Thursday, July 24, 2008

Thus Far Thus Good

Thursday and the skies are overcast again: the temperature is pleasant enough, but there doesn't seem to be the promise of the wonderful sunshine of yesterday. Having got the routine tasks out of the way in the morning (dog walking, admin., one full page of Aeneid BkII translation) we made a brief foray into town. Grabbing a couple of muffins and a thermos mug of coffee en route, we went and sat under the lime trees in the central park. All very pleasant. Families were sitting round eating picnics or ice-creams and the atmosphere was one of relaxed cordiality. Quickly popping into the Art Gallery (I know, I know.....but just 'popping in' is better than not going in at all, surely: at least I feel we're maintaining a toe-hold in culture!) and into the obligatory clothes, games and book shops on the way back to the car, we arrived home to a simple bread and cheese lunch and then..........aaah!
I took my new paperback (Michael Psellus' 'Fourteen Byzantine Rulers'), a mug of tea and my packet of French rolling tobacco out into the back garden and, sitting under the vine-clad pergola, read and read and read until the sun move right over and shone on me from the west. Bliss!
The book was surprisingly gripping, dealing with the reminiscences of an 11th century courtier (Psellus) about the machination and intrigues of the Byzantine imperial court. As usual in books of this sort, the first chapter was a tough orientation exercise, with new names flying in from left right and centre. However, after a while, the identities of the characters crystallised and I became engrossed in the details of the Empress Zoe's marriages, John Orphanotrophus' connivings and the arbtirary cruelties and kindnesses of that era. Not for nothing did the adjective 'byzantine' attain its subtle meanings! Having read and enjoyed Judith Herrin's excellent 'Byzantium' it seemed a natural progression to read some first-hand witnesses, and Psellus' conversational style makes for an ideal starting point. I look forward to reading some more very soon......hopefully the sun will come out later....

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