Thursday, 19 December 2013

It's beginning to look a lot like Christmas...marking, books etc etc

Christmas used to mean lots of performing. Now (other than the beautiful obvious) it means lots of catch up work. I have a pile of marking to do. Today I finished all the Musicals essays which at least makes a dent in it. The Wicked and Newsies soundtracks (neither of which I have listened to since week 5 as I was getting a bit sick of musicals by then!) kept me company. Other than that, the next few days will look something like this:

Finishing the Book. Yes, I have just two more days before my self-imposed Book deadline. It is nearly there actually. I just need to check that everything is sorted.
Cleaning the house. If you are an academic reading this then you will understand exactly what I mean when I say that my house looks like a week11 house! I sorted my office out yesterday. Tomorrow I tackle the house!
Reading inspiring blogs. At this time of year, thoughts turn to new year goals. I'm working my way through some really interesting blogs right now from folks all over the world. People do some really amazing stuff!
Wrapping pressies. A job I am utterly rubbish at!
Writing a guest blog post.
Finishing GSP. Yes, Saturday is not only the day I finish the book; it is also the day that I finish my GSP fitness schedule Rushfit. It has been pretty tough and I had a bit of a gap in the middle where my body decided that it would only cope with cycling and walking for a bit. But I will have completed it on Saturday.
Riding Tommy. Last time before Christmas.
Watching the end of Borgen. I am going to be so sad to goodbye to Birgitte.

And that's about it. Quietly determined to have a proper break over Christmas. I have a pile of work to do (mostly fun) but I think I need some time out. Even when you really like your job, you still need to switch off for a few days and come back refreshed. To be honest, the thought of not having to wake up at 5.20 each morning is rest enough for me.

Whether I'll post before Christmas or not will depend on whether I get all my jobs done so I'll say 'Happy Christmas' now just in case.

Saturday, 14 December 2013

Nearing the end of term

While November was a busy month, December seems to have been equally packed with fun and frolicking. So far this month:

1) I have given an invited talk at the University of Hull, Scarborough. This was a really fun event and gave me the opportunity to visit a town I hadn't been to before. I really liked Scarborough and even had the privilege of visiting the Edith Sitwell's birthplace Woodend. I stayed at the Crown Spa (much recommended) and ate Yorkshire curd tarts (equally recommended). The journey back was a little more exciting than it should have been due to the weather. Everyone in the world seemed stuck at York station for a couple of hours!
2) I have done lots of marking...and there is a ton more to come! It all adds up to about 70 separate pieces of work to mark - phew!
3) I have been back on Radio Lincolnshire as part of the lunchtime debate show. We discussed flooding, Mandela, bicycles and Christmas trees...all the big issues of the day.
4) I have travelled over to Manchester for a couple of real annual leave days with the parents. This included a jolly meal out with extended family (including my marvellous 93 year old grandad) and a day trip to the spa at Mottram Hall.
5) I have visited an academic I have admired for many years in Sheffield and he was every bit as interesting and gracious as I thought he'd be. Days out like this one confirm that I am in the world's greatest profession.
6) I have watched two films: the new Wolverine (very good romp) and a fantastic movie about air drumming. I have finished James Robertson's And the Land Lay Still (brilliant, amazing etc etc) and am currently on to EM Forster's Howard's End. We are still watching Borgen (gets better and better).

...and that's about it, I think! And now Christmas is around the corner. We have lots of exciting trips, travels, events and meet ups planned, although I am hoping for a) some rest time and b) some space to write this new article on John Piper.

Well, I'm off to carry on proofreading the new book which I'm hoping to submit by the end of the week. Yes, I know it's a Saturday.

Wednesday, 20 November 2013

Term runs on...

...interestingly the amount of blog posts I write is directly proportional to how quiet or busy I currently am. The fact that nothing has appeared here in the month of November is a sure sign that it has been a rather crazy month. So here goes with a run through of what has happened since my last post:

I visited the House of Lords to promote the University of Lincoln College of Arts.
This was a fascinating event, a chance to schmooze with lords and ladies...and Nicholas Parsons. Parliament is the most sensationally beautiful building from the outside and it is equally lovely inside.

I taught...a lot!
It has been a busy teaching term. It's all been very jolly, including a first year lecture on grammar that had a sweet doggie on each slide, my deliberate attempt to mention Hugh Jackman in every Musicals lecture and our dissertation speed dating party. It isn't all such flippant fun of course; I wouldn't want to give you the wrong idea!

Almost cracking my canter.
Although I haven't had a lot of time to ride dear ol' Tommy over the past few weeks, every time I have he has looked after me beautifully and I am beginning to get the hang of the canter. It is far harder than it looks on the telly!

I have spoken at the University of Strathclyde.
And very exciting it was too! It was lovely to get an invite up north and the small crowd was very appreciative and asked great questions. I was particularly impressed that 4 of their undergrads came along. We had a lovely dinner afterwards.

I enjoyed a great few days in Edinburgh.
After my trip to Glasgow I travelled across to the right side of Scotland (I joke, I joke!) and stayed with the in laws in Edinburgh. I spent two happy days in the National Library, snoozing on their couch and playing Lego with our niece until D arrived on Friday evening. We then hung out all weekend, enjoying lots of family time and eating half pizza suppers with salt and sauce (actually this was D - he had a bit of a craving for this Auld Reekie staple).

I have nearly finished the book.
It is nearly done although I am waiting for 2 clear days so I can do a thorough final read through. I genuinely think it is the best thing I have ever written - I'm rather proud of it and super grateful to everyone who has contributed to it.

My abstract was accepted for the Literature and Sport conference at De Montfort next year.
I am speaking on wrestling and the text. The fact that they accepted this abstract and didn't tell me to forcefully 'go away because wrestling isn't really a sport' is testimony to the gracious openmindedness of the organising committee. I can't wait for this conference, especially as current academic hero Sarah Churchwell is giving the keynote.

I have nearly not quite finished GSP Rushfit.
Over the past two weeks I haven't quite felt myself - just a little under the weather. This has knocked my fitness regime out a bit. Perhaps I just needed a bit of a proper break after 6 months of super tough physical challenge. Anyways, I have two weeks left of the course and will get that done over the next couple of weeks. After watching GSP get beaten up (but somehow winning- I'll never understand MMA scoring), I am glad I just follow his training programme and don't actually have to get in the octagon!

And I think that is it. Days are very full right now - the next two are full of assessments and copyright permissions. Then we have Open Day on Saturday, a collapsing chill out day on Sunday...and then it is someone's birthday!

Have a great evening y'all.

Thursday, 31 October 2013

A rock weekend


What a weekend we had! It started with a musicals class (this course is going rather well btw and I am not yet sick of the Wicked soundtrack) and then a run across to Manchester. Actually the journey was fairly horrendous: 4hr 10min to get from Newark to Manchester. That is a record. I could have walked it quicker!

Anyways, we made it with a minute and a half to spare before the train left (cue heavy breathing and me getting flustered - D was his usual unflappable self) and it was off to the Phones4U Arena (formerly the MEN) for the Peter Gabriel gig. Gabriel was the last on my 'old guys to see before they pack in' list so I was hugely excited. He played an amazing, risk-taking gig with an acoustic set and a performance of a song he hadn't even written yet! It was breath-taking and a total privilege to be there.

