The short version: fantastic apart from Lot Airlines. Never fly Lot. Delays going from and coming to NY, mechanical problems, plus they didn’t admit to the delays until everyone was milling around waiting to board. The crew both in the airport at Warsaw and on the plane were unfriendly and often downright surly, so it made a difficult situation even more unpleasant.
Don’t fly Lot.
It was a bit worrying because with the delay going over I got stuck in Warsaw for almost seven hours and missed my connection and Ula picking me up. So they didn’t know when I was getting in, I had trouble reaching Agnieszka because she was busy getting the conference last minute details together and dealing with all the guests. I had stopped paying attention to necessary details like what hotel I was staying at once I heard someone would pick me up at the airport.
Fortunately, Agnieszka figured out the situation and the info awaited me as soon as I turned on my phone in the airport in Gdansk. The flight there was much nicer, the lights of the city looked pretty and the big moon followed along for the journey. I showed the address to the cabbie and he took me to the right hotel. The woman at the desk expected me and handed my key before I got my name out and pointed to the kettle which was available at all hours.
I was sad to miss the warming as I was supposed to see Mr B there, but given the worries that our finally meeting might result in an epic cataclysm (news that solar storms were approaching the planet and the volcano in Iceland was rumbling added to the concerns) perhaps it was just as well for the safety of others.
In the morning I ran into the ‘other’ Paul, Paul Johnston, who was across the hall and we shared a cab to the lovely campus, which gave us a chance to chat. Although Scottish, Paul lives in Greece and it was interesting to hear what it’s like when Tom Hanks buys up property on a small island there O.O
It was a busy conference. Here’s the delightful David Malcolm and Agnieszka, our tireless hostess and organiser who pulled off an incredible event with mix of people from around the world. They welcomed up Rachel Franks who’d come all the way from Australia to talk about why we like to read about the bad ones who get away with it. Then came the agony of the first choice: Victorian Legacy or Nordic Noir. I might as well have flipped a coin as both looked good. I went with noir and Kerstin Bergman, Inge t’Hart and Daniel Ogden gave me a lot to chew over and the certainty that I really must read Theorin and Lapidus.
Our tea breaks in the center of the building (the floor below the first picture) were surrounded by this very kitschy collection of North Korean art that was apparently sponsored by the NK government. There was a whole table of “our glorious leader” books. We weren’t sure if they were for taking but I had to at least get a picture of this strange horse mosaic. It was quite mesmerising.
In the afternoon I stuck with Golden Age crime with Jacqui Miller, Jadwiga Wegrodzka, Simon Dwyer and Eric Sandberg talking about Christie, Sayers and Marsh. It’s been some time since I read anything Golden Age so it made me long for those long afternoons spent reading novel after novel when I was younger. I spend so much time writing there’s very little time for reading.
Paul Johnston’s keynote was the last big event and he spoke from the somewhat perplexing position of being a writer at an academic conference — though he has a PhD, too, as well as all those novels. Paul is very droll and managed to poke at the academics a bit without making them feel any pain and gave a good deal of insight into the writer’s side of things that probably helped give perspective to the academics who are not also fiction writers.
And then there was the wine reception where at last me and the elusive Mr B met and the world did not end and no one died and it was pretty much like we’d known each other all our lives. After the wine reception me and the two Pauls headed out to the boardwalk in Sopot which was lovely on such a mild night. A lot of the big casinos were closing by the time we got there, but we found a small cafe that stayed open late and sat and talked for ages and yes, the photos I remembered to take pretty much look like the one above.
I realise this is going to take longer than I thought or maybe being out of the habit I don’t have time to be brief so let’s call this day one and more anon as I have places to be.