I’m back from the conference and, though we’re all very tired, things went well. For the last three days I’ve been catching an early-morning bus into London, walking half an hour across town to the University of College London, and enjoying a mix of papers and more informal talks over tea. The return trip was sometimes a bit less pleasant, since I was walking across London late at night: perfectly safe, but I’m not much for lots of lights and noise and roving crowds on the streets. I was always glad to settle into the bus for the quiet ride home, and I took some nice naps there! I think Sydney and I are finding conferences a bit less easy than we used to; although it doesn’t seem awful to short your sleep for a few days so that you can pack in lots of time at a conference, both he and I ended up with serious headaches that first day and still struggled on the second and third. I can only hope that things will improve as we get a bit more distance between ourselves and the worst of the sleep deprivation that comes with little kids. Still, I’m no longer having to make conferences a family affair while I nurse a baby, so that is a great relief.
The more I get into my research the more I think I may want to keep working on Ford’s novels, so I’m a bit worried that I may be hooked on another author. That’s the last thing I need. Ford wrote over eighty novels in his lifetime! It’s not as if Woolf and Faulkner won’t keep me busy all by themselves! But the people I met in the Ford society were all very welcoming. I had great talks with people who are still finishing up their degrees, those who share my current nomadic life, and those who have been teaching at the same institution for forty years, as well as those who live in the States, the UK, or Europe–some who have lived in all three.
As tends to happen, we talked life as well as academics, and I’m kind of amused to find myself, from some mysterious combination of having finished my degree and having two children, situated among the “grown-ups.” I know the ages and temperaments of most of the young children who belong to the scholars at the conference, and I watched with interest as we all juggled our home and work life. One woman slipped away to Skype with her husband and daughter occasionally, another asked around for ideas for a fun present to take home, and a new father confessed that he was surprised to find how hard it was to be away from his nine-month-old son even for four days.
Next week, we’ll be doing something similar, but in reverse: Sydney will be taking the bus into town for a few days for a conference (one held in the same building mine was in, oddly enough), and I’ll be staying home with the kids. Thanks to a nursery morning in there, I should have a bit of help, but it’s kind of fun and funny to swap roles quite so literally. We’ll be glad for a few differences, though: Sydney won’t be wearing heels and skirts for his trips!