Saturday, 24 December 2011

Happy Christmas one and all...

...and here's to a peaceful and contented 2012!

New year's resolutions? Check out my new post for Phd2published on risk taking.

See you in the new year.

Tuesday, 20 December 2011

Christmas is coming!

So, last week we ended up with an unscheduled trip up to Scotland for D's Granny's funeral. It was a very peaceful event and we even sang 'How Great Thou Art' outside with the birds singing. It was sad but we were glad that the whole thing went so well. D then returned to Lincoln and I stayed in Edinburgh for two days camping out in the library. I managed to combine 'new project' reading and 'old project' additions. Lots of interesting stuff.

We then had a happy, quiet weekend enjoying afternoon tea and lunch with friends. It is really nice to have a weekend like this just before the busyness of Christmas arrives. And since then, I've been bashing on with marking, although today I took a wee break to enjoy our students performing The Snow Queen at the LPAC. What a great job they did! The children were absolutely engaged, the set looked beautiful, and even us jaded academics joined in the songs. It was lovely to finally see all the hard work pay off given that I have seen a load of 3rd years wandering around looking exhausted for the past few months. I can see why now! They did the department proud!

Here is a video of them in rehearsal:

While not trying to sound like a total slacker, I have actually taken a day of annual leave tomorrow so that I can take my Mum to watch Company at the Sheffield Crucible. It has had amazing reviews so far and I'm very excited to see the great Dan Evans playing Sondheim live!

The rest of the week is taken up with Christmas parties, final wrapping, house tidying, marking, article refining and packing. We are looking forward to a great Christmas break with family and friends. And hopefully some snow! Anyways, I'll give a wee Christmas post before then. Cup of tea and more marking beckons!


Saturday, 10 December 2011

Saturday morning in front of a screen

So, I am currently jiggling around with an application for a research opportunity (ooo, that sounds cryptic) so I thought I'd take a quick head-space break and write a post.

The flat may still be in a bit of a mess but our tree is now up, complete with home-made fairy (the nearest I get to craft!). I'm not feeling particularly festive but preparations are getting done, slowly but surely. The second half of the week was spent calming dissertation students (I was only partly successful with this role!), filling in more grant applications, writing module handbooks, reading Romantic Moderns and catching up with the washing. Today's jobs are: tidy house, make macaroons (the easy way - cheers Nigella!), do the ironing, work on applications, rejiggle a journal article, and go out for dinner with friends. A lovely, varied day in store. The wind has abated here which is certainly good for us residing, as we do, on the third floor.

And the big question of the day - can you make ground almonds by just grinding almonds in my food processor? I will try it out and report back.

Anyways, on with the application. I feel as if I am waiting for so many reviewer's reports and grant decisions at the moment. It does make checking your inbox slightly more exciting! Hope you enjoy a peaceful Saturday.


Wednesday, 7 December 2011

Post-show sleepiness

If you were to walk around the University of Lincoln's Performing Arts department today you would find a great crowd of folks wandering about like zombies, perhaps searching for a last minute costume or perfecting a dance move. This goes for staff and students alike. The tech team seem particularly worn out. We are gradually reaching the end of a mammoth two weeks of performances. Late nights, early mornings and (last night) running around trying to find cardboard boxes to make into robots! But it has been a lot of fun despite the general exhaustion and we have seen some great performances. I was particularly proud of my first year class last night who pulled off a really interesting version of Capek's R.U.R. complete with blue robot blood!

What else has happened in the past week? Well, the Christmas Market came and went. We had two wonderful girlies from my undergrad days to stay. It was so good to see them. There is something about spending a couple of days with people who know you so well! The market was unbelievably busy but we did have a go on the dodgems which was fun (D drove, I had my foot on the accelerator!) and ate chestnuts in the cold. Other than that, I've been reading the wonderful Romantic Moderns by Alexandra Harris: an incredible, inspiring book! I also had a new article posted at PhD2Published. Check it out, particularly if you haven't read through this remarkably useful and well-edited website. I have lost a number of ladder matches on WWE12, have had my heating on a little too much and have eaten just a little too often at the Engine Shed, Lincoln's student union.

And that is my world up to tonight! Research time is on its way. I still have two articles to finish before Christmas, as well as a couple of grant applications. Our house remains undecorated, although I might shove the tree up tonight. We spent Saturday night watching Peter Gabriel on DVD and making snow flakes so I might stick those up too.

Hope everyone is getting in the festive spirit. If you are in Edinburgh or Stockport then we are so looking forward to seeing you over the Christmas period. If you are awaiting a card from me then I promise they are on their way. And if you, like me, are crawling towards the end of term then "strengthen ye the feeble hands and confirm the weak knees"...


Wednesday, 30 November 2011


Evening folks,
So the title may look a little cryptic but today is the final day of the Twitter-tastic AcBoWriMo. What is that? Well, it stands for Academic Book Writing Month and has been run by the good people of PhD2Published. In November a bunch of scholars from across the world have been trying to write as much as they can. Now, my contribution to this scheme has been a little limited for two reasons: 1) I have had a crazy teaching schedule and 2) I have finished my big book project and have spent the month faffing around just improving syntax here and there - this never adds up to a big word count, sadly.

But this week has been much better as I've combined writing with Shakespeare assessments, and have sent two articles off this week - Hoorah! Go AcBoWriMo friends! The Shakespeare has been excellent. Monday night was a Victoriana version of 'Pericles' and last night was a particularly bloody take on 'Titus Andronicus', surely old Will's weirdest play. The second years have done us proud.

And so the rest of the week is taken up with meetings, reading (inter-library loans are in!) and more Shakespeare. At the end of the week the Lincoln Christmas Market is in town and we have wonderful friends coming to stay. What fun in store!

Hope everyone is doing great!

Friday, 25 November 2011


So today is my birthday! Thanks to everyone for making it special! Tonight we are off out to a new restaurant called Melanies in Louth. D booked it as a special treat. This is after having a wonderful lunch out with my friend, Ali. Food all the way today. On top of that I have spent the day rejigging a journal article that I'm hoping to send off tomorrow.

Despite my best intentions, this has been a week of marking and meetings. Next week the research starts again properly, coupled with some of the second year Shakespeare productions in the LPAC. I am hoping to find some quiet corners to finish off some ongoing projects, fill in some more grant forms and get some conference proposals sorted. Am very excited about this!

My two other big bits of news this week: 1) I finally sent the very final copy of the book to Palgrave. It is due out early next year so get your copy ordered! and 2) I was awarded an HEA fellowship which means that I have a certificate to prove I can teach! For this I had to write a 5000 word project which I really enjoyed getting to grips with. It feels great to have this under my belt.

Other than that, D and I have been trying to master the old Sonic the Hedgehog games (we have a retro games compilation on the PS3). Unfortunately I am as rubbish as I was when I was 11 and borrowed a friend's Sega Mega Drive while she was on holiday. I have absolutely no idea at all! Oh, and D did another mega online shop, this time including ten more cans of sweetcorn, ten large cans of garden peas, eight large jars of pasta sauce and enough bottles of juice to form a small bridge leading from our lounge to our bathroom. Hmmm, the culinary opportunities are endless!


Saturday, 19 November 2011

Is that term over?

Well, the answer is 'yes' insofar as teaching has come to an end. This term has been a little on the crazy side so, I must admit, I'm glad to get back to a little research. And, with my first years doing such an incredible job with R.U.R., I don't even have a performance to worry about! So looking forward to seeing the final production! I've continued my ponderings that began in Edinburgh, though I haven't come to any particular conclusions yet. That's tomorrow's job. I have four projects to finish before Christmas. It might be a little ambitious!

We've had a couple of happy days with our friends this week. Last night we enjoyed the Bellowhead gig at the Engine Shed with Darren, Ally and familia. Today the wonderful Luehrmanns travelled down from Leeds. It was so good to see them all and to meet baby Liam for the first time. We feel very fortunate to have such good mates. Tonight is peaceful - online food order, a bit of music, a bit of left-over work, and perhaps a film. It is much colder than it has been and I'm afraid I have succumbed to the central heating. Saying that, I really like the hot water bottle and rug approach.

And, apart from setting myself the challenge of re-learning a beautiful Gaelic Christmas song called Taladh Chriosa in time for the festive season avec guitar chords, that is about it. This week it is meetings, tech rehearsals (nothing more exciting than getting the studio lights on!) and research projects, including the very final read through of the Book. Oh and someone's birthday...though this has passed me by entirely up to this point.

Hope everyone is having a great Fall/Autumn

Tuesday, 15 November 2011

Wonderous Stories

And yes the title is right, before you ask. So, I am feeling loads better although my throat is still a little dodgy. Health always feels brilliant after you've been sick. I even played netball tonight for the first time in probably 17 years! Woah, how old am I! Any old hockey friends reading this, I should say that I did let out a wee smirk when they told me you couldn't take more than one step and there was to be no contact. We always used to mock netball girls as wimps. Tonight, however, my legs are pretty sore!

We had the most wonderful weekend in Edinburgh. Sorry to all those I wasn't able to catch up with! We enjoyed seeing friends and family so much. I had the most fabulous of days in the National Library reading some plays and, most importantly, reconsidering my research ideas. In typical Dickensian fashion I went for a walk around my favourite thinking space: the Museum of Scotland. It is a great place full of shadowy corridors and places to hide. I did so much thinking and reassessing over the weekend about a whole load of stuff. It was encouraging, challenging, inspiring and fun. I might blog later about all the things I have learned.

