In no particular order…

The title says it all.

Yesterday I talked about last year, and that ‘keeping trying’ was going to be the theme of 2012, but that I wanted to put some specifics down. This is a list of things, not in any special order or priority, that I want to do, keep doing, or do better this year.

Running has been really good. I have asthma and this year has been a bad one for colds & associated breathing rubbishness, so I’ve not yet hit my 30 minutes / 5 km goal. It’s fair to say I never imagined I’d be the sort of person that tried to talk other people into starting running, but I’m loving it; the endorphin buzz really exists and the difference it has made to my fitness is immense.

Scotland. Not exactly a resolution, but a lot of my goals are tied to a trip we have planned to Ardnamurchan and Morvern in June. We visited every year when I was little, just like my Mum and her brother and sisters when they were small. We’re going to say a proper goodbye to Granddad Tom in some of his very favourite places; places that are very important to our family. What is extra special is that Matt will come, and my brother and his partner, Suzanne. I am so excited to be sharing such a special part of the world with them for the first time. As part of it, we’re going to climb a mountain I first climbed when I was 7! I need to be fit and healthy and have my asthma under control for that. Bein Resipol is by no means a monster peak, but I want to feel good and enjoy it; not fight with my body the whole day. This gives me an extra push when I’m out running, as does the knowledge that fieldwork this year could well be in the mountainous part of our study region.

Image of Castle Tioram by Iain Simpson on Flickr (creative commons license)

I had a lot of fun blogging the first part of my year in Groningen, and then I got caught in a bit of an emotional downspiral. I’ve talked before about not writing when I’m down. I think that instead of not writing if I get blue, I’m going to try writing anyway, just not about the blue bits, if that makes sense? Writing can be an effective distraction for me and if I commit to writing a post (even if it’s a ‘Hey, I ate bitterballen and they were good‘ type post) a week then that’s an easy goal to stick to and something to tick off and say; yes, I did do that, I can do the other stuff. I need to resurrect the 365 project a bit though… which was also fun, but tough not to make very boring. I guess if I try to live more in Groningen, then there will be more to take pictures of.

Living in two places. I need to try harder to actually live in Groningen. I think that’ll get a bit easier when I move closer to the city centre in March and into a much bigger flat; it will be easier for people to come over for dinner, or pop in for a cup of tea. But I also need to be more proactive. So, a listlet on this theme: Say YES to more invitations to do things. Organise more things to do (galleries, museums, bike rides, picnics…) Get better at Dutch. Join a local RPG group or boardgames group. Perhaps join an Am Dram group. Get some structure and routine in my life instead of work, and being at home feeling homesick or guilty that I’m not working! I’m hoping more people can get out to visit (or least make it to Amsterdam like Andy & Kirsty) too, now that I will have a spare room!

… I’d also like to make it back to the UK a bit more this year. So far, I’ve managed one long weekend and then two extended trips and there have been a couple of very long Matt-free periods, which sucked. This means getting organised in advance about time & money, and being willing to be a bit selfish about what I do & who I see when I do come back. If I’m only going to be here for 72 hours there is a limit, and sorry but seeing Matt is top of the list folks… Obviously, that also means on the flipside, when I do make it back for longer, I need to be more organised about seeing people, especially those not in Southampton. After everything with my Granddad, I really want to do a trip ‘up North’ to see family, my dad’s parents in Middlesbrough, and my cousins in Newcastle that I’ve not seen since they were teeny (and one of them is now at uni!).

I’m already failing at one thing I promised myself, and that’s due to a second ‘resolution’ also going a bit wonky. I have my usual gorgeous moleskine diary from Matt. I did a better job in 2011 than I did in 2010 of writing every day, but still only managed about 10 weeks continuous entries. I’ve not written anything yet this year as I got clobbered by a horrible cold on New Years day that has resulted in coughing, sneezing, insomnia and serious body temperature issues. I’d sort of resolved to be less ill this year, but I’m not totally sure how to make that happen. More fruit and veg, more running and less beer and bitterballen seems like a good start, but it sucks being kicked in the teeth by my immune system this early on. I’m off to the Island tomorrow to spend some time with my folks. Ventnor is an inspiring, beautiful place even in bleak and windy January, so I’m committed to not only getting my diary caught up on but also trying to do some writing. I’ll need to take some work over too… which gets me to the last bit.

