Sunday, 31 October 2010

Fighting against Halloween darkness

So I've heard all the arguments but for me Halloween is a terrifying celebration of all that is evil in the world. Sorry, I can see very little 'fun' at all and when I was young the 31st October meant cowering in the dining room bobbing apples with my sister trying to avoid any sign of ghosts/skeletons/dripping blood etc etc etc. Now I am older and wiser and my house contains a 6"5 Scotsman so I less prone to Halloween terrors. That said, I decided to formally reject the modern tenets of my least favourite night of the year by making a smiley pumpkin face. I was so impressed by the result that I thought I'd load a photo on to Molemaison. Hoorah to happy pumpkins!

How sweet!


Thoughts for the weekend... here are two things I am currently thinking about:
1) Why don't women like Nigella? In an attempt to answer my own question (a typical lecturer trick) I think it has something to do with my rant post on twenty-first century women of a couple of weeks ago - women just seem to enjoy dragging other women down. I love Nigella. I think she is is her flourless chocolate brownie recipe. Oh, too yum!
2) Where are all the brown trousers in the shops? It is autumn, the season of browns, oranges, warm scarves and lovely boots. Well, my bargain pair of Hush Puppies arrived just this week but a search of our local shopping district for a pair of gorgeous skinny brown cords proved fruitless. And another thing...why are skinny jeans so blinkin' tight around the calves? Do I have unusually large calves in comparison with the rest of me? Am I the only lady to have such issues?

D and I have enjoyed two films in as many days. Tonight it was some classic James Bond action with Goldeneye. Last night we watched Shutter Island. In many ways it reminded me of Inception, a film I loved. Partly this was the Leonardo di Caprio factor and partly the similarities as psychological thrillers. I did enjoy it mostly. There were a couple of 'hide behind the hands' moments. I am a notorious film wuss! There was a certain ambiguity about the end and I was still thinking about it this morning...that's always a good sign.

Anyways, given that the clocks 'Fall back' we can enjoy an extra hour of snoozing. How nice! I think I'll head that way now. I spent the day smiling and attempting to impress prospective parents and students at our open day. It is all very exhausting! Don't expect much news this week; a busy few days of assessment coming up. Really looking forward to seeing the students' work. It is always super exciting.

Enjoy the week folks

Friday, 29 October 2010

And another thing...

...two posts in less than 12 hours. Phew! After my Saturday eulogy I meant to post on some exciting news early this week. Ooops for not celebrating this one live on Molemaison...Last Friday Smelly (my sweet sister) got engaged to Stu as they crossed the threshold of their new house. Goodness, when did I get a little sister who is old enough to buy a property and get married? Congrats to you both! We'll look forward to celebrating with you properly in December. Well, I'm off to do some Book writing now. What a lovely day in store!

Thursday, 28 October 2010

Yes, it is late in the day...

...Thursday is drawing to an end and Friday is about to begin so I thought I'd write a quick post before bed. D is watching BBC's This Week so I'll bash out the Warden news for the week. It has been tutorial week so I've had lots of 1-1 meetings with students. I really enjoy these wee chats so it has been lots of fun. Research day tomorrow (yes I have had two this week but I won't get one at all next week) so some Book writing is in order.

Last night D and I went to an evening lecture given by an American gentleman called Michael Albert. He is a 'radical' (whatever that means!) and has designed a post-Capitalist society model, Parecon (participatory economics, don't you know). We both disagreed with him largely for a number of reasons, none of which I will bore you with tonight. However, he did get us talking as we drove home. Questions like 'what is the role of the State?', 'what do we understand by "onerous work"?' and 'what is wrong/right about capitalism?' All extremely interesting. I always like to be provoked and Albert certainly did provoke us! It's John Pilger next week so we're looking forward to that.

So, this weekend it is open day (me) and the sausage festival (D). Ah, Lincoln life...what larks, Pip! And I'm off to bed to prepare for tomorrow. It's squash day as well and I gave D a good run for his money last week so I'm hoping for an equally competitive match tomorrow.

