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.

Friday, 31 March 2017

What happened in March?

So, for those of you who have seen me around during the past month or so you will have noticed that I haven't quite looked myself. Having been ill on and off since November, my poor old body finally succumbed to the flu and then to pleurisy, which I imagined was an illness only Dickensian spinsters contracted! Anyways, I feel as if I am slowly coming out the other end but it has been unpleasant, rather painful and (probably worst of all for me) pretty frustrating! As a goal-setter and forward-thinking sort of person, I really hate it when everything is derailed. The idea of bed rest is rather horrifying; the fear of missing out on a day fills me with frustration. But I have tried to take enough rest in these busy last weeks of term. Sometimes our bodies just tell us where we are at and we have to listen to them.

So, in the midst of this, what else has happened? Well, D and I have enjoyed some good family time with both sides during March. This included a quick trip to lovely Edinburgh to celebrate Bro-in-law's birthday and to play with my fantastic nieces. I've had some fun work opportunities which I have just about been able to cough through. Our Cultural Exchanges event 'Performance and Professional Wrestling' was a particular highlight. Forty people attended which was exactly forty more than I thought might attend when I first suggested it to the organisers! The speakers were absolutely amazing and we had some terrific feedback. I've also finally managed to schedule some important deep thinking time into my week: Friday afternoons (e.g. straight after writing this post!) are now reserved for new projects, reading and pondering. So far this has been a great addition to my academic schedule and I already feel more focused.

As far as other stuff, life has been pretty quiet, mostly because of being under the weather, although we did enjoy a magnificent Anderson, Wakeman, Rabin concert the other week in Nottingham: three guys really stretching themselves! It was brilliant! And we've also made a few life decisions which include (*whisper it*) potentially buying a house. More of that in the next post as everything is a bit up in the air right now.

Anyways, one more week of term to go. It has been the longest term ever and I am looking forward to a bit of a rest and a refocus on some projects that have been rather neglected over the past few months. And it's Wrestlemania Weekend which is a source of great excitement in our house. Finding the card a bit full, busy and confusing, although looking forward to some of the matches: glad to see Naomi back, Miz/Maryse v Cena/Nikki (cringe-worthy but interesting), Owens/Jericho, (I suppose) AJ/Shane O. If you aren't wrestling fans that the previous sentence will mean nothing!

Wishing you a happy final day of March 2017.

Friday, 10 February 2017

Lots of positives

Funny how weeks can be full of great things and full of sad things!

The past week and a bit has been rather coloured by the death of my favourite rocker John Wetton. Meeting him back in 2008 and seeing my first Asia show was the start of my rock music odyssey. He has always been my favourite: his music is always so full of intensity, passion, authenticity and sensitivity. Eventually I had the great privilege of working with this wonderful band. I have felt so sad since his death and we have enjoyed listening to a lot of his beautiful music since then.

The world still seems pretty topsy-turvy, although things feel a lot clearer and less anxious when you stay off Twitter! Focusing on good things like community, learning exciting new stuff (parabolic curves and cures for Alzheimers have been two things I've been thinking about this week!) and doing lots of good work.

But life is also full of great things, such as a wonderful weekend in Cumbria where I finally fulfilled one of my dreams and rode a horse along the beach. Ended up in proper canter. Here is a picture of me and lovely Jente:

It was a fabulous weekend. I felt such a sense of freedom as I cantered along. Other high points: this week I took part in De Montfort's great LoveInternational 24hr vigil. We came together as a university family and made a public declaration that we will stand up for folks, and share love rather than negativity or hate. It might be easy to be cynical but it was a really wonderful time. Here I am giving a wee talk about friendship and creativity to lots of folks wrapped in blankets!

We've enjoyed lovely little meals out, hanging out with friends (including two jolly wee boys), and watching Bryan Cranston's new series 'Sneaky Pete'. The next few weeks are quite settled but include weekends with the family, exciting new work projects, dinners with friends, a few new goals/challenges and, on Sunday, a great wrestling show in Milton Keynes.

So, I've been reminded over the past few weeks about the need to really focus on the positives: the wonderful beauty of the world, great people, significant environmental and economic improvements. I hope you too know real peace despite the ups and downs of the world.

Friday, 13 January 2017

Welcome to 2017!

Happy New Year one and all!

Christmas and New Year were all good fun chez Warden despite there being a lot of yucky illness about. We were up in Edinburgh for the duration so got time to chill out, play with our amazing nieces and eat far too much delicious food. We rang in the new year watching the fireworks and lasers over Edinburgh Castle.

I had one day back at home before heading off to New York with over 1000 De Montfort University students. This (rather mad!) trip was organised as part of DMUGlobal, an initiative that pledges to send as many students as possible overseas to experience different cultures and see a bit of the world. I co-led the Performance in New York part of the trip. We encouraged our students (from Drama, Dance, Performing Arts, and Arts and Festivals Management) to go to as many performances as possible and see as much of the city as they could. And they really took us at our word! They went all over New York and tired themselves out! They saw experimental avant-garde work, musicals, site-specific shows, even basketball in Brooklyn! And many of them were moved by the 9/11 memorial and impressed by snowy Central Park, the Empire State, Times Square and the Rockefeller Centre. The tour of the Lincoln Center was one of my highlights - what an incredible venue! Suffice to say we had a brilliant time. Everyone (including those faculty who travelled over) were really inspired by our experiences. I came back feeling really energised and creatively excited - MOMA always does that for me!

