This is the second of two posts about my attendance at the first day of MEMSFest2020.

After lunch, I chose to go to Patronage, Community, and Civic Participation, chaired by Cassandra Harrington. Chris Hopkins was the first speaker on the panel, talking about One Day in Canterbury: The Story of an Anglo-Saxon Charter.  Chris used the much-studied manuscript, Cotton Augustus II 91, to explore several questions.  The first of these was, why did Anglo Saxon kings give such valuable land to the church? The answer would appear to be that it was part of a programme of extravagant display.  He suggested four possible locations for where the charter was enacted at Canterbury, partly based on how charters were publicly ‘performed’ in that the charter was read aloud. It was interesting to hear about how a couple of the witnesses’ names were added beforehand, but others were added at the ceremony, which suggests that the scribes were able to predict the presence of some but not all of the witnesses to the event.

Next up was Noah Smith, on Bakers, Fishmongers, and Militant Brotherhoods: Reassessing the Guild Iconography of the Leugemeete Chapel in Ghent circa 1334. He argued that Flemish guild art was instructive in how they saw themselves.  He noted that the location of the paintings in the layout of the Leugemeete Chapel meant that you would process towards the altar flanked by the images of the militant brotherhoods.  Like Francesca’s, this paper was interested in the physical location and space of the building and how this affected the people who used it.

Ella Ditri’s Women and Landed Society in Conquest England looked at the changes to female landowning and the distribution of females’ landed wealth before and after the conquest.  Very few women retained control of their land after the Norman conquest.  This was felt more by secular women than religious women.  Much of the land went to William the Conqueror, with much of the rest going to his men.  There were a few new female landowners, but not enough to replace the number of women who were completely dispossessed.  The conquest brought about changes to inheritance patterns which reduced women’s opportunities to inherit. 

Finally, Eilish Gregory’s paper was entitled We Bless the Queen, and we Invoke the Saint’: Literary Dedications to Catherine of Braganza, Queen Dowager of England, 1685-1689.  Eilish started by discussing Aphra Behn’s support for Catherine after her husband’s death.  She then talked about Catherine’s lasting role as a patron during her time as queen dowager, suggesting that she had a significant impact on Catholic religious culture. Soon after Charles II’s death, several poems presented her as the grieving widow and appeared to share her woe.  In the final section, she looked at the sermons which were preached in front of Catherine.  The sermons preached at her private chapel at Somerset House caused the Privy Council alarm, because so many Catholics were attending and they could not control the messages they would hear in the preaching. Moreover, some of these sermons were printed by royal command.

In the last session of Friday afternoon, I started by attending the Literary Tradition and Criticism panel chaired by Michael Powell-Davies.  Grace Murray’s paper was Thomas Tusser’s “Mnemonic Jingles”:  Reading and Remembering the Five Hundred Pointes of Good Husbandry. Tusser was music master to Paget.  His Five Hundred Points of Husbandry was reprinted many times.  Originally printed as an almanac written in verse throughout.  It’s a genre-bending publication.  CS Lewis was particularly scathing about it.  Tusser was writing in verse because it was easy for reading aloud and remembering if your audience was semi-literate tenant farmers, but we know from annotated copies that readers from higher social ranks. Some read it as poetry, others as a manual.  She suggested that although it is a bit of a mish-mash (my words, not hers!), it is Tusser’s own authorial voice that makes the whole thing hang together.

Faith Acker talked about her work on manuscript collections of epitaphs in Beer, Sex and Life After Death in Early Modern Epitaphs.  The writer of Folger MS V.a.103 differentiated between laudatory and merry epitaphs.  She concentrated on the ‘merry and satirical epitaphs’, pointing out that food and drink featured prominently in the epitaphs, which themselves centred on men at Oxford colleges.  The examples she gave told us less about the individuals who had died than their role in providing food!  The butlers’ individual traits are forgotten when the food they had access to is supplied form elsewhere.

