My occasional trips abroad give me the opportunity to catch up on my reading - something I almost completely neglect when I'm at home. This laxity takes the shape of a steadily growing pile of the London Review of Books (LRB) in my sitting room. I pack four or five issues from the bottom of the heap and always look forward to settling in to the 12 hour shifts knowing that I'll have something to occupy me in the slower periods when I'm not either...
jellyfish spotting (it's there, just click on the picture).....
or wondering where railway tracks go.
These days and weeks away from home are like semi-colons in my scheme of things; slightly longer pauses, some room to breath and marshal my thoughts. But then, new places, new people and new cultures bring a fresh set of distractions. Karlskrona in Sweden had for me the slightly eerie feel of The Truman Show. Fit, happy, smiley, obliging and friendly, the people appeared contented, their surroundings organised, uncluttered and clean without a hint of municipal oppression. I wandered around, took turnings into what appeared to be the less salubrious parts of the town but never laid eyes on a drunk, a bag lady, a tramp or anyone you might cross a lonely street to avoid.
With a few hours to kill (a violence I can't imagine being committed here) my fellow magneteer and I took in the Marinmuseum.
If you're a fan of Patrick O'Brian's sea-faring books and you haven't a clue which rope does what; if you find yourself in Karlskrona, then this museum is a must. It's stuffed with 18thC models of ships, similarly aged models used at the time to demonstrate the very latest in Naval and merchant technique and a fine collection of nautical bygones to both inform and make your toes curl - the surgeons kit in particular.
The tunnel under the sea (the museum is on the waterfront) was less impressive.
I was not alone in my room. This spider was a constant presence. I discovered it sitting on the bed watching television with me and flicked it onto the floor. The next night it abseiled from the ceiling and arrived in front of my face. I caught its silk and removed it to a standard lamp in the corner of the room.The following night I found it scuttling along the sleeve of my nightshirt and contemplated putting it out of my 3rd floor window, but relented. I last saw my very busy companion in the bathroom as I left the hotel.
Then there was a phone call - could I move on to Nordenham to another cable factory and spend the following week in a tin hut out over the middle of the River Weser. Well, it was on the way home so why not. The downside of all this is that I shall have been away from my various projects for virtually the whole of August and progress is slow. The upside is that I get thinking time. Planning and preparation prevents.... as they say.