Wednesday, 30 March 2011

University Challenge and Challenges

See, three blog posts in a week. Da da!

The day was spent running at break neck speed around the LPAC in a pair of shoes that I shouldn't have slipped on this morning. It was a sneaker day really, given the amount of time I spent in Studio 2 but, as I was also interviewing perspective students, I felt a smart outfit was more appropriate. My feet are only just recovering and were not improved by tonight's squash game - soundly beaten, as usual. Tomorrow, in sharp contrast, is a quiet research day at home.

Anyways, today was mostly spent discussing promenade theatre spaces with my first years, carting boxes of paint around, meeting the stars of tomorrow and (most bizarrely!) turning balloons into skulls to be used as props for the mad Thomas Middleton play, The Revenger's Tragedy. Surely nobody else in the world had a day like that!

And, finally we got round to watching Monday night's University Challenge on iplayer. This is really the only show we never miss. It began as a bit of joke when D and I spent three months apart. Every Monday night we would get Skype going and watch UC together. It all gets rather competitive. Tonight was the last semi final and Magdalen College took the last place in the final. They're a pretty brilliant team and the final should be mammoth.

But D found an older American version of this show, which we enjoyed as a pre-UC warm up. It was the 1966 battle between the might of Princeton and the lowly women's college, Agnes Scott. Go the girls!  Thought I'd embed the final part below for your enjoyment.

Anyways, a quick cuppa and a snooze is in order.

Tuesday, 29 March 2011

Staff Magazine Editorial

This month I had the great privilege of writing the editorial for the University of Lincoln Staff Magazine. Just thought you might like to read it. Comments welcome as it describes something I've been thinking about for a while. It begins with a number of silly questions from the general editor, Dave...

Proudest Moment: Being awarded my PhD and getting married in the same month.

Dream Dinner Party Guests: my husband, Elizabeth Gaskell, Peter Gabriel, Ewan MacColl, William Wilberforce, Nigella Lawson and wrestler, Shawn Michaels. We would change the world in the space of an evening!

Favourite film: Studio Ghibli's My Neighbour Totoro

What are you listening to at the moment? the 'Inception' soundtrack while working and Yes' 'Talk', Asia's 'Omega' and Peter Gabriel's 'Ovo' in the evenings.

If you had a superpower what would it be? Space/Time manipulation

Last week I gave two lectures as part of our first year Foundations of Twentieth-Century Theatre module; in the first I received a round of applause for pretending to be a rhinoceros and in the second I baffled the group by reading Karl Schwitters' peculiar poem 'What a b'. The former was an attempt to bring the Theatre of the Absurd to life through the poetic diction of Eugene Ionesco and the latter, part of a broader explanation of Dadaism.

Both lectures were loosely connected to my own research in the area of theatrical avant-gardism. At times academics can be guilty of disconnecting research from teaching, presuming that there is little relationship between the two.  So recently, I've been reconsidering the way my own research impacts my students. For this Foundations course, my studies proposed a clearer way of understanding the relationship between the concepts of 'modernism' and 'avant-gardism'. It also, inevitably, meant that students had to pretend to be body parts as we participated in a workshop of Tristan Tzara's The Gas Heart!

And, further, I've been listening to the way my students respond to the ideas I present. After the fireworks of Ionesco and Schwitters, one student legitimately asked, 'but isn't it all just meaningless?' It led to a rewarding conversation about the intention of experimental theatre and how it might help us to think differently about art and the world outside the theatre walls. While I've considered these ideas before, my own conclusions were reinvigorated and challenged by the fresh eyes of my slightly bemused first years. As I write my first monograph and look forward to teaching on a fresh, revalidated degree next term, this experience has reminded me of how excitingly fruitful a university can be for academics and students alike.