Saturday night we headed over to Glasgow for a Yes gig. Man, those guys played well! Geoff Downes was on fire and had on a lovely pair of trousers. We had a great night and, as I sat in the SECC, I turned to D and said, 'I am about as happy as a person can be'. I just felt overwhelmingly blessed in every way.

So, here we are in the final week of teaching. Inevitably my flat is a bit of a heap. But D and I are enjoying a replay of Monday Night Raw (wrestling) amid the mess while drinking tea and eating Tunnocks tea cakes (a wee nod to Auld Reekie there).

Hope everyone is feeling really good.

Wednesday, 9 November 2011

Getting better!

Dearest blog fans,
Sorry for  a lack of posts recently. This has been the past week...sore throat, first year assessments, grant application panic, coughing, trip to Oxford for the CLSG conference on heroes, very quiet illness-dominated Sunday, second year assessments, more grant panic, trip to Liverpool for the wrestling arriving back at 2.30am, teaching, more first year assessments, sore chest, delicious chicken dinner....erm, that's taken us up to about fifteen minutes ago.

Phew, what a week! I just can't believe how chaotic life has been over recent days. So, let me fill you in on a couple of those things. The British Academy grant application is now in and done. Huzzah! While I'm not really expecting anything to come from it I am very glad to have gone through the process and just about survived. Grant applications are very odd indeed. Anyways, D and I went on a jolly to Oxford on Saturday. I attended the Christian Literary Studies Group Conference. I really like this conference as, not only is it really interesting, it also suggests that you can be a person of faith and not a moron or intellectually deficient. I find that encouraging. And it all takes place in the beautiful surroundings of Corpus Christi college. Ah, academia!

And Monday night we finally made it to a live wrestling event at the Liverpool Echo Arena. It was WWE Raw to be precise and anyone who doesn't get my growing obsession with Pro-wrestling should feel free to switch off now. The atmosphere was great - a real mixture of people (hence the forthcoming academic paper on audience ) - and the crowd gave a real welcome to CM Punk and booed Cena mercilessly but with good humour. There were a lot of Zack Ryder fans but, for me, Dolph Ziggler and the fabulous Vickie Guerrero stole the show. There is no way he should have lost to Morrison (a wrestler I like very much) and he sold the moves brilliantly. Anyways, after trying to navigate the world's most ridiculous road system (have you tried to cross the country recently? Road works everywhere!) we finally arrived back at 2.30am. All in all a great night. OK, so it wasn't the best Raw show ever but the whole experience was terrific.

So, I have one more day of assessment and then I'd better get it all written up and sorted. That's next week's job. And then finally get this book finished. Being ill has put the whole thing back a few days. I'm hoping that recovery is just around the corner. My voice has sounded ridiculous all week.

We are enjoying our post-tea cup of tea (ain't the British weird with their tea thang?) with D's new Rush DVD. It is the show he saw some months back in Manchester. Those guys sure play an energetic and impressive set. I'm not a huge Rush fan but their music is constantly on D's ipod so I have developed a certain appreciation of their music over the past few months. That said, on Saturday we are seeing a band I am really looking forward to catching again...but more of that in the next post.


Wednesday, 2 November 2011

With a husky voice

So after a very jolly weekend in Cardiff with Smelly and the 'rents I woke up on Monday morning with a bit of a sniffle. Off to Boots I trotted and strong pills have kept the symptoms at bay. However, my voice sounds extremely interesting and I'm hoping it'll hold out for our rehearsal tomorrow. I have even succumbed to putting the heating on.

Life continues on apace. I'm hoping that things will calm down pretty soon but until the Book is finally completed, all my outstanding grant applications are in and teaching has finished I am not expecting it will. D and I try to take a little time out in the evenings where we can and are currently enjoying an early birthday present in the form of the Shawn Michaels v Bret Hart DVD. The Hitman looks nervous and tense, Shawn (on the whole) seems pretty relaxed. We'll see how they go when they start talking about Montreal! It seems the perfect warm up for next Monday's rather mad trip to Liverpool to watch Raw. In a joyous break last night I got to spend a happy evening watching the Disney film Enchanted and eating pizza with two of my favourite girlies. It was such a lovely treat after a long day of assessments.

So, here I sit tonight with the Manchester City game gently pulsing in the background, proofreading the Book one final time. Friday is this week's research day and I'm going to lock myself away with only the Book to keep me company...and perhaps Kermode and Mayo on Radio Five. Can't wait! Until then it's evenings only on the Book.

Hope everyone is doing well. Isn't it exciting that Autumn is coming? I love this time of year - it is beautiful and expectant.


Thursday, 27 October 2011

Nothing to report

Life in the Warden household continues apace with a mixture of sports, films, home jobs, meeting with friends and work. D and I have both been putting in fairly long hours in our respective workplaces recently. I always find that life gets quite chaotic at this time of year. Suddenly your 'to-do' list has doubled in size! We are very glad that, on the whole, we both enjoy our work. Evenings (when they've finally arrived) have therefore been quite quiet. We are on the last episode of the first season of Treme. We have so enjoyed this magnificent series. It won't be for everyone but I love it. Last night's penultimate episode was a terrific case in point. There are so many characters, so many incredibly complicated situations but the narrative never feels rushed or over-populated. David Simon et al are geniuses. The only comparable writer I can think of is Charles Dickens. In amazing novels like Our Mutual Friend and even shorter ones like Great Expectations, he manages to keep all his characters and landscapes under control. Simon and friends do likewise.

But other than that there really is nothing to report. Over the next few weeks we have a number of exciting things going on but right now all is quiet. Today has been dominated by grant applications (officially rubbish at them!), my wonderful first years (I told them they were inspiring this morning...and I really meant it) and faffy admin all amidst the swirling rainclouds of the East Midlands.

While things seem to just continue on at the moment I do feel as if I am learning a lot about all sorts of things. It's funny how you can find yourself in those sorts of periods sometimes. As I was walking to work this morning in my trackies (wet trousers are horrid!) I suddenly felt like going on a long hike somewhere in the mountains. I ended up at the LPAC (which isn't really the same thing) but the desire to go a wanderin' did not abate. Perhaps I'll get to go on a little trip this weekend...


Saturday, 22 October 2011

Third Shakespeare in a month

Last night Filer Theatre Company brought their rather crazy version of A Midsummer Night's Dream to the LPAC. It was such fun and even D, who likes his Shakespeare pretty traditional, enjoyed it. Bread fights, blue lycra and musical interludes!

Today has been pretty chilled out. We've been to the bank, done a little shopping and sorted the washing. I'm just about to do a little work while D watches Match of the Day. Currently the dulcet tones of Alex Salmond can be heard chez Warden. It is often pretty difficult to follow Scottish politics in England - the media is unbelievably biased. We enjoy it when Westminster journalists take on Wise Old Owl Salmond. He makes everyone look utterly ridiculous. Anyways...

So, we are halfway through the teaching term. It has gone unbelievably quickly! This week I have been mostly meeting with students, attending meetings, trying to fill in grant applications and finishing my HEA teaching project. On Wednesday night I judged a very high quality house drama competition at Queen Elizabeth High School in Gainsborough. We had a fun night of pirate-related theatricalities. I was amazed at the high quality of submissions.

Anyways, Salmond is getting increasingly passionate ("nae limits fer Scotland") and I am going to crash on with a little work. Looking forward to a restful Sunday tomorrow and then on with another week.


Tuesday, 18 October 2011

Hot water bottles and woolly hats

So, autumn has arrived. The wind is cold and I wore double jumper layers today. Always glad for hot tea and hot water bottles. Anyways, we had a rather excellent and chilled out weekend, drinking coffee and eating Chinese food with friends, coming third in a quiz, looking at houses (just being nosy) and listening to a couple of great preaches. All in all it was exactly what I needed. This is, rather unbelievably, week 4 which means that we are nearly halfway through teaching for this term. Madness! It is all going well and last night was topped off by our journal reading group where we discussed a guy that actually looks like a cat. Academia!

Tonight I'm finally getting to do a bit of work on a grant application I've been meaning to sort out for a while. And I think an early night might go down well, especially given that I am turning all Simon Cowell tomorrow night as I judge the drama competition at Queen Elizabeth High School, Gainsborough. Last year the standard was remarkably high so I'm looking forward to it. Another relatively quiet weekend in store. I am loving relaxing weekends at the moment. D and I are just spending a lot of time hanging out, watching films, doing household chores and reading stuff.

We are also really enjoying our new box set Treme.  It is set in New Orleans post-Hurricane Katrina and, as usual for a David Simon/HBO combo it is thought-provoking, challenging and uplifting in equal measure. These HBO series are often a bit bleak and sweary but they provide such a wonderful insight into communities and their issues. Not knowing a great deal about the Hurricane and the devastation it caused, I have really been struck by the unbelievable decisions, oversights and social problems. Unusually for TV, this series does not try to provide easy answers or to romanticise society. Like The Wire it challenges your expectation of television in profoundly disturbing ways.

Other than that it's been work all the way really. Not even watched University Challenge yet as I was at the gym last night while D and his buddy played squash. After a couple of wee frustrations during the day I ran on the treadmill until I could run no further. Exercise is just mega! In total agreement with good ol' Apostle Paul.

