January 2018


9781138553477I spent a lot of my Christmas and new year checking the copy edit and page proofs of my forthcoming book Singing the News, and writing the index.  It was a strange experience.  My fiend rang one day while I was sitting at my desk staring at the page proofs, and asked if I were enjoying myself.  Well, that was an interesting question.  My feelings varied quite dramatically, from ‘That’s quite good’ through ‘Why on earth did I express myself like that?’ to ‘I don’t remember writing this at all’.

I had something akin to an existential crisis over whether to use a comma or semi colon in one particular sentence.  I know the rules.  I just couldn’t make them work.  And the more I stared, the more confused I became.  I revisited that sentence at least 8 times over the course of 4 weeks, and I’m still not certain that it’s right. There were some problems and some confusion with short titles in the footnotes, which meant some to-ing and fro-ing with the production department.  I even made the mistake of running a search for ‘ye’ to check that I’d expanded every appearance of the thorn – I only found 3 places where ‘ye’ meant ‘the’, but the two letters appear everywhere, and of course the search didn’t differentiate.  It found ‘ye’ in the running titles of four chapters, every past tense of a word ending in y, almost every early modern word ending in y, ‘yet’, ‘year’, and a host of other occurences. I finally finished that particular run-through 20 minutes later!

The biggest problem I hit was that I had sent the wrong image to the publishers for one of the musical examples.  I checked the musical analysis in the text, scrolled down the page and realised that the figure only included a melody line.   Disaster.  Because three or four lines of melody only takes a third of a page.  Three or four lines of melody with lute accompaniment takes a full page, so it has a knock on effect on the pagination that could run for pages, or even the whole book.  I couldn’t have spotted it before the proofs arrived because the copy edited document didn’t contain the images, just the call outs.  I was lucky.  For one thing, I had an understanding production manager.  For another, there was a spare half page at the end of the chapter that sucked up the run over.

I mostly came away with a feeling of how I would write it differently now.  For one thing, I would modernise the spellings, or at the very least, change the old ‘u’ and ‘i’s to ‘v’ and ‘j’.  But there are other parts where I think I could write it much better now.

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In the run up to Christmas, I taught for four weeks on Liverpool Hope’s second year witchcraft and witch-hunting course.  It was interesting to look into the subject in more depth than we do on the first year survey course, especially as I had lectures to write as well as seminars and tutorials to run.  I covered aspects of the Lancashire witch trials (very appropriate given how close I live to Pendle!), the East Anglia witch hunt and Matthew Hopkins, witchcraft in North America, the Salem witch trials and finally, the decline of witch beliefs, which meant that I was able to finish with my favourite image – one that serendipitously appeared on Twitter just as I was writing the lectures:

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We had some very interesting discussions, most notably about the seventeenth-century belief in predestination and how it would affect the way you lived your life, but also about the nature of evidence that historians use to back up their claims.  The students gave some very good presentations on book chapters that they had read, identifying the key arguments and how they fitted in to wider scholarship.

All in all, it was a great experience.  I even got to pretend I had a ‘proper’ job, as I had an office to disappear to between lectures!

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Langden Brook, Trough of Bowland By Alexander P Kapp, CC BY-SA 2.0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=13402669

When your wheels are burning up the miles and you’re wearing down shoe leather,

When your face is frozen in a smile and the road goes on forever,

Forever, forever, the road goes on forever,

Over the next hill maybe there’s good weather.”

(Steve Tilston)

That song seemed to have been specially written for the busiest 4 weeks I think I’ve ever had.  At the end of November and beginning of December last year, I was working all over the place.  In one week, I taught in Liverpool, Birmingham, Bury, Manchester, back to Liverpool, Longridge and finally Garstang.  The quick-witted among you will have spotted that it meant two places in one day.  There was a lot of driving, and a lot of travelling on trains.  On some days I felt like I was meeting myself coming back.  I certainly started counting up the hours to see whether I was spending more time travelling than actually teaching.

There are several good things to be said for this it.  First off, the weather was mainly good.  It was cold, but it would have been a nightmare if there had been 4 weeks of torrential rain.  Secondly, it meant I was actually working and therefore I had money coming in. It was just that everything seemed to come at once.  I had my normal tutoring and my class for Liverpool Hope in Bury, as well as some A-level lectures for Sovereign Education.  On top of that, I was asked to cover a few weeks of a course on witchcraft and witch hunting for Hope in Liverpool.  Then, into the middle of it all, some podcasts to write and the copy edits of the book to respond to.

Busy, busy, busy.  But also, the exhaustion. With several long days (and I mean long!) each week, I was tired out by Christmas.  Just in time for the proofs of my book to arrive for me to check and write the index…

Amazon page capture

1st January 2018. The start of the year when my first book will be published.  And it came as something of a surprise to me to see that Amazon is telling me it will be released on 22 February, as I was expecting it to be March, and what’s more, I am still checking the page proofs!

I’ve got several plans for 2018.  The first is to record all the musical examples featured in the book.  I’m going to post the recordings on this website.  I’ve also got a big funding application to work on and some smaller ideas to knock into shape.  And of course, there is the Pilgrimage of Grace article to revise and submit to another journal.

That should all keep me busy.