Monday, 28 March 2011

Starting a new week

So, D is back after watching Scotland lose to Brazil. He had a great time though and enjoyed catching up with his mates and eating pulled pork and ribs at Bodeans (anyone who knows how much I adore this London restaurant will spot the slight tinge of envy in my writing there). It is VERY good to have him back. I spent Sunday...tidying the house a little, reading, watching the football, eating dahl, and attending a friend's baptism. I also rewatched Christopher Guest's Waiting for Guffman, which is just about the funniest film ever! Trouble is, as I watched, I began to wonder if I was actually turning into Corky St Clair. I too do breathing exercises and force my students to play silly games as a warmup. I too float around talking about set design, 'darling'. Oh dear, I need to step away from the theatrical world before I find myself wearing sequins during the day (that's a wee joke for one of my colleagues there!).

I also spent a bit of time thinking over my current goals and objectives. I think I've probably posted on this before, but I like to do this on a fairly regular basis. The last time I was in London, I nipped into Muji, which has to be one of my most favourite shops. I bought a couple of notebooks for just this purpose. As you might imagine for a person who spends most of her time reading and writing, life only really makes sense when I see it written down! It is a bit like taking a life MOT, and I can only say that I find the process very rewarding.

Lots of things to enjoy today: a lecture for the gorgeous second years and I even got the technology working first time round, a lovely two hours in the Enterprise cafe reading a play I'm teaching (The Revenger's Tragedy), our V-C's inaugural lecture (complete with rather excellent buffet!) and some great evening quiet time after a tough capoeira workout. And have recently had some fab email chats with old friends. Our mates are now spread all over the country and, indeed, the world, but it is always great to say 'hello'!

Anyways, we missed University Challenge tonight so a glass of juice and BBC i-player in bed beckons. Next Creation and Realisation rehearsal tomorrow. Received two emails of notes from student-organised meetings over the weekend and, apparently, the purpose-built Facebook page (don't ask me, I don't do Facebook) is buzzing. Man, those guys are just great! I love their enthusiasm and vision - it is all rather inspiring actually.


Saturday, 26 March 2011

Where are the Wardens?

Happy Saturday one and all! I start with apologies for a distinct lack of posts this week. It has been a nicely busy one of rehearsals, teaching and exciting research plans. And then my Dad reminded me tonight that I hadn't written a post all week. Ooops. So here I sit watching Quantum of Solace out of the corner of my eye. I had forgotten how terrible the camera work was in this film. It doesn't let you focus on anything for more than a split second together. That fascinating opening fight on the scaffolding is made virtually incomprehensible. It begins to feel as if you are on a rollercoster after drinking three espressos. What were they thinking?

Anyways, I am home alone as D has travelled down to London to watch Scotland v Brazil with some old school chums. It always feels very odd without him but I've made the most of a quiet weekend. I'm finally starting to get to grips with a play called Hassan by James Elroy Flecker. It is a very weird play...very weird! But I am interested in it as a presentation of Iraq on the Western stage. I finished my second reading of the play this evening and now just need a couple of weeks of cogitating time. 

So this week we mostly...booked a wee holiday to Norfolk for our Easter break, ate sushi with friends, played a new tennis game on the PS3 and listened to Iron Maiden's rather good new album, With 100% attendance, I was prouder than ever of my gorgeous first years. And I've got back to a book I started a good long while ago, Battle Cry for Freedom. It is all about the American Civil War, a topic I know very little about really. Very interesting but a little dense for pre-bed time reading. Another quiet day in store tomorrow, awaiting the return of D.

Enjoy the rest of the evening. I'm off to make a cuppa in the break.

Monday, 21 March 2011

Here comes the do do do...

Finally Spring has sprung and we have had a gorgeous weekend of sunshine. Yesterday, the flat was a mess and a had a pile of books to work through. But instead the Wardens dropped the chores and went for a long walk in Whisby Nature Park. D even got to wear his shorts! OK, so a filled in quarry doesn't sound all that great, but I absolutely loved the place. It is so pretty and quiet. We walked and talked and got our vitamin D fix. And all this after a Friday night of jazz and sushi. We have got the hang of this sushi thang now!