Anyways, onwards. Peter Gabriel's super-duper new album New Blood is in the background. I have tea and a hottie. Everything is ready for a couple of quiet hours of grant application. It's at times like this that I feel so unbelievably blessed to have a cosy peaceful house, to know that D is working his way through the Smiths' back catalogue in the other room, and to just feel that everything is working together for good. Ace, huh?

Hope everyone is doing really well.

Thursday, 13 October 2011

Capek turning in his grave

So, after a few long days I've finally managed to chop Capek's play RUR down to 20 pages. This was extreme textual vandalism and we are left with a jolly ditty about robots taking over the world. I did a read through with the first years this morning and it all seemed to go rather well considering we were also trying to battle our way through Lyotard's The Postmodern Condition. Pretty hard core for first year!

Things are a little chaotic to be honest. I feel as if I'm running around like a crazy thing and it's only week 3. That said we seem to have happy students and contented faculty teaching teams so that's all that one can ask for really. Today I also found out about the true power of Twitter. Over the weekend I went on a search for a copy of the Times Higher Ed as last week saw the release of the university league tables. Could I find a copy? No I couldn't, and we tried everywhere. I tweeted my disappointment about the lack of magazines in the Lincolnshire area and the lovely folks from THE tweeted back saying that they would send me a copy. It duly arrived this morning. Seriously, Twitter is the best! Cheers to the fab folks at THE.

This week also saw the arrival of two new CDs. The first is a proggy little number from Steven Wilson called Grace for Drowning. It is beautiful, varied and challenging. The second is Peter Gabriel's latest offering New Blood. It is a collection of some of his best songs reimagined by an incredible orchestra. It is a genuinely moving album. I LOVE Pete and this album shows that an old rocker can still have ambition, can still be pushing the boundaries of genre and challenging himself. Terrific.

Anyways, D is going to try and download IOS5 on to my iPad. It took him three hours to update his iphone earlier on today. Here's hoping for a straight forward software update. Apple continue to do Steve Jobs proud even in his sad absence.

Hope everyone is doing really good. We've been watching a lot of Treme this week and I'll post about it properly at some stage soon.

Have a great weekend when it comes.

Saturday, 8 October 2011

Autumn arrives

I has rained all day in bonny Lincolnshire and the temperature must have gone down 20 degrees in a week. I wore my cape today for the first time this autumn. Hoping to be able to wear boots and tights next week. I love autumn clothes! We paid a visit to Louth today after a morning game of squash. It's quite a sweet little place and we had a lovely day.

This week I have been very thankful for my Apple products. D and I are total Mac-heads and we were both very sad to hear of Steve Jobs' death. He seemed to be a wonderfully inspiring guy, able to provide techy goods for techy idiots like me. We watched his Stanford commencement speech this week and much of it has remained with me all week. I particularly like his view of death - it means that we have a limited time to accomplish everything. Urgency leads to great things!

Teaching has been fun this week, by and large. I am particularly chuffed with my first years who fully understood semiotics on Thursday morning and even managed to produce some great practical work that explored the ideas. It is really lovely to work with them and I'm looking forward to our version of R.U.R. This week the Times World Uni Rankings came out which was as exciting as election night. Harvard was pipped to the post by Cal Tech, Edinburgh did wonderfully well as always, Aber (my undergraduate institution) was on the long list and there was a good showing from our Pacific North West (Go Dawgs!) and Canuck friends (BC). Lincoln isn't on there quite yet. There were two post-92s on the long list so they proved it is possible to break through. I was talking to a colleague the other day about the amazing progress Lincoln has made in the ten years it has been around. Really outstanding for such a young institution!

Research-wise I have been reading a lot of depressing (in some cases very depressing) plays about Iraq. They are mostly incredibly bleak with startlingly terrible language because, apparently, (and I can't quite believe this) all soldiers are unbelievably foul-mouthed. Ho hum! Some of them, that said, are quite interesting. And they make fascinating contrasts with the 1914 Flecker play Hassan. Boring bit over!

It's Saturday night and I am sorting out my research submissions. D is listening to some terrible, little-known 80s music. Both these things mean that all reality TV passes us by. I'm going to do a little house sorting, read some books, probably challenge D to a PS3 game and drink some more tea. Let me tell you, this is what aspirational twenty-/thirty-somethings do with their Saturday evenings.


Wednesday, 5 October 2011

Blimey, it's nearly Christmas!

Time seems to be flying by at a startling pace. Not only has it been a week since my last Molemaison post but we are also nearly at the end of week two. Assessments will be here before we know it. This week I have learnt the following things:
1) there are lots of women younger than my Mum who look considerably older. It is a constant source of amazement to me. I am hoping this means I have great genes!
2) when you trust D to do the online Tesco order you get 8 cans of sweetcorn, 12 bottles of Pepsi Max, 16 bottles of water and a tub of Cherry Garcia frozen yogurt for me. The poor Tesco man nearly freaked out when he saw our stairs, the lack of lift and the many bags of heavy groceries. I thought he was going to expire on the stairs.
3) in England folks respond really well to ceilidhs. I was a little sceptical about a ceilidh to celebrate Lincolnshire Day on Saturday but it was great fun if totally baking hot. Everyone danced, food was good and I even got asked to dance by a stranger - yes! Still got it ladies and gents!
4) contemporary plays about Iraq are universally brutal. I need to read a jolly Christopher Fry comedy or something.
5) 'Eat Natural' bars are really addictive and actually aren't that healthy when you eat them so regularly.
6) tea costs nearly fifty pence more at our newly improved LPAC cafe than in the architecture building just across the way.
7) disappointingly, England are a little better than Scotland at rugby. They are certainly dirtier players. Consequently, I realised that in this derby match I was actually cheering for Scotland. Strange! Also realised the rugby union was very boring compared with its Northern, more dynamic cousin, rugby league.
8) the yoga camel pose is really very sore when performed the day after the first squash game of the new term (I lost...miserably).
9) carnations last very well even in a hot room.
10) dance students are much more violent and enthusiastic than drama students when they play the game 'Bang!' as a warm up.

And those are the things I have learnt this week. A mixed bag, huh? Term is going well all in all. It's pretty full on but full of fun. Continuing to send off a load of proposals, papers and reviews. I'll post when decisions come through. I am hopeful! Anyways, I'm off for a cuppa before we watch the first episode of Treme from The Wire guys. The lovely Clarke Peters is starring - it'll be good to see him back on the small screen after watching him tread the boards last week.

Hope everyone is doing really well.

Wednesday, 28 September 2011

Sheffield: city of steel and stellar theatre

So, despite the fact that I have spent the last few days in seminar rooms, in meetings and trying to get my first term admin up to date, actually our standout experience of the week took place last night in the wonderful Sheffield Crucible Theatre. If you have never been to a production at this incredible venue then go...right now! It is fast becoming my second favourite theatre (after the Royal Exchange Manchester which will always have the number one spot). Last night we went to see a truly awe-inspiring version of Othello with the fabulous Wire boys (Clarke Peters and Dominic West) in the lead roles. In typical D fashion we had the best seats in the house on the very front row. In the Crucible this means practically resting your feet on the stage. The performance was a mix of the traditional (cod piece alert!) and the modern. The fast pacing, well lit sparse stage and connection with the audience all signified a contemporary approach. One of the surprising and wonderful things about the Crucible is the age of the audience members. For the first time ever in a theatre (and I do not say this lightly) I felt old! All were impeccably well behaved and the young audience brought a real sense of dynamism and excitement to the whole piece. I came away thoroughly inspired, remembering that this is the artistic world I am part of, albeit in a small way in an East Midlands' outpost. Man, I am one blessed girlie.

So there is my Wednesday night gush. Little else to report; Othello has taken up most of my mind space since last night! Hope everyone reading this has similar moments of inspiration and excitement in their lives right now.


Monday, 26 September 2011

Our trip over the water

So, as promised a post about our trip to the States and Canada. Rather than go through a blow by blow account (two weeks is a long time!) I thought I'd just write a wee list of things we did:

Spent some wonderful time with our friends - Ann, Tim, Jack and Maddy in Seattle and David, Megan and their sweet family in Vancouver
Watched a winning game from the Seattle Mariners at Safeco Field
Ate some wonderful fact too much wonderful food!
Did a lot of hiking
Climbed a lot of mountains
Bought clothes at half the price you'd pay at British shops
Revisited Mars Hill
Frightened ourselves silly on zip trek through the Whistler mountains
Went on far too many chair lifts and gondolas for my weak and wussy stomach
Had a special 'Mole' day with a visit to the art gallery and afternoon tea at the Fairmont
Enjoyed a magnificent, intense yoga session in Whistler
Took the train overlooking the Puget Sound
Watched some inspiring dance performances at the Bumbershoot festival
Saw the amazing Alphine flowers at Mount Rainer
Wandered round the beautiful city of Vancouver
Watched the Huskies win against Hawaii
Took a trip to Bainbridge Island to see the poignant exhibition on Japanese-American experience during the War

Phew, that's surely enough for the time being. I'll probably add to the list when D arrives home as he'll remember hundreds of things I've forgotten. Do check out the photographs. D did a great job. And what is my overriding memory of our trip? I think it'd have to be just hanging out for two weeks with D. Having two whole weeks to spend together and enjoy so many exciting experiences was an amazing blessing. And it was made all the more wonderful by our friends. I had just a little cry when we left as I was genuinely sad to leave Seattle and the friends we love. We'll be back as soon as we can.

