Well, so I bought a new laptop (I did look at second hand etc but for various reasons decided against it). And all went well, installed linux and all worked like a dream.
Until the power unit completely failed on Sunday morning.
After throwing the fucker out of the window I decided to revert to hunter-gatherer. Sadly I haven't caught anything on Primrose Hill yet. I am still reflecting on whether fire and the wheel fall within my definition of an acceptable level of technology*.
To settle my fit of temper I decided to go and visit two places I didn't manage to fit in on Open House London weekend: Wellington Arch (v. unfamiliar perspective on familiar views from the top) and Apsley House ("No.1 London", the Duke of Wellington Museum).
Both are well worth the visit. The oddest thing I found in the latter was the colossal -and I use the term advisedly, and technically- statue of a nude Napoleon holding Victory (or Peace?) in the palm of his hand, which lives in the stairwell (couldn't really go anywhere else). When I saw it my immediate comment was "Oh my gawd" and it would seem Napoleon's must have been similar: apparently the Emperor found it so embarrassing he had it hidden behind screens at the Louvre. Then the British Government bought it from Louis XVIII for 66000 livres (he must have laughed all the way to the bank), and the Prince Regent gave it to Wellington, who put it where it now is.
Now, leaving aside the odd distinction between the British Government buying it and the Prince Regent giving it (this may have something to do with the removal of control over Crown finances from him and the institution of the Civil List, which must have happened around then) it seems to me that there are more than two levels of messages here, bearing in mind that the Prince Regent's relationship with Wellington was somewhat ambivalent. I'm just not sure what they are, or on whom the joke is.
There is, incidentally, a much better (and more recognisable) portrait of Napoleon at the head of the stairs.
Wellington was a noted art collector (so Jonathan Strange and Mr Norrell says in passing, anyway). When he defeated Joseph Bonaparte, he captured the Spanish Royal Collection, and the King of Spain told him to keep it (so sayeth the museum, this may be something of an exaggeration as the last time I looked the Prado was hardly empty). Wellington had them put in the Waterloo Gallery, where he held his annual Waterloo Dinner, and what struck me here was that one of the three pictures in prime positions (ie in the centre of the three walls with pictures) was of Mary Tudor (the others were of Rudolph II, and of Charles I on the long wall). It's reasonably obvious what it was doing in the Spanish Royal Collection but prominently displayed in the formal collection of the High Tory of High Tories, in a room used for a specific formal purpose? Was there more than pragmatism to Wellington's support for Catholic Emancipation? No, almost certainly not, but still...
It's a good portrait actually. I haven't seen that many of her (I doubt there are many): one can easily see the resemblance to her sister. I always think Mary gets a raw deal: not only does her equally bloodthirsty sister get to rule for a generation after her and thus control the history, and have the most gifted generation of English writers to help her establish her image; but their unbelivably stupid, arrogant, and irritating cousin, her namesake, gets all the tragic status. Bah humbug.
*The computer is covered under warranty of course, and they've agreed to replace it, but I left the manuals etc, which they want back, at home, so I'll have to do it tomorrow. What's bothering me are the mildly confidential documents I'd put on there and can't delete until it has power, though they are protected by passwords... They're on the linux partition, and in any case I'm fairly sure that they'll reformat the hard disk as a matter of course: anyone with the requisite knowledge have any views or ideas?