I then skipped across to Intellectual Networks and Early Modern Knowledge Communities, chaired by Anna Hegland, to catch Challenges of the Social Network Analysis in History: The Case of the Marquis of Santa Cruz de Marcenado by Pelayo Fernández García.  Almost forgotten now, the Marquis was one of the foremost military writers of his age.  Pelayo described his research into the Marquis’s social networks, but he pointed out that even when you have almost complete epistolary records, you still can’t recreate the networks of face to face contacts.  By analysing the content of the letters, you can find out qualitative information about contacts. Finally, Emily Rowe’s Whetstones of Wit: Iron Wits and Cutting Words in Early Modern English Prose explored the ways in which the various metaphors of iron were employed to describe the workings of people’s minds.

Although the coronavirus pandemic has caused some considerable problems with research and the sudden reorganisation of teaching, it has also opened up some opportunities that I wouldn’t ordinarily have had to network, attend conferences and hear about other people’s research.  As an early modernist working in a department where there aren’t all that many of us, this has been really very useful – if I’m honest, I haven’t taken as much advantage of this as I should, but it’s hard work working and homeschooling through lockdown. So a few weeks ago, fresh from PE with Joe on YouTube, I went to MEMSFest, hosted by the University of Kent’s Centre for Medieval and Early Modern Studies.  This is the first of a pair of posts about the conference.

In the opening remarks the organisers drew attention to MEMS Library Lockdown – a list of resources that we still have access to even though we’re in lockdown – and we were invited to their online seminar series. The first panel I attended was on Emotion and Embodiment and was chaired by Róisín Astell. First, Francesca Saward-Read talked about the early stages of her research into Audience Culpability in Early Modern Drama, exploring the differences between modern audiences – how do you gauge audience reactions when they’ve been dead 400 years – perhaps by accepting that it wasn’t If they felt something but What they felt.  Examples were taken from The Spanish Tragedy (Kyd, 1585), Hamlet (Shakespeare, 1601), and The Revenger’s Tragedy (Middleton, 1606).  Soliloquies and asides are direct connections to the audience.  Hamlet is well known for soliloquies, of course, charting his descent into madness but dramatic features such as this allow the audience to connect with the performer.  She explored how asides and soliloquy heighten the emotion of the scene, and make the audience part of the play, speculating on whether this made them partly culpable in the crimes of revenge tragedies. She suggested that we also need think about physical performance space and how it affects the original audience. She pointed out that the physical space created cohesion between audience and action – lighting, for example, was the same for both so they could be seen.  There was very little separation to limit the setting to the stage.

Anna-Nadine Pike then presented a paper called “Spekyngly silent”: Moments of Irrationality in The Cloud of Unknowing. She talked about how the Cloud author dealt with the fact that apophatic theology believed that God was unknowable and could not be described by language.  It was a way of attempting to quiet the mind and attain a state of contemplation.  The Cloud of Unknowing recommends its readers should approach the text with love rather than intellect, allowing them a ‘nakid entente directe unto God’.  Once this is attained the rest of the text aims to prevent the reader thinking logically and interrogating the text with its rational mind.  It makes it clear that they should be grappling with something unimaginable.  The text invites the reader to choose a word to contemplate – the language is use performatively by its readers.

The next paper was from Lydia McCutcheon on Familial Relationships in the Miracle Collections for St Thomas Becket and the ‘Miracle Windows’ of Canterbury Cathedral.  On the 800th anniversary of Becket’s death, she argued that familial relations in the miracle stories are central to the way that the monks helped to shape the monk’s veneration.  The Miracle Windows have different shapes and numbers of panels, and each sequence is recorded in one of the miracle story collections.  Lydia’s research has sought to identify familial relations in the Miracle Windows, then looked at the nature of the relationship. They are mostly loving, but they are not all simple, stock characters.  This raises questions about their function and the way that the artists used the families to create Becket’s cult.  Even in the stained glass, she argued, we are more invested in the characters because of their familial relationships. The final paper in the panel was given by Jordan Cook, who talked about Embodying the “Earthly” in Early Netherlandish Painting.  Art historians face a challenge in deciding whether a setting is meant to embody an earthly or a celestial space.  Her first example was The Virgin and Child by Jan van Eyck.  It’s a very natural painting, but many scholars have used clues such as fantastical architecture show that it’s not a real, earthly space.  Jordan looked at the imperfections in the Netherlandish spaces suggest a more earthly reading.  She pointed out that, from a divine point of view, time happened simultaneously.  This means heavenly spaces cannot be changed by the passage of time, while earthly spaces withered and decayed over time.  Why would a heavenly setting include things like cobwebs or chips in stone, such as those that are seen in the Ghent Altarpiece by Hubert and Jan van Eyck?  The inclusion of these worldly imperfections are useful details for artists concerned with naturalism.  These principles are still used today by digital artists and architects.