Anyways, that's your lot. It was the first day of teaching today and I am strangely exhausted! I don't have the energy to post coherently about it right now. Suffice to say, everything went just fine and it was great to have the students back in the LPAC. Off for tea and a snooze.


Friday, 23 September 2011

Sorry...where did that week go?

So much for my empty promises about an in-depth holiday post! That will come next week. I promise to keep my promise this time! So what's been going on chez Warden, I hear you cry. Well, this week has comprised of a couple of interesting theatre performances, lots of teaching prep, some work on the wrestling paper (more of that in later posts), a jolly trip to Manchester (check out my university blog for more about this AHRC/BBC workshop), meeting with friends and the genuine joys of induction week. Lots of new students all raring to go. So, you can see, in consequence, Molemaison has been sadly neglected. In the meantime two special babies have been born - Hello William in Leeds and Eva in Edinburgh.

When I got back from a long day at work tonight D had a Waitrose lobster bisque waiting for me (what a guy!) as preparation for a night of packing. We are off to the wedding of our friend Malky tomorrow and I have to dig out our party frocks. We're staying overnight in a lovely B&B and might try to get to Stonehenge on Sunday before travelling back. I keep going very Spinal Tap whenever I say 'Stonehenge'. Next week is the first week of term. Start at 9 am Monday morning with The Musical - I have my tiara and sequins all ready to go! But other than teaching, next week is a little quieter so I'll get round to that holiday post. As I said last time D's pictures are already up under 'photos' - I think they are amazing.

Have a fab weekend.

Sunday, 18 September 2011

Photos are up!

Hey all,
Just to let you know, the photos from our trip are now up on Picasa. Follow the 'photos' link above. Sorry that there aren't the customary little comments or indeed a proper blog post about our travels yet. This week has gone past in a bit of a blur! I will get to this job some time next week in case you're interested.

This week there have been a lot of meetings and chats. It's all been very positive and I'm excited about the new term. We've been particularly glad to welcome three new members of staff all of whom are fabulous additions to the department. I've been trying to get to grips with the new courses I am teaching and can't wait to get back in with the students. It is quite difficult to fully plan classes until you start interacting with students again. I love the university atmosphere-it is so vibrant and exciting! Anyways, I've started the preparation and feel pretty calm about it all.

Today has been spent sleeping, working, doing the washing (I can nearly see the bottom of the laundry pile which is exciting) and visiting friends. It has been just lovely but has gone too fast. Tomorrow we have church lunch (I shamefully admit that I sent D out to buy cake rather than make anything) and then I am off to Stockport. On Monday I am heading into Manchester for a day with the BBC. This comes out of a project earlier this summer called New Generation Thinkers. We get to pitch our ideas for new programmes and learn from some great Beeb folks. It should be really exciting. I don't expect to become the next Prof Brian Cox but it is really useful to have some media training. I'll write about it on my Lincoln blog next week.

Anyways, it is late, I am sleepy and I still have some jobs to do before bed in preparation for my trip. Hope everyone is having a wonderful weekend and feeling positive about the oncoming autumn chill.

Rock on friends

Wednesday, 14 September 2011

Module handbooks and excited anticipation

Despite the post-holiday sleepy haze, the past two days have been good fun and extremely profitable. Yesterday was our departmental day away, a chance to discuss the future and enjoy some time together: lots of exciting plans most of which included beanbags. It was a very reinvigorating day. And today I've been finally catching up on emails and jobs in the office, attending my yoga class (a little different from the class I took surrounded by the Whistler mountains last week!), preparing material for a meeting tomorrow, writing my new goals list for the autumn term and doing the ironing. Hopefully tomorrow I'll be able to do a little more teaching prep for the new term. Now we have moved to a ten week term there is a good deal more prep time. This is a great feeling especially with four new courses to get my head round!

I was thinking about how much I love this time of year. September is a brilliant month. It is a perfect time to take stock, start wearing boots again and buy new stationery. I get more of a sense of 'new beginnings' at this time of year than I do in January. I was talking with a friend today about goal-setting. I now have mine sorted for the next month and onwards up to Christmas. I'm hoping to get back into my exercise regime which took a bit of a backseat after getting sick in late Spring. I've got a lovely new Bible study plan and I am quite determined to approach the new term with all calmness and joy. And we have a good many things to look forward to including a wedding next weekend, a trip to Sheffield to see my favourite 'The Wire' guys in 'Othello', a trek back up to Glasgow to see our annual Yes concert and a journey cross-country to see WWE RAW. Somewhere in there is my birthday and hopefully lots of autumnal walks in the countryside, parkin and cosy nights in. I hope your Autumn (sorry American friends, 'fall') goals are going well.

Anyways, I'm off for a cuppa. D is uploading photographs as we speak so in the near future you will have a couple of posts about our America/Canada trip and a heap of pictures to enjoy. Yes is currently providing our music of choice and I'm going to get an early night.

Hope all's well with you all.

Monday, 12 September 2011

Back home

Me enjoying a day at the Bumbershoot Arts Festival in Seattle. Saw some great dance pieces!

Phew, that was a quick couple of weeks. So here we are back in Lincoln. We arrived about an hour ago, after dropping in at my folks for a lunch treat and a little snooze. Their proximity to the airport is proving to be most useful! What a great trip we had! We spent some great times with our friends in Seattle, including boats trips to islands, watching entertaining TV shows about dogs, eating steak and witnessing a Mariners win (baseball). We then headed up to Vancouver and Whistler for a couple of days of sunshine (the weather was incredible for the whole fortnight), hiking and adventures. The photos will tell more of a story than I will be able to here - suffice to say, imagine me standing on a little wooden ledge about to throw myself down a zip wire over a huge ravine. This was my most terrifying moment and we have photos that clearly capture that terror. It was a great trip made possible by our wonderful Seattle friends - thanks guys! Keep popping back to Molemaison if you are interested in stories and (much more importantly) photos a la D.

Tomorrow we are both back to work. I am participating in a departmental away day and am really looking forward to getting back into things. Holidays are fab but I do love inspiring days of research and teaching. Before you ask, there really is no sarcasm in this sentence! I made this term's plans on the long flight back and am ready to dive back in...just as soon as I've had a sleep.


Monday, 29 August 2011

Good morning from the Pacific North West

Here we are in Seattle and I've remembered how much I love this city. We arrived yesterday and spent a wonderful afternoon and evening with our friends, catching up and enjoying the mixed blessings of American cable. And here we are this morning in Starbucks (where the coffee is much better than in the UK) in the University district. We've had a slow start after a great night's sleep and are just about to head to UW for a wander around. I am so excited to be here and to have the chance to enjoy two amazing weeks of adventures and relaxation. Tomorrow we are off up Mount Rainer and on Wednesday we have a wee tour of the Capitol Hill area and then we're off to the Mariners' game. Man, life is good.
Hope everyone is doing really well.

Friday, 26 August 2011

Leaving rainy Blighty

Goodness, it is really raining in the East of England today. I've got to nip out to do some jobs and am putting it off. Fortunately we are off to sunnier (hopefully) climes - America and Canada here we come! We are going to enjoy a couple of jolly weeks with our wonderful friends. The bags are just about packed, house is relatively tidy and jobs are just about done. In preparation I've been enjoying a whole load of big American plays from Williams and Miller. Have one more to battle with this afternoon - 'A View from the Bridge'. I like my coffee skinny and hot, my weather warm and sunny, and my plays depressing and American. Anyways, I'm going to crack on with some more jobs and grab some lunch. There might be a post while we're away but there might not. Hope everyone has a magnificent start to September.


Monday, 22 August 2011

What to do to avoid reality T.V.

So, as we come to the end of the British summer, reality TV has taken over our screens. You even have a choice if you like - either celebrities you've never heard of sitting in a house doing nothing on one channel or a mixture of the truly terrible and marginally talented on the other. Goodness, decisions, decisions. I have made the decision to avoid both at all costs and here's what I've been doing this week to ensure I hear absolutely nothing about either:
1) rewatching the Steve Coogan/Rob Brydon series, 'The Trip'. I absolutely loved this the first time round and it is just as good when you watch it again. I'm not often really moved by television but this show makes me laugh aloud and feel strangely sad in each half hour episode. There are a lot of lines that have become catch phrases chez Warden.
2) tidying our flat. So the big tidy up is nearly completed. There are a few dodgy cupboards left over but they can just wait. I'll do them one at a time during term. The whole place feels a lot better.
3) reading American plays. Every summer I try to give myself a reading challenge. I did this when I was a kid and amongst the topics I tackled were monkeys, the poems of Rupert Brooke and the life and times of Richard III (who wasn't half as bad as Shakespeare suggested). This summer I'm trying to read as many American plays as I can. I've been working my way through Tennessee Williams and have now reached Arthur Miller. I've had a bit of Elmer Rice thrown in there too.
4) planning our trip to America/Canada. Man, we are getting excited about this! We've booked lots of special days out and some exciting adventures. Tonight we spent half an hour drooling over menus.
5) finding new blogs. I find blogs by women quite problematic. They can be a little predictable. Recently I've found a whole load of new blogs by some wonderful, creative ladies across the world. They are inspirational traveller types, happy to engage with a range of topics, write witty posts and provide some lovely pictures. One blogged about her recent reading matter - 'One Hundred Years of Solitude' by Marquez. This is genuinely the strangest, most beautiful book and anyone who battles all the way through it without getting totally lost is most certainly a friend of mine.
6) finishing projects. I'm slowly ticking off projects, getting to the point where I can leave them and come back to them during the busy first semester. It's all going quite well. There's one on Flecker's weird ol' play, 'Hassan', a couple of papers on wrestling (shush, don't tell anyone), an article on performing the archive and my HEA teaching project.
7) enjoying the sunshine. Man, the weather in Lincoln is truly sensational all the time. I take a jacket with me wherever I go out of habit but never really need it at this time of year.
8) reading together. D and I are enjoying reading a book out loud together at the moment. It is called 'Mirror, mirror' by a guy called Graham Beynon. It is a Biblical look at self-esteem. It is really interesting and deals with an issue that we all struggle with at times.
9) eating chocolate fudge cake. We had a friend over for dinner yesterday and, rather than make a pudding, I was really lazy and bought an amazing cake from our favourite farm shop at Doddington Hall. Man, it was really good and there was even enough for a little bit tonight.
10) hitting golf balls. On Saturday I turned a golfing corner and hit balls consistently off the grass rather than the tee. I was very proud of myself.