Here's a couple of photos from the trip: Central Park in the snow and the picture of all of us taking over Times Square!

It was an amazing opportunity for the students...and we had a fab time too. Got back on Tuesday and was straight back into term. So I'm spending today catching up with a bunch of jobs I have been putting off. No doubt you will get an email from me today!

The next few weeks include a couple of wee trips (to London and Cumbria) but in general we are at home getting into good schedules and enjoying a bit of peace after a super busy conclusion to 2016.
Wishing you a very happy 2017 one and all!

Monday, 12 December 2016

Coming towards the end of term...

...and what a term it has been! November came and went without a blog post. And here we are in December with the weather turning colder, the decorations coming out of dusty boxes, the festive music accompaniment in shops. Here at DMU we seem to finish later than everyone else (I'm sure, in reality, this isn't true!), and faculty and students alike seem to be rather crawling towards the finish line at the end of this week.

So, what have we been up to since we last checked in? Well, D and I can't remember a busier time really. For both of us work has been full, challenging and (mostly) fun. We've also been doing a lot of travelling. First up: California for the 2016 Modernist Studies Association Conference.

As the lead up to this conference landed in our reading week, we decided to take a few extra days in one of our favourite parts of the world. We explored a few new places for us, including Palm Springs (where D fell a bit in love with the pancakes at Elmers) where we spent out time in a wonderful Air BnB with four gorgeous dogs. We then headed off to Joshua Tree and into the Mojave Desert where we spent a couple of nights in a beautiful desert retreat. Sitting in the hot tub watching a timid coyote pad about and hummingbirds zooming over our heads was really pretty special. Then we headed back into the city, to Pasadena, a lovely area on the outskirts of the sprawling Los Angeles. MSA was brilliant this year. I co-organised a great seminar on Modernist Performance and Global Transmission, and spoke on British interpretations of Russian constructivism on a panel on Modernist Borders. Lovely to catch up with old friends and meet new folks. D and I even had time to go to the Rose Bowl for USC v UCLA, enjoy an orchestral concert at CalTech and see the space shuttle Endeavour at the Science Museum. It was a terrific trip and I headed back into term feeling really energised.

Riding a lovely horse through the desert. Really the best way to experience any place is on horseback, I think!

Since then we have enjoyed weekends with both sides of the family in Stockport and Loch Lomond. This meant fun and games with our nieces and nephew. We love them to bits! Other highlights from the past month include: watching the sensational 'Arrival' at the cinema (honestly in my top 5 films ever), reading the amazing 'Do Not Say We Have Nothing' (a Man Booker nominee) and the New Work in Modernist Studies Conference at Queen Mary last Saturday which included a game changing plenary from Sascha Bru.

In all this, new writing has rather fallen by the wayside. 'Migrating Modernist Performance: British Theatrical Travels through Russia' is now out (available just in time for Christmas, friends!). I'm pleased with its look and with the response from folks so far. I've also been working on a bunch of ongoing publications, including an edited journal collection, and a couple of book chapters. Hoping to spend a bit of time over Christmas reworking a new article out of a paper on Butlins and wrestling that I've already presented at a couple of conferences.

This week is a collection of Christmas parties, training days, and marking. I've been thinking a good deal about two typical Christmas ideas this week: joy and peace. I think at this time (and with everything going on in the world right now - don't get me started!) we could do worse then trying to share them with those we meet.

Happy Christmas/Holiday celebrations one and all.

Monday, 3 October 2016

And with that, term begins...

It's been a super summer of travel and projects. I (actually mostly 'we' - always lovely to travel with D!) have visited Australia, Qatar, Norway, Rennes, Moscow, St Petersburg, Edinburgh (naturally), Lake Garda, and the Algarve. Phew! Lots of great travel adventures; met some super people and realised, once again, that wherever you go in the world you find nice folks who will go out of their way to help you out. As well as an impressive travel schedule, this summer has been about writing projects...and lots of them. Mostly, deadlines have been met and words have been written.

So, what is there to look forward to for the rest of 2016 (only three months left, friends...where did this year go?)? Well, term starts this week and I'm looking forward to meeting the new students and reconnecting with our second and third years. I'm also taking on a few new roles at DMU, including PhD supervisor, MA Arts supervisor and heading up our new Drama Research Group. Research-wise, mostly the next few weeks will be focused on getting funding applications in (groan!) and finishing off a few projects, including this large chapter on Russian emigre director Theodore Komisarjevsky. Once all that is done, my thoughts can turn to new projects. I have two new articles I want to write (or finish writing) in the next six months, and a cool new collaborative project on the go which will hopefully lead to a big grant application in the Spring. But I am also working hard at pacing myself and trying not to take on too much. There is just so much fun stuff to do!

Then comes a (hopefully) joyous trip to California for the Modernist Studies Association conference (and a few days jolly holiday with D in the desert) before a few more weeks of teaching, a load of expected proofs to sort through and then...Christmas! Hoping to also find lots of time to hang out with friends (I realised the importance of this last Wednesday after a slightly frustrating day - man, I am glad for my buddies!) and family, see a bit more of Nottinghamshire and surrounding countryside (we visited Byron's house Newstead Abbey for the first time on Saturday - an Autumn walk makes me very happy), and do a lot more swimming which is my current favourite sporting pastime.

While the world continues to feel rather upside down (perhaps you are feeling it too?) I am grateful for lots of little joys.

Happy Autumn one and all - here's to woolly jumpers, soup, bonfires, hot chocolate and frosty walks! It is just my favourite time of the year!