Wednesday, 26 September 2012

Lincoln Academy Lecture

Last night I had the honour of speaking as part of the Lincoln Academy series. This is the University of Lincoln’s way of connecting our research with the local community. I spoke on the notion of unperformability and the British avant-garde, so it also acted as my official book launch. And I so enjoyed myself! The lecture went well and there were some great questions afterwards. I loved the fact that the audience included a load of students and colleagues, as well as local folks. And friends and the fam were there to celebrate too. D resisted the urge to ask a difficult question!

By the end of the event (after the best canap├ęs you will eat anywhere in academia) I was exhausted and just about managed to eat a veggie burger before crawling home. The whole thing reminded me of the importance of connecting our research with those outside of academia. As humanities/arts scholars it can be really easy to imagine that no one in the real world is the least bit interested in slightly obscure archival work. Last night reminded me that this is a total lie. Actually our scholarship has the potential to deeply connect with people’s lives. Clearly it is more difficult to determine its influence or importance, unlike, say, finding a cure for cancer or creating new computing systems. But art is one of the things that makes us human – our ability to create art (in its broadest sense) and to engage with/enjoy it. I had some great chats afterwards and it was clear that folks really wanted to connect with the ideas. I found the whole thing incredibly encouraging and it was a great way to start my sabbatical proper. Being reminded of the importance of art research (and my responsibility to engage non-university communities in this research) was a fab prompt for me.

And so on with the sabbatical. The end of this week will be dominated by a host of little jobs – articles to finish and papers to read. And next week it is onwards and upwards with the new book. I love the thought that I have space and time to focus on research, even though I miss the students. Oh, and this is quite a fun new side project. As a colleague rightly said, it is a good job I wasn’t reading ‘Fifty Shades of Grey’ (as an aside I haven’t read it and will not be doing so…ever)



What better way to start one’s sabbatical than with a jolly trip to Portugal with the in-laws. The weather was amazing (an autumn tan is so nice) and we enjoyed 7 days of pools, dolphins, boats, sea and food…lots of food! Oh, and coconut/pineapple juice.

Wherever we go, D looks out the most promising restaurant in the area. For this trip we found the wonderful Vila Joya, a beautiful hotel looking out over the sea. We sat under sun umbrellas and enjoyed one of the best meals we have ever eaten. I can’t even begin to tell you what we ate as there were so many courses. And they were all delicious – really delicious! Vila Joya also had two sweet love birds that I got to chat to after our food.

While on holiday I read two and a half books. The first was triathlete Chrissie Wellington’s autobiography. I have had this on my coffee table for two months and have been looking forward to reading it. It didn’t disappoint. Wellington is a very inspiring athlete, someone who is disciplined yet reassuringly normal…or at least as normal as anyone who does Ironman events. I have been enjoying ‘Road to Kona’ on Sky Sports over the past few weeks and really admire the Ironman guys. They are awesome, if slightly barmy. D keeps suggesting I train for one – I’m afraid that I simply couldn’t cope with the pain! I am, at heart, a big wuss.

The second was Neil Peart’s book about cycling in Cameroon. I read his poignant ‘Ghost Rider’ earlier this month. This one was completely different yet still had Peart’s intellectual approach. He is such an insightful guy. Reading his books has made me admire Rush’s music (while not always liking it). D is determined to convert me though as Rush plays almost constantly in the car (though it must be said, that on the way back from the airport, he put on a bit of The Boss for me – by the by, did you see that Bruce played until 2am the other night in NJ…the guy is a LEGEND!).

Anyways, the whole holiday was wonderful and relaxing. Thanks to the in-laws for letting us come and crash their vacation!


Wednesday, 12 September 2012

Where have you been?

When I compare myself with the rest of the blogosphere I am hugely embarrassed about my lack of posts. I do, however, have a list of good reasons...
1) Our internet has been playing up and causing huge problems. Finally Sky have decided to send a new router through so we are hoping to get back online soon. This has meant conducting all my business on my phone. For reference, this is hard work even though the iphone is clearly amazing!
2) I have had graduation and a three day conference in Kent. All went very well. The former was a jolly opportunity to celebrate with the marvellous third years. The conference in Kent was for the European Network of Avant-Garde and Modernism Studies. This was a very interesting event with some great papers and lots of prominent folks to schmooze with. We even took a couple of hours out to explore Canterbury Cathedral. I was excited that they had a plaque to commemorate where Thomas A Becket was killed. T.S. Eliot wrote a strange ol' play all about it. The cloisters were pretty beautiful too.
3) D has started his new job which means longer hours all round. This morning we got up at 5.30 and that is becoming pretty normal. Actually feeling pretty good on it and, if you start work at 7.30 after a jolly workout, some quiet time and double tea, then you really feel up for the day.
4) I have been doing a huge tidy up. The last time we moved, I realised quite how much stuff we had. Simply unbelievable for just two people! So, I decided to begin a big clear out and get rid of anything we didn't need. Yesterday I recycled all my old PhD notes. Crazy to think that when I started research I wrote everything by hand on lined paper. It was only six years ago and now feels almost Medieval!

Surely that is enough excuses! One of the good things about D working longer is the amount of reading I am getting done. I have read so many books over the past month. It has been wonderful, although I am reading a rather traumatic one about the Chechan war right now. I'll post about it when I've finished - suffice to say, I would really recommend finding out more about this conflict. Last night we enjoyed a wonderful BBQ with our friends. We reopened Pizzeria Warden and the food went down rather well. We then got a bonfire going and sat out until 10.30. We are making the most of those last summer days.

I am now officially on sabbatical and am loving the peace and quiet. I have so much time to read and write, and to make new research plans for the future. The fact that I am doing all this in one of my most favourite places (that'll be our lovely country house) makes me feel mega blessed.

So, that's the update for the time being.