After spending a happy day hanging out with the fam (inc Smelly and Stu who were up north as well) we trotted back through to Manchester for our second gig: Steve Hackett at the Apollo. This was a really different event. He returned to the early Genesis progressive rock stuff which is not really my cup of tea frankly but I absolutely loved it. The band were amazingly tight and the music was rather beautiful. I totally zoned into it and came out feeling pretty chilled but intellectually challenged. I should listen to more proper progressive stuff. After lunch with the fam on Sunday we trekked back to Lincoln though the journey was considerably quicker that outbound. A great weekend and a really lovely opportunity to reboot.

Everything is extremely busy here - it's all fun but a bit manic. I have book deadlines, article proofs, lectures to be written, invited talks to sort out, new research paths to explore...and all the usual - exercise, life etc. All in all, the next few months are really pretty crammed. As I say, all fun but a tad overwhelming. The next few days are for grant applications (a job I truly loathe) and a conference trip to Oxford. Then next week we have teaching, lots of student one-to-ones, a mad trip to London (which I'll write about next week!), an appearance on Radio Lincolnshire and book proofs. The week after I am off to speak at the University of Strathclyde and am combining it with a run across to Edinburgh to do some work and catch up with the publisher (as well as enjoy the company of my lovely in laws). And so it goes on..and on... I think this year Christmas will be spent collapsed in a heap surrounded by tinsel and chocolate!

Tonight is also Halloween, my least favourite night of the year. I intend to hide away, do a workout, eat noodles and ignore it. If you really make it all the way to our village, down our pitch black drive and through the forest to knock on our door than frankly good on you - I'll invite you in for a cuppa!

Have a good night y'all

Wednesday, 16 October 2013

Winter has arrived...

Since my last post, it appears that winter has hit Lincolnshire. It has rained all day! Ho hum... I received my early birthday present just in time: a dehumidifier. Our house is quite old so we get damp corners. This rather amazing machine sorts everything out. I do wonder when I got so old that a dehumidifier was an exciting present!

The past week or so has been filled with interesting wee events (like last night's Q&A with playwright Simon Stephens and last week's madness that was Filter Theatre's version of Twelfth Night), teaching, and some jolly little trips including a lovely Sunday in Leeds with our buddies. We had such a fun time with their four children and we spent Sunday afternoon drawing pictures and watching dance shows.

D has had exams again this week so he has been ultra busy with revision. We've managed to intersperse all the work with some fun watching. We've just started the new series of Newsroom which is a show I really enjoyed last year. You have to ensure you don't approach this series the wrong way. It isn't realism in that wonderful HBO, Dickens-on-the-screen sort of way. Rather it has something of the magical about it and a witty script to match. No one thinks of come backs as quickly as the cast of me, living with the king of quick wittedness, I would know! It is good fun though and a bit of relief from the last series of Treme which we've just finished. I can absolutely understand why both these series might have their critics! On Saturday we headed down to Kinema in the Woods in Woodhall Spa and watched Prisoners with the delectable Hugh Jackman. Not so delectable in this film but it was hugely admirable. D and I talked about it all the way home and to Leeds the next day. There were so many clever moments and it actually treated its audience members as adults, presuming that they are intelligent beings. As usual, I was a bit scared and had to grab D's arm on regular occasions but I am glad I saw it. Jackman and Gyllenhaal are both absolutely brilliant. Both display some serious acting chops. The ending played on my absolute worst nightmare...but I won't ruin it for you.

Other than I finished the full draft of the Book. It stands at 64, 322 words. I only have the conclusion to add to. Right now it feels just a bit thrown together but some great colleagues are looking over it for me. I now just need to sort out image permissions, one of my least favourite jobs. I am going to set aside an hour over the next few days in order to get them sorted.

In wrestling news (you would be sad to miss out on your regular pro-wrestling catch up, wouldn't you?), Shawn Michaels is back. I actually screamed at the television when his music hit. Hugely exciting!

I am continuing on with GSPRushfit and enjoying the challenge of weights although, as always with these long fitness courses, I'm also looking forward to being done so I can mix it up a bit more. Having watched Ironman Kona at the weekend (I stayed up until 3 in the morning on Saturday watching on my ipad) I am pretty inspired to do a crazy fitness challenge. Kona looks a bit brutal but I'm pretty sure that 2014 will have some sort of large fitness challenge in it.

Anyways, must crack on. Hope all is well with all.

Friday, 4 October 2013

And so it begins...

...the new term, that is. Here we are at the end of week 1. It has been a brilliant teaching week, perhaps one of my favourite ever. Groups of great students, some fascinating chat, stimulating learning environments and, best of all, plenty of laughs.

We've had some rather lovely days outside of work too: days riding Tommy, having lunch in Woodhall Spa, visiting Bransby Home for Horses, celebrating seven years since D's rather spectacular resuscitating of his future wifey with dinner at lovely Chequers, watching series 2 of Treme (nearly finished), lots of GSP Rushfit (my hip flexors know all about that!), an autumn BBQ with our buddies, getting a new showbiz haircut and reading a wonderful book called And the Land Lay Still by James Robertson. All in all we have filled our days with quiet fun stuff when we aren't working.

Research time over the next few weeks is divided between finishing the Book (Modernist and Avant-Garde Performance: an introduction with be out next year!) and trying to put together a new funding application. My teaching timetable this semester is rather odd so my research days vary. Actually I quite like this - I find I get more done with a bit of variety in my world. In addition to teaching and my usual research load, I seem to have lots of opportunities to do other fun (work-related) stuff like speaking about research on Radio Lincolnshire last Friday. Man, local radio guys are super talented and work super hard! I was incredibly impressed by Nicola Gilroy and team - nothing fazed them which, in a rather unpredictable environment like the Lincoln Performing Arts Centre, is a very good thing!

All in all, all is well! Some groovy stuff coming up over the next few months - gigs, research trips, speaking engagements so I'll keep you in touch.


Friday, 20 September 2013

September: new notebooks and tweed...

...two of the things I love best about Autumn!
September has been a month of kicking back and taking stock. The past few weeks have been focused on finishing off summer projects and preparation for teaching. Next week is induction - new students! This is always an exciting time of year.

Other than that we have largely been hanging out at home watching the last season of Treme which we have finally caught up with. Last weekend though we headed down to Wembley Stadium to see Roger Waters' The Wall. This is the second time we have seen this performance - last year we caught it at the MEN in Manchester. Although the stadium was bigger, actually with the lights and smoke it felt pretty cosy and intense. The sound was amazing! It was as great as I remember it. I respect Waters for his intentions and sincerity, and The Wall is a seriously affecting piece of theatre. Anyone who leaves there not thinking that war is dumb and not committed to breaking down walls between people and breaking through hegemonic systems quite simply has no heart! Pretty spectacular night!

Since then (when I haven't been in meetings) I've been preparing my Musicals classes. This means listening to a lot of musicals over and over. Top three songs in my head for this week: 'Defying Gravity' from Wicked, 'Being Alive' from Company and 'Everybody Ought to Have a Maid' from Funny Thing Happened on the Way to the Forum. A fun mix, although we are now listening to Bruce in an attempt to break through the musicals haze!