Work. The keeping trying thing. Yup. Ugh. I’m not going to get caught up in the details but here is a listlet: step back often and see the bigger picture. Think often about why you love this subject. Make decisions based on enthusiasm not fear. Try harder. If it goes wrong, start again. Plan, carefully and stick to your plans. Minimise distractions. Use what you have learned. Write every day, even if it’s a blog post, a vignette in a notebook, a rough idea for a paper or a project. Keep your skills honed.

I guess that’s it! I’m off to pack for my trip to Ventnor (still think of it as going ‘home’… I sometimes wonder how many places it’s possible for me to feel like that about, I have at least 5 ‘homes’!) and Matt is off to play boardgames so I need to get him to pack as well! Be excellent to each other.

If my blog was a plant it would have died by now…

I mentioned on Twitter last weekend that I’d been having a bit of a sorting out few days, and that I’d blog again soon.

Didn’t happen. Sorry about that. I had gotten into the habit of writing little and often, as Tom G so wonderfully advised me in the early days of my move to the Netherlands. But I’ve hardly written anything here since July and my post-fieldwork update. This happens for several reasons, the most pertinent of which is that I’ve had a bit of a tough time health-wise for the last couple of months, and also dealing with homesickness, academic confidence issues and a whole bunch of other stuff that I’m not going into here. As I’ve said before, I don’t do blogging as therapy. I sometimes do blogging as thinking out loud about stuff, but I really try not to spill my guts out here in public.

So, not so much navel gazing!

I think I’ve been a bit preoccupied with writing too well. I’ve been writing my second ever academic paper. The first one was about my MSc research at Greenham common (linked to from a recent post I think) and it was quite a different creature than the current one. I was working with a very experienced academic and I had a section of the paper I was responsible for, and she really helped me a lot with writing it well. We collaborated on the other parts and I learned a lot from her about the experience. The paper didn’t go into a lot of technical detail and was about conveying and experience rather than results and theories. This one is a radically different little monster. I am working on publishing the results of the geophysical work done before I joined the project; so categorically it is other people’s data and ideas. I have to work out what to leave in, what to praise, what to be critical of, all for two different groups of people I really admire. I need to describe what they found out and how I’m going to use it, at the same time as conveying how important I think our work is, for Mediterranean archaeology, and for geophysics. All a bit scary then.

So I’ve been a bit hung up on getting it ‘right’. Luckily my new boss has the patience of a saint and is helping me a lot. I was also given really good advice by some academics I really respect at ISAP in Turkey this time last month, so I am also cracking on with writing similar papers to publish the most important results from my PhD fieldwork. The plan is to get the results out there, and then write a longer synthesis paper to pull everything together.

It’s all been a bit tough emotionally though, which I find really bloody frustrating. This is my chosen career. I know I can do it; some very smart people decided I am good enough to have the letters ‘PhD’ so I can’t really argue with that. I just wish that writing about it wasn’t like pulling my own teeth out with pliers. I know all of the advice; I even give it out to fellow students. Write what you know; do the bits you know backwards, like your methodology and results. Once you start somewhere it will flow. Don’t start at the beginning; it puts too much pressure on you to be awesome. Write anything. Write a list. Write about what you ate yesterday; write anything to break the block. I do all of these tricks and it is still like blood from a stone.

Which I guess is a roundabout explanation for why I’ve not really felt up for more writing, more staring at the blank screen wondering what to say to you all about how I have been spending my time.

So. Write anything. Write a list. Here is a list of things I want to blog about, in no particular order. Let’s see how many I can do in the next few weeks!

ISAP, Turkey- an amazing geophysics conference, probably the best I’ve been to (I went to ISAP ’07 and presented at ISAP ’09 as well). I owe you all a conference write up.

CAA 2012 – I somehow managed to agree to run a round-table at CAA and I’d like to write about what I hope the archaeogeophysics community could get out of it

Running- I started running in July. It really works in terms of weight loss and mood lifting. I don’t want to become a scary evangelist for jogging though, so I’ll keep this one brief.

Poems- I’ve been wanting to write creatively for a while now, but this obsession with perfection I mentioned earlier has been holding me back. I just need to let go and see what happens. I’m not promising to post the results, but I might try to write about the process.

I went to Noorderlicht; the photography festival I mentioned in my last post. It was amazing and I want to respond to it somehow. It is partly why I have been wanting to write poems I think.

