Thursday, 3 May 2012

I'm back!

So, it turns out that the slightly valedictory tone of my previous post might have been a little bit histrionic, as I did, in fact, survive the flights to and from Qatar. (Without getting too nervous, as well, which was nice.) Not to mention the conference itself.

Me (in blue) in a workshop led by the wonderful Zeinab Mobarak 
But "survive" isn't quite the word. The conference was brilliant. I loved it. It's been a long time since I've spent three days with such interesting, intelligent, amusing, warm people - even if the conversation was so unrelenting well-informed and incisive that I had to resist an urge to lower the tone. ("Revolution in Egypt?! Has there been a revolution in Egypt? Why wasn't it in Hello! magazine?") As a translation conference, it was probably always going to attract clever, open-minded people with a heightened awareness of international affairs - but honestly, it was so high-powered it was verging on the ridiculous... And yet no one made me feel like an impostor, despite my lack of any relevant expertise (when people asked me whether I was a delegate I always said, 'Who, me? No, no, I'm only an author.'). The speeches and workshops were stimulating, everyone seemed to talk to everyone - and immediately cut to the chase about things that mattered, rather than, you know, accommodation or the weather or how long our flights were - and, to cap it all, with careful planning you could eat five meals a day. I felt exhilarated and privileged to be part of it.*

And the place was pretty amazing too. The photo on the left is of the Doha skyline, taken from a courtyard at the Museum of Islamic Art, which is itself an astonishing building (think halfway between a modern mosque and the National Theatre, but with an incredible austerity and grace). There's not much that's old in Doha, as far as I could tell, but the architecture is varied and energetic and really exciting. (On the whole. Our bus did drive past a derelict-ish apartment block, half boarded up and half just falling down, with a helpful facade claiming that it was "VERSAILLES". But I didn't have my camera that day.)  

I would also add a photo of my hotel room, because it was far too good for the likes of me, but there are levels of smugness to which even I will not sink.

I got back yesterday and am still recovering after not going to bed for 32 hours, so I'm not going to go on raving about what a lovely time I had. (Also I am running out of adjectives, and Roget's is in the other room.) I will just leave you with my favourite photo of all. Yes. It's a watermelon. But not any old watermelon. This is a Faberge watermelon. There were others, actually. But this one was the best.

Strangely enough, one of the keynote speeches was the great Daniel Hahn talking about his translation (or was it? well, it's funny you should ask that - what is a translation, anyway?) of a picture book called Happiness Is A Watermelon On Your Head*** (or as the Amazon web address puts it, with a certain threatening terseness: "happiness - watermelon - your head"). Which made me feel that this picture was particularly appropriate.

And now back to real life. And rain. And work.****

But any more invitations are welcome...

* Note to any British Council readers: is this enough, or should I lay it on a bit thicker? I do want those "expenses"... **

** This is a joke. I am actually deadly serious about all of the paragraph above.

*** It is an odd and wonderful book. Buy it. In English.

**** Or should I say, back to good intentions scuppered by the World Snooker Championships? Somehow I know today, at least, is going to be a dead loss. But that's OK. Maybe one day I'll write a book about daytime television, and it will all have been worthwhile.)

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