And now, a few random items from my week off: the new exercise I've been trying, some food talk, but first, I have managed to finish the first part (just over 200 pages) of The Idiot by Dostoevsky, which I blogged about last week. I have to say that I am enjoying it so far. I was expecting it to be a gruelling, though edifying, read, but I seem to be getting through it alright. One fear has not materialised: from my limited experience of serious Russian novels, I was concerned that it would have a terrifyingly confusing cast of characters, with multiple names for each, in Russian fashion. But I have made it through the first part without getting too mystified.
On the back of the book is says that the main character, Prince Myshkin, "is perhaps the most appealing of all Dostoevsky's heroes. Gentle, saintly, foolish, and kind, Myshkin is... the pure idealised Christian." I have been very curious to find out what Dostoevsky thought was true goodness. So far I have seen that Prince Myshkin is honest in everything. He is thought of as a bit of an idiot (a bit soft in the head) because his truth-speaking seems reckless to others. He believes in others' goodness, respecting even a "colourful" woman that the others want to chastise; he ends up proposing to her! She thanks him, saying, "No one has ever spoken to me like this before. They've always been trying to buy me." But she refuses, saying she would ruin him. "I was imagining someone like you, kind and honest and good and silly as you," she declares, but then excuses herself to run off with a rogue, more fitting for her, she says.
In other news, Ant and I had our downstairs neighbours over for dinner last night. Not many people know their neighbours in London. We talk to ours because of things like sharing the front and back garden, and plumbing oddities (their water tank is in our loft, turning off their water turns ours off, etc). One night a couple of weeks ago we all ended up chatting outside as we arrived home from work and we invited them for a meal. It was interesting to talk with new people. We found a few common topics: both Ant and the gent work for banks and both the lady and I are public sector workers.
I splashed out on ingredients for the food: proper parmesan cheese that had to be grated, for example. Very middle class! We ate lamb burgers, which I have made twice now with Sonya's recipe. Lamb is not something I know how to cook because I have never really eaten it much. But the lamb burger recipe is so interesting: lamb mince, green onions, feta, an egg, mint, and cumin. They are served with a granary bun, feta, spinach and red onions which have been marinated in balsamic vinegar! Wow-ee. True fancy stuff. I served it with a homemade Caesar salad and cranberry banana bread for pudding.
The new exercise I have been trying for the last four weeks is kickboxing and self defence*. Sarah really wanted to try it out so we went along to a women's beginners class. So far we have discovered that we are both as uncoordinated as we thought, but we are really enjoying it. This Tuesday Sarah was away on a trip and I had to go by myself--which was almost as nerve-wracking as the first time we went. But I managed to find partners at the appropriate times and also have a quick chat with one girl as the class finished.
Yesterday was the last real day of my holiday, since I went to work today to run revision classes and photocopy next week's worksheets. So yesterday I had my holiday treat, a Swedish massage and steam room session. So wonderful! An hour long massage (for the not too extortionate price of £30) was just what I needed.
* I just learned today that "defence" is the British spelling of the word "defense". I didn't realise this was a difference. Did you?