The ‘Occupy’ protests- not from a political standpoint, but from an archaeological one. Technologies of resistance, archaeologies of defiance. Cultural responses and replies. Acting, presence, participation and power. Being queer and queering protest. This might be a tricky one as I am more than 5 years out of date on all my reading, but it’s important to me to try to articulate some stuff.

I’m off to update the few 365 pictures I managed to take this week. I’ll be in the UK next week and the week after so that should be a chance to take plenty more. I don’t know when I’ll get to writing the posts I mention above, but I’ll try harder to be present here. Perhaps breaking the glass and writing here will help with the papers?

Childhood books, prehistory and place

I have been trying to say something very tangled up and personal about archaeology for a long time. On Saturday I woke to discover tweets from David McKeen and Neil Gaiman letting the world know Diana Wynne Jones had passed away, and I decided it was about time to stop trying to write it in my head, and write it here instead.

What follows is personal musing only. I am not attempting some grand academic conceit. Nor am I saying I am the only person to have thought about this, or even to have written about it. Last summer when I was writing my PhD corrections, I wrote a clumsy post about how I would be a better archaeologist if I was a better poet. I was trying to say, I think, that poets are (uniquely?) able to tie together words with rich allusions and place them in context with one-another. This is hard to explain, so bear with me. Poets seem, in a way that other artists do not, to be able to grasp the many layers and essences of a thing, and leave them there for us to delve into. It might be that I have been vicariously enjoying my Dad’s love of deeply complex and inherently difficult poetry too much and it has perhaps coloured my perceptions.

But I think that to do this, and do it well, poets have to be well read, they have to understand the many layers of meaning, the possible readings of a word, the way it was used in the past as opposed to now. They draw on great reserves of cultural knowledge, embedded in the people that have read enough to feel what it is they write about. I remember reading the opening stanzas of a Matthias poem in ‘A Gathering of Ways’ about routes and roads in the Pays d‘Oc and pilgrim routes into Spain, and it catching something deep inside me that resonated with it, because I knew the deep history he was writing about. I wonder if it would speak to someone who didn’t know of Roland, of the pilgrim routes and the reconquista and all that went before and after in the same way. And it got me thinking- that if I were more widely read, that if I were a better poet, that if I saw and understood these deep cultural connections, that I’d be a better archaeologist. And perhaps, if I was better at both I could explain this less hesitantly.

And then I got to thinking, as you do, when writing job applications last year, and answering the inevitable ‘tell us why you want this job’. I got to thinking about why archaeology had become my passion, where and when I had fallen in love with prehistory. Bear with me, we’ll get to Diana Wynne Jones, I promise. I’ve written before about how and why I choose to be involved in a particular act of archaeology, what it meant to me personally and politically and professionally. I’ve tried to explain why here on the blog too. But that’s not the heart of it. The heart of it goes even deeper.

I grew up reading fantasy books. Books that foregrounded British myths and legends, and the landscape. I can’t remember my Dad reading me the Narnia stories for the first time, but I can remember my outrage at being told they were Christian allegories (I was a fierce atheist at six; I’ve mellowed a bit since). T H White’s ‘The Once and Future King’ was another bedtime favourite. When I was a bit older I read the Hobbit by myself, and then The Lord of The Rings. I devoured Alan Garner books and they still have a unique hold over my imagination- I remember being terribly annoyed that Gollum appeared to be a rip-off of a svart, not realising, at ten or so that they had been published the other way round. Red Shift remains one of my favourite books of all time, and it is one reason I find polished stone axes so beautiful. Rosemary Sutcliffe was another author I adored, Sun Horse Moon Horse being a particular favourite. Susan CoopersThe Dark Is Rising sequence was another obsession, chock full with Arthurian myths. I longed to go to Wales and Cornwall, hunting for Grails. Castle Tioram was my Cair Paravel. Entire sections of the downs above my home on the Isle of Wight became places from Middle Earth; we had our own Helms’ Deep, our own Galadriels Tree, and plenty of barrows, and even a dew-pond to be the pool at the entrance to Moria. We scared ourselves silly, more than once, camping up there on warm summer nights and telling stories with ourselves as heroes. I’ve not read all of Diana Wynne Jones’ books, but the Dalemark quartet was very special to me. My best friend Cat gave them all to me for Christmas, and I cried, quite a lot, because I hadn’t realised they were in print again (because of JK Rowling), and never thought I would get to read them again. They stand the test of time. They have their own myths and landscapes, but they resonate nonetheless, and have in their heart something about rebirth and souls that keep returning to finish their stories. Katherine Kerr’s books are special to me for the same reason, that and their pseudo celtic setting. When I was older it became the Saga of the Exiles and Julian May’s sci-fi re imagining mythical-age Europe; Aiken Drum as a non-born trouble maker gone back in time; elves and goblins as alien protagonists. Threaded through this were walks with my parents in the mountains, moors and hills. Looking for deserted villages, finding cairns and talking about coffin routes. I was always keenly aware of places, not just landscapes and empty space, but places that had histories and meanings.

