Wednesday, 22 September 2010

Taking Stock

So a new semester is about to launch itself onto the unsuspecting freshers and I have been laid low with the usual bout of freshers flu.
I have touched base with my Supervisor this week and we have decided on a course of action that if it is approved should prevent me imploding on myself and leaving a nasty body fluid stain on the library books that currently surround me help alleviate some of the desire to run rampage naked throughthe town centre yelling I AM NOT JUST A PHD STUDENT I AM ALSO A HUMAN BEING pressure that has been building over the previous months.

I think it is time for a bit of a shake up and a new approach - so plans are in development.
But for the time being all the balls are up in the air as I do all the necessary paperwork and gubbins that accompany a new year as a researcher.

Because of the flu I haven't really done much the last few days so this is more of a case of saying 'I am still alive' and ' normal service should be resumes soon'!

Thanks for recent comments - I love signing in and seeing some feedback!

I got the tickets in the post for the holiday in TWO WEEKS TODAY! I can't wait - this knackered old body of mine is in dire need of some sunshine!

Off for another dose of paracetamol and a hot toddy! No licking the screen - I just sneezed on it!

Friday, 17 September 2010

Paying it Forward

I like this because the image is from around 1910! 
... I was going to talk about marriage today, as a modern institution that is outdated and perhaps unnecessary. The reason being I may have been banging my gums repeatedly mentioned in the passing, several hundred times once or twice that I am pulling my hair out with  all the crap having a few problems with 'the ex' ... but it's just too depressing  complicated and needs a lot more brain power than I can muster. Also I have several reason why I do not think , at this time, it is a good idea to air my opinion about something that is clearly affecting my life just now:
A. I think it is unseemly to air one's personal dirty laundry publicly,
B. He is on my Facebook and may see it! and
C. I do get his point of view,BUT HE IS WRONG!!!!  I just disagree with it.

I am also not a fan of the one sided argument which blogs, forums and other internet outlets tend to support. Let's face it we all know there are three sides to every argument - his, hers and the truth!

So about marriage let's just say - I am not its biggest fan! I am not an entirely paid up member of the 'let's get divorced club' either ... I am more on the side of let's get rid of these archaic and unworkable institutions all together and stop shitting ourselves that they actually function! Now I have a LOT of thoughts on the pros and cons of marriage and maybe one day I will pluck up the courage to form them into a coherent few paragraphs, but right now I have a feeling it would degenerate into a rant ... which would be sooooo satisfying is never pretty!

Instead I thought would waffle on about the idea of 'pay it forward' because after a very odd and shitty week, a woman and a friend, who I know only virtually, has done something rather sweet and unexpected to cheer me up. When I asked what I could do in return her reply was, 'just pay it forward'. I am not even entirely sure she even knows the week I have had, which makes it even more spontaneous and unexpected.

If you've seen the film starring that boy who sees dead people you will be fully aware of what pay it forward means; basically if someone does you a good turn you do something good for someone else ... and so on and so forth. I like the theory but never experienced it in practice and I have to tell you it fair perked me up! I can't even tell you what it is she is offering because, well, it's a little shady and involves copy dvds! Shhhhhhhh

The lovely thing is I already know a man who I can pay this particular good deed forward to! I have a feeling there may be a few other folk who want to get their mitts on it as well - so form a queue!

So I think I shall declare today send the Pimpernel loads of pressies as pressies cheer her up exponentially day   
Pay It Forward Friday !
A positive note on which to end the week! As Fresher's looms I shall need all the positivity I can get.

As a consequence of this friends thoughtfulness, I have been musing about how many folk I have 'met' through the internet and how rarely I am disappointed when I actually meet them. I have many actual good real life friends now, which is largely down to online forums and facebook etc ... how life has changed. Years ago as a divorced single parent staying at home I would have had little or no opportunity to get out and about and meet new folks (especially after I moved here from England). But by the glory of the internet I have a whole virtual family who in times of need never fails to rally! I consider myself blessed. It never fails to amaze me what a virtual friend will do for you when the chips are down! Or how quickly you can get the feeling you really 'know' them!

So for those of you scared to commit and sitting on life's sidelines - get online and put yourself out there! There are some good people to get to know! And I reckon I am one of them! ;) ... Usual disclaimer about online safety applies - sometimes people may not be what they seem. He may look good in his picture but in reality, well ... let's just say it might not be quite what you were expecting! Also if he mentions the word 'swing' and 'fascism' in the same sentence I'd advise caution!

So to conclude and before I start making a dent in the weekend's supply of alcoholic beverages  in the words of Edward Everett Hale :

“I am only one, but I am one. I can't do everything, but I can do something. The something I ought to do, I can do. And by the grace of God, I will.”

If you do anything today make it a kind something, and look for nothing in return.

Have a good weekend folks!

Thursday, 16 September 2010

Biting the Bullet

Bite Me!
So after some prevarication and a lot of procrastination I bit the bullet and emailed the supervisor.

I was honest - not a dissembling sentence in sight. I explained it had been a disruptive summer (what with dealing with my son's exam results and complicated 6th form career path) and that even though I had edited the bulk of my chapter the final portion was giving me some grief, to the point where I had hit a brick wall made up of thousands of tiny little writer's blocks! As a way of negotiating this hurdle I had returned to the books to continue researching in the hope that I would stumble across a huge sledge hammer with which to dismantle said wall.