We have a quiet weekend ahead - riding, writing, watching some sport, tidying up. The things start in earnest next week. As an aside, D's wonderful holiday pictures are now up on line. If you want to work your way through some truly great pics of Abu Dhabi and Sri Lanka, click down to the right on photo albums or on the 'photos' tab. Enjoy them!


Monday, 2 September 2013

Can I stay at home for a while?

So, I am sitting at my wee desk at home. It feels very good indeed after an exciting summer of moving around, holidays and work trips. I am looking forward to a bit of home time over the next few months...with, of course, a couple of jolly trips thrown in. I have just got back from the Modernist Studies Association Conference at the University of Sussex. I really enjoyed last year's conference in Las Vegas and mostly enjoyed this one too. It made me think about a lot of things (including my own research direction) and that is always good. Wasn't hugely impressed with Brighton although I know folks rave about it. Felt a bit like Blackpool to me!

After much travelling and excitement (you'll be pleased to know that our bags were returned to us) the next few months are far quieter, as you might expect as term starts up. Yesterday I sat in a very nice Brighton coffee shop and did my yearly review. It is based on this one from the rather great and inspiring Chris Guillebeau. Whereas he does his in December/January and takes a week (a week!?), I spend an afternoon and do mine in September. My life still works in terms and September always feels like the new year to me. Guillebeau always has a theme for the year and I thought about mine. Last year was definitely a year of consolidation - we stayed in the same house, I travelled about promoting the book, I strengthened my position at Lincoln. This year is a year of transition, of pressing on towards new goals, new directions. I thought a lot about this word yesterday. It can refer to a process of change or (in music) a passage connecting two themes together. In martial arts it means a change from defense to attack (or the opposite of course, but for the purpose of my project let's go for this definition). I like this word as it has a definable starting point and definable (though not predictable) end points. It also suggests movement which is something I am working on right now in my research. I have four pages of goals - some of them are relatively small, some are so huge that they are probably impossible. Guillebeau reckons that if you are fulfilling more than 80% of your goals then you are setting your bar too low. I agree. He is also really insightful about not making your goals a prison. It is your plan so if you want to change it, dump it, whatever, then that is just fine. For me it is about striving to be better in all areas of my life. Sometimes this feels just great and at other times I feel as if I am going backwards!

The week is admin, writing and graduation. All fun!


Wednesday, 28 August 2013

Sri Lanka, Abu Dhabi and our missing bags

To fill you in on our trip to Abu Dhabi and Sri Lanka in just one post will prove pretty tricky. While we returned last night, our bags did not. However, they have enjoyed their wee extra journey and should be with us tomorrow courtesy of a very nice man at the airport courier service.

It is pretty difficult to make total sense of our adventure. So much happened and because we moved from place to place and experienced so much, it felt as if we were away for ages. As usual with our travel adventures, D will shove the photos online so feel free to click on 'photos' to the right of this post some time next week. Also as usual, I'll provide a wee list of highlights and reflections:

So, we spent four days in Abu Dhabi and eight days in Sri Lanka, although in the latter we stayed in three different locations: Kandy, Kandalama and the tea plantations near Hatton.

- In Abu Dhabi we stayed right in the middle of the F1 race track at the Yas Viceroy Hotel. Super lovely place with a hugely impressive breakfast and a restaurant that served the best prawn tagine you can imagine. I ate it twice in four days - it was that good! While in Abu Dhabi we went to Yas Waterworld and Ferrari World (I even pushed myself into going on some of the rides - not the really crazy ones you understand but pretty impressive for me). D, of course, went on everything including the fastest rollercoaster in the world. We also met the winners of Arab's Got Talent, visited the amazing Grand Mosque (where I wore a full abaya for the first time), ate dinner at the Fairmont Hotel and afternoon tea at the crazy Emirates Palace (where D drank two gold leaf coated cappuccinos) and took a tour round the racetrack. My highlight though was probably going to see Michael Ball in concert just across the road from the hotel. I have always had a bit of a thing for him and he really gave the most wonderfully uplifting concert I have seen in a long time. The crowd (mostly ex-pats) were hugely appreciative. He even sang 'I Won't Send Roses' from Mack and Mabel which reminded me of being a kid.

- Then it was on to Sri Lanka, a place I have wanted to go for a long while. It is pretty difficult to sum up all the amazing experiences but I'll give it a go...

- Our first night was spent just outside Kandy in a really lovely chilled out hotel. That evening we went to the Buddhist Perahera in Kandy, an amazing festival and parade. It was utterly exhausting for the crowds which lined the streets so I can't imagine how the performers felt. Four hours of dancers, elephants, musicians and guys with scary whips. It was a great privilege to watch it even without the religious significance that it clearly had for others in the crowds.

- Then off we went (via the gem factory - something Kandy is famous for) to Kandalama to another beautiful hotel in the jungle where monkeys woke you up in the morning by banging on your roof! We spent three days at spice gardens, visiting historical ruins, climbing rock fortresses, and having the amazingly wonderful experience of witnessing elephants in the wild. There were so many highlights from this part of the trip but I guess I have to say that riding an elephant was pretty special. I was very concerned about animal rights and didn't really want to do this at first. But our great guide found a wonderful elephant called Rani who was very well looked after and was clearly happy, cheeky and contented. Although others might have a different experience, every Sri Lankan we came across revered and loved these incredible animals. I had no worries about cruelty at any stage. I got to sit on Rani's great big wrinkly neck and feed him melon. It was absolutely amazing.

- We travelled (via bumpy train) to Hatton for the final stop of our journey at the Castlereigh bungalow in the Tea Trails. Seriously, this place was incredible. We got used to having bed tea and generally being spoilt rotten for three days with massage, amazing views, awesome food and games of croquet. It was a little like returning to a Scott Fitzgerald novel. While we were there we visited a tea factory (fascinating for a tea lover like me) and did a hike to one of the other bungalows through the plantation.

- We arrived back last night after a long journey (improved considerably by being upgraded to business for the Columbo-Abu Dhabi leg - a full flat bed!) full of stories and memories of an amazing time.

Things I will miss about Sri Lanka: Everyone is very kind and smiley (yes, I know this is a horrid stereotype but it turned out to be true for us), cricket is the universal language, the weather, the animals and vibrancy of the landscape, the incredible food

Things I will not miss about Sri Lanka: the roads! Having travelled a fair bit (including to Rome) I can honestly say that Sri Lankan roads and driving are the most terrifying I have ever witnessed. No one drives particularly fast but everyone does crazy moves as a matter of course.

I love our trips but I also love coming home and getting back into things. Today has been focused on getting things sorted and preparing for the Modernism Studies Association Conference which starts tomorrow in Brighton. The paper is written, my travel plans are sorted...looking forward to four days of stimulating chat and encouraging scholarship. Last year's MSA conference was probably the best I have ever been to so I have high hopes.