I think all of this is why I fell in love with prehistory. I grew up soaked in stories that come from prehistory after all; or very near to it. I grew up knowing that kings are buried in barrows and that wet places are gateways to other worlds. That stone circles are powerful and that the landscapes of these islands are magical indeed, if you are able to see it. Dragons sleep under mountains, monsters in lakes with their mothers; mysterious strangers are never what they seem and somewhere Arthur and his knights are sleeping against our time of greatest need. Stone circles are places you can cross between the worlds, and springs and rivers have their own gods and goddesses. Kids stories, but stories that have been with us for two thousand years, or more. Lugh and his spear, the Morrigan. Norse Gods too, Loki and Odin and Freya. The hanged man, the wounded God, the sacrifice to make the winter end; the old Gods and their places and curses. All out there, lurking and waiting to be found and have stories told about them again. Though it’s not really a kids book, I think this is one of the reasons I love ‘American Gods’ so much too, and the way old Gods keep popping up in the Sandman/Endless Graphic Novels. Simon Schama has written about how landscape is enculturated; how and why British forests are oak dappled glades with the Green Knight on his endless and pure quest, whereas German forests are dark and full of witches, evil spirits and death. I can’t find a good scholarly review to link to, but I am talking about ‘Landscape and Memory‘, which my dad maintains is the only good thing he’s written apart from his stuff on the Dutch. This I suppose is what I am getting at; my encultured experience of landscape is what led me to prehistory.

I knew from very young that I wanted to be an archaeologist, but I didn’t really understand prehistory as something you could study until I went to University. At eighteen, I will admit, I still thought it had more to do with Roman Temples, Medieval Castles and Indiana Jones types of adventures, or perhaps the Paleolithic, and thinking about how we became what we are. Still, I had seen Time Team, and it got me thinking, and interested. So I took units on prehistory where I could, and somewhere by the end of my second year, it had stuck. I had fallen in love with prehistory, but in particular the Mesolithic to Bronze Age, a time in our past when my Dad delights in telling me ‘people were really strange’. And now I am wondering which came first. Did I fall in love with prehistory because it spoke to bits of my heart that had been raised on this rich diet of myth? Or am I just predisposed to both? My other half reads just as much fantasy as me, but the kids stories haven’t stayed with him into adulthood, and he much prefers the Romans. I’m certain that most of the people I know that love fantasy novels are interested in archaeology, but not all of them in prehistory, and I know a good deal of archaeologists who scoff at fantasy and think the Lord of the Rings was boring (even the movies!).

So I’m none the wiser, but I do think it has something to do with how I experience the landscape, and the way my imagination reacts. I look at Silbury Hill and I do wonder how it was built and why, with my archaeology head on, but I also wonder what stories they told themselves about it, once they had built it. I wonder if the Roman Road that dog-legs around it and helped to date it did so out of grudging respect. I wonder if they told stories on their marches at night around the camp fire, about the native Gods- kings that slept within it. I walk into West Kennet long barrow, and it doesn’t surprise me at all that the old axe polishing grooves on the entrance-stone are at eye height, and easy to reach out and touch. I walk up the hollow way to the Longstone on the Isle of Wight, and I think about how long this path must have been a boundary to have become deeper that I am tall. I think about the manor it borders, and about ‘beating the bounds’ in medieval times to keep away devils. I wonder if the stone was kept out, or kept in. And this draws me to Susan Cooper, talking about the Hunting of the Wren, which I think is a Spenserian allusion from the Faerie Queen, but I am probably wrong. I think about how the stone became a hundred-moot, and what it was before all that, when it was in all likelihood a community grave; a tomb, of sorts, but not how we would understand one. I wonder if, even then, their feet brought their loved ones and ancestors up the same path to the monument, and if people have been following this route for five thousand years.

