I'm at the NCS conference in Swansea, and loving it. All the papers I've heard have been good, and Christopher Baswell's paper in the plenary session this afternoon was stellar. I've met old friends, fun people, and useful people (some of these categories overlap).
But the best thing is the beach. Less than a quarter mile away, just down a slight hill, across a 4-lane road, and through some bushes, the beach stretches for miles along the bay here. High tide comes quite close to the little tree-lined rise that separates beach from road, but this is a very flat beach: at low tide, the water is half a mile out. Seriously: it took me 10 minutes to walk out to where the water was, late this morning, and I'm not sure that was the lowest point of the tide. So it's no good for swimming, but lovely for taking your shoes off and walking along in the water, which warms up quickly in the sun, since it's so shallow. Lots of pretty shells get left behind, in good shape since they haven't been dashed against rocks.
I'm used to beaches along a continental shelf, where the drop off is steep, close in, and potentially dangerous, where finding undamaged shells is more of an event. Well, perhaps I'm no longer "used" to them, after my years in the midwest, but that's my archetype. This is very different. But it is saltwater, with seaweed, so it smells right, feels right. A saltwater beach is quite different from a Great Lakes beach.
I've heard some people complaining that this just isn't the luxury venue they expect for the NCS. I have no expectations; I'm not a regular at this conference. My feeling, however, is that if it's held in London, there had better be some really good stuff like dinner in the Mercers' Hall (or wherever it was that year), but in a place like this, all I ask is more free time so I can go listen for the mermaids. Something is singing to me out there.