Monday, 5 August 2013

Back from Germany

I have spent the last week and a bit in Germany, first in the South near Lake Constance and latterly with D in Stuttgart. I was helping out with a children's camp run by a friend's church out there. You know when you have a really challenging, formative period and it is difficult to put it all down in a blog post...erm...well here we go. Things I learnt on this trip:

1) I can do stuff even when I don't think I can.
I didn't know anyone at the camp for the first four days and my German is a little on the rusty side. I was without D for the longest time since we've been married. I spent the whole week working hard in the kitchen without knowing the German word for cucumber (it is 'Gurke' in case you ever need it). And yet this trip proved that I could do stuff that is hard, live to tell the tale, help lovely folks and learn a lot about myself in the process. It seems to me that every time we push ourselves to achieve something new or hard or different we grow just a wee bit. It's always better to move forwards than stagnate.
2) 'Uberfall' is the German word for 'Hold Up'
OK, so there's this mad German camp tradition that in the middle of the night masked invaders arrive to try and steal the camp flag. The campers have to defend it by any means. In my books this sort of event is totally terrifying; the kids absolutely loved it!
3) You can eat your own bodyweight in Nutella in a week.
I've proved it.
4) I can follow a morning Bible study in German.
Just about!
5) I can last a whole week using just my small backpack.
Again, just about!
6) Americans are the most prudish race on earth.
While in Cologne last year D and I went to our first German spa. In Germany, let it be noted, one does not wear one's swimwear. While it all felt rather awkward at first, I decided to adopt the 'when in Rome approach'. Similarly on this trip we visited a wonderful spa in Stuttgart and chilled out all day. The same 'au naturale' rules applied in our hotel spa but the poor American visitors were utterly freaked by this European state of affairs, insisting on wearing their 'Badeanzug'. All rather funny actually!
7) Bobbing apples is a game I am good at.
I don't think I've done it since I was a Guide but I was joint winner of the bobbing apple competition where you had to eat two slices of apple from rather yucky water and then run round a tree in the dark. Bet you didn't do that this week!

It was a very interesting time all in. It helped me rethink my priorities (a process that we should always indulge in from time to time) and I really enjoyed helping everyone. I think I made a difference to people's workload and that was always my hope.

We got back yesterday. Today has been a slow day of work bits and pieces. Some writing, some reading, lots of inbox sorting (yuck!). I now have a few days of writing to go. Hoping to get a number of projects finished over the coming days. Also into another week of Rushfit. After a week of just some games, a brief run (the hottest I have ever had...ever) and some swimming, I am looking forward to getting back to tough training again.

So, I'm off to read, do some Rushfit and try to work out what I can throw together for dinner.

Tuesday, 16 July 2013

The sun will come!

Wow, the weather is awesome in Lincolnshire. It is so wonderful to have breaks outside in the sun. The last few days have been so lovely - lots of writing (3500 words yesterday!), reading and chilling. I love the summers. They are always hard work as I try to cram lots of research projects in to them but I really appreciate being able to organise my own time.

After finishing Insanity I had two weeks of rest, just doing whatever exercise I fancied whether that was going for a run, lifting some weights or playing with Punchie (my resident punchbag in the garage). I really feel I've rested my muscles and am ready for a new fitness challenge. So yesterday I started Georges St Pierre's Rushfit, an MMA style workout schedule that uses DVDs like Insanity. It is far more about technique than Insanity which is, when it comes down to it, just about exhausting yourself in a variety of painful ways. I enjoyed the first workout and reckon I'll get better as we go on. It uses proper weights which I don't normally do. Pretty excited about it. Plus cardio is left entirely up to you so I can do whatever I feel like.

Last week I used the gym at the University of Essex as I was down there for a conference. Gym rated highly, conference slightly less highly although i did get to hear the best (no really) plenary ever from Rosi Braidotti. She was so inspiring!

I arrived back to find the Scottish side of the family who were taking their summer holidays with us. It was so great to see them; we do some proper laughing when we get together. When my in-laws left I found lots of goodies all over the house - sweeties, crisps, chocolate. It was like a jolly treasure hunt!

Anyways, after being chained to my desk almost all day, I am going to take half an hour with D who has arrived home from work early for a change. A cup of tea is already waiting for me.

Enjoy the sun y'all

Friday, 5 July 2013

A busy summer!

You know when you look at your diary and get a bit overwhelmed by it? Erm...yes... My summer is pretty crazy this year. Fortunately it is all wonderfully happy from a week with a kid's camp in Germany (a good test for my Deutsch) to multiple conferences to a wee run up to Edinburgh, to a trip to Sri Lanka to longs days of writing in my lovely Lincolnshire pad. It all feels so good and really, really full! Looking forward to the mixture of work and play - lots of adventures, scholarly, linguistically and culturally. With Bruce singing in the background it's time to fill you in on the week.

Well this week I received good news about a funding bid, became a mentor for the Higher Education Academy at Lincoln, read some mad plays by Alexandr Blok (in English), watched some new Bruce DVDs (present from D even though it has clearly just been his birthday!), watched a rather terrific play about The Ashes (that's the cricket tournament for any American readers), rewatched Reel Steel while doing a heap of ironing, chatted with the ducklings (who are basically ducks now) and done lots and lots of writing. And (probably biggest news of all) I've finished my Insanity fitness programme. Pretty proud of myself actually. It was really tough but great fun. Definitely feel fitter and stronger. Today I went for a run and smashed through my 5K record. Go me! For the next few weeks I'm just going to enjoy wee fitness challenges (like some new weights work, new yoga moves and some great runs) and then I'm on to Rushfit, Georges St Pierre's fitness programme. Can't wait. Reckon I'll do some Insanity workouts too as I'm going to miss ol' Shaun T in my world. Feeling fit and healthy is a super blessing. Probably just eaten a spoon too much frozen yogurt but we'll let that go.

We have a relatively quiet weekend in store. I'm riding tomorrow before going to a joint 40th birthday party. All their buddies have cooked a chilli and are taking it along so my kitchen currently smells of beef...lots of beef. Sunday is super quiet. LEC in the morning before sitting out in the sun and probably watching a certain tennis final. D has done his Nottingham commute 11 days out of 12 so he is looking forward to not getting the train! Next week is the British Comparative Literature Conference in Colchester and the Scottish side of the fam are coming to stay. Big Dave, if you are reading this, you have to leave all the washing up for when I get back. We made a deal!

So, summing up, life rocks pretty good right now. I love the summer months when I can make my own schedule and get loads done. And if the sun continues to shine you'll find me with a smile on my face in my hammock with a book, the tennis and a glass of Diet Coke. Rock n' roll!


Friday, 28 June 2013

Bruuuuuuuce take 2

So, what do you do with a spare Thursday evening? You go to Coventry on a whim of course. D rang in the morning and asked if I fancied going. It all seemed a little mad! But off we went to the Ricoh Arena to see Springsteen for the second time in a week. With any other band it would all be a little boring but, of course, Bruce played a totally different gig. He was amazing and the sound was definitely better than Wembley.

Friday, someone (who will remain nameless) did very well in his exams so I celebrated by taking a day of annual leave and taking him to see 'Man of Steel' at the cinema. Verdict? Very enjoyable if a little perplexing. I couldn't work out who was dead (if anyone) nor really what they were fighting for. But Henry Cavill is great (and physically impressive) as Superman. Well worth it just for him. We also enjoyed dinner at our new Lincoln hang out Ribs and Bibs which is a very welcome America-influenced addition to our rather lean local scene. I had the smoked chicken salad (they smoke their own meat) and it was super delicious.

