past and present

riding a horse at the pyramids

I think it’s safe to say I’m married to a very interesting man. I met James when we were both fresh back from overseas, me from a trip to Rome to study the ancient Forum, and James from Syria where he’d been a trench supervisor on an archaeological dig. We were crammed unceremoniously together in a very small office at the University of Melbourne. The office was shared by a number of Classical Studies tutors, and we always found that when more than two of us happened to arrive at once all work would be suspended in favour of small talk, as there were only two comfortable work spaces, leaving one person perched on a narrow desk facing into the room. Hardly polite to have one’s back turned, right? The plus side was that James and I couldn’t help but fall in love.

Sharing my journey with James has found me in many surprising situations, moving to Canberra not the least of them. For those international readers, let me say that Canberra has been something of a joke to many of us Melbournites or Sydney-siders. It was artificially constructed somewhere in the middle of these two cities because we couldn’t agree where our capital should be. Bill Bryson sums it up in his book on Australia:

“In 1996 the prime minister, John Howard, caused a stir after his election by declining to live in Canberra. He would, he announced, continue to reside in Sydney and commute to Canberra as duties required. As you can imagine, this caused an uproar among Canberra’s citizens, presumably because they hadn’t thought of that themselves.” Bill Bryson, Down Under

Canberra was a realm of sweeping, endless lawns, confusing roundabouts that caught you up like whirlpools and spat you out where you didn’t want to be, angry ducks that needed to be fended gently off with umbrellas and a town centre that you expected to see tumbleweed bouncing through. On the plus side, there was natural beauty, tiny pockets of very good eating and the possibility of overhearing government or journalistic insider conversations over your morning coffee. James thrived here, throwing himself into his Masters of Strategic Studies and taking to it all like a (non-angry) duck to water. I had a bit of a mental trough that, although bracingly dark, led to my producing large quantities of artwork and eventually securing a Mentorship for Young and Emerging Authors funded by the Australia Council.

Thanks to James I have also found myself schlepping through the art galleries of San Francisco, coming back to the hotel for a quick change and emerging from the lift to drinks with a Young Leader’s Group, gathered for second track talks on Weapons of Mass Destruction. I think I still have my little WMD name tag, which I found funny, feeling mainly confident to speak on Augustan Rome, ancient magical practices, or equine physiology.

All this is on my mind because, post Classics PhD (in Homeric Studies), James is just back from a dig in Israel at Tel es Safi and last night he blogged on his newly resurrected site Strategic Futures. If you’re interested in international politics from an Australian perspective you might enjoy giving it a visit.

It seems like many of the strands of our early life together are still woven through our days now, the ancient and the modern world together. I think it’s James love of life and desire to contribute that make him such a wonderful man and husband, but they also remind me of my own love of history and how giving ear to the past can help direct us in the present. In politics nihil sub sole novum and I know James’ study of the ancient world will contribute to valuable thoughts on our modern predicaments. I’m so looking forward to reading more.


Beyond the Call is James’ other site, which began in connection with his life coaching work but is now often an exploration of the zen he has discovered through bike-riding. 

The Tel es Safi dig blog:


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