Friday, 25 December 2009

Christmas around the world

In the US our relatives have probably not been long up. In Birmingham and Yorkshire they are probably well into Christmas lunch. In New Zealand, its been over for some time. In Cambridge, we are, well, not doing much, but waiting the arrival of a different baby still. Its all a bit odd.

Monday, 21 December 2009

Finally on maternity leave...

...but did not envisage spending most of it waiting for, and trying to be patient on, unreliable snow-hindered buses.

Thursday, 17 December 2009

Theory and practice

My theory was that having gone on leave from work I would still be doing a couple of hours a day, because there were unfinished ends I felt I should tie up but hadn't had time and felt bad about this. The practice so far is that I just can't be bothered! I guess that my change if the bump makes me wait beyond the due date. What will my excuse be then? Right now it is that I have some pastry to roll out.

Tuesday, 15 December 2009

Vote splitting

Amongst the breaking "news" on BBC Breakfast this morning was the top five Christmas carols as voted for by a couple of contingencies (Radio Times readers and Classic FM listeners). My favourite made into the top five twice, as different versions. Does that mean it would have won if the vote hadn't been split? (Also glad to know I'm not alone in really liking this carol, 'In the Bleak Midwinter').

Monday, 14 December 2009

Advent calendar sessions again

The idea behind the bump's advent calendar was to tell it part of the Christmas story as we opened the windows but (a) not all the pictures are helpful - where did the lantern or sheepdog come into it? and (b) the parents-to-be are not that good at remembering details or even the words to Christmas carols that the pictures suggest to us. So, finally, I have tracked down some CDs of Christmas music/carols to play in lieu of mother only remembering the odd line here and there. Hope they are worth it.

Tuesday, 1 December 2009

Advent - it's arrived!

Having excitedly presented the boy with my advent calendar on Sunday, it having been the first day of Advent, it was pointed out to me that the chocolate advent calendar started on 1 Dec not 29 Nov. But today, according to the advent calendar anyway, it is Advent. So hurrah! Bump has one too, but just with pictures.

Sunday, 29 November 2009

Annoying "Christmas" advertising slogans

At the moment I'm trying to decide which of the following I dislike more:
  1. Ann Summers: Have a Horny Christmas
  2. MacDonalds: Salivation is Nigh

Both are tasteless, so I suppose I don't have to choose. I'm just hoping not to have to add more to the list.

Saturday, 21 November 2009

Pregnancy musings (6)

Last weekend my sister and her brood of four came over from Birmingham for a viewing of the bump (we had not seen them since announcing bump to the world). My brother-in-law commented that I "carried it all on the front" (I had not been aware there was another option), whilst my youngest England-based nephew said "I don't mean to be rude, but are you pregnant or have you already had the baby?" (which confused me somewhat, sitting there as I was doing a rather good impression of Obelix). And bump is definitely growing apace: my stomach has started emitting noises from somewhere I was sure I had left my lungs, and my lung capacity has definitely reduced again. Bump's new rule (and it has been issued with many) is to stay put for at least another two weeks and to be at least 5lb in weight (otherwise it will be "Destination: plastic-box land" and neither mother nor child are likely to like that).

Wednesday, 11 November 2009

Remembrance Day

In Britain this was the first anniversary of the Armistice ending WW1 to pass without the attendance of eye-witnesses, the last three veterans residing in the U.K. having died in the past year. A British soldier from the war still lives, but in Perth, Australia.

In another connection between Australia and WW1, I have had in my possession for some months the 1916 diary of a friend's grandfather, which I offered to transcribe for her (although with pregnancy there has been a major hiatus on this front). So, to mark the war, lest we forget, I have flipped forward to 11 November 1916:

"There was a straff of unusual violence last night
our first Div had ten guns blown out we never heard if any of the men got knocked
it has been rather a fine day & the mud is like glue a mans feet weigh somewhere near 1 cwt
Fritz put some busters very near us last night & today"

Pregnancy musings (5)

As a PhD student I took over three years to formulate an answer to a question no-one else was really interested in. I don't feel this equips me to come to a snap decision about whether to have the swine-flu vaccine. I'm trained to want to sift lots of evidence about (frankly) unimportant questions, not respond quickly to important questions without sufficient evidence. Feel I'm damned if I do, and damned if I don't.