Enjoy the end of the week and the weekend.

Monday, 25 October 2010

Home day

One thing I am thankful for and will never take for granted are my home research days. I count myself very fortunate to enjoy a day at home every week to work on my own private research. Sometimes these days go really well and sometimes I find myself just reading over chapters in a vain attempt to find gaps (of which there are many btw!). Today though was one of the good ones. I had chance to read through the papers for Seattle and get excited about the forthcoming conference. I then had some time to think over my own research plans up to 2012ish. I have a big research meeting tomorrow and I want to sound professional...or at least competent! I spent the afternoon on the Book, interspersing intense writing sessions with house tidying. Living room, bed room and hall are now done. Hoorah!

Then, what should come through the post today but Eric Whitacre's new CD (bought by D but recommended by Pastor Mikey - cheers Mike!). I love Whitacre and I am currently watching the sun go down as a hot air balloon floats languidly across the sky, listening to some of the most beautiful choral music. Any Rudsambeelets reading, Whitacre's hand-picked choir perform Five Hebrew Love Songs nearly as well as we do! Having just had a cup of tea I feel extremely contented and thankful for our quiet wee Lincoln life. Just need D to get home now. He has been in Oakham helping folks back into work today and called to say that Rutland was looking very beautiful in the sunshine. Responding to my friend Emily's blog post today, I am experiencing peace :-) Look at that, both Luehrmanns mentioned in one post!

So a happy day all round...and I even have Waitrose prawns for tea! Yum, oh too yum!
Hope you are enjoying a happy evening too.

p.s. Sleep has just started. Oh, man I love this piece! Rudsambeelets, I can hear all your voices now and I feel a little wistful.

Friday, 22 October 2010

100th Post!

Well, that is an exciting milestone! I really enjoy writing this blog. I find it helps me to organise my thoughts and to reflect on life here in Lincoln. Thanks for sharing the journey with me.

Reeling from the announcement that Wayne Rooney will stay at United (what, eh?) I am taking a wee lunch break from the Book to write this post. I'm off to uni to meet with a student in a bit but thought I'd get this in first. Not many posts this week, largely due to extreme busyness. This is quite unusual for us; our days here are generally quiet and peaceful but this week has seen me running about like a mad thing with dinners out, evening meetings and a school drama competition (I was guest judge - it was like the X-Factor!), not to mention the final week of teaching for this block. Phew! The flat needs a good clean and I am looking forward to spending a happy weekend with D.

Winter has arrived in Lincoln and I had to put our heating on this week. It has, however, been cold and crisp so all is well. The sun is currently shining through my living room as I write. Lovely! I really like October. I don't really mind that feeling of heading towards Winter. For me Winter is a good excuse to stay warm, wear tights and boots, watch films (I have Hugh Jackman's version of Oklahoma on my viewing list - ah, swoon!), read great books and eat hot food all the time. Heading towards the weekend, I am quite tired, so I'm looking forward to indulging all the aforementioned joys.

The big news of the week, of course, was the spending review. We listened to George give us his worst on Wednesday lunchtime in our office. It is hitting the university sector quite hard, unfortunately. That said, there are a number of ways that money can be saved in higher education and to pretend that it is a streamlined institution is just a nonsense. I'm also hoping that students understand the full implications of the fees issue before they go and protest vigorously for a cause they don't really understand. Higher fees should also bring help for poorer students.

I sit firmly on the metaphorical fence when it comes to politics. One of my third years said 'Claire, you never tell us what you really think about politics' and she's absolutely right. I would probably classify myself as an optimistic realist. I am all for personal ambition while being a pretty vocal advocate for supporting society's vulnerable folks. I hate wastage, arrogance, ignorance and petty-mindedness, and love honesty, freedom and generosity. I am interested in green issues while recognising (with a certain amount of exasperation) that some folks somewhere are making a serious amount of money with all this environmental scare-mongering. My favourite thing about living in Britain are the free museums and libraries, and I get thoroughly sick of jingoism, celebratory nationalism or bigotry. I don't like unions who have historically always let the working class down in the end, but am all for peaceful protest and marched through the streets of Edinburgh in 2005. So, put me in a political box if you dare! ;-) As an undergraduate I was a bit of a Commie (at least in a jokey way); I think I've become more complex as I've got older. And Adele, if you're reading this, it does not mean that David Cameron is on my Christmas card list! ;-)

I'm off to do a bit more writing before heading down to the LPAC. Later...

