I have finally sent off my commonwealth chapter to my panel, ahead of my meeting with them next week.  I’m in a slightly different position to normal in that I was able to send it with a message telling them where I wanted help and where I hoped to expand it when I come to re-write it in the summer.  I identified two sections where the writing was flabby and repetitive, where some serious editing will be needed, but on the whole, I think it has something to say, at last.  That something is about radical ballads and the activities of ballad collectors, which isn’t how I expected the chapter to turn out when I started work on it last September.  It has been the hardest chapter I’ve had to write by far.  I’m glad that it turned out to be about the manuscript collections of ballads, because compared to the broadside ballads they’ve had much less attention.  I think that they are interesting in their own right, because someone chose to collect them and made the effort to write them down.

The rest of the week has been split between secondary reading for my final chapter on ballads and the news; cataloguing and analysing more ballads; and preparing my paper for the Print and Materiality Seminar Series at the John Rylands Library next week.  The paper should be fun because for once, I actually get to sing!  On Sunday last week I recorded a couple of the ballads I’ve been working on recently, one of which took three and a half minutes and the other was more than twelve!   I’m going to keep recording them as I work on them from now on, with the aim of having them all recorded by July.

Next week is half term, so I expect to have some days out if the weather permits, instead of working all week.

I was warned on Wednesday that my luck will have to run out eventually.  That may not sound too much like good news, but the converse is, of course, that,  in order to provoke the comment, things must be going relatively well at the moment.  Work on the commonwealth chapter continues, with some quite major revisions to the opening of the chapter and smaller changes to individual sentences.  It’s getting closer.  I still need to check a couple of references and make some alterations to one of the musical examples, but it’s certainly getting closer. (And about time too, I might add, considering that it’s taken the best part of six months!)

I spent almost all of yesterday just working on the footnotes, trying to get Endnote to play ball.  Don’t get me wrong, I do like Endnote.  I used to enjoy writing my footnotes by hand, but the way that Endnote does it for me is, usually, enormously labour saving.   But for some reason, yesterday, it got its knickers in an almightly twist and started putting in references to whatever manuscript it felt like.  It wasn’t a problem with the books, or the journal articles, or the webpages: just the manuscripts.  Since the chapter is  based around manuscript collections, it caused a bit of a problem.  I have no idea  what caused the glitch, but I ended up typing in the manuscript references  manually.

I’ve also started secondary reading for my concluding chapter on the news.   If anyone has any suggestions of things I should read on early modern news, I’d be very glad to hear of them.  The reading that I’ve done this week surprised me by giving me several ideas for  my first couple of chapters on ballad music.  In fact, I had to leap out of bed at 11 one night this week to write down an idea!  It’s the first time that that’s happened for a very long time, so I think I can safely say that the thesis is out of the doldrums and on the move again.

This afternoon I briefly revisited my chapter plan, taking into account some of the comments that my supervisors made when they looked at it last and writing an abstract for the commonwealth chapter now that it’s completed.  The rest of the afternoon I spent  transcribing documents in the State Papers.  For once, the handwriting is relatively easy to read.  Unfortunately, the digital scan of one page is so dark that it is illegible in places – I suppose a girl can’t have everything.

On Wednesday evening I went to the committee meeting for the Historical Association in Bolton.  A very productive meeting and plenty of things to work on in the coming months, not least of which is putting together the programme of lectures for next season.

I went back to work on Wednesday, when my children went back to school.  Most of my work this week has been on transcriptions of manscripts from the British Library but I’ve also read some secondary material. I’ve carried on working today, because despite my intentions to spend three whole days immersed in my primary material, it didn’t quite happen – I ended up doing a favour for a friend over two lunchtimes instead.  Anyway, palaeography is a challenge which, for the most part, I quite enjoy.  I have to admit that I don’t do enough of it to be fluent at it, but once I get going I find a lot of it reasonably straightforward, if a little slow.  That is, until I reach the point where I can’t make out a word, at which point I feel like throwing the computer through the window.

On Thursday, my work was pleasantly interrupted by a trip to Preston FM to talk about the Historical Association.  I was very nervous that morning, but when it came to the broadcast I surprised myself by quite enjoying it.   I must say thank you to the station for inviting me and to presenter Hughie Parr for creating such a relaxed atmosphere that we talked for twenty minutes!

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.

Juggling, I have discovered this week, isn’t easy.  I can only assume that this time last year I was so taken up with the prospect of moving house that the PhD took a back seat to packing boxes and playing with my children.  I didn’t have my summer panel meeting until the middle of August last year and I do remember being on holiday with my computer, but I don’t remember it being as exhausting as this.  I’ve given myself a long list of jobs to do, tidying up bits and pieces that need sorting out and visiting several archives, but I’m also trying to fit in with family life too, so somehow I have been spending half a day working and half a day doing things with the children.

