One thing has changed, and that is the fact that I am reading again. I’ve got through the history of Denmark that we picked up on the visit to Jelling, and learnt about the geology of the Baltic in a guide to Funen that I chanced upon as a freebie in the SDU library. On the plane to Berlin last week, I finally started the book about the northern crusades.

It’s a curious irony that I am now reading books that one might have expected me to have read two years ago, at the start of what is, after all, a fellowship about the medieval North.

Why did I not? I was booked-out back then due to dealing with the end of my second monograph. I was also already conscious of having set goals (deliverables, as the grant-speak puts it) that had to be, well, delivered. That creates a pressure that is not conducive to the reading and thinking one needs to understand anything properly. Should one not be producing instead?

I suspect, too, that from an early stage I sensed how fragile it all was, that the long-term lines of enquiry that this kind of reading could support – probably would not be followable anyway in an academic context.

It can’t be a coincidence that, once one puts an end to such mind-games, the interest in the books returns. Not there the jabber of innovation and mobility. Just the imagination of a medieval landscape as northeast Germany runs past the window of seat 4A: glance up, out, and then down, back to the Wends.