Saturday, 16 October 2010

In Edinburgh

I woke up on Thursday morning to find that our electricity was off. This was not because we hadn't paid our bills, you understand, but because something had gone wrong underground. Strangely the night before D had been watching The Road, the film version of Cormac McCarthy's 'Oh, it's so postmodern, ra, ra, ra' novel. It is a post-apocalyptic narrative and when I realised that I couldn't even make a cuppa on Thursday morning I wondered if life had imitated art! Fortunately it came back on again before I left for university and our frozen meat remained frozen.

It's the weekend and D and I are enjoying a happy time in Edinburgh. Yesterday and this morning were spent in the library catching up on some research. The highlight was finding a play that I presumed was lost forever to the annuls of time. It was a very exciting discovery! We've also seen a lot of the fam, including our wee niece Rebecca who is growing all the time. And to top it all off we had a lovely lunchtime meal at the Dakota. It was Rebecca's first time in a restaurant and she behaved magnificently. She's developing a very refined palate and a taste for fine 6 weeks old! We're heading back to Lincoln tomorrow but it has been a very restful but very productive couple of days. I must admit it has been wonderful to sit in the library and get on with some work. I get a lot more done away from the university office!

Anyways, we have a busy week coming up with meals out, meetings and (so much joy!) judging a school drama competition. Looking forward to that. It is also our last week of teaching for this block which means that assessment is just round the corner. Lots of Bertolt Brecht in store, which should be fun. I'll fill you in later in the week.


Tuesday, 12 October 2010

From the Earth to the Moon

This evening (while watching the highlights from the Commonwealth Games) D and I looked out of our large lounge window to see a beautiful crescent moon shining brightly. It was a wonderful sight. Of recent days the moon has become a more potent image in the Warden household as we are watching our way through the HBO series From the Earth to the Moon. I am really enjoying it. As usual with HBO series, it is clever, subtle and challenging. Each episode has a completely different feel with different directors approaching the script in a range of ways from the comedic last night to the bathetic tonight. Thoroughly recommended.

We enjoyed a very happy Sunday at church, with our friends and out at an old folks' home. As usual D was a hit with the old ladies. Elderly ladies love D - we aren't sure why but I put it down to his height and his Scottish accent. It always makes me laugh!

Anyways, yesterday I spent the morning on the book and the afternoon getting to grips with the finer points of Artaud. Yuck! Taught the latter today and all went well. I also saw my first years this morning who are doing a great job at present. They have lots of good, imaginative ideas. Assessment week is approaching so stress levels (student and staff) are increasing. I, as per usual, am the epitome of calm and cool.

We are looking forward to a trip to Edinburgh at the weekend. As usual it is half work and half pleasure. I'll spend Friday and Saturday morning in the library but we'll also get to catch up with friends and family. It'll also be a chance to see our new niece again now she is 5/6 weeks old. Can't wait to be back up in Auld Reekie!

I'm off to do a quick workout and then have a lovely bath as a reward. I've just started reading the Politics of Aesthetics by Ranciere for a staff book group next week. I suppose I'd better get on with that as well. I'll let you know what I make of it, though, I must warn you, if you are a Georgette Heyer fan by nature then it might not be your cup of tea. Hmmm....where's my copy of Friday's Child?


Saturday, 9 October 2010

Symposium Saturday

So, today we had a day long symposium at the Uni organised (in perfect style) by my friend and colleague, Lisa. A good day had by all. It included a visit from acclaimed playwright Alistair Beaton, whose keynote achieved that difficult balance between comedy and intellectualism - an important balance given that the symposium was on comedy and satire! I met Mr Beaton by the tea stand (where I inevitably hover during symposia!). Looking at the name badge attached to a blue strap to be hung about one's neck he exclaimed, "goodness, it feels like the Tory party conference!". Ha! We then proceeded to have a fascinating conversation about the joys of traveling first class on the train. I can't agree with everything he says (though we do agree on the train issue) but he is an entertaining fellow.

