English: The courtyard of the Bodelian Library...

English: The courtyard of the Bodelian Library, looking out the north gate from the south gate. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

On Monday I did a day’s work on manuscripts held in the Bodleian Library.  Particularly, of course, Ashmole 48 – Richard Sheale’s ballad collection. There is some dispute over the purpose of the collection. Sheale is known to have been a minstrel attached to the Stanley family, but interpretations over the years have described Ashmole 48 as his minstrel manuscript or a collection of ballads that he heard and perhaps sung. Most recently, Andrew Taylor has argued that the manuscript was used to collect ballads on Sheale’s travels which he then took back to printers in London for publication. Whatever its purpose when it was compiled, there seems no dispute over the fact that it contains ballads. Which is nice, because it helps me to define ‘ballad’. There were a couple of other very interesting documents too.

Finishing work in Oxford on Monday afternoon marked the end of my work for a week or two. I decided last week that juggling was wearing me out, so for the sake of my sanity and my children I would take a couple of weeks off before they go back to school. As the epitaph ballad went on holiday to Ireland with me in May, this will be the first proper break I’ve had for months.

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 friend at university shared this article on Facebook:     http://www.guardian.co.uk/commentisfree/2012/sep/07/bookshelf-say-about-you although she pointed out that it doesn’t take into account the way people own things that they want people to think that they’ve read.

Guardian Bookshelf Article

Anyway, it got me thinking about my own bookshelf.  Or rather, bookshelves.  Offhand, I can think of 3 bookcases and 3 long bookshelves that are mine, and then there are the children’s, most of the contents of which I have bought.

What does my set of bookshelves say about me?  Mostly that I have a lot of books, but also that I don’t like getting rid of them.  ‘Old friends, old friends…’  No prizes for spotting Paul Simon’s ‘Bookends’.

At the moment, my books aren’t really in any order – the priority when we moved in was just to get them out of boxes and onto shelves, preferably but not exclusively in vaguely the right area!




My favourite beach.

I’ve had a week off. A real week off. I did absolutely no work. I went to Donegal with my extended family, and had a lovely, quiet week. I’m looking forward to getting stuck in tomorrow but I actually really enjoyed not doing any work at all. I did my sewing. I played on the beach with my children. I read Clive James’s radio essays. I enjoyed the beautiful weather. Oh, and I took my little boy to hospital because he fractured his wrist! Aside from that, a good time was had by all.

I hope I can remember what I was supposed to be doing tomorrow.