Sunday, 28 February 2010

Start of a new era!

Well, I haven't mentioned it before on Molemaison because we were waiting for everything to come together, but this weekend D moved down to Lincoln properly. We have been eagerly anticipating this moment for a good number of months now and we are jolly excited (at least I am excited and D, in his usual way, is untroubled and contented) and looking forward to making a proper life together in the East Midlands. He starts his new job tomorrow and is working just 2 minutes from the flat.

So, the inlaws brought D down with all his clothes (!) and we spent a lovely weekend with them. Once again it was a trip to Sincil Bank to watch the mighty Lincoln City playing Crewe Alexandra. A passably good 1-1 draw. Burchy was triumphant in goal as usual. We also visited the cathedral where D's Mum spotted a gargoyle that looked just like D! It is really quite uncanny! Delicious breakfast at Zoot and dinner at Nando's meant it was a good food day too. This morning we were back at LEC to tell our new friends the good news. We are looking forward to being members of this fellowship.

And so it is Sunday afternoon in the new Warden household. D's big question of the day was about a photograph of a mute swan we saw on line:

"That's a type of swan, right?" (D).

This follows on from his hilarious query about dwarf rabbits while in the Lake District last year. We always giggle at D's animal knowledge - I think he's got a quiet respite home in mind for mute swans, dwarf rabbits and miniature schnauzers. Those poor animals and their ailments. Although he won't thank me for saying it, it is proper brilliant to have the boy back :-)


Thursday, 25 February 2010

A quick review or two

Evening folks,
Just a quickie to fill you in on last night's film and today's reading matter. So it was Ironman last night with the increasingly lovely Robert Downey Jnr. He is fab in this film and it was very enjoyable. My highlight, obviously laying RDJ to one side for a moment, were (surprisingly really) Ms Paltrow as Pepper Potts, who I thought did a brilliant job of recreating the character.

What I really liked about this film was (as D flagged up before I watched it) there was none of the usual, irritating 'is he, isn't he' motif going on. Superman only has to wear glasses and suddenly no one recognises him (ah, Dean Cain...), Spiderman gets himself into all sorts of trouble trying to conceal his identity, Batman hides behind the facade of the playboy. Ironman is Tony Stark and everyone knows it. In fact, in a complete subversion of comic book devices, Stark decides to directly tell the assembled press. Really looking forward to the next one, especially as Mickey Rourke has joined the cast, and I enjoyed his performance in The Wrestler very much (there's another film to watch, though it is very tough so brace yourself).

As I mentioned yesterday, I'm bashing on with reading the plays for Post-Modern British Drama and I got about halfway through Equus today. It is a very peculiar play about psychological damage, worship, religion and the way we connect events and images...oh and horses. Not sure what to make of it yet, other than it is quite unsettling. Although it is a play it feels like a piece of physical theatre in many ways (had a fascinating conversation with a colleague to this effect today) and I am still at a loss to know how anyone would successfully direct it. For me, it could be placed in my ever-growing 'unperformable play' box. Perhaps I'll try and find some footage from the recent Daniel Radcliffe version. Was thinking today that if, as I expect, the teenage girls all flocked to Broadway to see this production (to see Harry P in the buff - completely in the buff actually!) then they must have got a bit of a shock. Wizards and wands this ain't! But it is interesting...

Anyways, hope everyone is doing well and enjoying the evening.

Wednesday, 24 February 2010

Happy Birthday dear Smelly!

Yes, it was my sister's birthday yesterday and she celebrated with me in Lincoln. We have referred to each other as Stinky (me) and Smelly (her) for many years now. Not entirely sure where that tradition came from, though I seem to remember it had its origins in a contentious game of 'Monopoly' which I undoubtedly won as I am a big, capitalist bully. Anyways, we had a great time together. My little sister is now 26...shocking!

