Sunday, 3 December 2017

Where we have been in 2017? Japan and elsewhere

So, you may well have given up hope of me ever writing another blogpost again. I think time has just rather run away from me...something I am thinking very seriously about at the moment (more below). So, let me fill you in on the past few (ahem) months.

Well, the big highlight of this period was our incredible trip to Japan. You can find all our photographs in the 'Photos' section of the blog. Suffice to say, I think Japan is my favourite place in the world. We loved the food, the people, the culture, the mix of crazy madness and quiet zen, the incredible public transport, the fact that Totoro is everywhere. We flew into Tokyo (via Doha, one of our favourite places the change planes) and spent a few days exploring this capital's many interesting districts. We took a trip up into the Nikko National Park and spent happy hours in smokey old skool arcades playing 'Street Fighter II'. We then took a bullet train from Tokyo to Kyoto, a trip I have wanted to do for years. It was incredible to zoom past the Japanese countryside at a million miles an hour. Kyoto is a very different city, full of little streets and geishas and amazing temples. And more excellent food (D got quite addicted to these wee omelettes with sausage inside wrapped in nori seaweed - better than it sounds!). While staying there we did a day trip (using our wee Japan Rail Passes, which we used until they fell apart) to Hiroshima. I wasn't that keen on visiting this city (seems a rather odd place to go on your holidays) but I am so glad we did. It was the most mournful and yet peaceful place I have ever been. It has the most horrendous history but is now a vibrant city, rebuilt after such horror. It felt strangely uplifting in a way that I am not sure I can explain. We also caught the ferry to Miyajima, one of the most beautiful places I have ever visited. The cable car was a pretty exciting way to journey up the mountain. We travelled back via Amsterdam (a place I had visited earlier in the summer for a conference). There were so many highlights from our trip - do take a look at our pictures and follow our amazing journey.

Lots of other stuff has been going on - fun weddings, some cricket, visits from our family and friends, trips to Edinburgh and Oxford (partly work, partly fun). University life has been hectic and full - teaching, new articles to write, proofs to complete, and, just a couple of weekends ago, our first proper public engagement wrestling event as part of Being Human. It was a terrific night and, in a bucket-list moment, fantastic wrestler Mark Haskins 'cut a promo' on me at the start. Pretty awesome stuff (check out our instagram feed).

All this has been terrific, but it has also been a time of more yucky illness and a struggle to find real balance in life. I think I have probably always found this quite hard - I have a tendency to really throw myself into work. But I have begun to realise more and more the importance of finding balance, peace and rest, as well as other things to inspire and opportunities to serve. I am spending December (when I am not preparing for Christmas, marking assessments, finishing a journal article and doing a few pleasant travels) really trying to develop this balance. It is an interesting, sometimes challenging project.

So, from us to you, we wish you a wonderful, peaceful Christmas time wherever you are in the world.

Friday, 7 July 2017

Our America trip and the summer begins

Term came to an end and I battled through the marking (some good stuff actually - was pretty proud of many of the great students I taught this year). And then, it was off to Western US for a trip we have been looking forward to for some time. A good few years ago, when we started travelling about, D mentioned that he would love to take his mum and dad on a trip to show them some of the special places we love. Well, finally we managed to make this trip. We began in the heat of Las Vegas, journeyed up to Joshua Tree for the saloons and cowboys, spent a week in LA for Hollywood glamour and chilled out beaches, finally saw some whales in the wild (something I have spent a decade trying to do!) in Monterey, and finished in San Francisco. It was quite a trip! Terrific to spend time with two folks we love so much and to share so many special places with them. If you are interested then the photos are in the 'photos' section of the blog. Here is a lovely one of the amazing Valley of Fire National Park to get you started!

We got back from the trip and I went straight into two mammoth weeks of meetings, writing, trips and conferences. I am pretty chuffed to say that we won two awards for the on going wrestling project: a Being Human Grant so we can host a great event in November and a DMUEngage award to pay for the Spring events. We are so chuffed that organisations see the worth in this project and are willing to support it financially. I then headed straight off to the British Association of Modernist Studies Conference in Birmingham. It was a fun combination of great research, dinners out and chats with friends. 

