August 2013


So far, so good.  I’ve managed to successfully avoid doing any work on my PhD for two weeks.  This may not seem like a cause for celebration (indeed, bits of me are itching to open a book or rifle through a few ballads or even do some filing) but I am extremely poor at doing nothing.  I find it very, very difficult to switch off, so the fact that I’ve taken two weeks off for the first time in a year is quite an achievement (and last year I only took two weeks off because I was moving house, so I wasn’t exactly doing nothing, I just had too much else to do!).   So this week we’ve been on a lovely walk from Chipping, we went cycling round Brockholes nature reserve and yesterday we went to the sea-life centre in Blackpool so that my little one could meet the Octonauts.  Such are the joys of combining parenthood with postgraduate research.  This evening we all went to choir practice, having joined the local church choir.  This is something I haven’t done for years, so I thoroughly enjoyed myself.

The school term begins in the middle of next week, which is when I go back to work.  Plenty to finish off before the new semester starts.

English: Royal Oak, Garstang. The Royal Oak pu...

English: Royal Oak, Garstang. The Royal Oak public house on the High Street. The Market Cross is in the foreground (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

I’m having a couple of weeks off!  So far I have successfully avoided doing any work on my thesis and this is good.  Instead, I’ve done a lot of work for the Historical Association.  Also, I did a 4.5 mile walk from Garstang, which I have to say wasn’t the most interesting walk I’ve done in my life, but nevertheless it was good to be out and about.  We went to the Museum of Science and Industry in Manchester and today we’ve been to the beach at St Annes.

about 1762

about 1762 (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Fittingly, the first Art Everywhere poster that I saw was  the Pelican Portrait of Elizabeth I!  It was on the concourse of Oxford Station.  Then on the way home from the Cotswolds we stopped at a motorway service station and saw the Ambassadors, Blaze 4, For You and Whistlejacket.  Apparently my husband and children saw several others during their wanderings around Oxford on Monday, but having my head stuck in sixteenth century manuscripts at the time, I missed those…

Generally speaking, I’m useless at doing nothing. Even if I’m watching television I am usually doing something else at the same time. However, on Monday evening I found myself doing just that – staring out the front of the tent into space and doing absolutely nothing. It didn’t last long, but I think it showed how ready I was for a break.

Medieval cottages in Bibury

Medieval cottages in Bibury

On Tuesday we went to Chedworth Roman Villa, where we caught on to the end of the children’s tour. Apparently the Romans introduced large, white snails which they used for food and their descendants still live in the area, which pleased my youngest a lot as he likes snails. We also saw a lizard basking in the sunshine. That afternoon we went to one of my favourite museums, Keith Harding’s Mechanical Music Museum. A rather brilliant collection of reed organs, barrel organs, paper roll pianos and old disc players. What I really love about the place is the disc they made of David Bowie’s ‘As the World Falls Down’ for the music box scene at the beginning of Labyrinth, as it’s always been one of my favourite films and I can recite whole sections of the dialogue from memory. We heard Gershwin duetting with himself on Rhapsody in Blue on a reproducing piano! Another much-loved museum is the Pitt Rivers in Oxford, but I missed out on that this time. Still, at least my children got to look at the shrunken heads!  Anyway, after the museum, on the advice of a chatty, elderly lady who stopped to talk to us in the street, we drove down through several beautiful little Cotswold villages to Bibury.

Wednesday saw a trip across to Waddesdon Manor, where we counted several hundred cows, horses, cats, dogs, rats and storks in all the paintings and sculptures… There was an interesting art installation, Canticus Arcticus, by Bruce Munro in the stables and the house was full of linen fold sculptures by Joan Sallas.

Waddesdon Manor

Waddesdon Manor

Then on our last day we went on a walk round Port Meadow on the edge of Oxford. Lovely place, but made even better by the company of a friend.  We never got to the Treacle Well, as we didn’t get far enough down the road, but it didn’t matter.  A lovely and very relaxing day out.

English: The courtyard of the Bodelian Library...

English: The courtyard of the Bodelian Library, looking out the north gate from the south gate. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

On Monday I did a day’s work on manuscripts held in the Bodleian Library.  Particularly, of course, Ashmole 48 – Richard Sheale’s ballad collection. There is some dispute over the purpose of the collection. Sheale is known to have been a minstrel attached to the Stanley family, but interpretations over the years have described Ashmole 48 as his minstrel manuscript or a collection of ballads that he heard and perhaps sung. Most recently, Andrew Taylor has argued that the manuscript was used to collect ballads on Sheale’s travels which he then took back to printers in London for publication. Whatever its purpose when it was compiled, there seems no dispute over the fact that it contains ballads. Which is nice, because it helps me to define ‘ballad’. There were a couple of other very interesting documents too.

