Friday, November 30
Warburg-Haus, Hamburg, 13:38
Last night I watched CNN for an hour, drank a small, airplane sized, bottle of sparkling wine (sekt, German fans) from the very retro mini-bar to stop my mind racing, and fell into a sound sleep that lasted unbroken until 7:20. I guess we can describe the bed as comfortable.
I got up, got dressed and walked ten metres to the breakfast room where the options, broadly speaking, consisted of meat and cakes. I found some bread and cheese and ordered a boiled egg.
After breakfast I read through my talk twice to make sure that I could do it in less than the allotted thirty minutes. I then showered and did it one more time.
At 11:30 I sat in the lobby and a few minutes later Elize Bisanz arrived. We crossed the road and into a car driven by her husband, whose name I caught as Buckhold. He may have thrown a somewhat different name.
The three of us drove to a coffee shop and sat talking for ninety minutes or so.
Just before 13:00 we arrive at Warburg House. I wander into the conference room and feel instantly transported back to the mid-nineteenth century. No wonder some of the people I get introduced to feel so self-important: I would too if this constituted a regular part of my work environment.
I chat for ten minutes or so with Professor Doctor Karl Clausberg, an art historian so reknowned that even I have heard of him.
The programme begins in German and switches into English when I start talking immediately after Elize’s presentation.
I half read and half improvise my talk and the audience seems attentive throughout.
After coffee we will have another three talks in English leading into a themed panel. Ed Vessel will prove extraordinarily interesting discussing neuroaesthetics. Tim Otto Roth will demonstrate examples of self-organisation to great effect. I will try to talk to both of them later but will find myself thwarted for different reasons.
I will, however, follow them on Twitter.
At 19:00 we will pause for wine and canapes, and then Professor Doctor Karl Clausberg will deliver a concluding lecture in German.
Elize will lead her husband, two ex-students, and me to their car, and we will drive off in search of dinner. One of the ex-students, who may or may not call herself Antji, will name a place conveniently near my hotel, and we will end up at Gerke where we can choose from a narrow range of traditional German food.
I will opt for a dish of green kale with sausage and boiled ham, with potatoes roast in sugar, with a beer.
We will talk about Erasmus trips to Italy and Ireland, and the backstage politics of German academia. We will also discuss the sheer amount of cars in Hamburg. They fill every possible space.