We've been enjoying the Yes Minister box set. While it is dated in some ways, it is totally contemporary in its analysis of the civil service. We're also playing a game of Fifa on the PS3 every night at the moment. I am totally hopeless! D is aiming for a 10-0 drumming but hasn't quite made it yet. I must admit, it is a rather demoralising way of spending an evening!

And so, another week begins and it starts with a 9 o'clock lecture tomorrow on politics in post-War British theatre. There's still a bit of marking to do and some teaching prep to bash through. Tuesday sees the next Creation and Realisation rehearsal. It's now fully cast and the students find out their fate this week. I have an incredible group of guys for this module. Can't wait to see what they make of it! I have a number of research projects to work on, including a couple of ace new books to read, a couple of papers to bash into shape and two brand new articles to begin. And this on top of trying to sort out copyright for the book. This is a complicated process! Glad to have a slightly quieter teaching load this block so I can crash on with some research work.

Tea to finish and then off to bed.


Wednesday, 16 March 2011

And the rehearsals begin...

The past two days have been intense! Two three hour Creation and Realisation rehearsals focusing on my cut down version of Elmer Rice's The Adding Machine. And I am glad to say that they were just brilliant. The students were committed, enthusiastic and full of good humour. We got a good amount of work done and we left feeling very excited. I am so pleased and proud of those guys and can't wait to create a new performance with them. Tomorrow is a day of first year marking. Third year essays are done now. Research has been largely abandoned for this week, though I do have a couple of book reviews to complete tomorrow.

We've got a quiet weekend in store. The farmers' market is on so I'll go and buy some veggies and some ostrich burgers. I've got some banana muffins to bake, some books to read and some classes to prepare.

Anyways, after getting soundly beaten at squash (though each game was relatively close) and some lovely mince and potatoes to warm me up on this cold, foggy night, D is now making tea and we are about to watch the first episode of a new box set: Yes Minister. Classic British comedy. Can't wait. Given the general busyness of today, tonight is a no-work zone. Lovely.


p.s. Big birthday hugs to my Daddy, 60 years young today!

Sunday, 13 March 2011

60th Birthday celebrations

We're just back from sunny Stockport where we've been celebrating Dad's 60th birthday. All very jolly fun! A lovely late night party, a happy walk in the park, some yummy food and a cake with an icing picture of Dad on the top!

Apologies for the lack of posts last week. I was in the writing zone and finally got the Book first draft finished on Friday morning. 74,799 words of brilliance (!?) now sent off to my wonderful reader in Edinburgh. It feels really very good to get it off the laptop and on to paper. And now I can start doing some proper teaching prep! Creation and Realisation play is cut and rehearsal schedule written. Two thirds the way through rereading Dr Faustus - again! Oh, and I have a pile of marking that, were it not in electronic form, could safely form the foundations of a substantial family house. Hmm...a busy week in store methinks! On top of that I have the great privilege of playing the Woman of Samaria tomorrow for a group of school children. All fun!

Research will begin again in earnest when I get up to date with everything else. I'm writing this while half watching the Liam Neeson film Taken on the telly. It's a great film - very interesting and challenging (be warned, it's not for the faint hearted) - but extremely tense and probably not the best thing to watch when you have a slight headache and are preparing for bed. "I will hunt you down, I will find you and I will kill you". If you have seen the glorious Coogan and Brydon vehicle, The Trip recently then that line will make you giggle...which is probably not quite the desired effect of Neeson's original! Anyways, a cuppa and a snooze in preparation for the general joyous busyness of tomorrow.