Finishing work in Oxford on Monday afternoon marked the end of my work for a week or two. I decided last week that juggling was wearing me out, so for the sake of my sanity and my children I would take a couple of weeks off before they go back to school. As the epitaph ballad went on holiday to Ireland with me in May, this will be the first proper break I’ve had for months.

Art Everywhere turns UK’s streets into world’s largest art show | Art and design | theguardian.com.

Today’s Guardian has a free guide to the art works and on the website, a gallery.

 

History students will no longer tolerate or believe grand narratives | Colm Tóibín | Comment is free | The Guardian.

So many big issues in such a short article.  Fascinating to me because my other historical passion (aside from the early modern) is Irish history.  Of all the places in the world where you might drop mandatory history in schools, I’d have thought Ireland would have had more sense.  Of course, the fact that it’s no longer compulsory doesn’t mean it will disappear from the curriculum altogether, but it’s a worrying thought…

10 truths a PhD supervisor will never tell you | Features | Times Higher Education.

 

Interesting article.  I’m not sure I agree with them all, but certainly they are food for thought.

Elizabeth I, the Pelican Portrait

Elizabeth I, the Pelican Portrait (Photo credit: lisby1)

Help Us To Curate the World’s Biggest Art Show – Art Everywhere.

What a brilliant idea.  I am SO impressed and I really hope I see some of these around.  Lovely, of course, to see the Pelican Portrait of Queen Elizabeth and the Ambassadors in there, but I’m quite taken with Cold Dark Matter: An Exploded View which I didn’t know at all, so I must look into that.  Mr and Mrs Andrews was on the front cover of my GCSE history text book!

English: Stonyhurst College, Lancashire

English: Stonyhurst College, Lancashire (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

I thought I’d give you a quick update on my progress towards my summer goals:
• Definition of ‘ballad’ for introduction.  I’m part way through this, although it needs a LOT more work.  I’m discussing it with friends that I met at the Psalm Culture conference in London in July and I’ve given it a lot of thought, but so far, there’s only a little bit on paper.  This is my priority when the children go back to school before the university semester restarts.  However, I did produce a short piece on the nature of the ballad for my panel meeting, so I can count that too.

• Transcription of digital copies of ballads from MSS in the British Library, consulted last autumn.  Again, I’m part way through this.  I’ve checked the whole of one manuscript and I’m about to start work on another.  However, so that I can get my head round what I’ve completed and what I haven’t, I need to make some proper records.

• Archive visits during summer 2013: Stonyhurst College, Lancashire County Record Office, National Archives etc.  This hasn’t quite gone according to plan.  Stonyhurst College assure me that they won’t have anything of interest.  I haven’t yet made it to the county record office in Preston this summer, although I have been before.  I need to go to the British Library again, but I’m not sure how I’m going to fit that in.  I’m booked in to the Bodleian in Oxford and I’ve been to the University Archives in Cambridge and the Parker Library.  I’d like to go to Keswick and Stratford too, but again, I’m not sure how I’m going to fit it in before the end of the summer.

• Completion of article on ballad epitaph.  Yippee – something I can say I’ve completed!  This was sent off to a journal several weeks ago.

• Revise ballad flyting chapter.  Bigger yippee – something else I can say I’ve completed, at least in its first draft.

•  Knowingness, Implicitness and the Early Modern Audience.  This is a new addition to the list, and what held up work on the transcriptions.  I’m doing some background reading on the audience of cheap print in the period, which feeds in to a heavy-going (at least to write and for me to think about) piece on the use of knowingness in the sixteenth century.  This will, eventually, form part of my introduction.

•  Rewrite of chapter plan – This piece of work was set at my panel meeting, as my chapter plan still reads as if I’m just starting my research.  My supervisors suggested that I might find it helpful to rewrite my chapter plan to reflect the findings of the chapters I’ve completed.  Actually, I found it a rather soul destroying business.   I find writing abstracts extremely difficult at the best of times so writing several of them in one go was like torture.  I have to admit that I gave up.  I ought to come back to it, I suppose!

• Submission of proposals for talks – I’ve submitted an abstract for the History Lab North West interdisciplinary conference ‘Beyond History’ in November looking at music as historical evidence – the links between psalms, ballads and politics and especially melodic knowingness.  This conference was perfect for me, considering that my work is so interdisciplinary.   I was asked to take part in the Material Histories seminar series at the John Rylands University Library next academic year, so I’ve submitted a paper on ‘William Elderton and the Ghost of the Ladie Marques’.  That should be fun.  I hope that both these papers will provide an opportunity to sing some of the ballads, since that is what they were written for!

I think that covers most of what I’ve done.  When I’ve been to the Bodleian, I’m going to take a couple of weeks off so that I can spend some time with my children before they go back to school.  I haven’t had any proper time off since my interruption in February/March, which I don’t count because I was ill.  Even when we went on holiday to Donegal I worked every day because I had a deadline coming up.  I think we all deserve a break.

Next Page »