Instead, I've been working on a couple of book chapters every day, though possibly not quite hard enough. We shall find out in a week or so on the deadline.
One of the books I'm writing about is George Borrow's 1862 Wild Wales, an account of his 1854 journey round that country, mostly on foot. He can sometimes be quite funny and he's interested in other people's quirks, but on the whole I think he'd be a massive pain in the arse. The purpose of the journey seems to be to demonstrate to everybody in Wales exactly how much more he knows – about everything, but particularly the Welsh language – than everyone in Wales. He doesn't like English people unless they are (as he fondly imagines he is) 'Saxons': he reckons it all went wrong for England when the Normans turned up. He likes the Welsh for still speaking their language, but every meeting he has with anyone is an opportunity to demonstrate his superiority. It gets very wearing. Other obsessions are religious sectarianism: he hates Methodists, Baptists, Independents, Calvinists, Lutherans and anybody who isn't C of E. But he hates Catholics and the Pope more than anybody. Irish Catholics are the lowest of the low – Borrow takes every opportunity to mock and trick the 'wild' Irish. Particularly tasteful episodes are those in which he tells freed slaves that they'd be better off in chains, the time he blackmails an Irish fiddler into playing the offensive supremacist song 'Croppies Lie Down', and the occasion on which he poses as a priest and makes some devout Irish travellers grovel to him.
Still, he's very learned and he knows exactly what people from The Dark Place are like:
'He is what they call a Wolverhampton gent... a person of little or no literature'.
A sentiment with which I find it hard to disagree. Have I missed the Black Country this Christmas? In a word, no. I've barely left the house, but have eaten eggs from my mum's hens (two of whom were murdered by my sister's cat, also here for a holiday, a safari in its case), read Goethe, Arthur Ransome and Alastair Gray's astonishingly brilliant 1982, Janine. I'll be posting some gloriously bilious quotes from that book sometime next week.
About the only time I left the house, I took some decent sunset photos from Mow Cop, the folly castle on a crag which famously became the birthplace of Primitive Methodism. Some pictures here. I've been on Twitter quite a lot thanks to my mother's wi-fi but kept the laptop off until tonight.
So it's been a great holiday. Lots of reading, no exercise, good food, no sirens, gunshots or murders under my window. As you can imagine, I'm really looking forward to work next week. Especially as I'm wholly unprepared…