Tuesday, 18 December 2018

End of the Year

Well, that was quite a term. The last time I posted was July! That is the longest I have gone without publishing a post. If you are still hanging on in there then 'thank you'. I have been using twitter for day-to-day work updates (that's cs_warden in case you are interested) but have otherwise rather disconnected from social media and things. In the face of ongoing political unrest and fear-mongers, I (like I am sure so many of us) have found that the less time spent online the better. I am rediscovering the joys of reading, watching the occasional film or tv show, and hanging out with friends (we had 20 folks round here on Saturday night for Christmas fun and games!).

However, lots of noticeable stuff has happened so it is probably worth a blog post.

In the past few months I have been concentrating on starting well at Loughborough. I am pleased to say that it has been a great move. I am surrounded everyday by excellence: my colleagues are smart yet friendly (a winning combination), the students are brainy yet open (ditto) and the campus is just a wonderful place to be, especially when the sun shines as it did almost all summer. My first few classes at Loughborough have been fun and I have enjoyed teaching the new material. Publications have been...erm...published and, most brilliantly, the Wrestling Resurgence project (for which I am commissioner and co-commentator) continues apace. I don't think any of us can quite believe that we are now a fully fledged arthouse wrestling company that promotes pay-per-view events. Do check us out if you are interested: instagram or our vimeo pay-per-view account if you want to watch a show (and you really should!).

In other news...we gained a new nephew (welcome to the world, Harry!). I/we jetted off for conferences in Munster, Germany and Columbus, Ohio. We still love travelling around as much as ever. After our two trips to amazing Japan, I have been learning Japanese at night school. It is hardcore but it is also fun to challenge myself in new ways. It is good for academics to make themselves intellectually vulnerable in this way; I am not a natural linguist but am so enjoying it.

And now we are nearly at Christmas. This week I am finishing bits off: completing article edits, spending grant money, planning next term's teaching material. I love sitting in front of the Christmas tree with the lights on as I do this, even when it is dark, grey and rainy outside as it is right now. We are looking forward to a little break in the Warden household. We'll have some days in Edinburgh and then we are heading off to Vienna for new year to fulfil a lifelong ambition of dancing the Blue Danube waltz through a Viennese square at midnight on the 31st.

Wishing you all a peaceful Christmas time and a wonderful start to 2019.

Thursday, 19 July 2018

Settling in and back to Japan...

The past few months I have been settling in to life here at Loughborough University. So far I love it: it is a great institution full of positive, smart people. And, bonus, I am able to head out to the cricket pitches at lunchtime to catch some overs (just one of the great things about working at the best sports university in the world!). Projects continue apace: we had our second Wrestling Resurgence show which was an amazing night. You can see all the images and film here. One of my amazing collaborators has just secured £17000 from the Arts Council for the Wrestling Resurgence project: it is incredible to think how far we have come in such a short space of time.

We headed off to Japan again in June. We were in Tokyo and Kyoto last year so this year we were a little more ambitious and travelled right up into the north, visiting an amazing onsen (natural hot bath). We explored lots of new places: Kanazawa, Matsumoto, travelling over the Alps, Sendai and the surrounding coast, Kamakura and many more. We started the trip in Osaka where we experienced our first significant earthquake. It measured 6.1 and was the strongest quake Osaka has experienced for 60 years. It was very odd to be shaking about on the 13th floor of our hotel! Here is a picture of the amazing place we stayed in Northern Japan: Nyuto Onsen. With the atmospheric mist, it felt like a scene from a Studio Ghibli film!

Since our return, our house has been full of visitors from Scotland. It has been lovely to see everyone! We have lived in our new house for nearly 6 months now. I still have some little jobs to do (anyone want to come and do some painting?) but we feel very comfortable here. And I am training myself to be a better gardener: our potato haul was particularly impressive and our sun flowers are shining out despite the lack of rain in the East Midlands. We are rather desperate for a downpour!

And now we have the rest of summer stretching out in front of us, a summer of little trips (to Norfolk, Edinburgh, Germany, Portugal) and work. I am writing new articles and researching for a new book; it is pleasantly unusual to be focusing almost entirely on new projects. It feels right to be starting at Loughborough with new things ahead.

And a final 'hello' to my dad who always reads this blog and has been a wee bit under the weather recently :-)

Wishing everyone a restful, productive summer!

Monday, 9 April 2018

New things

I write this from...my new office at Loughborough University! I am absolutely delighted to have taken up a Senior Lectureship in English and Drama here as part of the institution's Excellence 100 programme. I know I have moved to a really brilliant University and I have already met a terrific bunch of people. Projects continue apace but it feels brilliant to be completing these projects in such a illustrious place of learning. And, of course, we are already well into the sporting culture here - D and I have already cheered Loughborough on in the basketball finals!