Back at the beginning of July, I chatted via Skype to Colin Greenstreet of the Marine Lives project about how I do my research.  It was one of a number of interviews that Colin carried out so that the project leaders could tweak the functionality of their database in order to make it as useful as possible for the end users.  It struck me at the time that this is something, in my experience at least, we rarely talk about: how we actually go about doing the research that leads to those papers and publications.

I’ve only ever done what felt natural to me.  Generally speaking, I Google things first, then I read a lot and make notes, usually in the form of direct quotations from the author with page numbers.  When I actually come to use them in my work, I often paraphrase, of course, but when I’m making notes I prefer to write down what the author actually said so that I know I’ve got it right.  As for primary sources, I tend to collect them in folders, both digitally and often physically as well – I scrawl all over the physical copies. I use a lot of online databases, especially Early English Books Online, and boy do I miss access to the State Papers Online

I collect my notes on a project in a single working document, then start another one for the end product – be it paper, article or chapter – so that I can swap easily from one to another.  When I think I’ve finished what I’m working on, I copy them into my (now rather enormous) ‘research file’.  It might be unwieldy, but at least it makes searching fairly straightforward – there’s only one place to look.

Colin posted the results of the interviews, including mine, on the Marine Lives project website (and you can keep up to date with Marine Lives developments via the project blog). I thought it might be interesting to have a look at how other people conduct their research.  I developed my methods by trial and error over time, and I wonder whether it would benefit us to chat a bit more about the methods we use – I’m sure that there are ideas that other people have that would work for me too, or even be more efficient.  Up to now, I’d never thought to ask.

With apologies for the length of the delay between posts (brought about by a computer faliure), here is the second piece about Elizabeth Parr and William Elderton:

William Elderton’s A proper new balad in praise of my Ladie Marques (London, 1569; STC (2nd ed.) / 7562) is unique among the surviving early ballad epitaphs in that it specifies the tune to which it was to be sung: ‘The Lusty Gallant’. With its implications of joyfulness and chivalry, ‘The Lusty Gallant’ may seem inappropriate for a verse epitaph, yet as you can see the words of A proper new balad fit the tune perfectly and the melody is in a minor mode – the Aeolian.

A proper new Balad in praise of my Ladie Marques whose Death is bewailed to the Tune of New lusty gallant-p1al7bfl541esn1sdtgt1it91qj8

Actually, it’s debateable whether the initial upbeat on the first verse is necessary. Originally, I put it in because it matched the bouncy crotchet-quaver rhythm of the rest of the line. The lyrics work equally well, however, with no upbeat, because it emphasises the first syllable of ‘Ladies’ by placing it on the stronger beat of the bar.  It also matches the three-quaver rhythm of the second line. I’ve played around with both and I’m undecided.

 Looking down, and south, from the A685.   © Copyright David Medcalf and licensed for reuse under this Creative Commons Licence

Looking down, and south, from the A685.
© Copyright David Medcalf and licensed for reuse under this Creative Commons Licence

I seem to have been doing a lot of travelling lately, whizzing up and down the country on the pendolino and tootling across country on local trains.  I am, in the words of Doctor Seuss, a north going zax so frankly the journey through the valley in the Lakes where the west coast mainline and the M6 run alongside each other was infinitely preferable to the more familiar journey south towards London, although passing a trainload of mummified cars wrapped in bandages on a siding outside Oxford was a novelty.  The reason for all this travelling was academic, for once.  Early summer is conference season.  My twitter feed has been full of conference tweets for several weeks, which can be really interesting.  Several twitter hashtags have looked interesting enough to cause me to find out what the conference was that I was missing, and some of them I’ve really wished I could attend.   It’s a while since I gave a paper at an academic conference, so it was good to get back into the swing of things with trips to Reading and Newcastle.