Other than that...the weekend was spent in Edinburgh with the Warden clan. Lovely to catch up with Carrubbers folks and family alike. This week has, so far, been quietly hectic as we approach assessment next week. All seems to be well and I sat in on my first tech rehearsal today - very exciting!

Currently about to start wading my way through the books for Post-Modern British drama. Looking forward to reading Equus and a bit of Pinter. Less excited about the 'In-Yer-Face' theatre stuff. For those of you unaware of this phenomenon, it relies on shock as the ultimate meaning in a world without meaning (got it so far?). Here is Aleks Sierz's description of it:

In-yer-face theatre shocks audiences by the extremism of its language and images; unsettles them by its emotional frankness and disturbs them by its acute questioning of moral norms. It not only sums up the zeitgeist, but criticises it as well. Most in-yer-face plays are not interested in showing events in a detached way and allowing audiences to speculate about them; instead, they are experiential - they want audiences to feel the extreme emotions that are being shown on stage. In-yer-face theatre is experiential.

While recognising its successes (at least it gives the audience a bit of a shake), I have a few problems with this movement. It feels like a group of (largely) middle class neurotics who are infinitely more concerned with their own ego than the state of the world. One of the truly tremendous things about theatre is its immediacy and the way it can grab people, give them a thorough dressing down and send them on their way thinking. I have no specific problem with shock tactics. In fact, take a play like The Resistible Rise of Arturo Ui for a truly unsettling experience. But I find in-yer-face theatre's obsession with being 'shocking', with 'disturbing' the audience rather tiresome. For me theatre is a medium of change and challenge, not a chance to pat ourselves on the back, swear a lot and come up with the most extreme images simply to create "exciting, crucial, modern theatre, darling". So, I'm hoping to be able to instigate this sort of chat with the students and see what they think.

Anyways, tonight holds a falafel and hummus sandwich, a bit of work and the chance to enjoy Ironman. I haven't seen this film yet but D ordered it for me so I could watch it before the second one comes out in March. Hoorah, an evening with Robert Downey Jnr! Not quite as good as an evening with D...but you can't have everything :-)


Saturday, 20 February 2010

Move over Clare Balding...

...well, never let it be said that the Warden household isn't ahead of the game when it comes to our sporting knowledge. D called it days ago! And you thought he was just being contrary! Huzzah for Amy Williams, skeleton bob winner and all round good egg. I'm off to bed - this Winter Olympics malarky really messes with your sleep.


Thursday, 18 February 2010

Heading back up north

Evenings folks,
So it's back up to Edinburgh tomorrow to see D. We've not actually seen each other for two weeks so it will be lovely to catch up.

Rather unbelievably, today was the last day of the first term. So that's the end of dramaturgy and foundations, and on to the new. Lots of assessment to come though...and presumably lots of slightly panicky tutorials to enjoy next week. I've really enjoyed this first term and am excited about the new challenges coming up.

My evenings are currently taken up with bits of work and lots of Winter Olympics. Enjoyed the snowboarding half pipe last night. Those guys are a-maz-ing! I can't imagine how you would have the nerve the throw yourself around like that. Currently it's the women's combined alpine skiing. I've even watched a bit of the curling (which is like bowling on ice)!

Inspired by the Olympians and their finely honed muscles, I have been back to the gym this week. When I lived in Edinburgh I used the hang out at the gym fairly regularly and enjoyed my Bodycombat classes. Down here in Lincoln, it's taken a little while to get my act together and I am seriously out of condition. With a bit of hard work, though, we'll get it back...slowly but surely. I am currently enjoying the subsidised rates of the uni facilities, though I am dreading bumping into one of my students after stumbling red-faced off the cross trainer. Dignity all gone.