Since then it has been exam boards and writing. The book is coming on well, although progress has stalled slightly because of all the other wee projects I have on the go right now. Today I've been trying to throw a conference paper together. On Tuesday I travelled down to London for a jolly day out at the National Theatre, meeting new folks and seeing some suffragette plays. Life is certainly varied and interesting. Having spent this morning on the conference paper, this afternoon I am going to do a little reading and spend a bit of time on the book. Fridays always seem like chill out days, right? I think another cuppa will help me to get to grips with Alexander Blok's 'Puppet Show', my play of the day. Have been thinking quite a bit recently about reading schedules. I'm pretty good with writing schedules and even with research schedules but my reading schedule is very up and down. To be honest I read when my brain can't write anymore! Certainly worth considering a proper summer reading schedule.

And with that, I'll depart. Summer is full of trips, holidays, conferences and writing. All we need is sunshine and it'll be perfect.


Monday, 17 June 2013


So, what a weekend we had. After an odd, up and down sort of week (which culminated in some very exciting publication news that I can't share with you yet), we picked up our camper van Olive and drove down to Buckinghamshire with our buddies. We arrived at 4 in the morning just as the sun was coming up. Seriously long drive in the rain but the boys drove amazingly and we only stalled once on a wet track. D saved the day by bump starting dear old Olive. We stayed at a campsite in Seer Green and, after hanging about in our van eating brioche for the morning, got the train to Wembley Arena to see Bruce Springsteen. I had been excited about this trip for weeks and weeks. We did our usual queuing. At one stage the rain was as bad as it had been when we saw Bruce in Manchester last year! Was once again grateful for my plastic poncho. Eventually we got in and found ourselves a great spot just near the mixing desk which means that you don't get bumped about too much.

Well, what can be said? Bruce was awesome. He played almost every song I wanted and did some super obscure ones as well. We jumped about, sang along and had a great time. One of the things I love best about Bruce is that he is a total perfectionist and yet doesn't mind getting folks up on stage or letting the audience play his guitar. For me this suggests the perfect balance of total dedication to his music and chilled out love for his fans. His music seems to connect with people in really interesting and unique ways.

We drove back yesterday and I was super sad to hand dear Olive back. We had an amazing weekend and I just feel incredibly fortunate to be able to enjoy such brilliant days. The whole three days made me feel super thankful (for our friends, for new experiences, for music, for too much Haribo) and inspired to achieve excellence in the things I do too. As Bruce so eloquently puts it 'it ain't no sin to be glad you're alive'. True that!


Monday, 10 June 2013

Gigs galore!

As usual at this time of the year, I flit between end of term admin (never-ending!), lovely days of writing and fun little excursions. So over the past two weeks I have finished all the material for our external examiners, completed a book chapter and added 5000 words to dear ol' MAG (my EUP book who I haven't really said 'hello' to all term) and have been to two gigs with a third on the way.

The gigs in question were Mark Knopfler at the Royal Albert Hall (for me) and Rush in Sheffield (for D). Both were spectacularly wonderful in their own ways. We have seen Knopfler before but I thought he played better than ever this time and the whole experience was made all the more joyous by being right at the front! He played a lot of lovely folkie stuff just for me and at the end we all rushed the stage and danced along with 'Local Hero'. The Rush gig was definitely more for D who simply loves this band. There was a particularly humorous moment when D and the three random guys next to him played a remarkably accurate drum quartet. Getting your paradiddles right is super important at a Rush gig! However, even though I always think Rush doesn't play my type of music, there were loads of things I really enjoyed about the evening: a) Having read Neil Peart's (drummer) wonderful books over the past year, I feel I have a new appreciation of him, the band and his lyrics. He is a remarkably learned, intelligent and literary guy b) they are just three nice blokes. It helps a lot when you enjoy music from guys who aren't jerks c) there is a lovely geeky element to them. I really love the way that geek culture in all its forms is quite cool right now. Given that I have always been a bit of a geek (in a loveable, non-weird way), it is great to watch a band that embrace that side of themselves and aren't afraid to be perennially uncool! d) I have written about this before on this blog, but they are a band who take risks. Their music is constantly risky and difficult. I just love meeting/watching/being around folks who are awesomely talented and brilliant at what they do. Somehow it makes me want to be better at what I do too e) actually I secretly like their music but don't tell D.

I won't tell you how excited I am about this weekend's gig extravaganza!

The writing is going well, as is my Insanity fitness programme. I have just two weeks left of the latter and have definitely noticed a difference. It has been hard...very hard...but I certainly feel stronger and absolutely love the challenge of pushing my body. I haven't yet made it all the way through the power jump section, but I live in hope! In our spare time (between D's mammoth revising sessions) we are enjoying Oliver Stone's Untold History of the United States which we recorded on our Skybox. I'm finding out about a heap of folks I've never heard of and learning more and more about a country we really love.

Anyways, a BBQ beckons tonight. This will be our third in four days! Steak all the way tonight. D's steak is seriously the best in town.


Tuesday, 28 May 2013

Alternative modernisms and quiet days

Morning all,
After 2 days of glorious sunshine, Lincolnshire weather has reverted to type and we have rain. The ducklings are quite jolly about it. This past week and a bit has been a combination of super busyness and peaceful home days. Straight after our departmental postgrad progress board, I ran off to Cardiff for the Alternative Modernisms conference. There were three great things about this trip: 1) I got to stay with Smelly sister and Stu (husband) which was so lovely. Generally at conferences you stay in uni accommodation or a hotel. How nice it was to have a little home from home where I could relax. 2) The scholarship was immense. I'm not sure what I was expecting from this conference but I certainly wasn't expecting to come away quite so inspired. Because of the word 'alternative' many modernists with more niche subject areas came out of the woodwork. This meant a refreshing lack of Joyce and Woolf and far more about obscure scout groups, the design of cruise liners and pottery. I loved it! My own panel went very well. To have 40 people at a modernism and theatre panel is, quiet frankly, unheard of! There was a brilliant spirit of joyful friendship which I appreciated very much indeed 3) I got to visit my bff in Ammanford (which is further from Cardiff than you'd think!) and meet her two sweet children for the first time. We lived together when we both worked for St Mikes in Aberystwyth but haven't actually seen each other since my wedding nearly 6 years ago although we've spoken on the phone a lot. It was simply brilliant to see her.

The only downside to all the revelry is that I got a horrid cold that I had to fight off for the entire week. Bravely battled through though in the power of Vicks First Defence.

Since then it has been marking all the way. Finished all first marking yesterday so now just need to do the final bits of moderation and we can put this term to bed. For a variety of reasons, this hasn't been the easiest term for me so I'm quite glad to venture on into a summer of research. That said, last week we said goodbye to our third years and I was very sad about it. They are the first group of students I have ever seen all the way through their course so I feel particularly attached to them. They are a really strong year group and, best of all, genuinely nice folks.

I have enjoyed a number of peaceful days at home which have reminded me how much I love sitting at my wee desk and just cracking on alone. I am really quite antisocial! As well as that over the past week and a half I have: carried on with Insanity (the second month is way tougher than the first - my muscles ache...a lot!), watched Shawshank Redemption for the first time (I know, I know...), watched a brilliant documentary called Searching for Sugarman, read Paul Coelho's The Alchemist (really excellent and thoughtful), worked on a chapter for a collection entitled Modernist World, done my first batch of healthy baking (verdict: carrot cake 'best I have ever eaten' (quote from D), but still need to find a way of getting my banana muffins to rise properly) and enjoyed two bbqs.

