I’ve just got back from Salzburg, where I was presenting at a conference on Persons, Intimacy and Love. It was good, and worthwhile, but utterly exhausting. Two full days of listening, with a hearing impairment, to lectures and to people talking over lunch and wine and coffee, completely did me in. I stayed at the hotel where the conference was being held. It didn’t have much to recommend it except for its pillows, which were the biggest and fluffiest I have ever seen; sleeping on them was like burying my head in a nest of clouds. The town itself didn’t have much to recommend it – it was touristy, and generally unattractive. T told me to piss on anything to do with Mozart, but had I followed his instructions they would have resulted in a bladder complaint. Instead I bought him some Mozart tat, just to be perverse.
And as I rounded the corner in one of the cobbled streets, I came across a shop which had rows and rows of painted eggs in its windows. It reminded me (again) of a fairy tale we’d read when we were kids, and even though I’ve racked my brains for a week I can’t remember which story it was. All I can remember are these beautiful painted eggs, and thinking how much I wanted one of them. You couldn’t get eggs like that in Australia.
At the back of the touristy streets was a big church, and below the church were some fruit markets, and a stall selling lavender. The smell was so rich that I was tempted to buy some, but I resisted. I don’t need lavender.
However, on the 2nd and 3rd days it SNOWED. Not grotty London snow, but big fat snowflakes that settled on the ground; it was just like being in a snowdome. After that the town was much prettier, and as the taxi driver took me to the airport, the mountains appeared in the distance, covered in snow and sunlight; it was gorgeous. On some other hills that rose above the town was a forest without any leaves, very grim and forboding like something out of the Grimms Fairy Tales, and I realised how only those kinds of stories could have been written in Europe. Near the hotel were the Mirabell Gardens, in which the song ‘Do Re Me’ from the Sound of Music was sung.
At this point I must make a most dreadful confession: in 1999 I went on the Sound of Music tour. It was kind of under duress, but mostly due to my own timidity, because I didn’t want to be left behind while my travelling companions went off, so I went and saw a lake with a lot of rubbish in it, a gazebo, the inside of a bus, the tour guide cracking jokes (which E told me were awful) and the selfsame gardens, which were lovelier then as it was summer while we were travelling.
I was glad when it was all over though (both the Sound of Music tour and the conference), and came back to (slightly) warmer climes. People said they enjoyed my paper on Molloy, but I didn’t get much feedback. There weren’t that many literature people there and I think they didn’t feel qualified to comment on it. Well, I didn’t feel I could comment on theirs; half of the papers went over my head. I was grumbling to someone about how academics rarely wrote in an accessible way and she replied that often it was because they couldn’t write in any other way; she certainly couldn’t, and I thought, Oops, I’ve put my foot in that one.