Sunday, 8 November 2009

Artefact of the week (2)

Two artefacts from Norwich Cathedral, which I visited on Thursday, for you:
(1) the Despenser reredos
(2) the Pelican lecturn
Both of these survived the Reformation by being hidden: the reredos disguised as a plumber's table, the lecturn buried in a garden. Shame that the powers that be there felt the need to put a hole in the lecturn stand in order to feed a microphone cable through it, though.

Wednesday, 28 October 2009

Pregnancy musings (4): Bonfire Night

Again with the slightly premature post, but again we'll be away for Bonfire Night.

For some weeks now the boy and I have been reading the bump a bedtime (or in its case a wake-up time) story from the Teddy Robinson books. These are childhood favourites of mine, and generally appreciated by the boy also, even if he isn't so sure about Teddy R's penchant for his best purple dress, or the propensity to dress up in a tutu and do generally girly things. If you are unfamiliar with Teddy R you can read a favourable review here, or here. But we did get a scare the other night: the story (one I definitely don't recall from childhood) was 'Teddy Robinson and Guy Fawkes' (or as it was read out by the boy, 'Teddy Robinson and the Hate Crime'), and it was essentially a deeply disturbing conversation between a Guy, who was really looking forward to being burnt, and TR. As some of my Teddy R books lack substantial quantities of their page edges (I used to tear them off and chew them), we're wondering if the bump will notice if we rip this particular story out. Its a hard thing for bibliophiles to consider, but, gosh, if you'd read the story you might appreciate where we are coming from.

As its almost Halloween...

...and I won't be near a computer when it is, I share my Halloween cookies with you, provided by the mother-in-law, and posted, at considerable expense, from Wisconsin. There were 36 when they arrived over a week ago, and we're hoping to have some left by the time All Souls arrives. Having seen the postage I can more fully appreciate the response to the light-hearted suggestion that we "ought" now to be receipt of cookies for three.

Thursday, 15 October 2009

Autumn love

This can be my favourite season when it behaves properly: autumnal sunshine, crisp coloured leaves underfoot, and, as it gets colder, sparkly pavements to walk on, not to mention some decent local apple varieties (if you can get your hands on them). I don't appreciate the nights drawing in so much, especially as the new cohort of students in town (as usual) think they are visible without bike lights and that it is their right to cycle on the pavements. But, as that isn't autumn's fault, I'll let it pass. One of my favourite things to do at this time of year, especially once the clocks have gone back next week, is to go to evensong in Durham cathedral; sit in the choir stalls, mainly in the gloom, and feel the full force of the prayer to protect you from the dangers of the night, knowing you are going to walk out into night at 5.55pm or so. It just isn't the same in the summer. If I'd blogged again last week, there would have been much on the indignity of being a research gopher, so you can be thankful perhaps that the indignities kept me busy.

Tuesday, 6 October 2009

Pregnancy musings (3)

Having suffered two weeks of his mother sitting in a silent archive, dull for mother and child, it must be time to start the 'musical education' of said child. Or at least give him something to listen to. So today's playlist starts with 'Bat Out of Hell III'. We'll have to come up with something as a nice counterpoint to this for later in the day.

Monday, 28 September 2009

Office gremlins

When a girl doesn't use her office more or less for six months, she can expect to find that:
  • the number of chairs which have come to die there have substantially multiplied (it costs money to get them officially removed when dead)
  • at least three gerbils have died in the desktop since last usage

Sunday, 27 September 2009

Pregnancy musings (2)

Just wondering how large you have to get before someone offers you their seat on public transport rather than clocking your bump and then looking at the floor? What fun a one and a half - two hour commute across London into the archive that was last week: that's that long one way. (So looking forward to doing it again this week). And a similar question about individuals with no pool ettiquette: how long before they think 'Hmm, that lady is a wide load, perhaps I'll give her a little extra space?' I'm hoping, mainly for my opinion of my fellow countrymen, that as I increase further, offers of seats will occur. But for the pool sharks, I fear there is no hope.

Sunday, 20 September 2009

Paris, then and now

Then was January 1989, now September 2009. Then I was on a very short school trip for French A-level students, more recently visiting the Sorbonne for a medieval history conference. Then I could speak French (or so I thought), and couldn't get anyone to speak French to me; more recently I couldn't get anyone to speak English to help me out with my completely corroded school-girl French (never so embarrasing as in an internet cafe - why had I not considered that I had no internet or computer-related vocabulary to dredge up from the back of my mind?) Then, being a self-hating almost 17 year old, I hardly ate; last week, being a pregnant lady of six months, that was hardly the case. But there were parallels too. Then we mainly saw the outside of buildings (presumably because we could not afford to go inside); and this month I again mainly saw the outside of buildings, having been in town for a different purpose than to sight-see. So Paris remains to be 'done'. Perhaps sooner than in another twenty years, mais qui sait?

