I made it into the office about 11am the day I got back. It would have been earlier but for a 40-minute wait for a gate at Heathrow, slow luggage coming off plane, having to wait for the cleaner to finish cleaning the bathroom before I could go and have a shower (yeah, OK, this is not something I can really complain about) and then finding that someone had misjudged things badly at one of the sets of traffic lights between home and office, thereby causing a whole lot of sitting around waiting for traffic to filter past.
The to-do list has shrunk a bit, but not as much as it ought to have; I think I'm going to be working in the car on the way down to see my parents tomorrow. (Hmm, or possibly working in the car on the way back from seeing my parents tomorrow, it being the beloved's turn to drive home.)
Last night we went out for drinks and dinner with friends up in town, which was amusing as always with this particular couple. I managed to miss the train I'd been aiming for -- quite how South Central Trains managed to have a train arrive early I'm not sure, but they did -- and wound up coming in on a line I've not used in forever. Luckily it meant that I still got in at roughly the same sort of time as I would have done on the train I'd been aiming at (which probably means I should check into whether this is actually a better way of getting to some parts of central London, even if it involves more changes).
Today we've been doing the usual sort of weekendy-admin stuff which piles up when you've been away or busy. Laundry. Paying bills. Shifting stuff out of the dining room so that we can get some more furniture in there next week. Then tonight there's a party to go to and tomorrow we drive down to deepest Somerset to see snowdrops, my parents' two new cats, and not so incidentally my parents themselves.
I've also just had a phone call from my sister to say that she has indeed managed to get funding to attend this, a conference run by the International Research Group on Wood Preservation; they have an award (maybe more than one, not sure) for current research students which should more or less cover travel and accommodation to attend the conference (it's in Brisbane), and this year that's her. She's pretty happy, as can probably be imagined, even if she now has to finish writing up her paper to present by the end of this month!
My sister didn't quite come through the conventional path to research. She didn't come out especially well at school as, while she's very bright, she can also be lazy as hell unless it's a subject which really interests her. School didn't, especially; she came out of it with three A-levels (for our US viewers: those are the exams we take at age 18. We specialise earlier, so I'm told they're roughly equivalent to a first university course in a subject for someone who'll be majoring in it. I could be wrong). Anyhow, her grades weren't up to much, and she spent a couple of years looking for a job before eventually fetching up with one of my father's customers; she framed pictures for the next four years or so.
So, we come to June 1998 or thereabouts. The Indonesian economy is falling to bits. Some of sister's boss's friends are going to Bali and say to sister, why don't you come too? It'll be cheap. Three weeks there was indeed cheap, and she learned to scuba-dive while there. She came back and said "right - I want to do a Marine Biology degree". This plan survived first contact with the enemy -- the first university she spoke to said "go and get some better A-levels first" -- and the second place she tried was willing to give her a chance. Three years later, she graduated with the top first-class degree of her year, and a prize; she's now about 15 months into a PhD and has made substantial progress, largely due to the fact that she does seem to spend most of her life in the lab ;)
I am very proud of her. I hope she knows.