I also explained that having discovered Bourdieu's theory of 'symbolic violence' I was intent on unravelling its complexities and making it workable with my own ideas about rhetorical violence aka vorticity. I think I made myself sound almost intelligent! Almost!

Then taking a huge gulping deep breath I decided to put forward the possibility that I maybe should take this semester off. I will be entering my 9th consecutive year of study since I began this roller coaster. I am more than a little exhausted and my brain feels wrung out. It's no good, getting older is not making it any easier! Sometimes I sit and literally scrabble around my head to remember what a word means, or to find the right word for a sentence. I am sure this never used to happen. Plus my memory is shocking and entirely of the short term gold fish variety which is not an advantage when you have to write up something over 3-4 years! Taking a break is a scary step - there is always the big risk you won't ever go back to it and I am determined to finish it. Not finishing this does not register with my brain! But then again not a lot does register with my brain just now!

I hit send before I could retract it. I did phrase it as a tentative enquiry, as in 'if one were to consider this how would one go about it' sort of thing.

So I sat for a wee while - then ping a reply! With bated breath I opened the email ( I may be making that sound slightly more tense than it actually was!). It had been rather quick so I wasn't expecting too much. Which was just as well as it was an out of office automated reply.

So in a way I have been offered a reprieve for the weekend! Sort of?

Today has been an exhausting day emotionally. I had to go to the bank and sort out paying for the holiday and closing off some savings that were offering practically no interest (damn recession). All was going well as I bought some snazzy new sun specs and was feeling brighter about life - when I got an email from my ex! Well, let's not go into the gory details here but let's just say it reminded me of why he was my ex! ;)

Off now to enjoy watching my daughter horse riding lesson. Hi ho and Awaaaaa-aaaaaaay!

Wednesday, 15 September 2010

Expanding Knowledge: The Matt Might Method

Forgive me - today I neither have the time nor the energy to write my usual bullshit an 'original' blog entry that reveals for your delectation my incredible impression of a headless chicken or a fart in a space suit wit, sense of style and unique erudition. You see I am very busy affecting a disguise with which to beguile my supervisor when I eventually pluck up the courage to email her!  So here, in place of the usual pearls before swine (I *think* I may just have just called anyone reading a swine?)  is a bit of humour that is circulating round my school of Ph.D peers just now!  You may have seen it, you may not appreciate it, but today's it's all you getting! 

A Ph.D in Pictures 

Enjoy! Happy Wednesday!

Tuesday, 14 September 2010

In Hiding!

I am truly living up to my name and avoiding the inevitable - which is a reply to an email from my supervisor asking me what I have been up to and how I am progressing.

The problem is I cannot quite find the appropriate language to convey the sentiment that I have basically done fuck all. I am not sure she will be entirely sympathetic, even though I have Charlie Brooker on the defence team - in fact I am thinking of making him lead council for the case of Supervisor versus the Procrastinating Pimpernel!

Now please don't misunderstand me, like Mr Brooker  I spend hours of the day 'researching' typing reading etc., etc., blah, blah, blah, - the problem is not with input but output! The distractions on offer are innumerable and delicious! Between my addiction to Blip , other bloggers and facebook, there are the delights of browsing the internet for resources. I have thousands of them at my fingertips - but once found they are bookmarked and promptly forgotten!

Tomorrow's resolution - to fucking well get on with it! And then perhaps, maybe, eventually I shall pluck up the courage to reply to my supervisor and .... well tell her the truth tell her that things are once more in motion and just hope that my nose doesn't grow!

Just in case you were wondering - I am not old, male and grey haired - neither am clad in a bikini and a party hat, nor a dinosaur! ;)

VW by Roger Fry
Alert for Woolf Scholars Woolf Seminar, a new website which generously shares the insights of Dr Kay. Well worth a browse when one is otherwise free from internet distractions like Frontierville! I particularly liked the section which listed her favourite Woolf quotes. Plenty there to see and enjoy for any of you who can't resist a Bloomsbury adventure when one presents itself.

Friday, 10 September 2010

You spin me right round baby, right round!

... So it appears there is a rather good reason as to why I have been feeling out of sorts. I have - it's a gobful so be warned - benign paroxysmal positional vertigo!!! Oh yes! None of your run o'the mill dizzy spells for me ... I get BPPV! It should be easy enough to get rid of, as I have to do some exercises! These exercises involve lying on the bed on one side then the other ... that I can do! What I do find difficult though is lying on one of those medical couches and being asked to 'flip over' onto my other side ... that could not have looked pretty from behind!

So I haven't been terribly productive as regards my Ph.D. I spent sometime discovering the world of Pierre Bourdieu, a French sociologist, anthropologist and philosopher who has developed a theory of symbolic violence which will hopefully provide a sufficiently sturdy framework from which to hang my thesis.

Symbolic violence in a nutshell is linguistic violence, language that in some way uses cultural norms or idioms to oppress and dominate. This is a perfect theory to expand several of my key ideas regarding the militaristic rhetoric of suffrage literature and the rhetorical violence exhibited by Vorticists and West. I've read a few snatches of the books I bought and so far he hasn't resorted to dense incomprehensible twaddle that many philosophers think is the bedrock of philosophical thought. Thank F8ck for Amazon!  Even though I am a little rusty on my Saussure and Chomsky, I still vaguely remember the basics which should help me out negotiating these new ideas. Ironically I discovered Bourdieu (you have to read this with an atrociously bad nasal French accent - it's the only way I can seem to say it - read it even!) reading a book that doesn't really relate to what I am writing about - but her introduction has given me so many pointers for my own work. It was only released in June, and surprisingly it was in the library (which is just as well as it is £48 on Amazon!) so that was a lucky find! Maybe this little piece of the jigsaw will help! It's like finding all the edge pieces and making the frame - the middle bit seems to naturally follow.

