I have been eating cheese and drinking ale.
Excluding nights spent on trains, planes, boats and coaches, in apartments and in random buildings in Papua, I stayed in 101 different hotels.
Range: 98º E (Phuket) to 141º E (Jayapura), 22º N (Sapa) to 8º S (Ende).
Books read on the trip: at least 72.
I mentioned how difficult it was to find a decent bookshop in Singapore. In one large bookshop I found: eight shelving units devoted to home and gardens; twelve to cooking; six to travel; eight to parenting; sixteen to health; twenty to self-improvement; five to new age/feng shui; five to religion; and… three to science.
Some websites I have been enjoying recently:
The last books of the trip.
Adam’s Navel, Michael Sims. As John Banville said in a review, “a witty and erudite jackdaw’s nest of a book.” And it’s brilliantly written. Did you know for example:
• Burned skin peels because the sun’s UV attacks and kills the skin cells. A good sunscreen does two things: the inorganic molecules help scatter the radiation, while the organic molecules absorb it.
• The body may have evolved its hairless state to assist in the functioning of sweat glands.
• The human foetus grows a moustache four weeks after conception, and by the end of the fifth month it is completely hairy. During the last few weeks of pregnancy the foetus usually sheds the hair, which joins mucus and bile to form the meconium, the baby’s first bowel movement after birth.
• We have an average of 5 million hairs, 100,000-150,000 on the head. Even aquatic mammals are hairy as embryos.
• Hair, like nails, rhino horn and skin itself, is made largely of keratin, and it’s insoluble in water.
• Samson was a lifelong Nazirite. So was John the Baptist, and so was the judge and prophet Samuel. The Black Jews of Ethiopia, the Falashas, are Nazirites.
• The head is the first part of the embryo to differentiate, and is more developed at birth, which is why development of the newborn baby moves down the body from the head to the feet.
• We recognise human faces more easily than chimp faces, and faces in our ethnic group more easily than others. Newborns prefer moving faces. Only after two months can they learn to recognise static faces.
• Prosopagnosia is the inability to recognise a face. From Greek prosopon, face.
• The word pupil comes from Latin pupilla, little doll, referring to the image you see of yourself in another’s eye.
• The eyebrows are raised primarily by the epicranius frontalis, pulled down by the procerus, drawn together by the corrugators supercilii. Supercilious refers to someone raising an eyebrow to express contempt.
• In ancient Greece and Rome, women prized monobrows, and painted them on if their brows were separate.
- Flashman’s Lady, George Macdonald Fraser
Angela’s Ashes, Frank McCourt
Nathaniel’s Nutmeg, Giles Milton
Everyman, Philip Roth
Arthur and George, Julian Barnes