Weekend Reading: Not Going Out

I intended to have many photos to share with you this week. You see, for the last few months I’ve been planning a trip to the Classical Association Conference, which was held in Cambridge last weekend.

It takes me a long time to plan a trip, which is why I usually only manage one a year (and why I haven’t posted here for a few weeks!). As a single parent without childcare, I can’t go anywhere for more than a few hours without assembling a team of people to cover for me, and the amount of co-ordination required feels equivalent to organising an entire conference! Annoyingly too, my autistic brain insists on the trip being planned to the last detail, including train diagrams so that I know where I’m sitting, pictures of the station where I have to change so that I know where I’m going, and inside and outside pictures of the hotel so that I’m familiar with its layout before I even set off.

That’s a big reason why I usually avoid conferences, and trips in general: they’re usually not worth the stress! But this year I decided to go for it.

In part, that was because I was made so welcome last year at Swansea, when I was awarded the Classical Association Prize, and where I took part in a groundbreaking neurodiversity panel. In part, too, it was because the CA have been really receptive to the idea of making adjustments for neurodivergent attendees, to the point of working with me to set up a Quiet Room so that people who needed to could escape the chaos. It’s been so exciting to work with the Subject Association for the UK to put these adjustments in place: it feels like the start of real change. So of course I thought I should be there to see it!

The Quiet Room at Cambridge: photos from the CA Twitter account.

In part, too, I decided to go out of simple curiosity. I’ve only been to Cambridge once before, and only for a few hours, so there was so much I wanted to see!

And then there were the people. The reason I’m drawn to the CA conference in particular is that there’s such a wide range of people there: all ages, many different professions, all kinds of different interests. You don’t feel out of place at a CA conference.

But as you will no doubt have guessed by now, I never made it there.

The Departure Board of Doom

I arrived at the station at just the wrong time, to find that all southbound trains had been cancelled due to an accident somewhere on the line. For a while I milled around at the station with all the other lost souls, trying to figure out how else I could manage to get myself halfway across the country by going in a completely different direction; but it was pretty clear that none of us were going to reach our destinations that day. I could have tried to catch a train down the following day: but by that time I would have missed most of the conference, and besides, my brain was making ominous hissing noises at the very thought of such an abrupt change of plan.

So I returned home, with an air of gloom and a large consolatory triple chocolate doughnut.

The CA were kind enough to give me online access to the panels, so that was something: I thoroughly enjoyed listening to some of the papers. But there was definitely a feeling that I was rubbing salt into the wound!

However, apparently I was there, in a way! As part of the 120th anniversary celebrations, I was featured in the CA video which was played on the big screen at the event. I haven’t seen the video myself yet: but several friends kindly sent me photographic evidence!

Me in the Fitzwilliam Museum in Cambridge in spirit if not in body

So this is not at all the blog post I was intending to write! But I did see the conference from a different angle, and that was valuable in its way. I saw, for instance, how much people appreciated the hybrid nature of the conference. The online facilities, particularly the Lobby and the schedule, were impressive and made it really easy to jump from one panel to another; so in fact joining online gave people a much more flexible conference experience. And we didn’t entirely miss out on the excitement, because all the big announcements were made on social media: so it didn’t take me long to find out that the recipient of this year’s Classical Association Prize is the fabulous Edith Hall, who is doing such great work to raise the profile of Classics here in the North East (do check out her beautiful new website, which allows free downloads of many of her books and articles).

Gratuitous selfie of me and Prof Hall in a South Shields pub

So in the end I was able to listen to speeches while wearing my slippers, and I could watch panels while doing some marking. It was a thoroughly pleasant experience – but I do hope that next year I manage at least to make it onto a train!

This week from around the Classical Internet


Cleopatra Netflix row – The Guardian

Missing ‘star find’ – Sussex Express

Evidence of ‘lost’ Roman campaign – Haaretz

Lost fort discovered in Scotland – Smithsonian Magazine

Nazis wrongly accused of torching Caligula’s boats – The Daily Mail

via Classical Studies Memes for Hellenistic Teens

Comment and opinion

Roman military camps found by using Google Earth – Phys.org

How to explore the Temple of Jupiter Optimus Maximus – The Travel

Reconstructing the Romans – A Don’s Life

Everyone is everybody else – Sphinx

Romans on the Farasan Islands – Short History

Podcasts, video and other media

The Battle of the Teutoburg Forest – Well That Aged Well

The last documented Roman legion – Ancient Warfare

Falling in love with Ancient History – Ancient History Fangirl

Is mythology just gossip? – Normal Gossip

5 thoughts on “Weekend Reading: Not Going Out

  1. I am so very sorry to hear that you didn’t make it to your conference in Cambridge, especially as it’s such a rare trip away for you.

    My heart slightly lurched at the reasons…..having already written here previously about my suspicions of also being autistic. I have a long trip by train organised for just over a week’s time (after the Bank Hol), from London to Penzance. I get very anxious about travel, and like you plan everything down to the last detail, having much of it in hard copy (just in case….!). Is that an autistic trait too then? I am hugely lucky to just miss the latest announced rail strike, though one of the days is while I am away.

    I am glad to hear that you were given online access, but I can imagine that it must have been a huge disappointment.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I think it probably is an autistic trait – most of us don’t like things not to go to plan! Good luck with your big trip – I hope it goes better than mine!


  2. So sorry you didn’t make it and the sudden change of plans must have been challenging (not sure that’s the right word), Living half an hour from Cambridge it is an amazing place.
    Having said that being able to flit online between diffent presentations would take some of the personal ‘guilt’ pressure off. I remember a conference where I wanted to go to a packed presentation and the one I was leaving had five of us (including the introducing academic), I have never felt so exposed with the eyes of the room on me as I left – and the sadness in the eyes of the presenter.
    Also. they really take a dim view of turning up in slippers and a dressing gown.

    Liked by 1 person

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