This week has slowed down a bit and finally I can get to my summer research projects. I am so excited to begin these projects. Have a good lot to do between now and our next summer trip to Tokyo in September! But I am trying to take things slowly and carefully, playing around with new scheduling systems and things. This time of year is just brilliant and really sets me up (in a research sense at least) for the rest of the year. 

Hope, wherever you are, that you are enjoying happy days and focusing on the good.

Friday, 19 May 2017

The question is 'what happened to April?'

So, here I am in the middle of May. When I wrote 'write a blog post' on my to-do list this week, I imagined I had written something profound(!) in April. As it turns out I haven't updated since March. I honestly don't know where the time goes.

To fill you in on goings on since my last post then: it has been an unusually quiet couple of months really. This has been great because work has been extremely busy: end of term, marking, grant applications, furthering some new projects, taking over as the new Secretary of the British Association of Modernist Studies. I also seem to have been involved in a million workshops, training days and committee meetings. So, all in all, outside of work things have been peaceful.

Easter was a rather lovely three week gap in usual university busyness and provided enough time for me to crack out a couple of grant applications (one already successful, one submitted today), spark off a couple of new potential projects (including one with a new friend in Sweden), and complete the final faffy bits and pieces for our forthcoming journal collection entitled 'Raymond Williams and Performance'. We also managed to get over to sunny Stockport to see the family and enjoy the planes at Manchester Airport with our nephew. Shout out to my dad, long time committed reader of this blog, who has been a touch under the weather recently. We had a jolly bank holiday at Lord Byron's house Newstead Abbey and I've enjoyed a couple of trips down to London for a BAMS (yes that is the acronym we go by) exec meeting and to give an invited lecture to the great students at Drama Studio London. We also enjoyed a wonderful gig from the ever-mighty Steve Hackett last week at the Royal Concert Hall in Nottingham.

Today is a finishing off day though, frankly, so much is dependent on other people fitting in their bits of various jigsaws that is has ended up being quite reactive. But things have been done. Once the marking is out of the way (we are nearly there now) it is time to throw some things in a bag and jet off to lovely California for a few weeks of sunshine, great food and country music on the radio. We are looking forward to taking my great in-laws to America for the first time. This means that we'll be missing the Election fall out which makes me rather happy but is a disappointment for politically-minded D. Then we are on to a summer of great, exciting projects. I have set some strong, challenging objectives for the summer period, and am looking forward to working on two new journal articles and two conference papers. This is book-ended in September by our first trip to Japan. Extremely excited by that prospect!

So, have a wonderful start to the summer friends wherever you are in the world.

Friday, 31 March 2017

What happened in March?

So, for those of you who have seen me around during the past month or so you will have noticed that I haven't quite looked myself. Having been ill on and off since November, my poor old body finally succumbed to the flu and then to pleurisy, which I imagined was an illness only Dickensian spinsters contracted! Anyways, I feel as if I am slowly coming out the other end but it has been unpleasant, rather painful and (probably worst of all for me) pretty frustrating! As a goal-setter and forward-thinking sort of person, I really hate it when everything is derailed. The idea of bed rest is rather horrifying; the fear of missing out on a day fills me with frustration. But I have tried to take enough rest in these busy last weeks of term. Sometimes our bodies just tell us where we are at and we have to listen to them.

So, in the midst of this, what else has happened? Well, D and I have enjoyed some good family time with both sides during March. This included a quick trip to lovely Edinburgh to celebrate Bro-in-law's birthday and to play with my fantastic nieces. I've had some fun work opportunities which I have just about been able to cough through. Our Cultural Exchanges event 'Performance and Professional Wrestling' was a particular highlight. Forty people attended which was exactly forty more than I thought might attend when I first suggested it to the organisers! The speakers were absolutely amazing and we had some terrific feedback. I've also finally managed to schedule some important deep thinking time into my week: Friday afternoons (e.g. straight after writing this post!) are now reserved for new projects, reading and pondering. So far this has been a great addition to my academic schedule and I already feel more focused.

As far as other stuff, life has been pretty quiet, mostly because of being under the weather, although we did enjoy a magnificent Anderson, Wakeman, Rabin concert the other week in Nottingham: three guys really stretching themselves! It was brilliant! And we've also made a few life decisions which include (*whisper it*) potentially buying a house. More of that in the next post as everything is a bit up in the air right now.