Sunday, 6 September 2009

Pregnancy musings (1)

Now at twenty-four weeks plus, my main thoughts (other than panic, worry and stress) have revolved around why it is apparently impossible to purchase maternity clothes in England, other than online. In a moderate sized town (Cambridge) one is told, I'm sorry but only our major stores carry maternity clothes - shop online. In a much bigger town, and more a city in the modern sense (Newcastle-upon-Tyne), one finds again the injunction to shop online, although one can of course go to Dotty P's which, allegedly, has a maternity 'range'. Having last shopped in 'Dorothy Perkin's' over twenty years ago, I was less than keen to grace its doors. But in one trots, and, yes, the maternity 'range' appears to be aimed at the average age of the Dotty P customer. Does this tell us something about teenage pregnancy rates in Britain? Some relief was found in Birmingham, thankfully, but not as much as you'd think. And Marks and Spencer was particularly disappointing and awful. So I suspect that those pregnant ladies who don't have access to the internet are forced to have recourse to the leggings and a baggy t-shirt option, suggested to me by a sales person in a Newcastle store, 'hen'. Fine for at home, but if you need something smart for work? Oeuf, c'est terrible.

Thursday, 20 August 2009

August culture vultures (3)

As the next weekend quickly approaches, a note about the last. Our cultural offering then was an outdoor performance of 'Measure for Measure' as part of the Cambridge Shakespeare Festival. When I booked the tickets I couldn't recall the plot, but that came back to me within minutes of the show. Having been to some pretty ropey outdoor productions in the past my expectations weren't high, but it was pleasantly quite good. And, more crucially perhaps, this being England in August, the weather actually held. The rest of the weekend, like much of the week preceding it, was dominated by cake. Some formed part of the theatre picnic, having adapted a friend's recipe for blackberry muffins. The rest provided at a rowing bunfight on the Sunday. You should note the similarly between W1 (women's first boat) and WI (the Women's Institute). It is generally held that we ought to enter/create a WI rowing league, where our cake-fuelled performance and our cakes might be equally judged. Defeat, then, by lean mean crews? We think not.

Tuesday, 11 August 2009

August culture vultures (2)

Arriving hungry and thirsty for an 'Organ Walking Tour' you have, somewhat dubiously, signed up for perhaps isn't the best way to give the experience its full chance. Part of Cambridge Summer Music Festival (not to be confused with various other concurrent music festivals in Cambridge) this tour involved an introduction to three chapels/churches by an art historian followed by short recitals on their organs. It sounded intriguing, and possibly good. And I think if, like 90%+ of the attending audience, you were signed up members of the 'We know everything about organs in Cambridge' fan club, it was probably fantastic. The boy and I had been more going for the 'get into a historic building and hear about it' part, so the first recital of loud, big organ sounds did nothing for us. It was nice to see Jesus College chapel though (formerly, before the Dissolution, the nunnery of St. Radegund). The second stop was more interesting: All Saints Church. Unlike Jesus, which had been redecorated in the revived Gothic style in the 19th century, this church was built as a showcase of revived Gothic. With the interior all recently restored, the coloured hand-painted wallpapered walls rather took me aback. It's worth a look if you are in the area. The final stop on the tour, sadly, was the boy's own workplace, so there was nothing new to see there.

Monday, 3 August 2009

August culture vultures (1)

August appears to be a time when Cambridge is awash with festivals of various kinds. This weekend the boy went to a concert of early music performed on reconstruction medieval instruments. Myself, I went to the latest exhibition at the FitzWilliam Museum on the influence of Darwin's theories on the art of the time.
nb. the culture content is reduced by taking young children with you, as a museum visit today with a friend and said young children reminded me.

Friday, 31 July 2009

Putting the bumps to bed

To prove there was an excess of coxing recently, a photo from one night of bumps. This corner was Mr. Asbo's favourite terrorising patch.

Thursday, 30 July 2009

History: all in the past?

There has been a sad lack of history related posts recently whilst my life was taken over by coxing, so here I direct you a site concerned with the future of archives in Britain.