I find these places inherently beautiful, and slightly unnerving; I feel like pre-history is breathing down my neck. I do this sort of archaeology because I want to understand, I want to breach the gap between me and them, and see the world the way they did. I think I see the world quite differently to a lot of my generation; it’s not just a lumpy field, it’s a barrow. It was built in the Bronze Age because someone died, and then people came back later, and built more, and added things to the ones that were already here. This place meant something. It’s not just another lumpy field as we rush past in the car, or on the train. For me, the landscape is alive with ghosts and stories, and I wish I could tell them better.

Past in the present

Just a quick little post today, but again I find myself needing more than 140 characters (or perhaps is is corrections avoidance?).

My Dad, and a few other people I know have pointed me at Sergey Larenkov’s live journal page with his amazing photo-in photo pictures of locations in European cities with images from WWII blended into them, rendering the past very much present.

The originals are here, though he blogs in Russian, my dad found it via wood s lot , which he says is the best thing on the internet, but it seems to have gone a bit viral. I really really like the images, they are arresting and beautiful.

The Museum of London has a related iPhone application called ‘Street Museum‘ which seems to be a combination of something like wikitude with the photomosiacs you can get on googlemaps now. I’ve yet to see it in action but I would be interested to know if it is ‘augmented reality’- i.e. it uses the camera to overlay the historical image with what is in the viewfinder to allow you to line it up, or if it is just an image that you can hold up to compare. The former would be waaay cooler.

Now seems a good time to mention my dad’s latest project too. He is constructing a site about ‘difficult’ poetry and is looking for feedback from anyone and everyone about both the site design and the content. If you are at all interested in poetry, writing, or web design and community building, please go and look at http://arduity.com and let him know?

Peat, Poets and Pollen

I think I could add politics to the title of this post, but I like the triplicacy of it. I know that’s not even a word. A subtitle (if I was writing in the sort of journal that encourages them) would be: being a better poet would make me a better archaeologist.

This post might be a little half-baked but I want to get it down and out to the world while I have the impetus. I have been missing the urge to write, so I am inclined to indulge it in its half-born form rather than let it wait for ‘perfection’ and perhaps never arrive.

I had some interconnected minor epiphanies on the way home from the library tonight. To give this some context, I am in the final throes of my corrections as well as working full-time, and have been having the week from hell at work. My corrections have a final deadline of the 20th of August but I want them done by the 9th as I am going to Malta for a week with my internal examiner, and I want to go over them there with him as he’s staying on much past me with the project. This is because I have a tight deadline between my deadline for corrections, and my deadline for getting my thesis accessioned into the library if I want to graduate this year (er, YES!). So… that’s why I was in the Hartley library ’till 21:00 this evening.

I’d also managed to totally kill the batteries of my electronic gadgets earlier in the day- I ran my iPod out listening to 30 Seconds to Mars who are my lifeline during software testing. My phone just died (due to me not charging it last night), so no internet, no texts, no phone calls. I am not for a minute one of those people who thinks that creativity is stifled by ‘always on’ communication devices or music. I don’t think the lack of these devices allowed me to have more or better ideas,  but not being able to tweet the flurry of thoughts as they occurred allowed me to think on them more deeply. Deprived of the means to disseminate the idea immediately on conception, I had time to ruminate and let it mature, at least a bit. I still think the idea/s are a bit half baked, but here goes (in somewhat more than 140 characters)…

I am hopping all over the literature on peat, wetland archaeology, human interaction with the landscape and some very technical/hard science topics like paleoclimatology in order to get my corrections done. This meant that this evening I went from reading about bogs, more specifically bog bodies and their appearance in literature, poetry and more especially Seamus Heaney, to a discourse on the ritual deposition of other things in peat and water, to the nature of those peat deposits, their chemical characteristics and finally to the reconstruction of how those deposits formed from looking at pollen sequences. The juxtapositions of the texts struck me; on the one hand very personal, situated discussions of poetry and personal encounter, but within an archaeological frame, to cold hard science at the other end. But between these ends there are threads that connect and interconnect. There was just so much to read though, to grasp them all.