Reading’s Early Modern Studies Conference was great fun. 410px-Codex_Mendoza_folio_2r Last time I went to Reading University I was on a two week accountancy training course and I hated every minute of it.  Reading was nothing like as unpleasant as I remembered it being, which just goes to show how much your experience colours your memories of a place.  The accommodation was lovely, although the lack of full wifi coverage if you couldn’t (like me and several other people) log into Eduroam was a distinct drawback. Because of my graduation, I wasn’t able to attend the whole conference, but on the Monday afternoon I very much enjoyed Maria de Jesus Crespo Candeias Velez Relvas‘s paper on ‘The Perception of the World in the Sixteenth Century’, as it took me back to undergraduate days of studying The First Hundred Years of the Spanish in the Americas and writing my dissertation.  I still find the impact of the Spanish conquest on the mainly oral tradition of the Aztecs and Inca’s fascinating and I recently downloaded the digital Codex Mendoza app!

The parallel sessions on Monday afternoon were all in seminar rooms, so I was somewhat surprised to find myself delivering my paper on Tuesday morning in a large lecture theatre.  My panel consisted of Richard Hoyle talking about ‘The King and the Poor Northern Man’, myself on ‘Ballads and the Public Sphere in Sixteenth Century England’ and Jonathan Arnold on ‘Music, Morality and Meaning: Humanist Critiqus of Musical Performance in Early Modern Europe’.  It seemed to go very well. I had to leave Reading mid-afternoon on the Tuesday in order to get home for my graduation, so unfortunately I missed Jennifer Richards’ plenary that evening.

One of the interesting things about delivering a paper to most conferences and seminar series is that people seem surprised when I sing a verse or two of a ballad. Not so at the Voices and Books conference, where breaking into song mid-paper is normal!  I have really enjoyed all the Voices and Books meetings that I’ve attended, and they helped to cement the idea that I had early on in my ballad studies that we need to think of ballads as songs that were sung and read aloud.  It is a truly interdisciplinary network, with supportive scholars from music, history, drama, literature and language all sharing ther ideas and bringing their expertise to the table.  I can honestly say that I’ve come away from the conference with more ideas than I could possibly carry out in the rest of my working life, so I want to say a big thank you to the ever-smiling network organisers Jennifer Richards and Richard Wistreich for all their hard work and their inspiring example!

Voices and Books his was a really busy conference with parallel sessions and plenaries filling the days, leaving little space for tea and the wonderful food that was provided.  Having started the second day of the conference at 9.30am, I left the conference dinner the moment that I finished my main course through sheer exhaustion (in a good way) at 9.30pm, and, disappointingly, before the chewy strawberry pavlova.  My family would testify to how tired I must have been to walk away from a meringue!  And, by the way, the conference also had far and away the best food of any that I’ve ever been to, what with Thai beef salad; wild rice with currants, chickpeas and herbs; mini Yorkshire puddings with beef and horseradish; lemon posset; and dipped strawberries.

There wasn’t a single session that didn’t include fascinating papers, but the plenaries were particularly excellent. Heidi Brayman Hackel spoke on the relationship between hearing and speaking and the the role of the dumb-show in early modern drama.  Anne Karpf was truly inspiring when she talked about restoring the voice, pointing out that even oral history tends to priviledge the recorded or transcribed voice over the act of speaking itself, making me wonder again how to weave in to my  studies the ballads collected from the oral tradition.  I was struck by her comment that the first voice we hear is the maternal voice which we hear in the womb and can even feel its vibration – it made me wonder if the maternal lullaby works in a similar way to skin-to-skin contact for babies? Perry Mills, talking about performing early modern drama with a company of boys, reminded me of everything I miss about teaching.  And then, of course, there was Christopher Marsh and the Carnival Band demonstrating how to write a hit song in the seventeenth century – the first plenary session any of us had been to with a beer break in the middle!  Apparently the Carnival Band had been given free reign to interpret the songs  as they saw fit, and I noticed that they had chosen to accompany them using major and minor keys rather than modal harmony.  Apologies also for the state of my photographs of them, as my camera didn’t cope well with the limited light!