Wednesday, 29 July 2009

Weekends of grace

The boy and I trudged off to the North again last weekend, destination Newcastle RC Cathedral, for the ordination of a former housemate. Given that this housemate had a long and arduous journey even to be accepted as a candidate for priesthood, before we consider the last six years spent in college (again), it was great to see this landmark moment reached. And he looked so happy. The boy, in consequence, kept grinning inanely all weekend, because it had been so good to see a happy ending/beginning. We finished the weekend off with a stop off at Mount Grace Priory, literally (and death-defyingly) just off the A1. This had been recommended to us as a good stop when we visited Durham at Easter and had been watching 'Into Great Silence'. At Mount Grace you get a better sense of the largely individual lives that the Carthusian monks lived. I'd pass on the recommendation, especially if you don't have long - we spent an hour there and weren't rushed - but you do take your life in your hands getting back onto the A1. Slip-roads guys, slip-roads.

Thursday, 16 July 2009

Conferences are bad for you...

...because you are
  • under-exercised
  • over-fed
  • and full of rage at the laziness of those conference attendees for whom the courtesy of bothering to shape (and time) a paper so that it can be tolerably listened to is a step too far

Saturday, 11 July 2009

Good weekends, bad weekends

Over the past month contributions to redeeming weekends have included:

  1. pancakes for breakfast, courtesy of the husband

  2. a walk down memory lane (here a shot from the undercroft, the Norman chapel, of Durham castle)

  3. taking time to smell the roses (at Anglesey Abbey)

These have had to compete against

  1. catching a summer cold from one's godson

  2. sunburning oneself to within an inch of flayed whilst coxing

  3. witnessing the near disaster of a crockery-bearing shelf give way, and the hoover giving up the ghost

But in the long-run the good points outlast the bad.

Wednesday, 8 July 2009

Noooo, not again

Just trying to drum up some enthusiasm for my next coxing session, having coxed 3 out of the last 4 days, and having another 3 sessions this week after tonight. The crew will have to settle for me getting there; I'm forced to settle for their rowing, and that's worse.

Monday, 29 June 2009

Then there were three...

Yes, I'm on with the cygnets again. And there are definitely only three now, although no further reports of something amiss having occurred. My concern is now double-edged as I find I shall be coxing an eight during the Town Bumps, which means lots of trying not to hit said birds. I'm thinking of petitioning for a 'Go Slow' zone in the middle of the race, wherever the swans happen to be.

Wednesday, 17 June 2009

Poor Mr. Asbo once more

Unable to prise the camera out of husband's grip the weekend I wanted to take pictures of our local celebrity, I'm reduced to directing you to the news stories that follow.

I was glad to see that during the chaos that is University Bumps measures had been taken to protect the swans and cygnets, all the more so as I had by then been told (?reliably) that Mr. Asbo had lost all his young in 2008 during this event. Sadly between Bumps ending on the Saturday evening, and the swans again being protected on the Monday evening when a race was being held, one of the cygnets was killed.

If I read again that the swan is interrupting people's training, I'm going to suggest they go for a swim and see how they like oars whacking them. Grrr.

Saturday, 30 May 2009

Speaking too soon...

A pleasant Friday evening pootle on the river, was made all the more pleasant by the realisation that Mr. Asbo the swan wasn't patrolling his patch, but was chiling on the bank whilst Mrs. Asbo herded her five little cyngets along. Buoyed by this, I reassured the cox the next morning that there would be no more trouble from said swan. What I hadn't taken into account was that on the Friday evening there were virtually no boats on the river, but by the time we approached his domain yesterday morning he had been riled by eights ploughing up and down for several hours. He was, in consequence, in fine wing-flapping, flying at and even landing on the boat style. I don't know what the swan male hormone is, but I think he has it in droves. Indeed, this morning his attack was more sustained, as we got nearer the young in question. Fair enough, really. Hopefully photos to follow.

Tuesday, 26 May 2009

Those migrating song birds

According to a Radio 4 programme today, the numbers of song birds migrating from Africa to the UK for the summer are substantially down amongst certain species including the cuckoo. Having been brought in up the suburbs I can't say I ever regularly heard a cuckoo, if I did at all. But I have heard two this spring. Once when we were down in Sussex, and once this past weekend, claiming territory over this particular piece of fenland:

Tuesday, 12 May 2009

Things I am not fed up of (5)

Views. Here's one looking out from Orrest Head (Windermere) towards much higher things.