I am sitting in the bedroom wearing my new Roger Waters t-shirt (which is bright yellow with a cool pattern) which arrived this morning. Looking forward to his concert next year - the reviews have been great so far, though D is not letting me watch any youtube videos of it. He wants it to be a big surprise! I've got a Dutch apple cake in the oven (which I mustn't forget about) to share with a lovely couple from church who have invited us over for lunch tomorrow. The flat is a bit of a mess (it always is by week three of term!) but, given that it's Saturday night, I don't much fancy starting the cleaning. Apart from anything else I've been feeling a little under the weather. A lot of my students have been really sick and D has felt poorly for a couple of weeks now so it is definitely my turn. Hopefully with a bit of rest and plenty of Echinacea tea I'll be able to ward it off.

Right, must get this cake out. Enjoy the weekend one and all.

p.s. (3 minutes later) cake successfully out! Of all the recipes I use this is the one that makes my flat smell the nicest. Oh too yum! Man, I need a Twitter feed for that kind of information!

Friday, 8 October 2010

What ever happened to all the women?

A strange blog title perhaps...but it's something I've been thinking about for a while. Brace yourself because this is going to be a philosophical post. Oo-er.

Now, I wouldn't call myself a bra-burning feminist but I'm all for (entirely Biblical) gender equality. I'm also a bit of closet fan of Simone de Beauvoir and I love teaching the more straight-forward theories of Helene Cixous. Proverbs 31 is one of my favourite chapters of the Bible because it allows women the freedom to be active at home and at work and feel joy at both...and they say that the Bible is anti-women (it isn't, by the way...perhaps I'll write a blog post on that some time). My concern is that current society seems intent on counteracting gender equality in a very peculiar way. Oh yes, women can now (for what it's worth) be business leaders, politicians and (even may I say it) academics. They can also be wonderful wives and mothers. There are choices that wouldn't have been on offer to my great-grandmother (who, by the way, spoke five languages and drove ambulances!). These are all good things.

But I don't see many of these women about as I walk the streets of sunny Lincoln or read magazines or watch television. Instead women seem intent on reducing their own status in society. So, yesterday I was listening to a radio programme as I wrote my book chapters. The piece was about WAGS (Wives and Girlfriends) and (blimey even worse!) wannabe-WAGS. A girl was invited on to the show to speak about her experience. She said that every weekend she and her friends managed to get on the list for the most exclusive bars in her city with the sole intention of chatting up a footballer. When asked why she did this, she replied (and I paraphrase), "I just love their lifestyle: the houses, the cars, the holidays. I just want to be spoiled". This is apparently a competitive sport with girls even spiking each other's drinks and telling blatant lies about their 'competitors'. It was all extremely depressing.

Saturday nights (even in a place as relatively tame as Lincoln) sees young women dressed in very little wobbling along the street in unbelievably high heels (I'm jealous - I have neither the legs nor the feet to get away with either of these fashion items!) . Getting very drunk seems to be the way to go. OK, so call me an old-fashioned prig if you like but such sights really upset me. I am not sitting in judgement in any way at all; it's just that when I see these girls I want to go up to them, take them by the hand and say "lady, do you know how precious and full of potential you are? You are a beautiful and intelligent young woman in an age where the world is open to you. Why do you think so little of yourself? You are worth so much more than you think you are". Now perhaps you're thinking "but why not just let people enjoy themselves?" I love a bit of fun, but I must admit I don't see a world full of happy women. There is (apparently) gender equality, material wealth, sexual freedom, the enviable (!?) opportunity to get very drunk and find yourself next morning lying next to a nameless gentleman with very little recollection of the night before. So, in light of all this, why aren't 21st-century women wandering around with inane grins on their faces? I can't see any evidence that women's lifestyles are making us feel happier or more contented. I would be glad to consider evidence to the contrary if you can supply any.