On Tuesday I commuted to Manchester, had a breakfast supervision meeting and then spent an entire day in the John Rylands library on Deansgate reading a book about one of the manuscripts that I am going to see this summer.  Today I read a book and took notes while visiting family.

I’ve been re-writing my knowingness piece too.  Precision demanded in every word.

This is proving less than easy.

This week I’ve been working from home again.  I’ve redrafted my chapter on ballad music ready for my panel meeting and redrafted my article, although I’m not certain where I’m going to send it to.  Between them, they have taken me all week.  I’m going to proofread them tomorrow, as I think it’s more or less down to the fiddly stuff now, like sorting out the formatting and  checking the detail of the footnotes.

Having finished the chapter yesterday and the article at lunchtime today, I was left feeling a bit peculiar this afternoon. Considering that I doubted I would get the chapter finished in time for the panel, having it more or less complete over a week in advance wa something of a surprise.  What to do?  I spent an hour or so looking at my training log and research plan for my panel meeting and tinkering with them.  I sent an application in for the graduate travel fund.  I sent a few emails.  I looked at a few Stuart ballads, just for a change of scenery.  I printed out several articles and a chapter of a book to read on the train to London tomorrow.  I’m off to the HA Branches and Members Committee meeting in the morning.

I think my next job is to get stuck in to defining ‘ballad’, so the chapter I’ve printed out is one by John Milsom on Tudor music.  Most people seem to have limited their studies of ballads to printed broadside ballads.  I can only assume that this is because it makes it easier to decide what is, or isn’t, a ballad.  Because I’m not confining myself to printed sheets,  I have to make an attempt to define what makes a ballad a ballad, or at least acknowledge that it throws up some interesting questions.  It’s on my list of summer goals, so I might as well get stuck in now!

 

 

A short post, because I probably won’t have time to write one later.  This week I have worked mainly on one particular ballad, writing a short article about it that I hope to submit for publication fairly soon.  It turned out to be something of a double-edged sword, as there is more to it than initially met the eye, which was great for writing an interesting piece and for what it had to say about religious change and death beliefs during the early modern period, but not so good for getting the article finished off quickly as I’d hoped to!  There have been several things that got in the way of work this week, so I would have liked to have spent more time on it than I’ve actually been able to.

I’ve written my paper for Histfest, although of course it continues to be re-drafted as I keep reading it through.  It includes a couple of ballad extracts that I can sing…  I’ve put together half a powerpoint presentation for it, so that will need finishing as a priority.  I’ve also submitted a pair of short paper proposals for the HistoryLab seminar series next academic year, which my friend and I prepared.

In other news, I’ve had my first singing lesson since before I was taken ill, which was very good fun.  I’ve also nearly finished my Historical Association  Programme for next season.

The Staircase Hall (1884–7), designed by Sir J...

The Staircase Hall (1884–7), designed by Sir John Taylor (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

As I write this (a day late – yes, I know), I have just passed through Stafford on the Pendolino, on my way back from London, where I attended the Historical Association’s Branches and Members Committee Meeting.  It’s going dark outside the windows, and in the last quarter of an hour I’ve been watching lights go on all over the dusky countryside. At the meeting I seem to have volunteered to help re-organise the branches and branch officers’ area of the H.A. website, and to be a mentor for H.A. branch officers in the north of England.  I do sometimes think that what with looking after the children and doing my PhD, I’m not giving the H.A. the attention it requires.  Oh well, time for a bit of planning to get everything in, I guess!  The meeting finished early, and I spent an hour in the National Gallery before heading back to Euston to catch my train home to Preston, which was jolly nice.  I like travelling by train, I must admit, and the fact that I can now get to London in just over two hours makes it do-able, in my experience.  I’m not a happy driver, and I’d much rather let the train do the work.

It’s been a somewhat frustrating week, work-wise.  It was the children’s half term, and for once their father was not on holiday the same week, so I’ve not got a lot done.  My parents looked after the children on Tuesday so that I could go into Manchester to take back to the library a book that had been recalled, but what little time I had not looking after my children this week was mainly spent trying to get my new laptop to work (it runs on Windows 8, but what I think of that operating system is best left unsaid – suffice it to say that a lot of swearing took place under my breath) and trying to set up a new wifi router that could cope with the number of machines that now need it in my house.  All very time consuming and irritating.  Which is why I didn’t get my blog written last night – yesterday evening was the first chance I’d had all week to do some research!

I’ve created a huge working document analysing the ballad tunes musicologically.  The next step, which I am desperate to get on with, is looking at the links between the ballads, their backgrounds and their publication history.  I’m itching to get on with it, much as I enjoyed taking my children to the park, the ice-cream cafe and the cheese factory this week!  However, there will be quite a lot to get in my way over the next couple of weeks as, even though the children are back at school, I have a lot of appointments to keep.  I’m looking forward to getting started again, though.