Thursday, 30 April 2009

Things I am not fed up of (4)

Endearments. But does 'non-resident alien spouse', as I have mainly been referred to over the past few days, really count? Thank you IRS.

Tuesday, 21 April 2009

Apparently it really is sunny...

in the south. That is in the south of England, where the boy and I spent the long weekend. 'The South' in England is a somewhat elastic concept. For those who wish to be considered from 'The North' as diametrically opposed to 'The South', the said South begins anywhere below the particular latitude of their hometown. However, visiting East Sussex we were definitely in 'the South', as confirmed by local pub-goers who seemed to regard anything north of the Thames as the wild North. Eejits.

We were visiting a friend who works and lives at Herstmonceux castle, and it was a weekend of much eating out and visiting sites of historical interest, don't you know. The only downside was that we ate as if we were teenagers on a growth-spurt and moved as if we were shuffling off to live in Bexhill-on-Sea. That aside, it was a great weekend, where we:

1. Spent some time in the British Museum 'doing' the Assyrian galleries, Africa and some of Roman Britain (before we got turfed out). I found the lion hunt displays a bit relentless in the Assyrian galleries. In the African gallery I'd recommend the 'Tree of Life'.

2. Splashed out on National Trust membership for a year and put it to good use by visiting Bateman's (Rudyard Kipling's house) and Bodiam castle. The latter is so liberally provisioned with fireplaces its primary use must have been as grand manor house rather than for defence of the south coast, whatever the introductory video might say. Watch this if you ever go though, if only for the shot of a knight apparently making his fortune in the Hundred Years War by riding down a fleeing peasant.

3. Visited Lewes, scene of the Montfortian victory over Henry III in 1264, which was unfortunately mostly shut. The castle was having its walkway renovated, and the priory remains, although some attempt had clearly been made in the past to open them up and turn a penny from them (there were faded information boards and instructions that you could obtain leaflets from the ticket office), were shut away behind a fence topped with barbed wire. This seemed a shame, but apparently money is on its way to open the site up. All in all we appear to have visited Lewes too soon. In compensation we went to 'Anne of Cleeves' House'. A triumph of marketing over content because although given to Anne of Cleeves by Henry VIII she never went there. So, unless you want to see a local history of Lewes museum, you may not want to part with your gold. One display did catch my eye though: a series of firebacks made from local pig-iron. My question to you is, who would want a fireback of Protestant martyrs being burned at the stake? But this is a town with a fierce Bonfire night tradition (indeed, bonfire societies) with flaming crosses and (until recently) burning effigies of Pope Pius IV. This, I suppose, is what happens when your town suffers Marian persecution under Queen Mary.

4. Obviously looked around Herstmonceux castle and its grounds, including an embryonic archaeological dig, examining a purported moated manor house.

5. Shuffled along the sea-front at Eastbourne and its pier. Having never been on the 'traditional' English sea-side holiday I'd rather anticipated that all such resorts had tat shops selling 'Kiss Me Quick' hats and the other assorted junk a-plenty, but apparently Eastbourne is a little more classy than that.

6. Made it to the heart of '1066 Country' with a trip to Battle. English Heritage haven't done too bad a job here - your entrance fee buys you admittance to the battlefield and the remains of the abbey. It's not necessary to watch the video as you will hear the text again on your audio-guide. I found it a little hard to envisage the battle as you go around with your audio-guide as, of course, the terrain has changed and you don't get a full appreciation of the incline of the hill as the abbey buildings cut this off. (Tradition says that William had the altar of the 11th century church placed on the spot where Harold was killed, and this is some way up the abbey complex).

Monday, 13 April 2009

Bank holiday fun: duty, dancing and a swan named Asbo

The boy elected to work Good Friday and Bank Holiday Monday this year, leaving me to twiddle my thumbs somewhat on those days. This led to the production of a 'traditional' Easter cheesecake on Good Friday. (Really it's a birthday cake but we won't be chez nous for the boy's birthday.)

Saturday involved a limited amount of rowing. Limited because the boat house door has been broken for some time now meaning certain boats can't be got out safely (grrrr). This did give me another opportunity to watch 'Mr Asbo' in action. The so-called 'Mr Asbo' is a male swan who has been terrorising rowers on the Cam for some weeks now. He's quite a spectacle, when viewed from a safe distance. It's cruel, but the stroke of my four has been known to do the theme tune to "Jaws" when moving through his self-proclaimed zone of the river just to freak the cox out that little bit more. The real exercise of the weekend was a walk. Doesn't sound hard, but when you cycle everywhere, walking suddenly becomes a bit of an issue. More so when you've booked to go to the Lake District for a week and your wife expects to be taken hiking. So the boy went for a bit of a drag on Saturday afternoon, and is booked for another one in a fortnight's time. (Hopefully we will both have recovered by then).