We have spent the last few months getting settled in our new house. We love it there - we have plenty of happy frogs (and now lots of frogspawn!), loads of birds and are gradually getting the garden in order. The house has been so comfortable from the moment we moved in and we've already had lots of folks round.

Apart from these two rather enormous changes we have just been enjoying pleasant days. We've been to Anglesey to celebrate my aunt and uncle's anniversary, have been to Edinburgh for Mother's Day and have been watching plenty of basketball (Go Riders!) and, of course, wrestling. Last night was Wrestlemania so I was up until well past 5am and then started my new job this morning (don't tell anyone!). Overall, it was a good first two thirds of Wrestlemania - great women's match, brilliant mixed tag, great opening triple threat. It did gradually die away a bit...though this might be because we were rather tired! We have a bunch of new Wrestling Resurgence projects coming up so have been particularly following the exploits of the British wrestlers out in New Orleans.

The next few weeks are just focused on getting into life at Loughborough really with some happy weekend treats in store - seeing dad in his first musical for a while, dinners out, family visiting. Moving house and jobs give me the opportunity to really think about the way forwards, new challenges and what we should be doing with our time and resources. We are both pretty excited about this new chapter in our lives!

Wherever you are in the world, hope life is good.

Wednesday, 28 February 2018

2018 has begun!

I sit typing looking out at our snowy garden. 'Garden?' I hear you cry, 'but you live in a flat!' Ah, well finally D and I have bought our very own house. After three years of trying and numerous dead ends and false turns, here we are in our own house in the East Midlands. We are delighted with it. It felt like home from almost the moment we stepped in. And gradually we are filling it and enjoying times with our family and friends.

Moving has taken up much of January and February really. It really is a time-consuming (slightly stressful) thing to do. Apart from that we have been watching a lot of basketball! We recently got into the Leicester Riders basketball team and have been to three games so far. I have always loved basketball and the Riders are one of the best teams in the country. It is great fun. Here's hoping they win the final in Glasgow! I have watched a fair bit of Winter Olympics and we've been exploring our new neighbourhood.

Work has been busy and full. All the proofs for the various projects I have been part of over the past two years seem to have all come in at exactly the same time! Fortunately that means I'll be able to tick them off my list pretty soon. I'm also in the midst of putting together a large grant application with a couple of friends. We're also planning for the next in our series of live wrestling events as part of Wrestling Resurgence. We have an exciting card lined up for our next event in May. Workwise I have a BIG announcement but will put that off until my next post when I can announce it officially.

In other news, we have booked our second trip to Japan. We'll be heading out in June for a couple of weeks. If you want to find out what we got up to last year then check out the 'photos' section. This year we'll be taking a different route and experiencing a Japanese onsen and ryokan. All very exciting.

Well, here's hoping the next time I write that the snow will be behind us and spring will have begun in earnest. Cannot wait to see some flowers and sunshine!

Sunday, 3 December 2017

Where we have been in 2017? Japan and elsewhere

So, you may well have given up hope of me ever writing another blogpost again. I think time has just rather run away from me...something I am thinking very seriously about at the moment (more below). So, let me fill you in on the past few (ahem) months.

Well, the big highlight of this period was our incredible trip to Japan. You can find all our photographs in the 'Photos' section of the blog. Suffice to say, I think Japan is my favourite place in the world. We loved the food, the people, the culture, the mix of crazy madness and quiet zen, the incredible public transport, the fact that Totoro is everywhere. We flew into Tokyo (via Doha, one of our favourite places the change planes) and spent a few days exploring this capital's many interesting districts. We took a trip up into the Nikko National Park and spent happy hours in smokey old skool arcades playing 'Street Fighter II'. We then took a bullet train from Tokyo to Kyoto, a trip I have wanted to do for years. It was incredible to zoom past the Japanese countryside at a million miles an hour. Kyoto is a very different city, full of little streets and geishas and amazing temples. And more excellent food (D got quite addicted to these wee omelettes with sausage inside wrapped in nori seaweed - better than it sounds!). While staying there we did a day trip (using our wee Japan Rail Passes, which we used until they fell apart) to Hiroshima. I wasn't that keen on visiting this city (seems a rather odd place to go on your holidays) but I am so glad we did. It was the most mournful and yet peaceful place I have ever been. It has the most horrendous history but is now a vibrant city, rebuilt after such horror. It felt strangely uplifting in a way that I am not sure I can explain. We also caught the ferry to Miyajima, one of the most beautiful places I have ever visited. The cable car was a pretty exciting way to journey up the mountain. We travelled back via Amsterdam (a place I had visited earlier in the summer for a conference). There were so many highlights from our trip - do take a look at our pictures and follow our amazing journey.

