, even though we had technically been on a three day cancellation deal -- but our travel insurance (BUPA), from whom we might have claimed some incidental expenses, told us to bog off (act of god, etc...anyone know a good travel insurance company?).
Meanwhile I have to say that the husband, as often these days, looks righter and righter... couldn't the planes just fly lower, he asked on day one. And that is beginning to look like what they will do. (How can you tell the difference between sensible precautions and "health and safety" gone mad? But it is beginning to look as if this is "health and safety" gone mad, at the cost of billions.)
Anyway, what do you do with two and a half days to spare? To start with, it is hard to use the time you didn't expect to have, but then -- there are those books you've been sent.
First out of the bag was Matthew Dennison's Empress of Rome. This one was not for me. Why do people imagine they can write biographies of individual Roman empresses, for whom there is almost no reliable evidence whatsoever? And when the blurb claims that it rests on "extensive new research", what do they mean by that ? What NEW research is there to do on Livia, the wife of the first Roman emperor Augustus? By a journalist whose last book was on one of Queen Victoria's daughters? I didn't stop long on this one, for fear of getting too cross -- or, to put it another way, of finding the crap ("Livia was beautiful" -- err well??) outweighing the facts/judicious argument.
Next was a couple of copies of Iain Fenlon's, Piazza S Marco - in my Wonders of the World series - in paperback. A great book, and written by someone who really knows Venice from a particular angle (that is music..), here moving out to the cityscape. Do try it.
But I had read it before.
The surprise in the pack was Nico Item's book on his grandfather's excavation of the "Villa of the Mysteries" in Pompeii in 1909 (the launch occasion pictured above.) Aurelio Item was a local hotel keeper in Pompeii at the turn of the century, and was the impresario of what was the last "private" - and most spectacular -- excavation at Pompeii. Nico Item's book tells the story of the dig, and captures the world of late nineteenth century tourism with loads of references to (and images of) documents of the time.
Almost worth being grounded to read!