From The Literary Gift Company.
I had a despairing email from a colleague of mine, who has declared the state of his writer's block has reached unprecedented levels and for some reason this proved reassuring! So I am not alone  - the cosmos is not conspiring against me!

Thanks for the comments of support. The words of 'virtual' friends can be deeply reassuring when you are sat staring at a blank screen and a blinking cursor wondering where the hell your next sentence is going to come from! 

have a good weekend and hope to see you all bright and early on Monday! 

Tuesday, 7 September 2010


St Andrews Sept 6th 2010 .
It has rained and rained and rained ... then it rained some more. It lashed it down, hesitated for a nanosecond and then lashed it down some more. I was scared to venture out, as everyone knows I may well melt in the rain! (spot the intertextual TWOO reference there ... these may crop up from time to time because as I get older I look to my childhood reading for assurance) 

But the sound of it was lovely ... there is nothing to compare to the sound of pounding rain on a window, when you are tucked up cosy indoors. Or the guttural spluttering as a drain overflows and the excess water splashes jubilantly down the gutter.  It threatened to thunder and lightening just now and then it petered out ... disappointingly. There is nothing like a good storm to clear the air and make you feel newer, fresher.

There is only one sound I love more than the deluge of rain and that is the crashing of a turbulent sea - and St Andrews Bay was just that yesterday. I popped down to take some pics when I finished at Uni and the wind near stole my breathe away, and whipped my hair round my face. It was invigorating to stand out on the outcrop of rocks and take pictures of the spray.The act of being there did me the power of good. I could taste the salt spray on my fingers, and the rich metallic tang of the sea was all around in the air.

I do feel more positive today. I do feel more like 'me'... feisty, belligerent and up to the job! Maybe writing it all out here is like therapy - with the Internet as the therapist?  It was touching to know a few people had taken the time to read the drivel and get to the end of it and still have enough energy to comment!

I took the time yesterday to visit the library and before I could swither (Scots word for change my mind) I handed in my forms for my returning student and my web page ... only trouble is my portrait is rubbish and I don't really have a decent one to submit! I look like a shell shocked consumptive in the school one!

My desk - the pile of papers in the centre are my drafts of this section!
So all that remains now is for me to plough through the papers on my desk and get writing... Oh Joy!
Early to bed me thinks... and long may the rain continue to keep me indoors and at my keyboard!

Update - I have been inaugurated into British Mummy Bloggers ... all that awaits me now is my first secret mission - which is to find out what the hell I am supposed to do with it now I have joined! I've also joined Judith's Room - ditto! No idea why ... just seemed the thing to do!

Me - playing Shadow puppets on a Slow Research Day!

**TWOO is The Wizard of Oz. I sometimes feel, as a parent, I am cast as the much maligned and misunderstood WWotW! ;)**

Monday, 6 September 2010

Self - Esteem or lack there of.

**Self-indulgent whinge and pit of sorrow alert**

Instructions for reading this blog are as follows:
1. Fetch sick bucket
2. Don big boots for the arse kicking that may be required
3. Acquire a wet kipper, effective for cheek slapping when you are done reading
4. Adopt a sympathetic counsellor's sideways head tilt and non-commital facial expression - self pitying rants always look better from this angle!

I am having doubts. Bit fat hairy insidious creeping doubts that tell me I can't do this. I can't write, think or even read adequately enough to complete a Ph.D. I mean who do I think I am?

These doubts manifest themselves as an overwhelming panicky sensation- you know the sort of feeling you get when you dream you are in front of your entire old school naked and there they are, jeering at you. You feel all sweaty and flushed and your hands are a blur trying to cover bits that should never legitimately be out on public display. And all the time you think 'this is never going to end is it' ... and then with a bit of luck, before your sense of failure and shame can reach its nadir, you wake up flooded with relief.

Well what do you do with that feeling when you are awake, and it is a reality that makes you feel so exposed, so vulnerable, so flawed? What 'wakes you up' so to speak? What stops you spiralling uncontrollably down into a pit of despair?

Half of the problem is I am one of those women who was married to one of those men! You know the sort, on the surface and to all the external world they are Dr Jekyll, decent, law abiding, a good provider, a considerate and patient father, quite good looking, to all intents and purposes he would be considered ' a catch'. But behind closed doors they are Mr Hyde treating you like an imbecile, making you feel inadequate as  a mother, a wife, a women and sometimes even as a person. You know that sort of man. The sort who, after you've taken an hour to get ready for a night out, looks you up and down and says, 'Are you wearing that?' in a slightly contemptuous tone? Who walks in from work and hoovers before taking their coat off because they way you have done it doesn't come up to scratch! Or looks at you like you disdainfully when you suggest having a joint bank account because he thinks you just want to spend all his money?
It leaves its mark.
 I am sad to say after years of marriage (and even after years of being divorced) that sense of never being quite good enough has stayed with me. I don't hold my ex responsible for the way I am now, but he didn't help.

 Low self esteem is like a worm, that eats its way from the inside out. Slowly devouring all of your securities and assurances and shitting them out as insecurities and doubts. A bad marriage is fodder for the worm. But even once you rid yourself of the bad marriage, you still have a fat well fed arthropod to deal with. You can try starving it out, but it takes a long time before it shrivels sufficiently to disappear, if it ever does.
Even though  I found a man who adores me and makes me feel as though I am capable of conquering the world (I think he just fantasises about thigh high leather boots and being dominated!) I still carry this sense that I just don't cut it.