I often think that archaeology (and I would guess other disciplines, but I don’t know) has become too specialised, too fragmentary. Even fields within fields such as the study of prehistoric metalwork split into their own groups, and then all proceed to attack the same questions from their own particular angle. I think I am quite lucky- I did fairly broad ‘A’ levels, and then went to a post-processual department to do my BA and MSc that struck a good balance between the theory and the practice, the thinking and the doing. I’ve commented at times that I felt like my PhD was too much in the practice camp, and too removed from the theory at times, but I found ways to bring it back to a blend I was comfortable with.

I feel like I need to soak up some theory though. I want to go back and rather than picking over Pollards edited volume on Prehistoric Britain, like a magpie grabbing the shiny bits that fit, I want to savour it, to read it at leisure and see where else it takes me. I want to stay stubbornly a multidisciplinarian; archaeologist first, geophysicist/mapping person second. People have lately asked me to define myself by a period, a theme of research, a scientific practice. I am not totally a prehistorian- my MSc thesis was on Greenham Common. I am not ‘just’ a geophysics expert I also know about GIS and its role in archaeology, and though I am not a good dirt archaeologist (my drawing skills aren’t up to scratch) I am good at topographic and landscape survey. I think if pushed, I would say the bits that really get me fired up and interested (apart from all of it!) are the way humans have in the past, and continue to, live within and shape and be shaped by the landscape.

But this is getting off the point. And you can see why it needed a bit more than a few tweets to fully articulate!

My underlying point is this: I think too much specialisation is bad for our discipline. It seems to be a symptom of the times. Where are all the renaissance men? The great thinkers who were also poets, artists or mathematicians? Why is it strange to some archaeologists that I am also fascinated by emerging web technologies and the intersections between science and art? I will concede we need the brilliance of minds that can remember, compare, contrast and analyse the minute difference between pottery traditions or stone tool technologies, but we also need people who can put it all together. Sometimes they are the same people and we need them most of all. I will freely admit to being a ‘big picture’ person, shallow and broad. I have to work hard to get the depth. I have recently become good friends with a few north american researchers who go for the breadth and then the depth- not specialising until well into their academic careers while we seem to start ruling things out when we are 14 with our GCSE choices (or did when I was at school; it’s a while ago now!). I am inclined to think that their way might be better seeing how much more they know about writing, literary theory and philosophy, despite my philosophy A level.

There is a connected realisation. Reading about Heaney and his Bog Poems, his very personal encounter with Tollund Man, made me think of my dad, and his recent obsession with Prynne. Prynne is a ‘difficult’ poet, but he references the bog, and bodies as well. Dad rang me a couple of times to pick my brain about peat and archaeology and bodies and preservation when he was working his way through some Prynne (he blogs about it here and here). My dad is a renaissance man, in the way I meant earlier. He knows a lot, about a lot of things, and thinks both deeply and broadly about them, making connections and drawing nuances and inferences from all over the place. Sometimes I think if I read forever I will never catch up with him. He’s done all this on his own though, a self taught man (something he blogs about here). We had a discussion a while back about ‘unstrung pearls of knowledge’ and the image has stuck.  He often jokes that he would only go to university if they would let him study just the Faerie Queene, by Spenser, and nothing else. He devoted a considerable effort one summer to work out when we first started eating salad (not ‘sallets’ as eaten by Peyps, but something we’d recognise as a salad). I don’t know what he found out. He is a poet himself, and loves to pick apart language.  I think that in the multi- layered, resonant language of poetry, and the decoding of it, we can find analogues to archaeology and the decoding of objects and places, and our own resonances with them. I need to finish reading Gaston Bachelard on the poetics of space to be certain though.

This is more an observation than a point, but it leads me to strongly think that if I was a better poet, I’d be a better archaeologist.

And Dad, if you are reading, I realise there are better places to point to than wikipedia a sources but I’ve included the links as jumping off points for people who might not know as many poets or obscure French philosophers as you. And I’ll get back to you on the epistemology and lived/ experience bodily knowledge thing. It has struck an archaeological chord… and I haven’t watched Walden yet. Sorry. As I say, all the reading in the world and I won’t catch up…

Phase shift confirmed

Right now I’m just too tired of words in general to write a proper post. I’ve got lots to share, insights gleaned from writing my Transfer, photo’s from Jo’s gorgeous wedding to upload and need to sing the praises of my lovely Matt and my awesome friends who have dealt with more tears and stress this week than anyone should have to. It wasn’t all about the Transfer of Doom either- Dad is back in hospital, again. I really hope he gets better this time, and I’m off to see him tomorrow. I’m hoping they let him come out and feed the ducks with me.