Tuesday, 8 March 2011

London's Calling take two

I've just arrived back from my second trip to London in the space of a month and a half. After returning from my last trip, the archivist sent me an email saying that the material I was searching for, that seemed to have disappeared into the ether, had actually reappeared. 'Hoorah', saith I. Cue another trip down to the Capital. This time it was just for the day though, which meant an early train. Given that I was travelling first class, however, it also meant free tea, peace and lots of fruitful working time. You will be pleased to know that this morning I finished the dreaded Greenwood paper. I have lost any ability to discern whether it is any good or not, but it is done and will be sent off tomorrow morning. Double 'hoorah'! So these are the variety of topics that have entered my head today:

1) Guys who wear brown shoes with a black suit almost certainly are not married
2) How I wish that good word processing had been invented earlier! I spent most of the day crouched over barely decipherable typewritten sheets...with pencil corrections!
3) Bodeans' pulled pork is surely the greatest food ever created
4) Oxford Circus is unbearably busy at 6pm on a week day
5) St Pancras station is class (and even has D's favourite patisserie, Pauls) whereas King's Cross currently resembles a set from post-apocalyptic thriller, Children of Men. 
6) Muji has by far the best and most reasonably priced stationary
7) Today I discovered a new shop, Uniqlo, which had some lovely clothes. I might get a pair of chinos for summer (NB these last two make it sound as if I spent all day in shops. Actually I spent approximately 12 minutes in shops today on my way back from Bodeans...honestly!)
8) I really like getting up so early in the morning. It is lovely to have a bit of quiet time on the walk down to the station and to pray through the day.
9) How much do the V&A archives resembles a stereotypical Victorian mental institution?! I get a little creeped out wandering down the corridors.
10) How great it is to return home to D after a wonderfully productive and exciting day, knowing that things are just happy right now. I feel like the most fortunate and blessed of ladies.

A varied list indeed! Tomorrow I start on my final book read through. The next few days could be long ones as I approach Friday's deadline.  And, of course, the marking has just come in so I get to read a pile of essays. The third years have made up their own projects so I'm really excited to read what they have to say. Phew, I am done. Tea beckons.

Friday, 4 March 2011

Jazzing into the weekend

By the wonders of modern technology, here I sit in the LPAC cafe waiting for D and friends and listening to tonight's jazz band warm up at Commuter Jazz. All fun. A good second half of assessment week saw me largely hanging around at home and in coffee shops, writing the final lines of the Book first draft. My self-imposed deadline is next Friday so it could be a busy one next week.  With marking and a Tuesday trip to London, it will be here before I know it.

This evening the in-laws arrive for a happy weekend in Lincoln. We are off to our new favourite eatery, Chequers, tomorrow and D is looking forward to his gammon :-) I am wearing my new Levis army jacket (an M&M sports bargain), though it isn't really warm enough yet. The sun hasn't shone in the East Midlands for years and years!

Anyways, here the friends come. See, you get up to date info at Molemaison...however boring it may be!


Tuesday, 1 March 2011

We're all going on a summer holiday...again!

And where are we going, you may ask? Well, the Wardens are off to Beijing at the end of May and I can barely contain my excitement! I have wanted to go to China for many years for three major reasons: 1) the events at Tiananmen Square are firmly ingrained in my brain from being a wee girlie 2) the idea of walking along the Great Wall fills me with unexplainable joy 3) Hudson Taylor is one of my heroes and his tales of China and his love for the Chinese people have long been an inspiration to me. So, all to say, we are really looking forward to our trip.

But for the time being I have a book to concentrate on. Today was very profitable as I sat in a cafe reading Marinetti's Critical Writings and writing the conclusion. And then I watched some great physical theatre pieces as part of our assessment week. Great stuff! The next book proposal will be in by the end of tomorrow and I am quietly pleased with it considering that I haven't had chance to start the research in earnest yet. I am really enjoying my research right now and extremely grateful for all the time I have been given to work on my projects. With all the academic reading I'm doing, my private reading has been sadly lacking. I have a whole heap of books on the go but am making no progress at all. A long flight to China could be exactly what I need!

I'm off for a snooze. I didn't finish assessing until 9pm so it has been a long ol' day. I'm hoping Spring will arrive pretty soon. It is cold here and I have at least four items of summer clothing that I really want to wear. And a new (extremely cheap) pair of Superdry sneakers that need to be broken in. As these are light grey and white, I think they need to be saved for a sunny day!