Anyways, one more week of term to go. It has been the longest term ever and I am looking forward to a bit of a rest and a refocus on some projects that have been rather neglected over the past few months. And it's Wrestlemania Weekend which is a source of great excitement in our house. Finding the card a bit full, busy and confusing, although looking forward to some of the matches: glad to see Naomi back, Miz/Maryse v Cena/Nikki (cringe-worthy but interesting), Owens/Jericho, (I suppose) AJ/Shane O. If you aren't wrestling fans that the previous sentence will mean nothing!

Wishing you a happy final day of March 2017.

Friday, 10 February 2017

Lots of positives

Funny how weeks can be full of great things and full of sad things!

The past week and a bit has been rather coloured by the death of my favourite rocker John Wetton. Meeting him back in 2008 and seeing my first Asia show was the start of my rock music odyssey. He has always been my favourite: his music is always so full of intensity, passion, authenticity and sensitivity. Eventually I had the great privilege of working with this wonderful band. I have felt so sad since his death and we have enjoyed listening to a lot of his beautiful music since then.

The world still seems pretty topsy-turvy, although things feel a lot clearer and less anxious when you stay off Twitter! Focusing on good things like community, learning exciting new stuff (parabolic curves and cures for Alzheimers have been two things I've been thinking about this week!) and doing lots of good work.

But life is also full of great things, such as a wonderful weekend in Cumbria where I finally fulfilled one of my dreams and rode a horse along the beach. Ended up in proper canter. Here is a picture of me and lovely Jente:

It was a fabulous weekend. I felt such a sense of freedom as I cantered along. Other high points: this week I took part in De Montfort's great LoveInternational 24hr vigil. We came together as a university family and made a public declaration that we will stand up for folks, and share love rather than negativity or hate. It might be easy to be cynical but it was a really wonderful time. Here I am giving a wee talk about friendship and creativity to lots of folks wrapped in blankets!

We've enjoyed lovely little meals out, hanging out with friends (including two jolly wee boys), and watching Bryan Cranston's new series 'Sneaky Pete'. The next few weeks are quite settled but include weekends with the family, exciting new work projects, dinners with friends, a few new goals/challenges and, on Sunday, a great wrestling show in Milton Keynes.

So, I've been reminded over the past few weeks about the need to really focus on the positives: the wonderful beauty of the world, great people, significant environmental and economic improvements. I hope you too know real peace despite the ups and downs of the world.

Friday, 13 January 2017

Welcome to 2017!

Happy New Year one and all!

Christmas and New Year were all good fun chez Warden despite there being a lot of yucky illness about. We were up in Edinburgh for the duration so got time to chill out, play with our amazing nieces and eat far too much delicious food. We rang in the new year watching the fireworks and lasers over Edinburgh Castle.

I had one day back at home before heading off to New York with over 1000 De Montfort University students. This (rather mad!) trip was organised as part of DMUGlobal, an initiative that pledges to send as many students as possible overseas to experience different cultures and see a bit of the world. I co-led the Performance in New York part of the trip. We encouraged our students (from Drama, Dance, Performing Arts, and Arts and Festivals Management) to go to as many performances as possible and see as much of the city as they could. And they really took us at our word! They went all over New York and tired themselves out! They saw experimental avant-garde work, musicals, site-specific shows, even basketball in Brooklyn! And many of them were moved by the 9/11 memorial and impressed by snowy Central Park, the Empire State, Times Square and the Rockefeller Centre. The tour of the Lincoln Center was one of my highlights - what an incredible venue! Suffice to say we had a brilliant time. Everyone (including those faculty who travelled over) were really inspired by our experiences. I came back feeling really energised and creatively excited - MOMA always does that for me!

Here's a couple of photos from the trip: Central Park in the snow and the picture of all of us taking over Times Square!

It was an amazing opportunity for the students...and we had a fab time too. Got back on Tuesday and was straight back into term. So I'm spending today catching up with a bunch of jobs I have been putting off. No doubt you will get an email from me today!

The next few weeks include a couple of wee trips (to London and Cumbria) but in general we are at home getting into good schedules and enjoying a bit of peace after a super busy conclusion to 2016.
Wishing you a very happy 2017 one and all!