… and four weeks to go until I have been here a whole year. It’s really flown by!

This is just a little post to keep my promise to myself about regular posting. I’m also starting to think about online identity more, about where to draw the line between myself and my work-self. The radical feminist in me wants to insist that if everything is ‘political’ then there isn’t a dividing line. I don’t do my research in a personality-less vacuum. Years of post-processual theory have me absolutely convinced that my archaeology is as much about me as it is the past…. but I also worry about jobs, about image. I want to be taken seriously.

We had a big meeting yesterday about how the various projects in Italy plan our communications (outside of finished theses and peer-reviewed papers)- do we have any plans to involve local schools? Do we want a web presence? If so, what do we want it to be? Who are we talking to? What are we trying to communicate to them?

I enthused about twitter and blogging (in particular) as ways to engage with people, rather than just broadcast pictures and text. I talked about the great people I’ve never met in person, but who help me out with tech advice, suggest projects, papers or conferences to me, or cheer me up when I am lonely. @tomgoskar said to me the other night that at times twitter can be like a village. It’s a good thing that @lornarichardson and I have talked about both serious academic research and Buffy the Vampire Slayer in the past week. It’s good to be human, and I think the best twitter accounts run by larger organisations are the human ones: I think @metoffice do a great job- it’s a corporate account but the different people running it on a shift always introduce themselves, and though they’re professional, they aren’t policied to death- they chat, they engage.

If we’re going to have a social web presence (as well as or instead of a static web page) then we need to come up with some guidelines and aims. That’s what I am going to spend the weekend thinking about…

So, I think I’ve talked myself into keeping the tone of what I do here and on twitter the same…right? I’ve never ‘marketed’ this blog as anything other than my ramblings, and when I do post about my research it is usually more like ‘zomg Italy is so pretty lookit!’ than prejudicing anything I might want to later put in a journal.

The meeting just made me stop and think in depth about identity and presentation and so forth, and has left me a bit discombobulated.

Also, I love having pink hair, but I suspect that might not help with the job-getting and the ‘serious’ image… But I also once swore that a career that didn’t let me be me was never going to work. I just though I’d left all of this identity-negotiation crap behind me as a teenager (some 10+ years ago), you know?


Your's truly, in a stolen fedora on NYE 2011


Perhaps the Buffy watching isn’t helping with this regression/late ’90s vibe… but I don’t care. I’m off to vicariously re-live my misspent youth some more. Tomorrow I’m heading to see my little brother in Amsterdam before he heads back to Georgia (the country, not the state). We’re gonna eat apple pie, drink Belgian beer and probably tease each other an awful lot. I can’t wait!

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.

Greenham in British Archaeology and The Guardian!

So, I’ve mentioned a couple of times recently that the project I worked with for my MSc was gearing up to a few publications. The Common Ground Project, a joint effort between English Heritage, Southampton University and various other academics, artists and activists was set up to look at the material remains of the women’s peace camps at Greenham Common. I helped with the pilot surveys at Turquoise gate in 2006 and based my dissertation on the spatial analysis of what we had found, and what this could contribute to our understanding of the material record.

The most recent issue of the CBA’s magazine, British Archaeology has a six page spread on the project written by John Schofield, of EH, and the Guardian picked up on the story yesterday and we made page 9… exciting stuff!

There are more articles to come, hopefully, we’re working away on them; I’ll keep you all posted.

The great thing about British Archaeology is that when the next print issue comes out in February, our issue (and article) will be available free online; I’ll make sure to link to it!

Bats, zen and The Sisterhood

I’m working on an article about the work I did at Greenham Common for my MSc. Well, I’m actually working on two; one ‘results’ publication, for a more straightforward journal, and one ‘theory’ piece for a more radical journal.

The latter is due very soon so is the focus of lots of meetings and writing and re-writing at the moment. I’m really excited about it and I promise to post links as soon as I can. For obvious reasons, I can’t post the draft here! What I did want to do is talk about something that is going in it.

When I was very small I had a series of books called ‘Ponders’ written by Russell Hoban, and beautifully illustrated by Michael Baynton. My favourite of all four was ‘Lavinia Bat’. It is a very zen story about a bat who is pregnant and loves flying in the night and being one with the night. While she is flying she hears a soft whispering ‘Pass it on’…. later her daughter, Lola is born (yup, Lola the bunny might be named after her!) and here is a direct quote:

Lola was clever, she wanted to know about everything.  She said to Lavinia, ‘How do you do bat work?’  Lavinia said, ‘Hang on and I’ll show you.’
Lola hung on and Lavinia showed her.
‘The main thing,’  said Lavinia, ‘is to get tuned in.’
‘Tuned in to what?’ said Lola.
‘Everything,’ said Lavinia.  She took Lola hunting with her and Lola got tuned in.
She got tuned in to the night, she got tuned in to moving with it. Soon Lola was ready to hunt for herself…

…Lavinia remembered the whispering that had said

‘Pass it on!’

Ah!’ said Lavinia, clicking and buzzing, sweeping the night with her scanner and rolling with the rolling world.
‘Ah!’ said Lavinia, tuned into everything.
‘I’ve done that!’

The Book Cover

(Hoban & Baynton, 1984)

This story has always been a strong metaphor in my life for my relationship with my mum, how she passed on to me the joy of being alive, being female, being powerful and strong. That zen-like moment of rolling with the rolling world. ‘Passing the something to the other’ (another line from the book) is our private code, if you will, for that intuition, that sense of belonging and knowing. It is an amazing gift.

She recently dug out the book (it’s not being thrown away, EVER!) to get the above extract for me so we can quote it for the article, how amazing is that? I’m so excited to be working on something so personal and meaningful amidst all the positivist peat bogs! I’m also really grateful to my colleagues on the project for being willing to be so brave and open about our emotional and personal connections to Greenham. Us women rock, no?

When mum sent it to me, she added the rejoinder “Do you think the echolocators and buzzing and scanning led you to geo-phys?!”

Worth considering methinks!


Hoban, R & Baynton, M 1984. Lavinia Bat. Walker Press Ltd, London.