Easter celebrations at church were, in my view, cool; at least for the 'Presentation of the Gifts' section when Indian members of the congregation performed a West Syriac rite, involving lights and dancing. I thought it was just a touch Bollywood, but of course I got in trouble for saying so. The slight, ever so slight, Bollywood theme continued in the afternoon when I took the boy to see Slumdog Millionaire. My boss had told me it was sad because of the poverty and that was the overall message I took from the film, whatever the critics have said. The boy, who had been planned to endure the film, admitted to having enjoyed it.

Easter Monday saw my first sculling outing of 2009. I managed not to send my partner for a swim and, of course, stayed well clear of Mr. Asbo, so all was well on that front. The sculling season may commence.

Monday, 6 April 2009

Passiontide and bankers

Sometimes the lines from hymns strike you. This is more usually the case with older hymns (hymns versus choruses), written to teach you your theology. So from Palm Sunday I am stuck with

'Ride on, ride on in majesty
In lowly pomp ride on to die'

The second line isn't taking any prisoners. I'm not sure what the local church was using in place of palms. It seemed to be whatever greenery the parisoners could offer up. A good idea, but the boy was in fits of hay-fever induced sneezing throughout the service.

A laid-off banker turned up to stay in the evening. It's not so bad as she has severance pay, and is already pursuing those new jobs with a determination that I've never quite mustered. And, being laid off, she didn't need to engage in defence of the 'morality' of her post.

Tuesday, 31 March 2009

Weekends away

Weekends away should involve as many historic sites as possible, even when the real reason for the jaunt is to catch up with friends and, sadly, attend some meetings. We did manage a few minutes (scarcely more) in my favourite building in the world, aka Durham cathedral. It spoils you for all other cathedrals, trust me. Tynemouth priory was also on our list, but in the end we looked at it from across the street, under some awning, watching the flag-pole wave worringly in time with the lamp-posts on what was a particularly gusty Saturday. A new-to-us site also made it briefly into our weekend: Fountains Abbey. We liked this. The boy has a date to take me for a weekend to Ripon at some point in the rest of our lives so we can "do" this properly, and Ripon cathedral too. In addition, in keeping with the season of Lent, we attended a showing of Into Great Silence, discussed here.

Friday, 20 March 2009

Days out, grand and otherwise

Last Friday the boy and I skipped off work for the day and had a "Grand Day Out". This comprised:
  1. getting up a bit later than usual
  2. going to the Tower of London
  3. eating copious amounts of apple crumble and custard at St. Martin's
  4. watching Avenue Q

Sounds grand, but I felt a bit otherwise about the Tower. I'd been there once before (scarily over twenty years before) on a truly grand day trip from Birmingham to London with my sister. That day had been glorious sunshine, and we had caught the boat up the Thames and arrived at the Tower by that means, if not literally through 'Traitor's Gate'. It was probably about the time that the film Lady Jane came out, so the historical romance of the place would have been pumping through the youthful veins. The highlight then, indeed, was locating the graffiti 'Jane' in one of the Towers. I remember this, the sunshine, and the fact that we decided we weren't going to pay to go and see the Crown Jewels. Last week wasn't so exciting. I blame various things. For one, it has been very much done over for tourists in the intervening 23 years, and I don't make a good tourist at historical sites. For two, there wasn't much medieval going on, and these days that's more 'my bag' - a downside of specialization. On the plus side, the boy enjoyed it, and it was his day out.

Thursday, 12 March 2009

Lose yourself in history

Amongst the piles of pap that I have skimmed for light relief in the past year, I do read the occasional good novel. Those based in historical events this year have included:
  1. Under A Blood Rey Sky by Kate Furnivall - a book I have lost the last few days to, and consequenly top of my list. Set in the Russia of Five Year Plans and labour camps this book has it all. Here is another blogger talking about it.
  2. Half of a Yellow Sun by Chimamanda Ngozi Adiche - which I found grimly educational.
  3. The Poisonwood Bible by Barbara Kingsover - some more African history.
  4. And, an old classic, Little Dorrit by Charles Dickens - as if you need me to tell you that.