In fact I am getting worse. Despite having a reasonably successful career (so far) as a scholar I still feel as though one day soon, someone is going to whip back the curtain, a la the Wizard of Oz, and find out I am a sham, a fraud. The proud and glittering edifice will crumble leaving me exposed, naked and once more at the mercy of those jeering taunts.

I read prolifically in order to get the ideas to write, and every time I open the covers of yet another scholarly tome I find myself sinking deeper and deeper into my pit of self-doubt. How do they find the words to express themselves so clearly, so succinctly, so perfectly??? Where does this inspiration come from, and why, in comparison, does my prose squelch like a stale cow-pat under a sandal?

Now this swirling vortex of emotion has been triggered by the simple task of filling in my forms to return to University this October. Two little forms saying 'yes I am signing up' and 'yes I am doing my Ph.D' - it has set me off! Friends of mine, who have been through this journey with me, will read it and nod, thinking 'Uh-huh, it's that time of year again - here she goes'. Normally I am quite self- confident, out-going and assured. I genuinely believe I am more than capable of tackling most things that life throws at me and have done so in the past - so why does this happen every year??

Answers on a postcard please.

In two days time this post will embarrass me. I will sit and re-read it and wonder what the fuck possessed me to put myself out there, to basically strip off my own outer clothing/shell and sit naked and vulnerable in front of the eternal gaze of the interweb ... I may even delete it (unlikely as I hate deleting anything) so for blackmailing purposes I suggest you c&p it now whilst you still can! 

Wednesday, 1 September 2010

The Blair Witch-Hunt Project ...

... is about to get a little more interesting as Tony Blair's memoir hits the bookstands today!


Reading the Guardian earlier (yes it's official I am middle class/aged/brow) I actually found myself thinking that it would make a great read.  I am not a fan of political memoirs normally, because despite being vaguely interested in politics as they pertain to me, I find politicians quite narcissistic and self serving and their memoirs usual revolve around scoring some petty argument of about which no one really cares!

However I respected Blair as a prime minister (and I think the history books will show his premiership as some of the best years this country saw this century) and unusually I would quite like to hear his point of view.

Since he left office three years ago there has been no end to the carping about his private successes, his accumulating wealth, his position as a global force in negotiating an interfaith 'truce' in the Middle East. He rarely gets a fair deal from the press - what do they expect him to do - put on his carpet slippers, throw away his political experience and stay home and play with the baby?  The recent furore over his £4 million book advance is a case in point. Before he made the statement about what his intentions were (FOR HIS OWN MONEY!) the press were harping on about his greedy money grabbing ways. Now he has announced he is to donate ALL OF It to an armed forces charity they are bleating about him showcasing his philanthropy!! Surely even if you loathe the man and everything he stands for this one incident shows he will never get a fair deal from the media!

I don't normally 'talk politics' but for some reason the launch of this memoir has stimulated my political juices!

Mind you having read all the reviews and watched the Andrew Marr interview I am now feeling there isn't an awful lot left to read ...
The cartoon on the left amused me ... mainly because I am critiquing these sort of images for my thesis - so I just thought given my rantette about the Blair witch hunt project it would add a little light relief and some humour!

On the Ph.D front - little was achieved today as I was otherwise engaged!!! Now the students are beginning to return in their droves to Dundee I was faced with the unenviable task of reuniting my young cousin with his belongings (stored for the summer in the garage) ... as it turns out one car load was sufficient!

Tuesday, 31 August 2010

I'm getting the EebieFreebies!

I am not a fan of the ebook it has to be said, preferring the touch of the page in my hands, the smell of the glue and the whole heady world created once you start to flip through the pages, but it has to be said there are some advantages to ebooks - when they are of course FREE!

Catching up this morning on some of my subscribed blogs I spotted a free download for 'The Dictionary of the Vulgar Tongue'  which given my recent spate of expletive exploitation was an immediate draw!  The Book Depository has many free ebooks (over 11,000 in fact if their home page is to be believed) so it may well be worth a browse before once more reaching for the credit card and logging on to Abe or Amazon! You get a lot of the classics, which are well out of their copyright so any old shyster can publish a version, but a word of caution; sometimes these copies are not edited thoroughly, or contain errors - so always try to read a reputable edition! (Did you hear my teacherly tone there?) 

So if like me you want a dose of the EebieFreebies then here are some links to sites which may have a free version just for your delectation ...

Get Free Books
Free Ebooks
Ebook Directory
Project Guttenberg ( a must for scholars)
Many Books

Completely Novel (which is also a community for writers and is largely about new work)

The list isn't exhaustive but it should provide plenty of choice!

And just a final "heads up" to any stationery fetishists out there ...

 THE PAPERIE  HAS A SALE ON BUT IT ENDS TODAY!!!! So stock up on your new term notebooks and stationery now while prices are still low!
Right now it is back to the grindstone for me ...

Monday, 30 August 2010

Still Pending....

... for the BMB site... must be pretty lazy rigorous over there! Wonder if they are checking out my mothering credentials ... in which case I am f*cked! Never been left waiting for so long to join a forum - I am sure I'd have gained entry to MI6 more quickly! Still I suppose there must be a perfectly valid reason.

I have been incredibly productive today after I actually pulled my finger out and hence this rather late night, garbled entry.