Have returned to James Sire's Habits of the Mind this week. It is a book to dip into, meditate on and really grapple with. It is, therefore, not exactly relaxing reading, but it is tremendous and getting better. It deals with some very interesting issues, not least the importance of real critical thinking. Oftentimes faith is regarded as the binary opposite to reason, and in some ways it is. But Sire continuously suggests that people of faith must use their brains. It is a book about Christian intellectualism, but it does not reject intellectuals from other/no faith. Indeed it admires Nietzsche! Sometimes folks with faith seem to reject, even mock the wisdom of others. I'm glad this book doesn't do that and instead really instills a deep love of learning. That is why it is such an exciting and fascinating book. It avoids the usual pitfalls of this sort of book - arrogance, dullness, self-righteousness and anti-intellectualism. I'll fill you in on my final conclusions when I've finished it (give me a couple of months as I'm just about to start wading through the plays for post-modern British theatre -eek!)

Anyways, I'm off to enjoy the thrills and spills of the skeleton bob. D is rooting for Amy Williams in a typical contrary decision. She seems like a very nice lady so I'll give her a bit of a cheer as well. And tomorrow we can cheer on the same sofa - huzzah!

Enjoy the weekend.

Monday, 15 February 2010

A fun weekend with mum and dad

Evening all and sundry. Hope this Monday finds you well. So, this weekend I had the happy chance to spend a couple of days with my Mum and Dad who I haven't seen since Christmas. We had such a great time. Went to Evensong at the cathedral which was very wonderful. I couldn't worship there on a regularly basis for a variety of reasons - the windows are just too beautiful..I could never concentrate! But Evensong as a choral concert was very pleasant indeed. This lunchtime we ate at Brown's Pie Shop which had been recommended by a couple with very excellent taste. We were not disappointed - a pretty amazing beef and mushroom pie, and I enjoyed a large portion of bread and butter pudding. So much for the healthy lifestyle!

In addition to the ongoing Super League season (hope you noticed that the mighty Wigan Warriors won again at the weekend) I'm enjoying the Winter Olympics. I'm a bit of a fan of this event. You get to watch a whole range of sports that you generally never hear about. Enjoyed the Men's Moguls last night. I think you have to be a bit mad to attempt most of the sports. I also like the fact that it isn't all 'Team GB, woo woo woo' as it is at the Summer Olympics - we are, despite our inclement weather, utterly hopeless at most winter sports.

This time last year I was 'printing stuff' at the Scottish Government and whilst crouched over the photocopier (actually I don't know if this is completely true but it makes for a more entertaining story so bare with me) I made a promise to myself that if ever I got a full time lectureship I would take out a subscription for the London Review of Books. My first copy came last week and contains some wonderful articles, including a lovely exposition of the new translation of Simone de Beauvoir's classic, The Second Sex. It also contained this letter which I thought was funny, pertinent and unusual in such a 'right on' publication as the LRB:

'It has been history's biggest birthday party', Steven Shapin writes (LRB 7 January). 'On or around 12 February 2009 alone - the 200th anniversary of Charles Darwin's birth, 'Darwin Day' - there were more than 750 commemorative events in at least 45 countries'
Has he never heard of Christmas?

Thank you Mr John Fletcher of Pilton, Somerset for injecting a little humorous satire into the current obsession with Darwin worship (spot the irony).

Have a fab week one and all

Friday, 12 February 2010

Why I watched 'The Wire' but will not be watching 'Valentine's Day Movie'

So, life here in Lincoln continues to go well. Had a lovely evening doing a bit of student assessment and then eating out at a Polish restaurant with my lovely new Polish colleague. Fabulous borsht!

Received a very welcome card from my dear friend Emily today (cheers Em!) along with a book I had leant to her (Corrie Ten Boom's Prison Letters - I'd recommend it heartily. It is an amazing story of faith under serious persecution). Anyways, the card mentioned that she had read my recent post about The Wire and she was interested to see my thought processes as I came to the decision to watch it. So I thought I'd expand on an earlier post by going through my reasons. It is a brutal ol' thing, often incredibly painful to why spend my time on it? I'm hoping to address the issues not because I am fond of the sound of my own voice (although I have my moments) but because I hope it will help my friends as we all consider our best use of our leisure time and what we should watch. As a Christian this is an important question for me, but I hope it is a important question for all my friends regardless of faith or creed.

