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.

I’ve spent quite a bit of time in the last couple of weeks planning my trip to London. I’ve made arrangements to go to the British Library, the Society of Antiquaries and the Vaughan Williams Memorial Library, and although I’m a bit nervous (I’ve never done anything like this before), I’m also very excited.

This week I’m also giving my first seminar, ‘Ballads and the Public Sphere in the Reign of Mary I’, which will be an interesting experience. I wrote it at the beginning of September, but I haven’t given it as much practice as I would/should have done. Over the last couple of weeks I’ve been extremely busy, because two of my children have had birthdays. My kitchen has been rather like that of someone practising for the Great British Bake Off – there have been lots and lots of cakes!

In other news I attended a course on writing abstracts/proposals for conference papers on Wednesday morning. Considering my somewhat lacking skills in this area, it should have been quite useful, and I suppose in a way it was. The trouble is that I know in theory how to write an abstract, I just can’t quite make it happen. I have also put together a proposal for my new panel to change the thrust of my topic (again!) as the ballads are something I would really like to take further.  I have a completely new panel now, set up by my supervisor especially for their skills:  Sasha Handley from the History Department and Rebecca Herissone from Music.  Work is good fun at the moment.

I’ve also been to my first Historical Association Trustees meeting, which was quite eye-opening.  I think it’s a role I’m going to grow into: at the moment I feel a bit out of my depth but now that I’ve been to one meeting I’ll have more idea about what’s going on at the next one!

On Tuesday morning, the children started their new school, so I went back to work in earnest, trying out my new study (a great success, but more on that another time).  I spent Tuesday reading a couple of books that I needed to take back to the library, and on Wednesday we had another meeting of the writing group, which went well and was interesting.  In order to attend, I had to brave my first commute to Manchester, which wasn’t all that much fun but at least when I leave here at 9am I miss the rush hour!
I’ve spent the last two days re-writing my ballad chapter as two lectures: one a twenty minute seminar paper for the History and Classics Postgrads at Manchester, sometime this autumn; the other a longer lecture aimed at the Historical Association’s Manchester Branch, which will be in January next year.  As I am currently between supervisors, I thought I might as well get them out of the way now, so that I don’t run the risk of having to cram them in when there are other deadlines to meet.
It’s interesting trying to re-write the work for speech.  Trying to maintain the academic standard whilst making it sound reasonable to read aloud is quite a skill.  I don’t want to read the two papers, I’d much rather talk off the cuff, because that’s how teaching works and it’s what I’m used to.  It also comes across much, much better to the audience.  But I can now see why people do.  At the moment, I couldn’t possibly do it without extensive notes.  I just don’t know it well enough.  So I want to really learn it.  Not every word, as then it would sound like reciting a script, but know my stuff well enough to be confident to talk about it without having my head buried in a sheaf of paper.

This week I’ve been using the comment feature in word to mark up bits of my work that I’d had ideas about, or needed to do a bit more digging on. It was a new idea, brought on in part by a lack of confidence that they way I’d been working, the way I’ve always worked, was no longer quite up to it. I thought it might stop me forgetting things that I’d thought of, which was happening a bit, even though I keep a PhD notebook of ideas that I carry around with me. With the notebook, it relied on me checking it regularly. Putting the comments directly onto the work keeps them in mind. The downside is that as I can see them all the time, I’m getting a bit overwhelmed by them. There are so many little things that need doing that I haven’t been sure where to start.

Still, this morning I was looking at Thomas Stafford’s rebellious taking of Scarborough Castle in 1557, and making my way through the state papers relating to it. Much more fun, as I’d been getting a bit bogged down.

I reckon that in terms of my chapter, I’ve written about a paragraph this week…