I have upped my word count to 21k which is a bit of breakthrough and I feel as though I know where this chapter is taking me - hopefully by the end of the week I will get there.

I do have 'back to school' paperwork which must be completed and returned by the 10th September, so that is on the list for tomorrow.

It did dawn on me today that as I near the end of this time I am getting closer to having to find a real job - how scary!

Short and sweet and rather dull! But that's the cost of doing some 'actual' work I suppose - no time to get creative with the blogging!

Edited: Just to show you that blonde moments (being a natural blonde I can say this!) can occur at any time: I just totally confused myself because every time I tried to publish this post it said 'your post has been successful' and yet when I opened it it said 'Still Pending...' which I though was odd. Why would it be 'pending' if I had published it successfully??? My fevered little mind was beginning to work overtime wondering whether BMB had taken out some kind of Blogger fatwa on me, when I realised - that's the title of the bloody entry isn't it!!!!
Sheesh - I can be such a dumb ass! In all fairness it is late!

Friday, 27 August 2010

The Book of Genesis - Bill Gates Style

In the beginning Gates created Windows and 
The Windows was without form and void; and the darkness was upon The face of the computer and the spirit of Gates moved upon the void and said ...

LET THERE BE OFFICE! And it was good.

BUT! Not good enough apparently because we are now on version/incarnation 6, 355,567  10 and as yet there isn't a soul alive who holds the key to all its power!!!! 

Now a couple of days ago I was seen to be ranting profanely and in quite an unseemly manner at an integral component of Office, namely Word. I may well have jeopardised my initiation into British Mummy Bloggers (I am still pending approval!) with all my f*cking and fr*ing and all because WORD - the arch nemesis of any wannabee writer - was flagrantly disobeying me and putting images into my carefully crafted chapter willy nilly! 

Well I would like to take it all back because today I discovered something which has made me genuflect at the Alter of Bill Gates once more (see below) 

The Alter of Bill Gates 
(even though I am an "out of the closet" iMacophile but shhhh don't say anything - I wouldn't want to hurt Bill's feelings. Oh and please ignore the voodoo doll in that Picture - this isn't actually my alter - I stole borrowed it from Steve Jobs' blog - I think he is still a bit bitter!) 

I have lit a candle in his honour, retrieved the ubiquitous tome 'Office 2008 for Macintosh: The Missing Manual' from the dusty corner in which it landed when I last hurled it across the study, and I have reinstated Word on my 'All Time Greatest Inventions' list! (Please don't ask me what's on the list - I don't actually have 'a list'; it's a rhetorical trope that we writer's sometimes employ to make ourselves sound far more interesting and erudite than we actually are - aka BULLSHIT!) 

All this has been helped by the fact that yesterday I managed to place the images correctly! YEEEHHAAAAAA!

So ...

Are you ready for this little gem which I am about to share - it could revolutionise your essay writing!

It is a bit of a breakthrough ... BRACE YOURSELVES! 


You can actually put a little bookmark into your document, give it a little name and when you next open said document you can use the 'go to' function and locate the place you were last working!

Now this may seem a simple and ordinary thing for some of you out there who gloatingly know all there is to know about the behemoth of functions that is WORD... but when you have a document that is nearly 100 pages long with several sub headings and subsections, that you often have to jump back and forth to, basically using your scroll button, THIS IS A MAJOR REVELATION!!!!! Also by the time I finish I shall have approx. 80,000 words and probably around 500 pages to edit so this feature will be immeasurably helpful to me in the long run! 

Now the only problem is that once I discover a short cut to anything I tend to over use it ... so I must resist the urge to immediately insert 101 new bookmarks into my document, thus voiding them of any real useful purpose as a short cut!

In summary - from this post you can probably tell that I have actually managed to do some work on my thesis today! I deliberately stopped myself from blogging yesterday as it would have been an 'I did this, that and the other and blah, blah blah,' which is all very well but it is tedious to write and even tediouser  more tedious to read... Also I have a tendency to become obsessed if I haven't complied to that day's tasks (BLIP!) - of which blogging is threatening to become another victim. So I forced myself to go cold turkey! 

Should read I am an Idiot! 
Today wasn't without its major idiot moment, however. I had noted in the margin of my MSS that I should 'insert the quote from the letter X as quoted by Scholes  p.13' - so off I went to locate said quote - I looked on every page 13 of every book I have been using for the last few days - and no quote! I felt my irritation levels rising as looked again - I scoured p.13 of the Scholes book even though I had diligently scored out the name which to any sensible person would indicate it WASN"T in Scoles' book! 

Took me 45 minutes to realise I was referring to page 13 - OF MY OWN THESIS!!! 


To give you some idea of what I have been dealing with today get a swatch at this excerpt from Paul Edwards' Book BLAST: Vorticism 1914-1918 - if anyone can make sense of this sentence email me please ... because I'm f*cked if I can!

"Just as the conditions of 'life' prevent any self becoming, unalloyed, the true authentic self towards which it nostalgically aspires (wtf?) , so the condition of painting or any other signifying system prevents the work of art from becoming (it's about to get even whackier) the direct communication of that self or of any pure, transcendent world of spirit." (OK then?????? I want a shot at whatever he was drinking when he wrote this!) 

And finally - I have added a few extra features to the feedback/comments are of the blog - please feel free to express your opinion but if possible try to be kind (you can swear as long as you are swearing with me not at me!)  I may look like I have the hide of a rhino but that's only because I can only afford Nivea face cream! 