Summer research is approaching and I am so looking forward to the next 12 weeks. I have a whole book to write along with other projects but am excited about the challenge and about the long days at my laptop. All great fun. We also have a number of gigs and wee trips coming up to give us some time together away from D's revision books.

Hope life is treating you well wherever you are

Tuesday, 14 May 2013

Sorry, assessment took over life back there!

So much for blogging every week! Quite frankly any post I might have written last week would have been total nonsense! It was the second week of performance fortnight, LSPA's bi-annual theatre fest. Everything went off very well, although if I smell ketchup or strawberry sauce ever again it will be too soon. There were some interesting performances from the first years who responded to the brief in really imaginative ways. Come Thursday night I was utterly exhausted and spent the next three days resting and filling in assessment front sheets. D is super busy right now so we've tried to take a bit of time out together just to watch some football or eat food.

Talking of football, hats off to Sir Alex Ferguson who retired this week. Actually I felt rather nostalgic about it all, remembering back to those joyous Saturdays at Old Trafford watching Eric Cantona run rings around the Liverpool defence. Happy days! Fergie was also present out our wedding (coincidence, you understand, he wasn't invited as such) and signed our wedding book. I think even staunch ManU-hater D was relatively impressed by that. Anyways, onwards and upwards with David Moyes. Hopefully Rooney will be out the door so I can start supporting the Reds in good conscience again.

We continue on with our Insanity fitness programme. I am enjoying it very much indeed. This week is our rest week. I did the 'rest week workout' last night and it was considerably less restful than I was hoping! It feels pretty good to be a bit fitter. It also means that I can finally do the yoga crow pose, something I have wanted to do since taking a hard core yoga class in Canada. It requires strong triceps!

The ducklings are doing very well. We have two families: one of eight who are all huge and one of five who are a little smaller. They come for breakfast and tea. D is a big softie and left the house this morning reminding me to 'take care of the ducklings'. They are increasingly demanding and knock on the conservatory door when they are hungry. Cheeky things!

This week is my transition week back into research and I'm looking forward to it. Apart from the marking, my focus from now until September is on writing and only writing. By the by, my royalties came through from the first book. Put it this way, I won't be retiring any time soon! But it has sold rather well for a fairly off-the-wall academic book. I'm really looking forward to this summer. We have a couple of holidays, a few gigs, some conferences and long days of writing and research. Just perfect!

And talking of research....I had better crack on.

Monday, 29 April 2013

Day out at the Beeb

I write this from my conservatory with the sun occasionally popping out from behind the clouds and silly ducklings chasing bugs outside. Having spent the last couple of hours trying to start a new book chapter, I thought I'd take a quick break and write a blog post. So, the most exciting thing that's happened relates to the blog title...

Last post I mentioned that something exciting had happened that I wasn't allowed to tell anyone. Well, I was invited down to BBC Broadcasting House to be part of an AHRC (Arts/Humanities Research Council) collaborative project on Scottish identity (I know, I know!). It was a great day full of incredible research, amazingly inspirational academics and producers, and the chance to walk through BBC Persia to get to the loo! I had a great time - hopefully it will lead on to other stuff in the future.

I spent the weekend recovering from my London trip, riding Tommy and watching films. Lovely! We are now nearly halfway through our Insanity programme. It has been really tough but I love a good fitness challenge. It's just good fun and I enjoy challenging myself. In fact this term has been all about testing myself, failing, succeeding, testing myself again. This is the nature of academic life but I guess it should also be the nature of life generally. I need to keep feeling I am moving forward: learning new things, being challenged by new things, being tested in new ways. Moving forwards is a great thing!

For those who are interested, the ducklings are doing very well. We have a family of eight who are huge and a family of seven who are smaller. They have started scrapping over the past few days and D has had to stand between them! Harry the hedgehog has also been out more than usual, wandering along in the sunshine. Our garden is full of happy animals! We've also finished Homeland series 1 (pretty good, annoyingly unresolved ending) and watched Moonlight Kingdom (a really beautiful and funny film recommended by D's aunt).

Anyways, the chapter beckons again. I have about another hour to go on it. It's going surprisingly OK so far. We are just about to enter assessments so I wanted to get things done before they arrive. Next week is a monster!


Tuesday, 16 April 2013

Spring has arrived!

Yes dear friends, Spring has finally sprung in Lincoln. I even read a book outside this afternoon! The ducklings are happily chasing each other about and I have switched the heating down. Phew! I might even drag a t-shirt out of the cupboard at some point.

To celebrate I triumphed at last weekend's show-jumping event. Having only ridden since November, I was a little concerned about tackling jumps but Tommy and I managed the whole course without falling off and I won first place in my category. I even received a rosette which made me turn into a seven-year old Pony Club member. I am so enjoying this new hobby and look forward to every Saturday afternoon when Tommy and I can trot about. We also went to watch Lincoln Ladies football for the first time and, although they lost, it was a very jolly way of spending the afternoon. Other than that, this week I have been taking my fitness levels to new heights with the Insanity programme, a tough 60 day DVD which is incredibly challenging. Call me weird, but I love the pain of great exercise. It is just the best feeling and I am already starting to see improvements after just a week! Watch out Ronda Rousey, I'm coming for you!

Writing has been going well this week as I've been focusing on just 2 projects as opposed to the normal 47. As term hasn't yet started, I've spent happy days quietly writing away and enjoying the peace before tech week starts. I always quite enjoy tech week as it's a chance to see some works-in-progress and stand in admiration watching our superb tech team set lights and do other mystifyingly complicated things. Then we are on with performance fortnight which only gets busy for me in the second week. I also have an exciting opportunity next week which I can't mention yet. Cryptic, huh!

Just so you get a real time sense of my world, the ducklings have just returned to the garden. They generally appear in the mornings but less so in the afternoons so it is quite a bonus. They are adorable and their mum is very attentive, even going so far as to attack our sweet well-meaning hedgehog Harry yesterday as she thought he was going to hurt them. I love living here all the time, but I especially love it when the sun shines and the garden is alive with little animals.


Thursday, 4 April 2013

Still freezing...

...ah, but now I have my new Dyson heater which I have named Doris as she has become a true friend since we picked her up from my in-laws at the weekend. The only problem with living in a big old house is that it can get a little chilly at times. Doris has made everything good.

Easter was a lovely relaxing time: work, family, church, two grand meals out and playing with our lovely niece. We built a rocket out of megabricks and decided to go to the moon. She suggested we take cheese sandwiches and 'Ibena' which sounded like a good idea to me. I also went on my first ever rollercoaster. Theme parks and fairs are not my cup of tea at all but our niece was so brave that I didn't feel I could wimp out. It was shaped like a caterpillar and went faster than I thought it would. In fact I felt so brave that D persuaded me to go on the water rollercoaster. Even he thought it was a pretty good ride. We both got wet through although I had borrowed my very kind father-in-law's Scandinavian coat so was covered from head to toe.

Today we have family staying, D is at work and I am busily completing this ongoing 'can I write a journal article in a month?' project. The answer, by the way, is 'yes I can', although I'm not totally convinced it is good yet. It has a good premise but I haven't really had enough time to thrash it out. We have a quiet weekend in store with some riding, some work and, of course, Wrestlemania which we might even try and stay up for. Those of you who like that sort of thing can enjoy a rundown post next week.