So here we go with the pithy (can you tell I'm an academic? :-) ) question: Why I watched 'The Wire' but will not be watching 'Valentine's Day Movie' . First a brief caveat; my intention is not to compel anyone to watch The Wire nor is it to condemn those who enjoy a good rom com. Rather it is to get us thinking a bit. Please ignore at will if it isn't helpful.

I watched series two of The Wire partly due to the effect it had on D. At first I made the decision that it 'was not my kind of thing'. As I've said before, I am a Gaskell girl at heart and like my novels thick and wordy, my plays political and engaged, my music with good vocals and a folky guitar, and my art with intricate brush strokes. What I do not like is ugliness, pretension (I know, ironic isn't it?), unnecessary violence, dullness, explicit sex scenes (just no need!) and shock for the sake of shock. I must admit I placed The Wire firmly in this category and rejected it out of hand. That was until I saw its effect on D. Now, D is pretty unflappable but he was obviously pretty moved by the whole thing. This is unusual and made me look again at this American series.

I spent some time thinking about the whole issue and I started considering the slightly larger question of why we watch certain things and not others. I am convinced of the maxim 'once it's in your head, you can't get it out' and am careful about what I shove in my brain. So, I thought, what about the films we call 'harmless fun'? These generally follow a similar pattern: an impossibly beautiful woman falls in love with an impossibly good looking man, they quickly reach first base (ahem!), they fall out because a) there is some infidelity or b) because they cannot actually communicate with one another, not having the ability to formulate basic sentences. They both have best friends who are either impossibly good looking like themselves or else unnaturally ugly...but funny. They work through the blip with copious amounts of champagne (substitute alcoholic beverage of your choice), having a quick fling or looking with tear-stained eyes at their reflection in a mirror. Then (cue a song by an X-Factor winner) they bump into each other in the street/meet at a party/lock eyes in a busy restaurant, realise they are deeply in love and kiss in a snowy street. There will be too much (and completely inauthentic) swearing and at least one sex scene that pushes it just up to the 15 certificate level. And it will make the audience either cry, laugh or sigh. Forgive me if I sound like a prude or a cynic!

And yet we watch rom coms without thinking. They bombard us with unnaturally beautiful people. They present the notion that you are not a 'real person' unless promiscuous and/or adulterous. They suggest that these hopelessly single-faceted people can have completely happy endings with no pain or suffering or duty. Basically, they give us lies. There are some wonderful exceptions to this rule, of course, but they are few and far between. These are films that are amoral, that is without any morals at all - other, of course, than personal feelings. If it feels good, then it must be good.

And so on to The Wire. Certainly more swearing, most definitely more conflict, generally more drunkenness. But (and here is the reason I would so heartily recommend it) it is engaged, thought-provoking, educational, challenging and, at its heart, a purveyor of truth. Now, don't get me wrong; The Wire is a TV show and therefore inevitably fictional. But it is infused with truth at every turn and allows the audience to sit right on the edge of the seat, make a bit of an effort to engage and have a shocking insight into fractured C21 society. Surely that is something to grab and grapple with. So, why not try something that will provoke and inform you with truth this weekend, whether it is finding a good political blog, reading a report about people who are persecuted for their faith overseas or, indeed, watching series two of The Wire. Not only will you be more informed about the state of the world but, hopefully, it will lead us to care for others more and get practically involved in changing society. Ah, call me utopian if you wish.

Phew, if you have made it this far then you deserve some sort of a medal! Hope that answers your question Em and hope it has been useful for everyone else. Feel free to leave a comment.

You'll be pleased (!?) to know that I'll probably come back to this theme at some stage. Mum and Dad are arriving this weekend. Can't wait to see them.


Wednesday, 10 February 2010

Let it snow, let it snow, let it snow!