Monday, 2 March 2009

Queens, queens and more queens

No, not a discussion of any particular gender topic. This is medieval history. Traditionally written by men, it doesn't do gender really, even if there is now literature out there on queering the Vikings. Instead, today we discussed real queens from AElfthryth to Anne of Bohemia. I myself, whilst far from a copy of the Queen of Heaven, am an intercessory centre. 'Can I have an extension?' The student approaches the friendly face. The friendly face refers to the inner grumpy core. The inner grumpy core mutters and splutters and the friendly face smiles munificence. Nothing queenly for you artefact wise, but queens must have had treasure so you could look at this website instead.

Sunday, 22 February 2009

Road-kill potatoes and other stories from the Midlands

I like hearing stories of the old days, as well as stories of the current days, when I get together with my family. Last weekend was good on both fronts. Most laughs (at my father's expense) went to his much drawn-out tale of the roadkill potatoes that he rescued, and that my mother was very grudgingly conceding to eat, but only as chips (fries). Most revealing was the fact that my mother had actually played squash with my father in their pre-marriage (according to him) or early-marriage (according to her) days. My mother, playing a sport (even if only twice)? This does not compute. Young love my husband concluded. I'm inclined to agree. The husband after all did undergo an afternoon of being taught how to swim properly in the early days of courtship which I now realise he must have hated. What the social services would have made of my mother's childhood game of borrowing neighbour's children to take for walks when she was bored of playing with the dolls, I can't imagine. Apparently the next-door neighbour in question wasn't too pleased to find her baby abandoned in the front garden, forgotten by my mother and her friend. But should she really have been lending her out? My sister-in-law took notes for future childcare options. The final image I'll leave you with is my mother and her friend, off school with chickenpox, walking the street calling 'Unclean! Unclean!' This being the 1940s Britain, I think the bells were probably imaginary.

Monday, 16 February 2009

Things to do when you're bored (2)

Tell people some of the things you had for your birthday, such as
  1. a pair of red shoes from Hotter
  2. a fruit cake steeped in tea from Betty's
  3. a book on wild swimming

Think you know more about me now?

Things to do when you're bored (1)

Read Domesday Book. Well, perhaps less 'read', more 'skim'. I was disappointed to learn today that nowhere really really close to my particular part of the urban jungle that is the greater West Midlands connurbation was included. On the other hand the village I currently reside in in Cambridge is.

Thursday, 5 February 2009

A stitch in time would have saved nine

I found myself with three pairs of gloves in my pockets at the shops today. All have holes. All of which I'd made a mental note to stitch up some while ago when they were the start of holes. Looks like a job for when there's something on TV. Another well-worn phrase much in my mind today is the one about getting back on the horse when you fall off it. In this case exchange a bicycle for the horse. It's quite annoying that we were snowed in again today - it has caused a delay in my getting back on my bike after being knocked off it yesterday. I chose to walk to the shops rather than get on my newly fixed bike. Hmm, I'm not keen on getting back in that traffic, I thought. Bother, I hate that. I think it'll be a few weeks of taking the river path (which I love, but which is longer) before I get back into the fray. It reminds me of when I got a hockey ball (grass hockey) right in my eye. After that I found myself strangely conscious of how high girls really swung those sticks. Mind, I got some serious kudos from rugby types for my face of brown, purple, green and yellow. A real picture. Shame I was trying to sell graduating students photographs at the time.

Monday, 2 February 2009

Don't travel unless you have to

This is the universal message to the southern UK today. My husband told me it applied to me, as he would have a heart attack wondering if I made it back from work in London, even if I had made it in. Yes, the country is paralyzed by 6-10 inches of snow. And, I have to admit it, I'm embarrassed given the snow conditions we were travelling considerable distances in over Christmas in the US. But, seeing a ray of hope, perhaps the US trains are as badly affected by snow as in the UK? But that would not be a rescue from embarrassment. The county will be rightly full of Poles saying "You call this weather?!" I dread to think what will happen if the Gulf Stream does get diverted, although the husband has said we'll have moved to near Mile High Stadium by then. In the meantime I have requested a moratorium on cracks about the inability of the UK to deal with weather. As these had already began before 7am I don't hold my breath, but the husband did promise to try...