 And on that note I shall bit you adieu and go and play (sparingly I promise) with my bookmarks! 

Today's expletives were brought to you by courtesy of the letters 'F' and 'B" and the symbol "*' ! 

Wednesday, 25 August 2010

Putting it out there...

... for all to see is a scary business.

A couple of days ago I changed my settings and made myself 'public' ... my cyber 'room of one's own' has become an open house; I should really have been serving canapes and champagne to make all visitors feel welcome (and to want to come back!). Up until now I had kept myself to myself and felt as though I was just blogging for me.

But that is the thing isn't it - you can't really just blog for yourself - can you?
Anything you do on the tinterweb is a form of display or exhibitionism, so surely to maintain the claim that I am doing it 'just for me' takes on a disingenuous tone?

Sooooooo,  this is why I have ripped off my security settings and laid myself bare to the public gaze - Lacan (le voyeur extraordinaire) would be proud!

As a result of this exposure I picked up a few followers yesterday (which makes me sound like some kind of cyber streetwalker but never mind) who seem to be in the same boat as me. We are all bobbing along on the Oceania Academia and I feel all pleased and smiley. Don't worry fellow passengers it's five star all the way!
The good thing about this is that I can now also cherry pick their blog listings for ones with similar interests to mine... I have a confession to make at this point; I am a very lazy cyber surfer, with a tendency to take whatever shortcuts are available to me ( as fellow blogger Typecast will confirm) so in order to repay a kindness check out Student Mum - because I shall be browsing through her entries for sometime. Ohh errr!

I have also become a member of British Mummy Bloggers. I am awaiting approval!

*heavy sigh*  I am slightly disgruntled that any parenting site or agency aimed towards mothers seems inclined to use the term 'Mummy' in its title! The only person licensed to utter the word 'Mummy' in my opinion is a child of said mother, who is still under the age of puberty! (Possibly an exception can be made for hairy Continental men involved in sex role play but let's not get onto that just now!)  However, needs must when the devil drives I suppose ... 'tis my own little bugbear and it will just have to fester silently whilst I reap the rewards of being affiliated, (let's call it a consequence of studying feminism and gender for so long) ... I am beginning to understand why Faustus was so easily led astray! 

However it looks like a very good site full of useful information and I am keeping my fingers crossed that they allow in renegades like me!


Now enough about that - more about ME! Yesterday after spending hours on Facebook, blogger, discussion forums and surfing the internet whilst quietly neglecting the housework and what to cook for the kids tea, I actually did some work - I edited at least 39 pages of this section - I am about to edit the rest which is in slightly better shape so should take less time...
But I hit a snag! I decided (oh why?? WHY???) to remove the typed versions of BLAST excerpts and insert page images instead. Bear in mind that I am inserting them into text which I have already gone through about a gazillion times for spacing issues .... yup! You have guessed it. They have sent my carefully aligned prose to the dogs! TO THE DOGS!

I said - well shouted - the word F*CK! a.lot. I do recall calling Word  - look away now if you are likely to be mortified at the use of the 'C' word (so mother that means you!) -  a...


Several times and often to be creative I put the words in a different order! I am clever like that! (I wonder how many of my new followers have just reached for the 'unfollow' button??) 

I even threw the  Office 2008 for Mac guide book (which is the size of a mature goat) across the room when I tried to do the sensible the thing and read up on how to insert pictures into text!

You would think that as I have written more papers than I care to remember (all of which I have filed neatly for posterity. Just in case fame should come knocking and some future scholar wishes to trace my tentative steps towards genius, that's the only reason you understand!) that I would have got a handle on WORD! I have only been using it professionally for best part of a decade. 

But no - I now have squinty pictures and squinty text and I know that the rest of the day will be said quietly muttering 'F*CK' under my breath whilst I try and sort it out!

Let's hope for those of you who have got this far, that your today is a lot better than my yesterday was!

Tuesday, 24 August 2010

Prometheus and the Ph.D Student; An elaborate metaphor in 3 parts.

So I am sat at my desk. Feeling like the lead female in some Hitchcock thriller ...


Yesterday I reorganised my desk so it feels a little unfamiliar. I thought a change would stimulate the grey matter - it just feels slightly weird! I am sitting with my back to the door - something I don't ever do not even in restaurants (I feel that in a past life I was clearly connected in someway to the mafia). I am not sure I like it.

I moved as I have a corner desk and I was positioned in the corner and this meant that the table legs and joining struts were digging into my feet and my thighs respectively and making sitting for prolonged periods pretty uncomfortable! Now I am sat at a straight piece of the desk and it is decidedly easier on the legs - but the whole  'back to the door' thing is creeping me out ... I feel like a character in my own horror film. It doesn't help that is pretty grey outside and dark enough to warrant a desk light, which casts a wandering shadowy glow over the desk. It is also deathly still, as I am alone in the house (for once!)  - all I can say is it's a good job I have on skanky underwear or I would be sure to be the first victim!!! Because everyone knows the first victim in any horror b-movie is always the pretty girl in the good undies! Any minute now someone is going to say - 'Don't look behind you!' Poor Janet Leigh!

Of course this entry is sheer procrastination - as my draft is sitting, covered in red ink marks, awaiting me to commit my edits to type! 
And what am I doing? 
Yes that's right I am here - talking to myself!

Of course, this blog provides me with a great opportunity to get my mind ticking over the unsurmountable perfectly conquerable problems that lay ahead of me today. To sort out the creative flow, and prepare myself for the arduous task of editing!