So, that's your lot. Hope you're finding elegant ways of avoiding rubbish telly. Right now, D is listening to Pink Floyd on YouTube and I am hankering after a cup of tea before I tackle the ironing.

I'll post a little something before we go away. Hope everyone is doing really well.


Thursday, 18 August 2011

Married to a pilot...

...actually not really but yesterday D did take a flight in a very small plane with his mate who's a RAF officer. He even got to take the controls for a short while. They left from Waddington which I can see from our flat. I waved as they went...except they took off the other way so actually I waved at another plane entirely. Hope the pilot appreciated the mad woman on the balcony. Anyways, since Sunday it has been a mixture of writing, resit marking and module handbook compiling. It seems hard to believe that the new term is around the corner. And, of course, we've been doing some further planning for our trip Stateside. We've booked some great trips in the mountains and have even lined up a zip wire trek in Whistler. I must be mad to have said yes to that one!

So here we sit watching old wrestling matches on YouTube and contemplating a cuppa. The flat tidy continues apace and the office is now done. It feels brilliant. We're on to the kitchen on Saturday. We're also hoping to have a test drive in a car we might buy and hit a couple of balls at the driving range. In recent days we've been enjoying opening our home to new friends. D and I really like having folks over, cooking a meal and chatting into the night. We have two more opportunities to do this at the weekend. Our fridge is full of food in preparation. My other aim over the weekend is to avoid the onslaught of reality TV. It seems to be taking over again and I am going to pretend it isn't there from now until we predictably have a new Christmas number one. University Challenge is the only thing that keeps me sane!

More jolly posting over the weekend.

Sunday, 14 August 2011

On the range and the court

So, since my last post the riots have calmed down and we are in the 'coming up with simplistic answers' phase which I am trying to ignore. Instead of pondering the ins and outs of it all, D and I have been indulging a few sporting passions. We enjoyed a bit of tennis this week. Lincoln has some free (yes, really free) courts near the common so D and I dusted off our rackets and did our best Federer impressions. After a couple of games of utter rubbish, we started to improve a bit. Two summers ago we played loads of tennis so it was good to get back out there. Yesterday we took to the driving range and hit a few balls. I have to say I was ten times better than I thought I'd be. It's been a good long time since I played so I was quite pleased. My trouble is that whatever the club, the ball always goes about 100yards. It doesn't matter if it's a driver or a 9iron. And today we visited my horse friends at Bransby. This horse home is one of my favourite places to go. D and I remembered what a great place Lincoln is to live. Yes, it is a bit dull but you can be in the country so quickly and just take a peaceful walk with some fresh air. Lovely.

Anyways, we are beginning to plan our trip to the States/Canada and are looking forward to seeing our friends and enjoying two weeks of food and fun. Before then I have two weeks of new projects (all seem to be going well) and organising. I am in the middle of a big house reshuffle at the moment that I might have mentioned briefly before. This week I took four big bags of clothes to Barnados and threw out some old stuff that really wasn't worth keeping. So now my wardrobe feels a whole heap better. I've got to do the kitchen and the office this week. I have dreams of a lovely, peaceful minimalist household but I don't actually have the heart for it. I am a sentimental hoarder by nature! But I have good intentions!

Anyways, tea beckons before a snooze. D is shouting at Match of the Day which must mean that the Premier League has started again. I have no interest in football any more. I used to love it but money and moany players have taken over the game and I just don't care very much anymore. Every time I see my beloved Eric Cantona on the telly promoting hair products or sporting goods or whatever, I feel a strange twinge of nostalgia for happier footballing days when my bedroom was covered in posters and you could still bump into David Beckham in HMV in Manchester. Ah well.

Have a great week folks.

Thursday, 11 August 2011

Dirty Old Town

So I suppose we can't go on ignoring the riots that have appeared across Britain. I must admit I've spent the last couple of days feeling a bit depressed about the whole thing and have thought long and hard about the issues involved.

In fact, in a strange juxtaposition, today I have finished a book chapter on Manchester-Salford and a fictional riot in response to the lack of decent post-War housing. The similarities are striking: inequalities, ghettoisation of communities etc etc. There are also differences of course. In the 1950s they appeared to be rioting for a house rather than a telly.

Over the past few days three things have occurred to me:
 1) how easy it is to simplify complicated issues and just create 'baddies'. It is the 'Hitler was an evil maniac' logic. In saying such things we vilify an individual/individuals thereby making ourselves feel better (e.g. I am not an 'evil maniac') and allows us to ignore bigger issues by categorising people. Such simplification is a bit of a relief and a natural reaction to panic, but isn't tremendously helpful in the long term. It goes no way to really addressing the underlying issues which are multitudinous and complex.
2) there is nothing new under the sun. Many people feel that the the world is getting worse. Actually irritating 24 hour news has compelled us to believe this lie. Go and read a couple of paragraphs about Medieval torture or about Roman occupation or the horrific deaths of millions in the pointless First World War and then tell me that society is worse. Society is the same and, more importantly, humanity is the same. We might not like humanity but it hasn't really changed. It's just found new outlets. I always turn to the book of Ecclesiastes in the Bible when I feel despair coming on. Ever has it been thus, my friends - there is 'nothing new under the sun'.
 3) this is what happens when we base our identity on stuff. Now, I don't want to bash on about the perils of capitalism. Again, it is a complex issue and I have no wish to oversimplify. But when life becomes entirely about the latest phone/computer/pair of trainers then something is far wrong. This is as true for the rich guy with his tenth posh car as for the looter stealing (apparently based on tonight's news) a couple of t-shirts or some nail varnish. In today's market-driven, advertising-mad, materialistic world, it is entirely unsurprising that everyone wants the latest stuff by whatever means. It is also inevitable that some people will have more (in some cases much more) and some will have less. The question of how we can address this I will leave for other blog posts by other far more intelligent people.

During the course of the past few days I've moved beyond the panic phase, largely thanks to long conversations with my ever-patient husband. In fact I have been thinking more broadly about our world. While Britain reels from the shock of some smashed shops, Syria has sent in the troops, East Africa suffers from one of the worst droughts in many years, the poor families in Norway still mourn the loss of their young people, Mexican drug gangs are committing unthinkable atrocities and Japan is still coming to terms with the unbelievable tsunami. I feel extremely sorry for the small shop owners and residents who have lost so much; I feel particularly sorry for the dignified father of one of the young men killed in Birmingham. His testimony is an inspiration. But, as D has helped me to see, we are citizens of the world with all its joys and troubles. From the BBC's 24hour panic coverage over the past few days you wouldn't know that the rest of the world existed at all.

Good on the communities who have cleaned up their cities (particularly in my home city Manchester- Mancs are never defeated!) and hooray for the weather which has dampened spirits a little. Respect for all those who are just trying to help others at this time, not jumping on bandwagons, making arrogant assumptions or forming vigilante mobs but just showing love and care to their neighbours. Hoping and praying for peace and good folks who can take on the challenge of addressing society's problems.


Monday, 8 August 2011

Fair thee weel thou first and fairest

On Saturday night we arrived back from lovely Chequers near Belvoir, where we had a delicious meal, and enjoyed a bit of Scottish folk singing.  This was in honour of the visit of Charlie and Liz, D's aunty and uncle. We went from Killicrankie to Ae Fond Kiss via Shoals of Herring. A wee taste of the Highlands in the centre of Lincoln. We had a very jolly weekend with them. You can really find some great old folkie stuff on YouTube! Check it out!

Friday was a momentous day - I sent the final draft of the book to Palgrave. I can't quite believe that I've done it! I am proud of the final result and full of thanks to everyone who has helped me on the way. To remind me of happy days at IASH where this project started, I listened to a collection of Trevor Rabin soundtracks before switching to a bit of John Wetton for the final push. Celebrated with scampi and chips at the Elite. Too yum! I've spent the last couple of days on a forthcoming paper for the International Journal of Scottish Theatre and a book chapter for a collected edited edition due out next year. For the next few weeks I am finishing a range of projects, sending papers off, finalising drafts etc. All good fun.