Lots of other stuff has been going on - fun weddings, some cricket, visits from our family and friends, trips to Edinburgh and Oxford (partly work, partly fun). University life has been hectic and full - teaching, new articles to write, proofs to complete, and, just a couple of weekends ago, our first proper public engagement wrestling event as part of Being Human. It was a terrific night and, in a bucket-list moment, fantastic wrestler Mark Haskins 'cut a promo' on me at the start. Pretty awesome stuff (check out our instagram feed).

All this has been terrific, but it has also been a time of more yucky illness and a struggle to find real balance in life. I think I have probably always found this quite hard - I have a tendency to really throw myself into work. But I have begun to realise more and more the importance of finding balance, peace and rest, as well as other things to inspire and opportunities to serve. I am spending December (when I am not preparing for Christmas, marking assessments, finishing a journal article and doing a few pleasant travels) really trying to develop this balance. It is an interesting, sometimes challenging project.

So, from us to you, we wish you a wonderful, peaceful Christmas time wherever you are in the world.

Friday, 7 July 2017

Our America trip and the summer begins

Term came to an end and I battled through the marking (some good stuff actually - was pretty proud of many of the great students I taught this year). And then, it was off to Western US for a trip we have been looking forward to for some time. A good few years ago, when we started travelling about, D mentioned that he would love to take his mum and dad on a trip to show them some of the special places we love. Well, finally we managed to make this trip. We began in the heat of Las Vegas, journeyed up to Joshua Tree for the saloons and cowboys, spent a week in LA for Hollywood glamour and chilled out beaches, finally saw some whales in the wild (something I have spent a decade trying to do!) in Monterey, and finished in San Francisco. It was quite a trip! Terrific to spend time with two folks we love so much and to share so many special places with them. If you are interested then the photos are in the 'photos' section of the blog. Here is a lovely one of the amazing Valley of Fire National Park to get you started!

We got back from the trip and I went straight into two mammoth weeks of meetings, writing, trips and conferences. I am pretty chuffed to say that we won two awards for the on going wrestling project: a Being Human Grant so we can host a great event in November and a DMUEngage award to pay for the Spring events. We are so chuffed that organisations see the worth in this project and are willing to support it financially. I then headed straight off to the British Association of Modernist Studies Conference in Birmingham. It was a fun combination of great research, dinners out and chats with friends. 

This week has slowed down a bit and finally I can get to my summer research projects. I am so excited to begin these projects. Have a good lot to do between now and our next summer trip to Tokyo in September! But I am trying to take things slowly and carefully, playing around with new scheduling systems and things. This time of year is just brilliant and really sets me up (in a research sense at least) for the rest of the year. 

Hope, wherever you are, that you are enjoying happy days and focusing on the good.

Friday, 19 May 2017

The question is 'what happened to April?'

So, here I am in the middle of May. When I wrote 'write a blog post' on my to-do list this week, I imagined I had written something profound(!) in April. As it turns out I haven't updated since March. I honestly don't know where the time goes.

To fill you in on goings on since my last post then: it has been an unusually quiet couple of months really. This has been great because work has been extremely busy: end of term, marking, grant applications, furthering some new projects, taking over as the new Secretary of the British Association of Modernist Studies. I also seem to have been involved in a million workshops, training days and committee meetings. So, all in all, outside of work things have been peaceful.

Easter was a rather lovely three week gap in usual university busyness and provided enough time for me to crack out a couple of grant applications (one already successful, one submitted today), spark off a couple of new potential projects (including one with a new friend in Sweden), and complete the final faffy bits and pieces for our forthcoming journal collection entitled 'Raymond Williams and Performance'. We also managed to get over to sunny Stockport to see the family and enjoy the planes at Manchester Airport with our nephew. Shout out to my dad, long time committed reader of this blog, who has been a touch under the weather recently. We had a jolly bank holiday at Lord Byron's house Newstead Abbey and I've enjoyed a couple of trips down to London for a BAMS (yes that is the acronym we go by) exec meeting and to give an invited lecture to the great students at Drama Studio London. We also enjoyed a wonderful gig from the ever-mighty Steve Hackett last week at the Royal Concert Hall in Nottingham.

Today is a finishing off day though, frankly, so much is dependent on other people fitting in their bits of various jigsaws that is has ended up being quite reactive. But things have been done. Once the marking is out of the way (we are nearly there now) it is time to throw some things in a bag and jet off to lovely California for a few weeks of sunshine, great food and country music on the radio. We are looking forward to taking my great in-laws to America for the first time. This means that we'll be missing the Election fall out which makes me rather happy but is a disappointment for politically-minded D. Then we are on to a summer of great, exciting projects. I have set some strong, challenging objectives for the summer period, and am looking forward to working on two new journal articles and two conference papers. This is book-ended in September by our first trip to Japan. Extremely excited by that prospect!

So, have a wonderful start to the summer friends wherever you are in the world.