Monday, 26 January 2009

Things I am not fed up of (3)

Turning my mattress. It's a real beauty from the pocket spring bed company, and you should keep turning it to prevent it from settling. I feel guilty when I haven't got around to turning it often enough (it cost so much when funds were scarce that I feel the obligation to prolong its life as much as possible very strongly). But if turning the mattress is something of a duty, then changing the sheets is just fun, because, as you know, it is complusory to flap the new ones around in the air until your arms drop off (or until you think your husband might be tired of this game, whichever comes first).

Saturday, 17 January 2009

Um, what's to celebrate?

You can right now go out into the blogsphere and find yourself some photos of the light show that was on this evening to celebrate the start of the 800th year of the University of Cambridge. You will find plenty. Because, apparently, it is more important to take photos of things to stick on your blog etc. than to actually experience them in the present moment. I must have been one of the few people who wasn't sticking a camera/mobile phone in front of someone else's face to obscure their view. It was also a shame that you couldn't properly hear the bells being rung from nearby bell towers. (And, yes, I know I'm having a moan, possibly even exaggerating slightly. And the irony isn't lost on me either).

But if you want to see something else worth seeing, without impediment, check out the new exhibition at the FitzWilliam Museum. I particularly liked the twentieth-century manuscript illumination and the Rossetti Annunciation.

Saturday, 10 January 2009

What I should be doing right now

What I should be doing right now is teaching preparation for Monday, but, to be frank, I so can't be bothered. So, when I've cooked a curry and an apple pie, instead of settling down to lovely reading (a decision I shall undoubtedly rue tomorrow), I'll settle down to the video tape my Dad sent me of the Doctor Who and Wallace and Gromit Christmas specials. In the meantime, as I have left the Anglo-Saxon period behind me for this academic year, it is only fair to introduce you to the source of all my knowledge. Behold, Chi-fric, King of the something or others!, here pontificating on AS Law.

Here after he had hauled in his geld of jelly beans.

Thursday, 8 January 2009

Reporting back from three weeks stateside

This is most easily done in the form of lists I think. Lets start with what seemed most important: food. The number of meals I declined to count, as they were more than three a day if you include snacks (of which there were many), but, in addition to eating chez les in-laws, we ate at:

  • the brother in-law's (Christmas Day = 27 people, Boxing Day)

  • the aunt's (New Year's Day = 13 people); and, in order,

  • Culver's (on the drive to Wisconsin), where I was culverized

  • MacDonald's (on the drive back from Wisconsin)

  • Perkins (which was a little less than mediocre)

  • Dynasty Buffet (Chinese all you can eat, which I don't particularly care for)

  • Ruby Tuesdays (my choice, it has a good salad bar)

  • International House of Pancakes (a breakfast meal following a mass on New Year's Eve)

  • Lone Star Steak House (to get the boy a steak)
Whilst we mostly stayed at my parents-in-law's condominium, we also visited:
  • their house in Wisconsin

  • the brother-in-law's house (or mansion, since, as the boy likes to point out, it has pillars)

  • the Grandma's house several times

  • an Aunt's house once

  • and the duplex of the Grandpa's girlfriend several times
  • Further we went to a number of church services, and took in three churches, viz:

    • the first Sunday (although on TV from a chapel in La Crosse, as the roads were too bad to drive in Wisconsin)

    • Christmas Eve (at St. Vincent's, the usual church for this trip)

    • the second Sunday

    • New Year's Eve twice (once a mass said for the repose of the soul of the deceased Grandpa, once for the vigil of the Solemnity of Mary, both at St. Philomena's)

    • the third Sunday

    I learnt two ditties, both the eldest and youngest female members of the clan; respectively:

    • I'm old and grey and have lost my way, and all my tomorrows are yestersdays (a repeated refrain), and

    • a, b, c, d, e, 1, 2, 3, Thank you Lord for feeding me (the timing of which should require little explanation)

    I also witnessed plenty of weather (as well as plenty of worrying over said weather), including:

    • an ice storm (which put the kaibosh on a intended jaunt out to eat at Hometown Buffet for the father-in-law's birthday)

    • plenty of snow (leading to plenty of sledging until I finally impaled myself too painfully on a tree to continue)and cold temperatures (down to -25 C)

    • and a tornado warning (not that I knew it was a tornado warning at the time, being out by myself and hearing what sounded like air-raid sirens).

    And finally, in a list of one, I went to a New Year's Eve dance with the aforesaid Grandpa and girlfriend (aged 88 and 91 respectively) at a Senior Citizens' Centre somewhere in central IL. Undoubtedly the highlight of the trip.