After suffering no more than the usual commercial-travel-related indignities, I'm now back in my native land. And I gotta say: despite the punishing heat, the miserable Tube, and the more-irritating-than-you'd-think absence of trash cans wherever a trash can might be desirable (yes, I know--and I DO blame the motherfucking IRA), it was an awesome trip. This was my fourth research trip to London in ten years, but it's been five years since the last one--and though I was using some of the same collections and even some of the same manuscripts, I might as well have been a completely different person.
For one thing, this is the first trip I've made to London that hasn't involved staying in a dorm room. Now, I may be hanging my hat in the UCL dorms in years to come, since only flukey good luck got me and Cosimo a pair of generous travel grants that allowed us to pool our resources and rent a beautiful flat in Notting Hill. But it was a major step up, and one that brought home to me my increasing. . . something. Age? Professional stability? Bourgeoisitude? Whatever you want to call it, I felt it.
Indeed, more than a research trip, this felt like an extremely long conference--ON METHAMPHETAMINES. I'm not sure that I got a full night's sleep more than once in two weeks, what with running from intellectual to social stimulation all day, every day: when I wasn't in the archives or working at home, I was having lunch, dinner, or drinks with friends and colleagues. I covered more of the city than I have in any prior trip; went out of town a few times; saw a bunch of theatre and a bunch of art; and somehow wound up dining in two Oxford colleges and two London clubs.
Now, I've usually had a few friends to meet up with in London, some who lived there and some who were there researching, and days in the archive are always exhausting. But usually I had a decent amount of downtime: time to read a few chapters of a novel every night, time to catch up on my sleep. This year, after five away, it was like everything was multiplied by five: five times as many people to see, five times as many things to do.
I don't say this either to brag about how glamorous my life is (because it isn't, particularly), or to complain about the burdens of, like, knowing people and doing things (because here's the world's tiniest violin). I'm just marveling, as I suppose I never cease to do, at how quickly things change and how surprising it feels not to be quite the person that you were before.