We have also booked our summer holiday. We are off to Abu Dhabi and Sri Lanka for adventures and jolliness. I have requested an elephant sanctuary and the tea plantation. D is looking forward to dragging me on the world's fastest ride at Ferrari World. After my exploits on the rollercoaster caterpillar I'm not sure I'm going to be able to get out of it!


Thursday, 28 March 2013


So, since my last post Spring has not arrived. This means that I have marked dissertations under my duvet rather than outside in my sunglasses with a cool drink and the dulcet tones of Radio 4 in the background. This is absolutely not good at all. While riding last Saturday I was so cold that my fingers stopped working; Tommy was deeply unimpressed by the whole thing too. Coupled with this, I finally got sick last week and, due to general chilliness, I seem unable to fully shift it.

As you might be able to tell I am a little grumpy about all this...

On the plus side, term is over and writing has begun in earnest. The 'Can I Write a Journal Article in a Month?' project is coming on. I now have over 6000 words which is rather brilliant, although I am not sure if any of the actual words are brilliant. I'll work on it for the next four days (discounting Sunday) and then leave it for a week to cogitate before deciding whether it is really ready for peer-review. Strangely, this week has been one of academic disappointments and failures; not huge things but big enough to make a difference. It has got me thinking more about failure which is, I guess, the other side to striving for excellence. No striving, no failure. But you get mediocrity instead which is, when I look at it in the clear light of day (oh, wait, the clear chilly dullness of a grey Lincolnshire Spring morning) ten times worse. So I will plod on regardless and continue striving for what I believe in and what I think is important.

In other news I have watched the second Sherlock Holmes movie again (as always, enjoyed it better the second time), have got into Homeland (it has grown on me and now we are quite gripped), read the first third of Terry Eagleton's magnificent Reason, Faith and Revolution: Reflections on the God Debate (I will write a full review of this soon so I won't spoil it. Suffice to say, it is beautiful and has so far made me laugh out loud at least five times and cry a little bit. Not bad for a crit theory book), done a couple of good workouts (including Trish Stratus' yoga DVD yesterday and don't my abs know it), drunk a number of soy lattes from our new on campus coffee shop and finally seen the bottom of my washing basket.

So I guess things are really good with moments of greyness...if only our weather could work that way round!


Friday, 8 March 2013

An interesting week

It has been a week of ups and downs, downs which should have been ups and ups that, by rights, should have been downs. Life is a fascinating ride!

In less oblique news, the journal article I mentioned in my last post (hitherto known as Project 'Can I Write A Whole Article From Scratch In A Month?) has had a remarkably fruitful day. I have written a little over 2000 words this afternoon. Phew! My brain knows it too! Suddenly, after days of dancing around it, this impossible project seems possible. I've also been working on a number of applications for different bits and pieces. All have now been sent off and, ignoring for a few hours my inbox full of emails from poor stressed out third years battling their dissertations, I actually nearly have a clear desk before the weekend. Good job really as my house looks like a bomb site! With everything else that has been going on this week, I simply have not had time or inclination to properly deal with it. This is my next job.

Spring seems to have been delayed this year and the crocuses in my garden are looking decidedly grumpy about it all. Even the ducks seem a little under the weather - I think they want some sun on on their backs too. We still have our heat on full in the evenings with is just wrong for March. As well as all this we have been watching a few films, catching up with the wrestling (road to Wrestlemania has started so expect some wrestling posts between now and then), listening to a wonderful couple talk about their summer move to Tanzania and enjoying (term used advisedly) the Champions League football. D continues to work super hard. He is not getting back until 7.30 tonight...on a Friday! He left at 6.30 this morning. This is not an unusual day for us right now! We have, however, booked our summer holiday to Abu Dhabi and Sri Lanka. How lovely it will be! Before that I am off to the less salubrious (but equally lovely?) Birmingham this week to speak at the Northern Modernism Seminar at the University. Not only that but I get to stay over with one of my bffs in Shrewsbury. Hoorah! Should be a good trip. The panel is unbelievable and it is a privilege to be speaking alongside all those great scholars.

Tomorrow I'll be crashing round the house desperately trying to tidy up, riding my sweet horsie Tommy (hopefully not in the snow, though it is forecast) and welcoming our dear friends and family to Nocton for the day. We haven't seen them in ages and can't wait to catch up.

Until next time,


p.s. this entire post was written to the sounds of our naughty mouse friend who lives in the walls of our house although we've never actually seen him. He does make a racket though when he wants to!

Thursday, 28 February 2013

A quick break from my brain

After finishing an article this morning and then making changes to the Introduction for the next book, I have spent the afternoon thinking about whether I can write an entire journal article in a month and half for a special edition on modernist performance. Despite two hours of thinking and scribbling, I am no closer to finding an answer to the question so I thought I'd take a quick break for a blog post and see if that doesn't clear things up. It would be quite an undertaking on top of everything else so I want something that a) won't take too long to write b) I have done most of the research for and c) I feel might fit into another project just in case I don't make the deadline. I may have stumbled across something...

Life here continues apace. It is nearly March! Today the sun is shining and the ducks have been laughing themselves silly for most of the day. I have hung washing out for the first time this year! I am more than delighted that Spring is on the way. More than ever, I am totally done with Winter! University life is very busy, by and large, with lots of teaching and extra bits and pieces. We've still had time for some fun though, including a rather lovely trip to Derbyshire with Mum, Dad, Smelly and Stu for Smelly's birthday. Hot tubs, massages and runs through the forest were the order of the day. Just lovely! D and I have watched a few films and have got back into season two of Treme after a bit of a break. He's been reading lots and lots on his long train rides; I've been reading books on theatre historiography when I've had the time! I have a pile of fun books to read which I'm looking forward to getting to at some stage. We've been discussing holidays and have so far drawn a blank although D seems to have a few ideas as of last night. Last week we had a friend to stay who is a missionary in Papua New Guinea and had amazing, inspirational stories to tell.

Other than that, things continue as normal here in Lincoln. I've been returning to one of my favourite topics recently: planning. Formal planning forces us to think about what it is we want to do, what we are qualified for, what our dreams are. I love it! My current plan is coming together well and, for the first time in a long time, has specific aims and objectives even if they are not necessarily entirely in my power. Perhaps more on that when I finish it.

Anyways, my currently untitled document is beckoning me back so I had better add up the weeks and see if this rather mad project is even doable.


Tuesday, 12 February 2013

Chaos and peace

If I have to fill in one more funding application I might go mad! It is silly season in academia land where all the deadlines come at once. At least I can cross some of them off my list today! Anyways, I have combined funding admin with book chapter writing (the next one is just about done), dissertation proofreading for my students, teaching and reading lots of Auden. Life is quite peculiar just now as one day I am running around like a mad thing at uni and the next (e.g. today) I am busily writing at my wee desk in rural Lincolnshire. It is a little like having two lives! Next week is Reading Week and we get to welcome the next intake for interviews. It makes for a chaotic but jolly fun five days.

Apart from work, life is relatively quiet. I enjoyed some time on my horsie Tommy on Saturday and we've watched a few films. We've also been catching up with Borgen, my current favourite show. It is brilliant. I love Birgitte. I've enjoyed some workout time with my punchbag - D recently put together a new mix tape (or the C21 equivalent anyways) for my workouts with a selection of tunes, many of which are wrestling related. Talking of wrestling, here is a wee picture of me presenting at the recent conference in Bordeaux.