But tomorrow I have taken a day of annual leave so I can reorganise the flat. I have wanted to do this job for a while now and have reorganised some corners already. The aim is to get the whole flat done before we go away in three weeks. So tomorrow is sort of a kick start for this process. Looking forward to listening to some tunes and getting the duster out. Tonight, however, is going to be taken up with dinner (in the oven), University Challenge (my favourite), a short workout and watching the highlights from the Wigan game. Lovely!


Wednesday, 3 August 2011

Finishing the book and other odds and ends

Evening! The past week has been spent plugged into my computer and (drum roll) I have finished the book! But I've not sent it yet as I've got a fear of empty nest syndrome. When you've been working on something for so long it becomes difficult to let it wander off on its own into the big scary world. And it's not that the metaphorical nest is empty. I have another book chapter project to finish by the end of next week!

There really hasn't been much space for anything else in my head over the past week. After a 13 hour computer-based marathon on Saturday (not half as healthy as a real marathon) we enjoyed a restful happy Sunday, taking a walk in our favourite Whisby Park. I've been reading my Feynmann book, doing a few workouts, enjoying the unbelievably hot weather and spending some recently found old book tokens on the classic The Story of Art by Gombrich. And that's it. In my breaks from proofreading I've been working on my Higher Education Academy fellowship project. I'm not sure if I've mentioned this is the equivalent of a PGCE for university lecturers and a way of recognising my achievements (or indeed otherwise) as a teacher. It means I'm reading loads of fascinating books about teaching styles. I am really enjoying the process and it's really causing me to rethink my teaching strategies.

Otherwise I have mostly been listening to Dave Gilmour's album 'On an Island', enjoying treats from Waitrose after D grabbed a load of bargains and introducing D to the excitement of Baudrillard's simulacra.

When the book is finally set free I will write a couple of longer posts on some issues I've been thinking about recently. Until then you will have to put up with inane ramblings.

Ah, the storm has started outside. I'm hoping this will make my world a little cooler. It is truly roasting in Lincoln.


Thursday, 28 July 2011

Up the irons!

Last night we took a trip out to Nottingham and, after grappling with the world's most claustrophobic car park, we made out way to the Trent Arena to enjoy a night with Iron Maiden. I arrived wondering if I was the only person present who had done a midday yoga class and eaten sushi for lunch. We were certainly two of the few who weren't wearing Eddie t-shirts. And I came away with a hankering for a tattoo. But, as usual with recent gigs, the night totally defied my expectations. Everyone we met was wonderful - polite, kind and totally up for a big rock party. And crikey, it was loud! My ears are still slightly sore this evening!

My highlight of the night was definitely 'Fear of the Dark' which is my favourite Iron Maiden track, although I really enjoyed 'Coming Home' too. There was much air guitar and arms in the air. It was a night that would have challenged anyone's preconceptions of hard rock. Yes, they did sing 'Number of the Beast' but it's a far more interesting song that you might expect and, no, it isn't about worshipping the Devil. Yes, the iconography is all skeletons etc, but it really comes down to a group of nice old rockers and a euphoric, passionate crowd. As D said, the images are more Sharpe than Satan. Bruce even donned an army red coat. Brilliant. Anyways, all in all it was a great night but my poor ears need a break.

My days are full of proofreading and listening to the swimming world championships on the radio. This happy, relaxed lifestyle will continue through August as I get to grips with some new projects. Other than that I've been enjoying the wrestling with Triple H taking over the WWE, the return of JR and CM Punk strutting about in the belt. But that is for another post...

Cup of tea beckons...

Saturday, 23 July 2011

Happy days

Apologies for the lack of posts this week. I've spent most days chained to my computer proofreading so by the evening I've been less than keen to stare at a screen! But here we are. Today was spent with our dear friends from LEC. They have two children so we took them water skiing at Holme Pierrepoint. It was brilliant fun, though I was rubbish. D persevered and definitely got the 'crash of the day' award. It is a really intense sport and you go extremely quickly. Developed a love of wet suits - surely the world's most comfortable garment. We came back for computer games, pizza and homemade ice-cream. A great day, though I must admit I feel pretty sleepy this evening.

So, what else has been occurring in Lincoln? Well, University Challenge is back and we've been enjoying the new series, I've started my flat declutter and feel better about it all already and we've sorted out some of the arrangements for our forthcoming trip Stateside. I am so looking forward to seeing our friends and enjoying two weeks across the pond. It's going to be a very chilled out time of baseball, music festivals and exploring. Lovely! Apart from that it has mostly been work. It seems as if a lot of new projects are coming up at the moment, all with deadlines in the next two weeks. On top of the final book read it is all feeling pretty busy. It is brilliant to feel as if things are really taking off and I'm so glad for all the opportunities.

Anyways, I'm off for a rest and another cuppa. I might even watch telly for a bit. Saturday night chez Warden.

Not another wipeout! 

Monday, 18 July 2011

A day in the library

So, today I've been hanging about the National Library of Scotland, one of my favourite academic dens. And joyfully (and in a first for the NLS) I was even warm enough to take my cardie off! I thought you might like to hear a brief précis of my top three thoughts of the day:

1) I spent a lot of time reading poetry today...which was nice. And I found my new favourite short poem by Auden...

T.S. Eliot is quite at a loss
When clubwomen bustle across
At literary tea
Crying, 'what, if you please,
Did you mean by 'The Mill on the Floss'.

Cracking, huh!? I laughed for two minutes together.

2) I am doing a lot of work on a little known British poet called James Elroy Flecker. His work is a bit up and down to be honest but today I found two of his best: 'Doris' and 'Bryan of Brittany'. I mean, seriously, are there any less poetic names than these? Brilliant!

3) Over a bowl of delish NLS soup I enjoyed a chapter of Richard Feynman's first book. He is a bit of an inspiration for me - an amazing teacher and academic leader. And, rather brilliantly, in the chapter I was reading today he has the same thoughts about dreaming as I have always had. I have always been fascinated by sleep and dreaming, largely because my dreams are so vivid. Feynman did some experiments and found that he could control his dreams. I can do this too! I once died in a dream and then chose which other character I wanted to be. Perhaps this means I too will be a genius, Nobel prize winning academic. Or not...

And my study day was topped off by reading 'I am Baby' with my sweet niece. Definitely my reading highlight.

Back home to D tomorrow evening.


Saturday, 16 July 2011

The Tree of Life

So, if you follow me on Twitter you will know that we are in Edinburgh/Glasgow/Brechin this weekend seeing friends and fam and having a couple of days in the library. It's been a fun time of late nights and plenty of chat so far. Off for a special lunch out in a while at an old haunt: the Open Arms at Dirleton.

On Thursday night we arrived back from Brechin pretty late and went straight to the Cameo to watch Terence Malik's 'The Tree of Life'. Now, due to Lincoln's one cinema situation and distinct lack of independent movie houses (there is a definite business there for anyone who fancies) this film is not showing within a 50m radius. But here in the cultural hotbed that is Edinburgh there are plenty of choices. D was delighted to have the chance to see this film as he really likes Malik. He has dragged me to a number of his films over the years and I've really enjoyed them all.

So, what of 'The Tree of Life'? Well, it is a very weird film and I can understand why it divided the Cannes audience so much. On the one hand it is a film about a family in the 60's, on the other it is about the whole of the universe from start to finish. Hmm... Oh and there are dinosaurs! But what to make of this intriguing film? Well, as you might expect, D and I talked about it for ages and decided that actually there were probably as many reactions as there were people in the cinema. It has a fascinating and poignant Biblical side which meant a great deal to D and I, of course, but might leave an atheist unmoved (in fact I would be really interested to know what you made of it if this is you)and there were some amazing performances especially from the children. The cinematography was incredible, truly breath-taking. It was very long and felt very long, though I wasn't bored. The film contained a strange, unusual moving tempo; sometimes there was super quick cutting and at other times slow scans of the horizon. I enjoyed it very much though, be warned, pretentious hippy nonsense is ones of my favourite genres! Especially if it starts with the book of Job, one of the Bible's more confusing, challenging and, interestingly given the pacing of the film, long-winded books of the Bible.

Anyways, would be intrigued if anyone has seen it.

I'm off to drink first cup of tea of the day. I know it's late for a first one, huh? And to watch the golf. I become an Open junkie at this time of year.


Tuesday, 12 July 2011

Like a bridge over troubled water

Evening friends,
We had a great time with the family at the weekend - the sun shone and all was well. Since then it has been two days of little faffy book jobs and new projects. I've got three new articles in the pipeline. Spent the morning feeling passionate about the first paper which is based on our spring student project. It connects with the brilliant student as producer initiative at the University.

Apart from that it has been super quiet. We watched a silly film, 'Knight and Day', last night. Thoroughly enjoyable rubbish! And I've been busying myself with house tasks and little jobs (phone calls, booking train tickets and the like). We're off to Edinburgh tomorrow for a work/leisure combo trip and there seem to be a lot of wee jobs to get finished before then. Glad to have one more day of faffing before we head off. As usual I'm looking forward to nearly five hours worth of musical gems as we head up the A1. D has been working on his iPod playlist this evening. I've heard wafts of Simon and Garfunkel and Dave Gilmour so it seems fairly promising!

