1. SBL Papers: I am currently writing my papers for SBL next week. Details here. As usual, I find myself falling between two stools, writing neither the fully argued, polished article that can be sent off to a journal (and then edited down for presentation), nor the 2,500–3,000 word presentation paper that is lively, interesting and unencumbered by overwhelming detail. I always do this (i.e. wait until too late to do the former, but find myself too interested in the detail to do just the latter). I am sure it will all be OK come Sunday week.
2. Book proposals: alongside this I am trying to complete an overdue book proposal for a book on 2 Corinthians, along with another proposal for an introductory volume. The latter will be done by the time SBL arrives (which is a good job because I am having lunch with the publisher). The former is proving complex, not least in the absence of a library.
3. Other writing: I just sent off a short piece to the journal Cross Purposes on the topic of the creedal confession in Jesus as son of God. The pre-publication version is here if you want to read it.
4. Visas: our application for a Permanent Visa to live and work in Australia was finally lodged earlier this week on a 'decision-ready' basis. Now we wait, and hopefully for not too long. I am not fond of any model of prayer that involves asking God for favours, but frankly we would like to hear good news as soon as possible, so…you know….if you wanted to ask…that would be OK with me.
5. Reading: while we have been away I have discovered John Le Carre (A Perfect Spy and now The Constant Gardener, which is very different from the film). Apparently, when it was published, Philip Roth called A Perfect Spy the best English novel since the war. Not quite sure about that, but Le Carre is a great writer and a suprisingly (to me at least) literary one. And he is related to Brian Haymes (can't quite remember how).
6. Eating: living in Italy over these past few months has reminded me what I love about Italian food and the cultural norms associated with eating here: ingredients are everything; most restaurants are an extension of the home kitchen rather than wannabe versions of some Michelin starred venue; lunch is taken seriously; no-one tries to rip you off (no pressure to eat or drink anything you don't want to – in fact you have to ask specially if you want to drink anything other than house red or white); unlike the French, the Italians value and know what to do with vegetables (greens especially); innovation is generally (and usually correctly) frowned upon. Today's lunch was home made pasta with sausage, funghi and truffles followd by grilled lamb, fried potatoes and chicory in oil – it was splendid in every way. The prize for value for money goes to the local Hotel Caroline, whose Sunday lunch menu is as follows:
Antipasto freddo (prosciutto, salumi, formaggio, olive)
Antipasto caldo (verdure ripiene – stuffed zucchini, melanzane, funghi, pomodori etc)
Canelloni della casa
Spaghetti della casa
Carne alla griglia
Contorni (patatine fritte; ciccoria, bietole etc etc)
The price of €20 includes water, wine, coffee and a digestivo to accompany the last of these and, yes, there are 2 antipasti, and 2 primi not as choices, but to be taken consecutively.
7. Purchasing: while we have been here we have had the chance to buy some things that, in Australia, wuld be prohibitively expensive. Shoes, of course, for Katherine. But more importantly things for the kitchen and dining room, the pinnacle of which were the set of Fissler Original Pro saucepans and frying pan that we bought today. Years ago, in successive John Lewis sales, I managed to pick up two Fissler pans which I confess are the things that I would save beyond all others should our kitchen be overwhelmed by fire, quake or flood. Now they have some competition as the photograph at the top of this post demonstrates.