Taking the metaphor a little further ...

Perhaps it is my thesis that is the villain of this particular scenario ... ever lurking, waiting to pounce on me the minute my guard is lowered. Ready to consume me from the soul outwards... devouring my hot fevered mind, until I am nothing but a babbling shell, stuck repeating the phrase 'Rebecca West WAS a Vorticist' ... until my tongue swells and rots out of my mouth - at which point I will be left with blank vacant hollowed out eyes, silently mouthing the same phrase, in a grotesque manner ... suffering the same fate as Prometheus's liver!

OK so that may seem like the most unworkable metaphor ever - A Hitchcockian Heroine cast as an extra in the Homeric Odyssey. But bear with me ...  If we think of this metaphor in terms of me as Prometheus and my supervisor as the Eagle and my thesis as the liver, then this metaphor works surprisingly well. I present up my liver to the Eagle, she pecks at it until it resembles coarse pate (Ardennes of course) and I then crawl away to slowly regenerate it only for the cycle to be repeated ad infinitum...

Anyone know what happened to poor Prometheus - did he ever find any peace?

On a lighter note I must get back to regenerating my theoretical live - aka my thesis!
'Borrowed' from: 'Welcome to the Miserable World of Prometheus'

Monday, 23 August 2010

Life Interruptions...

...are never ending.
I am pulling out my hair with them all! Last Friday it was my daughter and her 'sore tummy' which remarkably turned out to be nothing judging by the very speedy recovery she made (she was scoffing sweets by 415!) and today it is the trials and tribulations of a teenage boy in his final year at school.
He wants to do - wait for this ground breaking revelations -NOTHING! Yes that's right during a conversation about his courses (the timetable's been altered yet again!) and what courses he wants to do next year, I frustratedly shouted 'You can't spend the rest of your life doing nothing!' to which the reply was 'I wish I could!'

How do you counter that? How do you instill a work ethic into someone? Do you do it by example? Was spending the largest portion of the last decade in full time study insufficient? Is the fact his father spends most of his life working not enough to show him how it's done? Or has all this excess of work ethic and ambition done the opposite and turned him off the thought of doing anything with his time? Does he look at us and think - sod that? Far too much effort?

I could relate to the idea of him being fed up of school, study and education and wanting to do something completely different to experience the world - but doing nothing is not an option. Even my socialist principles balk at the thought of society paying for lazy kids to sit and do nothing!
He is currently frustrating all of the people who care about him and want him to work out a how to obtain a decent, enjoyable life for himself. All we want is for him to have choices! And he is fighting us every inch of the way! He also seems to think that when he has a free period at school he can come home? This is not acceptable given my hours of peace and quiet at home are my work hours and it is hard enough when I have absolute solitude - him appearing at odd hours during the day is just not an option.

My to do list is growing, my patience is thinning and my ideas are bogged down in the here and now mundanity of constant interruptions! I need an Island somewhere - Isolated - to write! It seems a 'room of one's own' is never truly one's own when you have kids to consider!

Friday, 20 August 2010

Mamma Mia...

No I am not referring to the hit West End musical, nor the song by Abba! I am merely refraining from swearing!


Positive reinforcement for a bad day!

Nobody said it was going to be easy and I am not the first woman and mother to be faced with this challenge, but juggling the demands of a home life and children, especially as a single parent, with graduate study is the most challenging thing I have ever done.

I have negotiated the summer holidays by basically ignoring my work. The futility of sitting down whilst you have two adolescents lounging around the place, bickering, playing loud music, watching TV in a room adjacent to my study, was simply too much. So I threw up my hands and said 'fuck it! (yes academics do swear, often repeatedly and loudly!) They go back mid August so I shall merely knuckle down then and I can get what needs doing by the new semester done ready to move on to the next phase in October.

A good plan you may think? When the tide is pulling you in one direction why fight it - go with it and once it has calmed begin your journey once more.

So they went back Wednesday - I've had a full two days to sort out my office, my paper work, finish my reading and finally, today, to sit down and begin thinking again!

TWO HOURS! TWO MEASLY STINKING HOURS! Was all I was allowed before the shriek of the telephone interrupted my quite productive morning to inform me that my daughter needed collecting from school.

"The reason?" you ask. Broken limb? Vomiting? Diarrhoea? Fighting? Fits? Death? ... something serious surely, I mean the school doesn't phone you for without a good reason do they? I mean that is why they ask for 'emergency contact details' isn't it? Because they will only contact you in case of an emergency.

You would think so wouldn't you.

But no - apparently a 'sore tummy' is now sufficient reason to phone a parent, disrupt their working day, and demand, not ask, that you come IMMEDIATELY to collect your child, who is showing no symptoms other than she says SHE HAS A SORE TUMMY!!

I despair! When I was in school (cue music for a Monty Python sketch) your head had to be hanging off before they would send for a parent to collect you. I can only recall one time my mother came to fetch me and that was the day I ended up in hospital having my appendix removed! Now THAT was a sore tummy!!!

So of course as a dutiful parent I go and I collect said daughter from school and as I thought there is pretty much nothing wrong with her. A dose of aspirin and a bacon sandwich and she is back where she belongs - IN SCHOOL!!!

There will be some who read this and judge me, think I am harsh, unfeeling ... and yes sometimes I am all of these things, especially when a child who merely has had enough of school for the day decides to pull a sicky!

