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.