And so a new year begins.

Ice skating at Lytham

Ice skating at Lytham

I have spent a lot of it so far cataloguing ballads, to the extent that my analysis spreadsheet is now so enormous that I am probably going to have to take it to the university print services department to get it printed out – I guess it will be bigger than a research poster and will cost me a small fortune!  Especially as I’ll probably have to get two copies of it so that I can give one to my supervisor.  I have, however, identified a nice section of wall in my study where I can stick it up.  Actually, it’s the only section of wall that’s big enough!  Still, I’ve got to finish it first, and although it’s getting there, everytime I look at anything I find more ballads that I need to add in.  There are just so many it’s amazing.

I have to say that after several days concentratedly staring at little boxes on a computer screen and tiny print  on paper, I was heartily sick of ballad analysis and ready to give it a break, so I did.   I went ice skating in Lytham with my children and had a whale of a time.  I didn’t fall over once, so I was very pleased with myself.  The next morning I spent doing more analysis and a LOT of filing, and then went up to Leighton Moss RSPB reserve with the family, which was very wet, but I saw several snipe, which was nice.  The weather wasn’t, it has to be said, as you can see from the photograph.  The snipe, which you can’t see on the photograph, were on the diagonal strip of land across the middle right.  I like snipe.  You’d think that something so stripy would stand out like a sore thumb, but it’s actually really good camouflage.

From the new Tim Jackson hide at Leighton Moss in the rain.

From the new Tim Jackson hide at Leighton Moss in the rain.

I spent an evening working on my talk for the Historical Association in Manchester, and I need to spend a bit more time on it.  It’s called ‘No Lion Wilde: Popular Depictions of Mary I’ and obviously it focuses on the ballads of the reign of Mary.  I’m quite looking forward to giving a talk to the H.A.  It’s not quite the same as one aimed directly at 6th formers, and although I gave a fairly intellectually-heavy seminar for the postgrads at university, that was only 20 minutes long – not a full 50 minutes.  So although it’s a bit scary, it’s fun.  I’m adapting the 6th form talk I gave in November to have longer excerpts of the ballads, as they, after all, are the crucial bits.  Other than that, it would involve putting in more theory, and I don’t think that’s all that appropriate.  I need to make it interesting but appreciable by a general audience.  The great thing about the Historical Association, though, is that although the audience is of the general public, they are assumed to want high quality, challenging lectures!  I suppose it’s the questions that are the really scary bit, as I can’t prepare for them.

I was instructed by my supervisor to get back into writing as soon as I could, and so far this is something I haven’t managed to do.  Instead, I generated a massive amount of ballad analysis by printing an awful lot of stuff from EEBO.  So much stuff, in fact, that I went through an entire printer cartridge in one day.  Then I had to read it.  Then I had to file it.  The trouble is that I know that there are several things that I am missing:  I haven’t read most of the Churchyard/Camel ballad flyting, and I know that I haven’t even printed several of the ballads I photographed at the Society for Antiquaries when I visited them last November.  I did, however, finally get on with ordering copies of a lot of things I saw at the British Library, so as I’d been putting that off I’m quite pleased with myself.

What else have I done?  I put several ballad tunes onto Sibelius so that I can listen to them and it makes the process of analysing them, in due course, easier.  They are now in a folder of their own, with copies of the lyrics that go with them.  I’ve read through Cheap Print and Popular Piety again too.

My plan is that next week, when the children go back to school, I will go back to my piece on the Cromwell flyting of 1540 and finish a draft of that.  It’s something to look forward to.  I’m going to give the rest of the missing ballads a break for a few days while I get stuck into writing again.  Should be fun.

So I took Boxing Day off as well as Christmas Day, and went back to work yesterday by reading Robert Hutchinson’s biography of Thomas Cromwell.  I can’t say I was impressed, not least because I came across three of my pet hate ‘must have’s (that is, “s/he must have thought/been/looked etc”) by the bottom of page 2.  Still, it served a purpose: mainly, to provide me with the factual background on Thomas Cromwell that I need (I ignored the gloss about his venality and corruption) in a format I could read quickly (I got through the book in just over a day).

Today I went back to analysing and categorising the ballads.  I think I have nearly finished that particular exercise, and then I need to work out exactly what is going to be most appropriate for each chapter. That’s the scary bit.  However, as we’ve all had the flu-lurgy over Christmas, and it’s not shifting quickly, I’m taking it fairly slowly and I think I’ll go back to a bit of secondary reading tomorrow, mainly because it requires less concentrated effort.  I’m very much looking forward to going back to writing in a big way soon.