(Please be assured I checked her out, asked all the relevant questions about how her day had been, had anyone upset her, where was the pain etc etc etc)

But the consequence of all this is that now I am utterly discombobulated! My ideas which felt so solid and assured this morning in the tranquility of my empty home, seem wishywashy and unsubstantial now they have faced the challenge of being interruption!

I am not alone though! I googled 'motherhood and academia' and found that Berkley have a Parenting Network which has a lot of practical questions and experiences - though it is typically American and in someway this isn't really applicable to the British system.

I also discovered mamaphd, which made me feel nauseous as soon as the page loaded because it has kids' building bricks as its logo - please! I ask you! But I try to never allow my own 'issues' with the over-sentimentalisation of parenthood stand in the way of good advice, and it does look like a good enough resource to bookmark! There is also a facebook page, which may be useful although in the instances of most parenting forums and advice columns designed for women the advice tends to fluctuate between the saccharine and the downright condescending! I have also through the power that is the all knowing GoogleGod - found a blog called Dr. Write ( which initially made me smile for its punning with the sanitary towel brand Dr. White - whether it be intentional or not it was funny), which I am now following - not only as a reader but as an example!

What had started as a productive and writerly day has turned into well - a blip! I will forge ahead and try and regain some of the composure that I started out with and even if it turns out two hours is all I manage - then that is two more hours than yesterday!

Perhaps tomorrow I shall push the boat out and go for three!  Ah SHIT! It's the weekend!

Thursday, 19 August 2010

Then the desire to accomplish something written swoops down...

... as Elizabeth Smart recorded in her journal entries for 1932.

Elizabeth Smart
By Grand Central Station I Sat Down and Cried.
I am not familiar with Smart's writing nor of her long term relationship with the poet George Barker (another new name to store in my literary index, another set of books to add to my Amazon wish list) but when reading about her I am drawn to her anxiety as a writer, it reads as something familiar, like my skin has been ripped open and my inner self revealed. Her words echo phrases and sentiments that I have often recorded in my own journals; they are my anxieties, my fears, my doubts about my own ability. Yet said so much more eloquently, with such poetry.

I often sit trying to find the words to say what I need to say, both in my private writings and in my academic ones and I am flabbergasted by my own ineptitude; my lack of vocabulary.  I am stunted compared to the likes of Mansfield, Woolf, West and Smart. And yet ironically I often find that their writing speaks to me in my own intuitive language and sometimes (when I am at my most delusional it has to be said) I wonder, maybe, just maybe I can write something like them. Something lasting and worthwhile, something that has integrity, meaning and above all truth. Something that speaks to another in our own language.

BUT - I have a thesis to write, ideas to formulate and a career to forge - I cannot afford to allow this self doubt cripple me. I have to merely 'get on with it' -  As Smart records - "Oh I need something but I don't know what it is ... I am cheating myself. I am not being myself ... All this pretending to get at the core. This must happen. It CAN. It WILL" [emphasis my own]

Now that the summer months are closing down and getting ready to greet the autumn, the children have returned to their routines of school and homework, perhaps I can begin to create some kind of routine (though I loathe that word and I am not good at sticking to any routines, even those I impose on myself).  It's a slow start. Reading is always good to get the inspiration flowing and the ideas percolating.

Then the desire to accomplish something written swoops down, with an even worse churning, and different yearnings all straining to begin, and remorse at beginning twenty and having done nothing.

The desire is strong but there are forms to be completed, formalities to be concluded and rewrites and new writes to be tackled.

Book Review

Currently reading (nearly finished) Lesley McDowell's 'Between the Sheets': The Literary Liaisons of Nine Twentieth Century Women Writers. It has been an interesting reading experience that has been blighted to a degree by the recurring typographical errors, such as misplaced commas, reversed letters, misspellings, grammatical faux pas. If I were Dr McDowell I would be having a word with my Editor as this has to be the worst proofreading I have seen in a published book for many years! There is also some sloppy research. McDowell claims that The English Review collapsed in 1910 after only a two year print run under the editorial hand of Ford Hermann Hueffer (later Ford Madox Ford) when in fact the journal continued to be published until 1920, under Austin Harrison's editorship - arguably the journal was never quite as radical as it had been under Hueffer, but nevertheless it didn't stop in 1910 when he left.  A full print run of ER as well as other  journals can be found at the Modernist Journals Project webpages where a comprehensive digital archive of little magazines, both American and British, is being compiled. 
It isn't as well written as I would have liked, given the subject matter and the author, who holds a Ph.D and of whom I would have expected slightly more competent prose. But it is a useful book that has introduced me to some new writers and facts that I was unaware of - though the slip up regarding the ER would possibly make me check her research, rather than rely on it. I am reading it mainly for the chapter on West which was useful for my research, but didn't give me anything 'new'. Arguably this book's originality lies in its compilation rather than its content. Much of the details are already common currency when talking about these women writer's. McDowell is attempting to reverse public opinion of these women as victims of male literary ego; the argument that their romantic/sexual literary couplings with prominent male authors was somehow empowering rather than damaging, is a little thin in places. Most of these relationships ended badly and involved a great deal of physical or mental suffering. McDowell would have us believe that despite this, their writing was somehow enhanced by the women's associations with literary men - as if their suffering was almost necessary to the creative process, and that the writing would never have achieved such heights without it... which I find to be quite a reductive and frankly dangerous message to peddle to young women artists. I would recommend this book, but would not recommend you take it too seriously, which is a shame and a disappointment for me as I had high hopes when I bought it.