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This afternoon I had my mock viva, which was an interesting experience. It was reassuring, in that I survived and there was only one question that I felt I completely flunked. That said, there were several others that brought home to me the need to be certain of my own position, which of course is only possible if you’re completely in command of your material and of what others have said about it.

So I’ve come home armed with two bag-loads of books and a lot on my mind – which is not to say that it’s all bad. The first job when I got in was to have a brew (this thesis was definitely fuelled by tea and chocolate, in a way that perhaps Huw and Tony Williams would have appreciated), the second to have a chat with my Fiend to take my mind off things and the third, to write my ‘to do’ list. You can see it above. I have another Fiend (yes, I manage to have more than one Fiend despite the fact that I spend a lot of time in the company of dead people and their preoccupation with death) who is the Queen of Lists. She would approve, I’m sure. That was once the wall on which my huge list of 16th century ballads used to hang. Now it holds all the things I need to do in the next ten days. I think I’ve got my work cut out. I have to admit that they aren’t all viva-related – there’s a section on research proposals, on articles and on the lecture I’m preparing for A level students on Henry VIII’s break with Rome, as well as for the Bolton Historical Association work that I need to get on with and for family matters. Happily, the conference proposal for Reading is nearly ready and the one for Voices and Books has gone (thanks, Una!).  But I’ve certainly got plenty to keep me occupied. Which is good.

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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!

Two kings and two queens from the Uig, or Lewi...

Two kings and two queens from the Uig, or Lewis chessmen at the British Museum. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Today I’ve been to London and back for a meeting of the branches and members committee of the Historical Association.  We finished earlier than expected so I spent an hour and a half in the British Museum.  I had a look round the Mexican gallery, as always, as I wrote my undergraduate dissertation on the transmission of culture in Aztec Mexico and the impact of the Spanish Conquest.  I could spend hours looking at the turquoise mosaic pieces.  I looked at the Sutton Hoo exhibition, wandered through the Enlightenment gallery and found the ‘Cradle to Grave’ piece very moving.  Then I went to the Egyptian gallery, as my eldest son is doing a school project on the ancient Egyptians at the moment.  I bought him a few postcards.  Finally, I went to say hello to Noggin the Nog.  Sorry, the Lewis chessmen.  I love them.  I can’t play chess, but one day I will have a replica Lewis chessmen chess set.

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!

 

 

John Rylands Library, Manchester, England.

John Rylands Library, Manchester, England. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Almost.  Not quite.  Well, perhaps sometimes.  It comes over me in waves, usually on a Saturday or Sunday.  This weekend it was Sunday, today, that the enormity of trying to perfect my chapter before my panel meeting.  Now, if I only had to perfect my chapter in time for my panel meeting, things might be a bit more manageable but I have several Historical Association deadlines too, an article to finish and several other bits and bobs, as well as things going on at the children’s school that will cause interruptions…  I’m looking forward to getting it all over with and heading off to London for the Psalm Culture conference in July.

The panic set in because, after doing a 12 hour day yesterday, I realised that all my musical examples need re-writing.  Every single one of them.  This is incredibly tedious, because they are created in Sibelius on a different laptop and have to be exported as graphics files and then moved across to my work laptop to be inserted into the the chapter itself as images.  Any mistake means the whole sequence has to start again.  There is also quite a lot of work that needs doing on the text itself, to improve the clarity of the writing and to explain some of the more complex ideas about memory and music.

On Friday I went to the ‘Printing Cities‘ symposium at the John Rylands Library in Manchester, organised by my co-supervisor Sasha Handley.  There were six very interesting talks, but the one that stood out for me was given by Massimo Rospocher on Venetian ballad singers and politcal ballads, as it connected closely with what I’ve been saying myself.   The John Rylands is a beautiful building, so  it was very atmospheric.

Elizabeth I of England, the Armada Portrait, W...

Elizabeth I of England, the Armada Portrait, Woburn Abbey (George Gower, ca 1588). Other versions of the Armada portrait are by different artists. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

I think it’s fair to say that we had the best of the weather.  On several days last week I got messages from friends in Manchester saying that it was raining, while I was sitting on the beach watching the children playing. Where was I?  The Med?  The States?  No.  IrelandDonegal to be specific…  7 hours on a beach one day!

I carried on working on that one ballad for a day or two, finally managing to make the first paragraph of the article into something vaguely suitable and finding a brilliant primary document that gave me a lovely juicy quote.  Unfortunataly, my efforts to transcribe the said document were something like the straw that broke the proverbial camel’s back –  I gave up trying to combine work and holiday and decided that I was as entitled to a break as the next person!  On the ferry on the way home I read through my paper for Histfest, which I am looking forward to presenting this weekend.

While I was away I read Caroline Dodds Pennock‘s ‘Bonds of Blood‘, which I very much enjoyed.  Something of a blast from the past, it reminded me why I found the Aztecs and the Spanish conquest so fascinating as an undergraduate.  Perhaps I’ll turn my attentions back to them for my post-doc…  Perhaps not.  I also started on Anna Whitelock‘s new book, Elizabeth’s Bedfellows, which I haven’t quite finished.

Priorities for this week include practising my seminar paper,  finishing off my article, going to a careers fair and catching up on some Historical Association paperwork.  Oh, and finally applying for a young person’s railcard… possibly rather belatedly given that I’m no longer a young person in anyone’s vocabulary!

 

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.