The conference was OK. Moderately so. I've been used to much worse, to greater ignorance. For ignorance there have been also here, among those people from Oxford and King's College, and such sounding places. And moments to ask what I'm doing there, and similar. Although ignorance is perhaps not the term to use here. Superficial knowledge, uncritical repetition of things that are usually said in their own context, conformism - these are their main sins.
But overall it was good, I shouldn't complain.
I still had the perception that I needed to get used to proper scholarship, to be among the right people. But at a given moment, I started to feel that I had been in the West long enough to lose the right to say: Forgive me my ignorance, and my manners, and my English, and my lack of professionalism, for I'm just coming from a peripheral academic system, etc.
I have no valid excuse any more. I'm just a scholar. Just a European scholar, without much of a local accent.
Gosh, many people would like to be just a scholar I am. Even if some of them appear to present some feeble signs of instinctive repulsion and avoidance (while other seem interested, even fascinated).
There is perhaps a sort of self-perception of invincible scholarship, just as there is a self-perception of invincible womanhood that deserts and cities of men bestow upon us.
But overall, the country is wild, and falling out of Europe wont certainly help it. Even Oxford is not worth the chicken I stoically consumed in a noisy football bar at Victoria Station. It was singularly tasteless, as if it had been washed in a washing machine with some very efficient detergents (they made me pay the exorbitant price of 22 pounds and 50 pennies for it, and a mug of low quality beer).
I think this conference, after all, may be one of my last in UK. London is crowded, expensive, and there are actually few original things to be found there. I'll be much better in my Leiden, and I can quietly stick to it. Europe is such a tiny thing, the Civilisation is such a tiny thing. One can cross it in just a couple of hours. Only the steppes are endless.
And right now, on this Sunday morning, under quickly moving clouds, somewhere between Rotterdam and the Hague, these verses come to me:
Mon enfant, ma soeur,
Songe à la douceur
D'aller là-bas vivre ensemble!
Aimer à loisir,
Aimer et mourir
Au pays qui te ressemble!
Là, tout n'est qu'ordre et beauté,
Luxe, calme et volupté.
I'm in love with myself, I'm in love with the Netherlands, ce pays qui me ressemble.
I'm in love with the kind of food Albert Heijn provides for my breakfast for mere two or three euros, and with my walks through Red Lamp district till the Oude Kirk where I once prayed with the last Christians of the Low Countries, and where I like to take a coffee on such misty Sunday mornings. I'm in love with every mossy brick of this city.