I also have to swot up on chemistry, lots, as my Viva is scaring me, big time. And this is just the Upgrade!! The thought of the real thing, given how difficult this is all proving is too big right now….

I think I need a weekend off though, Matt is away at a stag weekend, but I have all sorts of plans for sleeping lots and catching up with people. Sarah (the mad lady who comes on fieldwork with me) has a birthday bash tonight, seeing Dad tomorrow, then seeing the lovely Stu and Tree who’re going to ‘babysit’ me after seeing Dad and possibly needing hugs, then Sunday maybe heading down the coast to see some vampire-type people, before coming to Bournemouth for the day on Monday to move house! Then I’m at the HEA conference in Harrogate (and helping run a workshop, eek!)….. It’s all go. Viva on the 14th. I will update you folks before then!

The resolutions have sort of slipped this last 31 days, so I’m back on the good food, lots of exercise, keeping a diary wagon, as of today…. which means no celebratory pizza and chocolate, and that I’m off to go do some situps and pack my stuff ready for the house move!

Neko out

an odd sort of downtime…

I sat at my desk in uni, it’s 18:00 and so time to switch off for the day, except I find I can’t. I’m kicking myself for leaving the connector for my phone at the flat, otherwise I could sit and flickr all my lovely shots from the most recent stint in the field. The internet connection at the flat has a lousy speed and all sorts of dropped packet type problems, so I refuse to do it from there; it makes me swear too much!

So I’m blogging, reflecting. It’s been a reflecting kind of day, and sort of a reflecting kind of week. I shall explain.

For the last month or so, I’ve either been on fieldwork or (ostensibly) on leave for sickness and my birthday, or frantically planning said fieldwork and starting to sort out the data. Before that I was concentrating on my Transfer, which is now due in 38 days (eek!). It has been very non-stop, with little time to think or reflect on what I was actually throwing so much energy at. I was organising a conference here at the uni as well, which went off today without any noticeable hitches, apart from one of the speakers keeling over mid-talk; she’s fine, but it was a bit of an adrenaline moment!

I went to flag fen this time last week having not really stopped and taken stock for a good two months. There has been an enforced ‘halt’; being on fieldwork, especially with no TV in the evenings, no convenient ways to procrastinate and while away the time, plus lots of thinking time when actually surveying. The conditions were so nice I could muse, ponder and enjoy working, unlike at Yellowmead which was a constant battle with the environment. I realised some important things about where the research seems to be pointing, but also, looking back at the reading I have done and how to resolve the problems I was having with my Literature Review, in terms of structure and tone. Then today, I gave a poster at the conference. I had lots of good questions from people about my work, and I think often it is only when you totally step back from it and try to explain it to someone who hasn’t been working on it for 18 months, that you realise how much you know, how much you have already done or figured out. All in all it is a very nice feeling.

I feel like I should be crashing; I’ve not slept in my own bed, at home, for a week now and it was freezing at night out in the fens. We pulled two 12 hour + days to get the work done, not to mention all the travelling (and the trauma of leaving part of the kit in Southampton; thankfully there is a spare or I’d be on a train right now flying home to pick it up in time for someone else to use it tomorrow!). But I’m not. For the first time in ages I feel confident and fired up about my work, and like I have the energy to do something with it. I know though, that if I plough off headlong into intricate data processing or writing volumes, I’ll either get too stuck into a tiny aspect and loose the bigger picture I’ve rediscovered, or all fed up and hopeless again with a tiny aspect that isn’t working right. So, the plan is to head back off to the flat and sit down and try to get this big picture onto some paper (or the virtual equivalent!), and plan my time ’till the Transfer deadline. I have a wedding to go to in that time as well as some other non-phd commitments (such as publishing my MSc dissertation- watch this space!), so careful planning is needed.

I also need to phone my Dad and wish him a proper Happy Birthday, as I was rubbish and rushed off my feet last night, so sorry Dad!!

Or maybe it’s just the volumes of proper coffee I consumed today during the conference? Perhaps it will all wear off and I’ll be asleep by ten!

I’ll upload the photo’s from home and tell you all about Flag Fen over the weekend, so bye for now,

Neko x