After a couple of dodgy days at the beginning, the week has definitely ended on a high.  I spent quite a lot of time at the beginning of the week consolidating the ideas that my trip to the British Library generated and I wrote a thousand words in a couple of hours, bringing together my thoughts .  It was very satisfying, especially in the light of the 6 months I’ve been struggling with the 7000 words of the commonwealth chapter.  In a sense, it made the chapter all the more frustrating.  Although the chapter had improved, I was still really struggling  to make it flow.  Everything was there, in vaguely the right order, but with no grace and no flow.  Cue accusations that the naughty child in me didn’t want it to flow yet.   My response was along the lines of ‘get lost’.  There is nothing fun about spending six months messing with the same set of words.  But at least writing about London proved to me that I hadn’t lost it (whatever ‘it’ is) completely.

On Wednesday night I did something a bit different.  I read the chapter aloud.  Perhaps I should have done it a long time ago, because it was so obvious when I thought about it, but it simply hadn’t occurred to me.  I printed the chapter out and attacked it with a red pen and scissors.  And it worked.  Bashing it out line by line, aloud, showed exactly where the  problems were and what didn’t make sense, what needed more explanation and what would be better broken down into more sentences.   Thursday I spent typing up all the changes that I had made and by 2.30 that afternoon, I was a very happy girl.  It’s not ready, by any stretch of the imagination, but it will do as a first draft.  What’s more, it has lost its hold on my nightmares and no longer causes me feelings of guilt and insecurity.  Maybe it won’t be the best chapter in the thesis (who knows, maybe it will), but at least I’ve now got something down that I’m confident about.

I celebrated by unpacking a box-load of books.  I’ve inherited another library, he second in three months, so my brand new shelves are now groaning under the weight of scholarship I could never have afforded to buy.

Today I checked through the results of some searches that I ran on State Papers Online and found a perfect little nugget to help with one of my arguments, so I am very happy indeed.

Finally, I’d like to pass on my very best wishes to Glyn Redworth who retires from the University of Manchester this week after more years than either of us probably cares to think about.  Time to start a new chapter, in more ways than one.

A couple of weeks ago I reblogged a post from Pat Thomson

“This post began in exactly this way, with a five am wondering about what my favorite academic books would say about – and to – me. As I started to go through the books I’d put on a very, very short list I realized – and it was one of those kind of Homer Simpson d’oh moments – that the books I most valued were ones which were the kind of work I’d love to do.

So I want to suggest here that it could be helpful to think, more often than I have been doing, not simply about the research that you want to do, but also the kind of writing that you aspire to. When thinking about answers to the question “ What academic work do I want to be known for?” the answer might just as well be about the quality of the writing as the actual subject matter…”

I’ve been thinking about it on and off ever since, and I said that I would blog about my favourite academic books.  I have two authors in mind.  The first is my supervisor Glyn Redworth, the second, Michael Wood.  It’s dawned on me that I like their writing for the same reason: although it’s based on scholarship, it retains bounce and spark. I have always wondered why academic writing is so often flat and lifeless.  Theirs isn’t.  Although Michael Wood’s ‘Conquistadors’ series was on television when I was writing my undergraduate dissertation  (there, that dates me) and hooked me (any man who takes his tea bags up the Amazon and then makes a brew on camera is my hero), it was his book ‘In Search of England‘ that I read a few years later that I thought was really beautiful.  And Glyn’s book on the Spanish Match, ‘The Prince and the Infanta‘ was a gift from my first child long before he could actually be responsible for any gifts himself!  But that’s not the only reason I like it, although it’s a good enough one.  Both have a musicality to the writing.  It’s lyrical.  And I suspect that, as a musician, that’s what I appreciate in writing and what I would like to emulate in my own work.  Perhaps my thesis is not the place for it.  Perhaps it is.

I only know that if I could write half as well as either of them, I’d be a very happy girl.


I don’t know if it’s an after-effect of moving house, but I’ve been very lethargic this week.  I’ve done a lot of reading, most of which was on queenship.  At the moment I’m part way through J.L. Laynesmith’s monograph on ‘The Last Medieval Queens’, which I’m reading to give me background on the expected duties and place of queens consort, so that I can compare how queens regnant create or adapt the role.
I’ve also gone back to my work on Saint John Roberts.  I spent a few hours in the library this afternoon trying to tidy it up. While I was there I had a quick look at Glyn Redworth’s latest publication, a two volume edition of the Letters of Luisa de Carvajal y Mendoza, a couple of which I used in my work.  I’ve not finished the article yet, but I hope to get it sorted in the next few days so that I can put it to bed.  I’ve been working on it, on and off, for eighteen months, so it will be good to get it finished finally.

The trouble is, the thing I’ve done most of this week is sleeping.  I can’t stay awake!  Even when I’ve slept from 8pm to 6.15 am, I’ve still fallen asleep during the day.  Something’s not quite right there, and I just hope that the sleepiness wears off ready for a new week of work.

Anyone who has been following this blog for a while, or who has bothered to go back and look through my archive, will know that this time last year, things weren’t really going according to plan.  I arrived in Manchester to discover that my supervisor was on medical leave, and the university had to find me a new supervisor from outside the university.  But the second best news of the year, a close second to the sale of the Manchester house and the move to the country, is that my original supervisor, Dr Glyn Redworth, has now returned from medical leave, fully recovered, and has agreed to take me on.   So I want to thank him for agreeing to put up with me in the future, and thank Ros Oates at MMU for coping with me for the last twelve months!

Just in case any of you are interested, I spent more than three hours in casualty this morning getting my ribs checked out, and having had an x-ray the doctors think they are probably not fractured.  So they’ve given me stronger painkillers and told me to rest, which is fine by me.  And as I have a sedentary lifestyle, I will still be able to do some research.   At least, I assumed I would.  The trouble was that an hour after taking my first dose I started to feel most peculiar: dizzy and woozy and a bit nauseous.  It took me about quarter of an hour to realise that it was probably the painkillers, not the effect of reading Alice Hunt’s thesis, and I settled down for a nap on the sofa.  I felt a bit better when I woke up.  So I guess I’ll have to see how it goes over the next few days.

On the plus side, while sitting around in casualty I finished reading ‘Philip of Spain, King of England’ by Harry Kelsey.  Suffice to say that I will stilll wait for the definitive biography that Glyn Redworth intends to write.