Hope everyone has a great end of week/weekend. Lots of exciting stuff coming up over the next few weeks so I promise that more exciting blog posts are on their way about such varied subjects as academic blogging, the end of the book, America, BBC workshops and...Iron Maiden. Where else could you find such a mix?


Saturday, 9 July 2011

Is there anybody out there revisited

So here we sit (the whole fam as the Wardens and Youngs the Elder have arrived for the weekend) watching Roger Waters footage on YouTube. D and I reminisce quite a bit about 'The Wall' gig. It was so unbelievable. And when I see that incredible projection in 'Comfortably Numb' I always feel a bit funny inside! We've had a great weekend with the fam - weather has been sunny all day, had a great lunch out at Doddington Hall, ice-cream at Dairy Made in Skellingthorpe and a couple of brief walks around Lincoln. All very jolly.

The lack of posts since Tuesday have been largely down to two things: 1) a distinct lack of anything particularly interesting to say and 2) focusing on the last stages if the book.
My chapter five restructure has proven to be a good move and I feel so much happier with it. There have been some new projects and I've had the great privilege of writing a guest article for a brilliant site called phd2published which will be up and about in a week and a bit. Check out the website if you are between the Phd and your first big publication. These guys give super advice.

Anyways, more tea beckons and a wee bit of washing up to finish. Goodbye cruel world...

Tuesday, 5 July 2011

Raised in Captivity from a tidier office...

...after many weeks of home office chaos I finally decided that I could cope no longer and had a big tidy up. While things are still in piles, at least all my playscripts are organised and I can find my research notes. The latter was particularly important today as, after many months of concentrating almost entirely on the Book, I finally decided that an afternoon on other projects may prove beneficial to my state of mind. I was right! Three new journal articles in the pipeline and they all feel a lot clearer now. The new ipad has been extremely helpful as I reorganise my research plans. Finally everything is in the same place in beautiful files. Ah, there is nothing like a spring clean for the mind!

I am writing this while listening to the new John Wetton album, 'Raised in Captivity' which arrived today. Now I have adored lovely John for a few years now and of all the music on my computer, his back catalogue is the stuff I listen to most. His lyrics are always beautiful and his tunes are so stunningly melodic. As you would expect for a guy who plied his trade with UK and King Crimson, he is an incredible musician. If anything his voice is getting better as he gets older. And after a brush with death and finally dealing with his demons, his music is consistently positive - all about living well, breaking away from past troubles, honouring others and making the most of opportunities. I have only listened to this album once but it is definitely a keeper. There are a few more nods to his proggy roots than you'd find in his Asia/Icon stuff, unsurprising given some of the top names he's worked with here. There are less ballads and more rock which I appreciate and I'm pretty sure it'll go down well with the UK/KC fans. D seems pretty happy with it anyways if he is anything to go by. But there's also some jolly folkie influences and, as this is my background, I'm always glad to hear some strummed acoustic chords. Go John!

It's 9pm on a Tuesday - I've got some green tea in my wee Chinese teapot to keep me company and my HEA fellowship material to get to grips with. It's rock n' roll all the way chez Warden! I have a few days of library faff, yoga, tea with friends, more work on the new projects and house sorting. We're looking forward to having the Warden/Young clan to stay at the weekend (the other reason for cleaning the office!) and are hoping the weather stays jolly. Lincoln is the warmest place in the world right now!

Have a great few days one and all.

Saturday, 2 July 2011

Taking a break... I sit at my desk proofreading the final chapter. The sun is shining and I am catching up with Kermode and Mayo's film review on BBC iplayer. Man, I love those guys! So I thought I'd take a wee break and fill you in on the comings and goings of this week. Highlights? Being retweeted by the Guardian  (fame at last!), faculty research day (a mix of inspiration and terror!), tennis (hoorah for Rafa, poor old Roger), book rejigging (in a fit of pique I have totally redesigned chapter 5 - I must be mad!) and D's birthday. Also much fun and fascination with the Guardian's live chat yesterday. Check it out if you are interested in academic publishing. It was really helpful.

Last night (after D's belated birthday tea) we watched 'The King's Speech'. I've wanted to watch this film for a while now and have heard unanimously positive things about it. So I guess I had very high expectations. I wasn't blown away (says I, ducking under the parapet while friends throw things). Colin Firth is good, but he is really playing Colin Firth with a stammer. I didn't find any of the characters particularly endearing and there is a bit in Westminster Abbey which doesn't make any sense at all. Historically it was very dodgy indeed. And, while I've spent the past few weeks watching inspirational and beautiful Chinese films, 'The King's Speech' just didn't move me at all. How the Tom Hooper beat Christopher Nolan to Best Director I will never, ever know. Sorry guys, I was quite disappointed.

Anyways, after that revelation I think I should get back to chapter 6. Kermode and Mayo are reviewing 'Transformers 3' - totally hilarious! As I battle through the final stage of the proofreading process, I am beginning to yearn for new projects. I have a long list and can't wait to get started. But my birdy friends outside my office window are keeping me company. There are three nests in the trees and they all seem to get along famously. The blue tits are currently playing silly games in the sunshine.

Enjoy the weekend

Tuesday, 28 June 2011

Waiting on the White paper

So the government's White paper was the big news in academia. No surprises really. I was, however, pretty depressed by the comments in the Times Higher including one that read something like 'I wish I could retire'. My response? Well, do retire then and give your privileged job to one of my dear friends who have great research profiles, are inspirational teachers and yet can't get a full time post. It makes me madder than any government paper!

So we had our final exam board today and all was well. Was reminded by how wonderful our students are and how much hard work they put in last year. I've also been getting to grips with the ol' iPad and have transferred my research notes etc on to it. Am delighted with it and feel more organised already. Spent this morning faffing about with a mind map which really helped me to strengthen my structure in chapter five. When I've spent another couple of weeks faffing I'll post a blog post on academic apps in case anyone is interested.

We have been enjoying Wimbledon (go Roger!), a new offering from 'love film' ('The Fighter' with the always impressive Christian Bale - a bit sweary but very interesting), a lovely weekend with David's cousin and some fun reading. The book redrafting is going well and I'll get back to it on thursday. Tomorrow gives me a wee break as it's our faculty research day. Last year this event was really enjoyable and I'm looking forward to it again.

Anyways, a cup of tea beckons and some academic blog reading. All fun and games this end. Oh...and preparation for someone's birthday tomorrow...


Friday, 24 June 2011

Little dull book jobs

Firstly, and most importantly, 'happy birthday mum'. Hope you're having a great day.

Since Tuesday it has been mostly book proofreading. I am two thirds the way through the third chapter so the introduction and chapter two are done. Lots of dull jobs like checking citation, making corrections and sorting out syntax. Fortunately I have Wimbledon to keep me company. The book was put on the back burner today as we enjoyed an afternoon of exam boards.

Apart from that I have been...losing at squash (though I played rather well), watching more Chinese films, tidying the flat, getting used to my iPad, learning more about twitter (still a bit of a mystery) and using my new tea set bought in Beijing. It's all rock n' roll here!

Anyways, D's cousin is arriving in a bit and there is still a bit of sorting to do so I'll leave it there. Have a great weekend one and all.


Tuesday, 21 June 2011

Manchester, is this love?

Sorry about the delay in posting this week. The weekend was taken up with much jolliness and our Internet has been a little dodgy since our return. I have spoken to the good folks at Virgin many times now but to no avail. Ho hum.

So what has been happening since last Wednesday? Well, on Thursday night we journeyed across to Stockport. Friday was spent working on the book. In the evening though we caught the train the Manchester to see Whitesnake at the Apollo. Now I was a little nervous about the whole evening. My last gig at the Apollo had been a teenage scream fest (Boyzone - I know, I know!) and I remembered it as a total dump. Friday night was also my first ever proper rock concert. I'm used to the prog circuit now but this was something else entirely. I needn't have worried. There was more fleece than leather, and the crowd were the most respectful, kindly group of folks you are ever likely to meet. The actual gig was loud and fun. Now there's a man who knows what to do with a microphone stand. It was summed up by the sweet fans on the front row who threw tea bags on to the stage for Coverdale to enjoy post-gig.

We enjoyed a lovely walk in Styal Mill on Saturday. This is a place I remember with great affection and it was lovely to wander round round with the parents. Smelly (sister) returned on Sunday so we could enjoy our first father's day together for many a year.

And now we are back to a week of exam board meetings and finalising the book. Today I finished the final read through of the introduction and worked on my bibliography. The latter is a very dull job but does mean that I can have Federer on the telly at the same time as it requires very little actual brain power. I love Wimbledon!

We're continuing with our Chinese films. Last night it was Hero, another beautiful film that made me cry. I am such a wuss at the moment.

A cup of tea beckons.
Enjoy the week folks.

P.s. Apologies for the brevity and the slightly stilted expression. I am using my new iPad given to me as a present from someone very special. Thanks so much! It is going to make a massive difference...once I've worked out how to type with more than one finger!

Wednesday, 15 June 2011

...what the...what?

This was my response to this week's episode of Game of Thrones. Well, we didn't see that one coming! This week has been a jolly mixture of book writing, HEA teaching courses (brilliant - the good folks at CERD are just terrific!) and some lovely play reading. It has been mostly the big hitters of Modernism: Eliot and Yeats. The Book is coming to an end. After the afternoon's session I can really see the finish line.