On Friday I talked about ‘Reinterpreting  the Sixteenth Century English Ballad’, giving a brief airing to my theories about tonality and knowingness, but my main point was that ballads were good for spreading news because they were passed from person to person and used tunes that were easy to pick up and remember.   I decided to demonstrate this by having my very own Gareth Malone moment and getting the conference delegates to sing!  I had been having kittens prior to the conference – as a teacher I used to get children to sing all the time but I’ve never tried it with adults, and if they didn’t go for it and join in I would end up looking rather daft.  Fortunately, they almost all joined in with varying amounts of enthusiasm and learned the first verse of ‘The Hunt is Up’ very  quickly.

At the conference dinner on Friday evening, Jonathan Gibson asked if I might be able to sing a verse of a ballad during his paper the following morning, which I was pleased to do.  So  after retreating from the dinner I went back to my hotel, where I attempted to learn the tune of Wilson’s Wild, while feeling the bass and vocals of ‘I-I-I-I-I’m not your stepping sto-one‘ vibrate through the floor.   On the final day I particularly enjoyed Jonathan’s paper, Naomi Barker on traces of orality in Italian keyboard music and John Gallagher‘s paper on the teaching of foreign languages.  I’m very interested  in the idea of learning a language through singing its songs, so that’s something we’re both going to look out for.

So I’m home, brimming over with ideas, just as my institutional login is about to run out.  Ho hum.

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.

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.

DSCF3072I don’t have a lot to tell, this week (after all, it’s only a couple of days since I last posted) so I thought I’d just share the good news that I’d managed to write a bit of my common weal chapter and then post some photos of some of my favourite birds from today’s visit to Martin Mere.

Yesterday morning I intended to spend a couple of hours on my common weal chapter, but just as I got stuck in and finally started making something that feels like proper progress, I had to abandon it in favour of looking after a dying hamster.  The hamster is still with us, just, but I doubt it will be much longer.  The chapter remains unfinished, but I can see a light at the end of the tunnel.  I hope it isn’t the oncoming train.

To the left is a fibre optic crane.  At least that’s what we call it – really it’s a grey-crowned crane.  Fabulous creatures.  And below are some avocets.

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The year of big, scary life changes.  The year in which my husband is likely to retire and in which I need to become the main breadwinner for the family.  The year in which, 20 years after starting at the University of Manchester the first time round, I should earn the title of doctor.

234 So to end 2013, I got some new bookshelves.  I need them because in the last couple of months I’ve accumulated so many books that I’ve run out of space to put them.  Two of the shelves on the bookcase in my bedroom are now devoted to post-1950 history, as I was given a lot of high-quality books by a friend who could no longer use them.  I’ve also had to buy quite a few texts for my work and, of course, there are the ones that Father Christmas brought for me last week.  New bookshelves were a must.

And to begin 2014, I put some books on them.

235The eagle-eyed among you might have noticed that it required the movement of my printer from my right to my left.  This may not seem significant, but it created a strange sense of space.  Working in there this morning, it felt like there was a lot more room.  I stopped for a moment to consider it, deciding that the space in the corner had been redundant space, because it was trapped between my Spanish dictionary and the printer.  Now it isn’t.  I’m not sure how ‘working round a corner’ is going to pan out in the long run, but for now it seems quite pleasant.

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On a more research-based note, I am pleased to report that my chapter finally seems to be coming together.  I’m slightly more confident of it than I was.  This week, I’ve been working very much part-time, alternating it with playing games with the family and trying to get some fresh air between the raindrops and gales.  Somewhere along the way, I have found 6500 words of a chapter, which is interesting because it’s certainly not yet what I’d call a chapter – a lot of it is still in notes, or just lists of primary or secondary quotations.  When I mentioned this to my husband the other day, he commented that I had brain incontinence!  Puddles of words that don’t have any flow.  But, today, what prose there is is finally beginning to coalesce.  I’ve read several articles (I could do with going to the library but I don’t think I’m going to get there before the children go back to school next week), ordered yet another pile of books from Amazon and in the evenings, I’ve been cataloguing and analysing ballads, a few at a time.  Progress, I think.

Yesterday I began an 8 week mindfulness course, a present from a friend for Christmas intended to help me with my depression and stress since I can no longer take anti-depressants.  I’ll keep you posted on how it goes.