Whatever happened to the finer points of the feminist revolution? We seem to define ourselves more and more in relation the what others think of us (I largely mean this in a physical way), we seem to be obsessed with outward appearance and cannot resist peer pressure. We (whether within the church or outside it) seem to care more about whether we have a man or not than whether we are a good friend or a fulfilled individual. We seem to have less confidence, less self-assurance and less self-worth. Most of us seem to suffer more acutely from sadness and loneliness. Every magazine is full of 1) pictures of women to emulate 2) pictures of women to laugh at because they are fatter than normal/thinner than normal/have a spot on their face 3) advice on how to cope with stress/bitchy best friends/a lack of sexual opportunity 4) men to ogle. We've rejected the perceived restrictions of 'old tradition' and embraced a whole new set of shackles. Though you may think I am being dramatic, these shackles are destroying a whole generation of young women.

So, to finish on a positive note, my hope is that women will grasp their full potential, whether in work or in the home. I would love every woman to recognise their innate worth. I spend quite a bit of my time with impressionable young folks and I just love it. I hope that I'm able to encourage the girls to reject society's expectations and embrace a world full of possibilities.

Here endeth the sermon ;-) Just something I've been thinking about...

Tuesday, 5 October 2010

Fun and Games

Evening folks,
Well, I left you the other evening with Wigan winning in the Super League Grand Final. You'll be glad to know (or conversely you may not care two hoots) that the Cherry and Whites went on to win. Hoorah and Hooray! First win since 1998 I think, so it's been a long wait. And this week we have the Commonwealth Games. I must admit, I am not blown away by this event but it is great to see some high quality hockey on the telly. The sporting theme continues apace in the Warden household with my current health kick. I'm enjoying the tough workouts. Last night I did a truly brutal abs session. My core muscles couldn't actually hold me up by the end and D had to bring me a glass of water!

So we've started a second week of teaching and all is well. Lovely, enthusiastic students! I am trying to maintain a balance between teaching and research. I'm not sure I've quite got that cracked yet - teaching tends to take over a bit - so I am going to have to be a bit more disciplined with my time. I'm writing very clear, very strict daily plans. I am determined to stick to them and, although it isn't perfect yet, I am starting to develop some good habits that I hope will help me to get everything done in time for my deadlines.

What with the start of the new term, my private reading has been very limited. I am continuing with Tristam Hunt's biography of Engels and the Shakespeare book, 1599. But really it's all I can do to open the pages of the London Review after a day of teaching and research!

Anyways, I think another cup of tea is in order.

Saturday, 2 October 2010

Come on the Cherry and Whites!

I am writing this post while watching the Super League Grand Final on D's iphone. Come on Wigan! I've just returned to Lincoln after a very jolly few days in Stockport with the parents. It was so good to see them! I also caught up with my cousin (studying in Manchester), Grandad and Granny. As well as see the fam I was also in the area to visit the Basil Dean archive at John Rylands Library. There is some really fascinating material including personalised signed photos from Stanislavsky! All very exciting! I'm pretty sure I'll be back in there to work on it again soon. This morning Mum and I even found time for a brief shop in their huge M&S. In keeping with my commitment to developing a smart academic wardrobe (once again, see the new additions to my blog roll) I bought a lovely new outfit - grey/black plaid skirt and a cosy black roll neck. Delighted!

Returned home to find D feeling a wee bit better. He is still a little pale and has a cough but onwards and upwards. No plans for the rest of the evening other than drinking tea, having a chat and perhaps watching another episode of our latest box set - From the Earth to the Moon. It's another HBO series (hoorah and hooray for HBO) and is a docu-drama based on the lead up to the moon landing in '69. It's a really intelligent and impressive bit of TV. We've only watched a couple of episodes but I think it's going to confirm the brilliance of the HBO guys.

Anyways, I'm going to return to the rugby. Wigan are currently on fire - long may it continue!
I'll post again in a couple of days.