Well, I may now live further south than previously but today Edinburgh was bright and sunny whereas here in Lincoln we had some serious snow. All quite exciting actually.

So I finished 'Lillies' last night. I couldn't sleep (funny how insomnia hits at times - no real reason at all!) so sat up until half one watching the last episode. I would definitely recommend it and it seems a shame they only did one series. Lots of interesting class and family issues to mull over. I have now moved on to my next box set (another provided by D) - 'Berkeley Square'. It looks at the lives of three nannies at the turn of the century (C19-C20 that is - goodness I hadn't quite realised that now we have entered the C21 this sort of statement becomes a little confusing!) and their households. I've only watched a couple of episodes (I had quite a bit of ironing this evening!) but am enjoying it so far.

This evening I spent a good couple of hours working on a play I am directing in the new term. It is Ewan MacColl's 'Uranium 235' and I've wanted to do a wee student production of it for a good long time. It looks at the development of nuclear fission; not a very exciting theme for a play you may say, but MacColl creates a very exciting, varied piece, with a bit of dialogue, a bit of dance, a bit of music and, inevitably, a large scoop of lefty politics. Really looking forward to leading the students through it.

Listened to the 'Sherlock Holmes' soundtrack as I wrote. Zimmer did a great job. It is really atmospheric and reminds me of a very happy day with D.

Anyways, I'm off to bed. A nice but busy teaching day tomorrow and, after my 'Lillies' marathon last night, I think some snoozing might be in order. Boris and David the Pot-bellied bear are still doing their best to keep me company.

Have a fab week.

Sunday, 7 February 2010

The start of a new week

So two days and two new posts - goodness this is becoming a habit! Currently ready for bed and listening to the Super Bowl on the radio. Now I know very little about American sports (I enjoyed a Brooklyn Cyclones baseball game once and became a bit of a fan overnight) and American football is a particular mystery to me. If someone can explain the rules to me I'd be delighted. Perhaps it will all become clear as I listen...perhaps not. Ooo the national anthem has just started...

I'll carry on reading the Charlotte Bronte biography as I listen for half an hour or so. Still enjoying this wonderful wee book and I can dip into it when I feel in the mood. Enjoyed a morning at our new church, LEC. The Pastor gave a wonderful sermon on the importance of love in the church. It was very thought-provoking and we even sang 'Here is Love Vast as the Ocean' to cement the point which is one of my favourite hymns.

So, D has gone back to Edinburgh again and I am left with Boris Bear and D the pot-bellied bear for company. Both are very faithful companions but aren't quite as chatty as D! It will be two weeks until we see each other again so it is a good job we don't celebrate things like Valentine's Day. We are, as always, taking courage in these circumstances though, also as always, we have no complaints. We are so tremendously blessed!

Tomorrow night our first Tesco delivery is coming. I'm more excited than I should be about this occasion. Oh, the Super Bowl has started and I can't even understand the words let alone make head nor tail of the rules. What, pray tell, is a quarterback?


Saturday, 6 February 2010

A Saturday in Lincoln

Sorry for the lack of posts in recent days. Not a single excuse worth mentioning so I won't bother. It's been a good if busy week at work. Lots of jolly times at the uni and the classes are fun. This week I have been mostly watching a series I've wanted to rewatch for a good long time - Falling for a Dancer. It looks at 1930s Ireland and the troubles of a young girl who finds herself pregnant and married off to a much older man in an attempt to hush it all up. I really enjoyed it the first time round (1998 I think, or at least I was in my final year at school) and enjoyed it even more this time round. You can catch the whole thing on youtube.

As for the current flat problems (no shower, dark corridor and now a broken dishwasher!), there are no solutions yet. We live in hope.