On Saturday D and I spent all day at home. We even got takeout pizza for tea. What made us so unbelievably lazy, you ask? Well, D was grappling with photographs so you good folks can enjoy our China snaps. He then redesigned my website. It now looks amazing! Check it out. I'm delighted with it. I am also now on Twitter. D has been on this social network for a while now but I have resisted. I am not on Facebook and have some ethical issues with social networks that I won't bore you with. But Twitter feels a little different. I am really enjoying engaging with folks through this medium. Lots of academic institutions now make their announcements via Twitter so it is definitely the way forward. If you are a Tweeter then you can follow me if you go to 'follow me!' on the new website.

Two new China-based films dropped through our doors from Love Film this morning so I'll look forward to seeing them. And we're off to Stockport tomorrow. On Friday night we are going to be enjoying the jolly rock sounds of Whitesnake. I'll write a wee review early next week.

In the meantime, enjoy the week.

Saturday, 11 June 2011

Reflections on China: the full story

So, as promised here are some thoughts about our trip to China. If you have time and a large cup of tea then check out our photos taken (mostly) by D with his new camera. There is a slide show flicking away to the right of the blog under my lists. This is the cut down album - we started with nearly a thousand so brace yourself...

China was a place I had wanted to visit for a great many years. As an excitable undergraduate living in Aberystwyth I had a number of friends who were fascinated by this great country, and their enthusiasm eventually rubbed off on me. I learnt a lot about Chinese history and about the missionaries who had travelled over to China during the nineteenth century. I own at least five Hudson Taylor books which I read cover-to-cover. And now China is in the midst of great changes economically, socially, politically. It has become a place where the old meets the new, where hutongs make way for skyscrapers and luxury German cars are becoming as prevalent as bicycles. So it seemed an exciting time to visit.

And so it proved. As we wandered around the busy streets of Beijing it all felt rather surreal. Given that I was fulfilling a dream simply by being there, D asked whether I felt a little sad. Often when we achieve something we have been working towards and thinking about for many years we can just feel a little flat. I can honestly say that I didn’t feel sad at all, just a little overwhelmed and very excited. 

So here are the high points of our trip:

Walking the Great Wall
This was an incredible experience. I’m not sure what I was expecting but a complete wall snaking off into the distance with forts and breathtaking views was not it. It is one of the highlights of my life and also proved to be one of the toughest fitness challenges D and I had ever attempted. A four-hour hike (the first hour and a half up an almost vertical mountain) in 36 (ish) degree heat. Phew! You know those lists of things to do before you die…put this on it!

Seeing beautiful stuff
Beijing is full of incredible sights, from the architecture of the Forbidden Palace to the amazing parks at Bei Hai and the Summer Palace. At times it feels as if you have entered 'China World' as it is almost exactly as you would imagine, complete with temples, locals doing tai chi and dragon boats. But it really is like that. Take a scan through the photos (click to the right) and see some of the amazing things we saw. Every site was packed full of Chinese tourists, coming to visit their own history.

The Chinese people
Now it is tough to generalise about the inhabitants of a country that makes up 1/5 of the population of the whole world, but everyone we met was so friendly and welcoming. There weren’t many who could speak English (my knowledge of Chinese adds up to ‘hello’, ‘thank you’ and pointing with a grin) but there was a lot of laughter and smiles. On our trip round the old hutongs a lady welcomed us into her house. We had a good chat through our interpreter. Can you imagine this sort of thing happening in Britain? I miss the Chinese people very much.

Visiting Beijing Baptist Church
We love going to different churches on our trips and this one was no exception. Generally it means trips out into the desert or, in this case, to a tucked away hotel. We had a wonderful time with them and got taken out to lunch where they informed us that we shouldn’t eat anything that falls on the table…a useful factoid that stayed with us for the rest of our trip.

Seeing real Beijing
We had booked a guide for one day of our trip to show us around the real Beijing. As tourists who don’t speak Chinese it can be difficult to get around at times. So she took us to markets, tea ceremonies and art galleries and we caught a glimpse of real Beijing. In fact we were lucky to see it at all as the hutongs are disappearing rapidly to make way for flats or offices. The skyline of Beijing has changed at an unbelievable rate. Unfortunately this means that some of Beijing’s most historical districts are disappearing too. Ancient temples and houses are making way for big glass towers. We saw the effects of this in the rubble of the hutong we visited. When we asked our guide she said that there were good and bad things about this. How true!

Chinese TV
D loves watching local telly whenever we are abroad. Chinese telly, however, is rubbish. There is a lot of patriotic dancing and badminton. That said, in a slightly surreal, nostalgic moment, we got to watch Costner’s magnificent Robin Hood Prince of Thieves one night.

The food in Beijing is really excellent and very cheap. Even the best places are a fraction of the cost of the UK. I enjoyed all the vegetables we ate. The Chinese seem to have a good food ethic, cooking from scratch and including veg, meat and carbs in every meal. Here’s hoping that the growing amount of KFC and MacDonald’s won't ruin this. On Thursday night we ate at the Dadong Duck Restaurant, which was truly incredible. Normally I don’t even really like duck! Oh, and D got to eat a snake on the final night and felt no ill effects. One of his other foodie highlights were the vegetable ice lollies - pea or sweetcorn lolly anyone?

D as a celebrity
One thing we hadn’t really prepared ourselves for was D’s celebrity status in China. As he is 6”5 with blond curly hair (goodness, he sounds like a real hunk!) he stood out like an alien in Beijing. Everyone found him hilarious and wanted their picture taken next to him. Cue much laughter and fun all round. I think D has felt a little flat back in Lincoln. 

Standing in Tiananmen Square
I remember this place well from my childhood and it was a slightly eerie feeling to stand there in the heat surrounded by Soviet-style architecture with Mao looking down on us.

Wandering round 798 Art District
While we saw a lot of old stuff, we were also impressed with the new. 798 is a contemporary arts district that feels like a mad moment of anarchy in an otherwise ordered country. It taps into a modern movement exemplified by the work of Ai Wei Wei. It was a great inspiring place of experiment and I hope it will continue to go from strength to strength.

And here is a list of the things I won’t miss (it is a very short list!):

Not being able to speak the language
This is a very frustrating experience. But our Chinese friends were very forgiving.

The toilets
Ah yes! I am afraid that I am a soft, wimpy Westerner and cannot cope with holes in the ground.

The traffic
Wow, Beijing roads are insane. I have no idea why there aren’t more accidents. They go by the ‘patient impatience’ rule. Do any move you like, however crazy. But if someone gets there before you then you just shrug your shoulders and nod to them as the better man. In Britain there would be riots in the streets and blood on the tarmac, but in Beijing we didn’t even see anyone raise their voice let alone their fist.

And there you are: some not-so-brief reflections on our trip. As a brief footnote, it may well be surprising (given my research interests etc) that I haven’t really mentioned politics. We are well aware of the political situation in China and some the human rights issues that this country faces. To be honest, we didn’t see anything that caused us concern while we were there, though we learnt that the capital punishment statistics are horrendous. I’m not wanting to put my head in the sand over this one but I can’t really comment, given that everyone we met treated us with the greatest warmth and we wandered around the city with total freedom.

Suffice to say, we had a truly wonderful time and are currently working our way through our canon of beautiful Chinese films – last night it was House of Flying Daggers. I cried…a lot….but I wasn’t sure whether I was crying at the film or at the fact that I missed our Chinese friends.


Wednesday, 8 June 2011

Reflections on China: the prologue

Evening folks,
We've just arrived back after a jolly cinema/Nando's combo. Tonight's film was the new X Men flick and very good it was too. I really like this franchise - intelligent movies with lovely cinematography and really engaging characters. This evening's offering was a great addition to the series. And the delicious Hugh Jackman made a wee cameo appearance. I'd definitely recommend it.

We haven't got our holiday photos online yet as Nikon, in their wisdom, do not include a USB cable with their new cameras. D is waiting for one to arrive from Amazon so for the moment you'll have to make do with a couple of snaps from the iphone. When the photos are up (and I have had some time to think about it all) I'll post some real reflections on our Chinese adventure.

Here's one for all you plane enthusiasts. We flew on the Airbus A380, the biggest plane in the skies. Here it is at Beijing Airport with its little brother from British Airways next to it:

Wandering around Tiananmen Square at night was an incredible experience. Everyone was super friendly and even late at night we felt totally safe and well looked after.

We really loved the English translations of signs. They were always polite and read a little like an essay by an undergraduate who is trying too hard. Here is D standing next to one of our favourites:

And finally for the time being, here is a wee film. D's favourite thing about plane travel is being able to watch back-to-back movies. On the way home they were showing The Edge with Sir Anthony Hopkins (one for all you Kermode fans there). He was slightly surprised by this as, and I quote, "I'm sure that film has a plane crash in it". Everyone knows it is poor etiquette to show an air disaster film while zooming through the air at a gizzilion miles an hour at 30,000 feet. But, in a moment of true comic genius, D managed to capture what the good people of Lufthansa decided to do with the dreaded crash scene.

Anyways, that's your lot for tonight. I'll probably post a more comprehensive response to China at the weekend. Between now and then it is Book, some faffy admin jobs and some serious flat tidying.

Enjoy the week folks.