All in all that's about it really. Tonight will go: workout, shower, dinner prep, D comes home, eat dinner, make pancakes, watch RAW, read new book about an athlete called Kathryn Bertine (really excellent), get ready for a chaotic Wednesday, snooze. It really is all rock n' roll here.

Friday, 8 February 2013

Wrestling both on and off the page

My trip to France was really excellent. I started the week feeling unusually anxious about it, wondering whether my GCSE French would enable me to even get to the venue, let alone allow me to understand anyone. Actually, it was a wonderful trip - very relaxed indeed, some truly excellent scholarship and some amazing food. I ate at least two delicious pastries every day! It made me realised that my interest in pro-wrestling and performance is actually a legitimate scholarly pursuit. Expect some articles out in the near future. Bordeaux is a beautiful city and I visited all the major attractions, despite the freezing cold weather. After the conference, I had the whole of Saturday to drink lots of coffee and simply wander about. I also (and trust me, this is quite unlike me) did a little clothes shopping, a complicated business when you can't quite fathom the sizes or how the discounts system works. On my flight home, I finished the original book version of Les Miserables, truly a novel that will stay with me for the rest of my days. Hugo was a genius! It is better than the musical and the recent film.

As well as that I have been working on a standalone book chapter on fascism and theatre (nearly done), faffing about (e.g. editing) the second chapter of the Book, and teaching futurism which has been very jolly. I am always surprised (and grateful!) that the students run with the ideas and documents on the Modern European Drama course. If you don't enter this course with an open mind then you are simply done.

Apart from that I have been getting better with my punchbag, drinking lots of soy lattes from our new campus cafe, watching the first episode of the new Stephen Poliakoff series Dancing on the Edge (despite his pretentiousness I really love Poliakoff) and rewatching the rather good boxing film Reel Steel, excellent not simply because Hugh is in it but also because it has a rather engaging story and some pretty great boxing moves.

Anyways, lunch beckons before an afternoon with Kermode and Mayo's film review and chapter 3. How I love days like these! I think I enjoy them even more than I did when I was on sabbatical as now they are interspersed with teaching days - individual scholarship and inspirational pedagogy...wicked combination.


Tuesday, 29 January 2013

The wonder of Hugh

I am delighted with my title pun! It is in reference, of course, to Les Miserables which D kindly took me to as a wee treat. He is very patient. So, I realised I haven't yet posted a review of this so here it is...

Funnily enough I actually preferred it to the stage version and it is not often I say that. There are two reasons: 1) the book (which I have nearly finished) has such tremendous scope, particularly when it comes to the French Revolution. The stage show, for obvious reasons of brevity, is forced to ignore this. The film (because a picture can say a thousand words, of whatever the cliche is) manages to capture some of that scope. As a prime example, Hugo devotes twenty pages or so to discussing the Paris sewer system, a fact that goes unrecognised in the stage show. On screen, Valjean and Marias' escape through the sewers is pretty graphic and perfectly responds to Hugo's description 2) on stage your perspective is set. Unless you run up and down the aisle (not recommended) you are always the same distance away from the stage and even if the set designers mess with the perspective a little, you are always more or less a particular distance from the action. In the film, Tom Hooper used close ups...lots of them...and then scanned back...a lot. While this 'in and out' movement had the potential to become a little grating, actually it worked wonderfully for this film especially for Fantine's solo (Anne Hathaway should win every award going for this) and Valjean contemplating his fate in the Bishop's church.

I really liked the live recorded singing. It made the whole piece feel very fresh and unusually raw for an on screen musical. This worked particularly well with its sense of realism, again chiming with Hugo's prose. As for the individual performances...well my standout was, of course, Hugh Jackman as Valjean who was born to play that part. As anyone who knows me will know, Hugh can do no wrong in my eyes. Anne Hathaway is immense and Russell Crowe has been given some bad rap but is actually a rather good screen presence especially in the 'Wolverine v Gladiator' scenes. Eponine and Marias were both excellent, although I wasn't a huge fan of Cosette's voice, but that might simply be personal preference. In a lovely nod to the history of Les Miserables (one of my pet hates is calling it Les Mis - don't even think about it!) the Bishop was played by none other than my childhood hero (and original London Valjean) Colm Wilkinson, whose voice remains as good as ever. And it was nice to see a brief cameo role from Sheffield Crucible's own Dan Evans.

So, my verdict? For me this film redeemed a musical that had become rather tired and cliched. I have fallen out of love with the musical over recent years but this has convinced me that there might be a place for a really good musical story in the modern world.

Anyways, back to the books. I am in France at the end of the week at a conference and have plenty of work to do on a book chapter and, of course, the Difficult Second Book which I approached with intrepidation today after some months away from it. The Introduction is a 6 out of 10 currently which really isn't too bad.


Friday, 11 January 2013

Slow down 2013..., I guess this is my happy new year post. Quite ridiculous considering that half of January has already gone. Well, happy new year anyways! So far 2013 has been a rather odd year - lots of happiness and some sadness.

Rather than go through everything, I'll mention some happy things that are currently in my world:
1) deadlines: OK so deadlines aren't necessary happy things and having 5 before the 1st March is a bit much. That said, it is jolly nice to be wanted! And all the work is very interesting.
2) running with my new fitgloves: former wrestler Trish Stratus has created these amazing fitgloves which adds 1lb to each arm while you run. It is rather remarkable what a difference such a small amount of weight makes! My run today was freezing but fun. Lincolnshire is a wonderful place to run - flat, well-pathed and relatively pretty. And you never know when you'll come across a tiny brown Labrador puppy or a naughty horse who doesn't like walking on grass!
3) Punchy: this is the new name for my punchbag, a Christmas present from D. I love it! Boxing is brilliant for fitness.
4) the darts: I would like to say I am embarrassed about my love of darts...but I've not. The past week has been a celebration of the big men and I love the drama, even of the rather rubbish BDO. Stockport-born Tony O'Shea is still in it. Up the Hatters!
5) reading about Russia: one of my projects right now is about Russian theatre in the UK. It means dealing with a heap of fascinating books and archives. It makes me want to go to Russia some time soon.
6) rooibos tea: I used to drink a lot of rooibos but I haven't drunk it for ages. Recently the wonderful people of eteaket sent me some and I am loving it.
7) admiring D's computer game chops: I have never seen anyone finish a computer game and, not growing up with computer consoles and therefore being rubbish, even at things like Sonic, I was super impressed that D finished Uncharted 3 two days ago. Actually it is easy for none gamers to scoff, but these games are unbelievable - cinematic, well-scripted, exciting. I was quite impressed and got into spotting the baddies as D played.
8) riding: I am still loving my riding and get to have a jolly half hour with Tommy tomorrow morning. Horses are amazing - they just get it.
9) Twitter inspiration: recently I've been following a number of new folks whose attitudes and great work ethic are extremely inspiring. It just shows how fantastic Twitter can be if used well.
10) planning 2013: there are so many wonderful things to look forward to - gigs (lots!), holidays, time with friends and families, living in faith.

So, when life feels just a bit on the odd side, or the sad side, or the confusing side, how good to focus on wee blessings.

Hope 2013 is proving great for you so far.