D is down for the weekend and we live in hope about the job too (not sure if there's more chance of change on the job front or the flat front - ah, what fun!). We are currently working our way through the second series of The Wire. D has seen all the episodes before and I must admit I've resisted getting into it for a few reasons. It is pretty tough watching - I guess it has to be since it looks at the streets of Baltimore. But I think my biggest problem with it is my understanding of the whole genre of television. I don't watch loads of TV (everyone says that, huh?) but when I do I like fairly escapist programmes - lots of period dramas for me! The Wire is different. It is challenging, uncompromising telly which really makes you think about the state of the world and compels you to ask big questions. We have two episodes to go and I'd wholly recommend it.

I guess many might reject it simply because the language is a bit fruity (and difficult to follow at times), it takes a bit of effort and commitment (as any good novel does) and it shows some of the grimmest sides of life. Granted it isn't an X-Factor type show but (as Harry Hill would say) "which one's better?" Is it better to watch an empty 'family show' like X-Factor which only glorifies celebrity and self-centred obsession? I think we can justify our mind-numbing TV watching by saying 'it isn't doing any harm'. If you attempt to watch The Wire then characters will haunt you, the intricacies of the class struggle, the political system and the drug war will be exposed and you will find yourself reassessing your opinions and belief systems. Now that is good for the soul, however difficult the process may be.

Anyways, that is my current thinking (I'll come back to the theme as I've been considering it for a good long while!). Hope you've all had a brilliant weekend. Enjoy the week


Monday, 1 February 2010

Back for a new week

Man, we have a good time of it! Another jolly weekend with D in Edinburgh. Didn't get up to a great deal though it was worth the trip just to see Grandad Young's face when he was told he had flights to Stornoway for his birthday pressie. It will be their first time in an aeroplane. What fun! Good to see the Carrubbers folks as always and hope those on the weekend away had a great time.

Read quite a bit of reading over the past few days including Maurice Maeterlinck's The Intruder which I'd recommend if you are in the mood for a weird play (perhaps it is only me who ever feels in that sort of mood). Getting on with Leviathan which I'd recommend if you like reading about the whaling industry or the sexual prowess of the sperm whale. Actually it's lots of fun and beautifully written.

Last night we enjoyed an evening in with Indiana Jones. I hadn't seen the new one until last night. It was enjoyable rubbish.

So after a busy afternoon meeting students I got back to find the plumber at the door. Rather unbelievably the shower was plumbed in the wrong way up originally so it is no wonder we haven't managed to have a hot shower since we moved in! Fortunately we have a bath which is a bit of a luxury. Here's hoping we'll be able to get this sorted soon.

After our usual Skype evening with the Wardens (on Monday nights we all watch University Challenge together - I know it is a little bit sad though my colleague calls it "adorable" so we'll go with that, shall we?) I tuned in to a very fascinating programme I saw advertised - Tower Block of Commons. A very interesting show and an insightful look at some of the problems of British urban life. Catch it on ITVplayer if you can. Rather amazingly the Tory and Lib Dem MPs came out the best. Now as D and good ol' Councillor Rose will tell you, I am no Tory, but in this show it was the Labour MP and his wife who made themselves look like idiots while Iain Duncan Smith was described by his host as 'alright, not stuck up but a bit slick', Mark Oaten genuinely seemed affected by the whole situation and Tim Laughton's dancing was very humorous. By contrast, the Labour guy had to bring his wife (honestly!) and seemed intent on making jokes at every opportunity and ended the show by going to a friend's house for dinner. Since most of these horrendous urban estates were thrown up by Labour and continue to be run by ineffective Labour governments, it seemed a bit ironic to me. I like to think of myself as a bit of a trendy lefty. When we first met (and interestingly round the dinner table of the aforementioned councillor) D called me a 'Champagne socialist' and I was extremely cross, refused to talk to him and called him 'opinionated'. Actually it is quite surprising we got married at all! But if Austin Mitchell is anything to go by Labour are really quite beyond the pale...and can I confirm that this does not mean I will be automatically voting Tory (just to clear that up). And so ends my contentious political rant. You can tune in to this again next week and I'd really recommend it.

Have a superb week folks.