Friday, 24 May 2013


Life got a little exciting since I last posted. But I have been making mental and physical notes for blog posts, so I guess I’ll just post a bunch of things at the same time. They aren’t exactly travel blogs in the traditional sense, but hopefully they’ll be vaguely interesting to people…

I spent last weekend back at Mount Holyoke for our 2-year reunions. Mount Holyoke has a big sister-little sister scheme, where you get a big sister from the class two years above you, to mentor you and look after you and things, so since reunions are the same weekend as graduation we get to go back and watch our little sisters graduate. And we get to see all our friends and it is just lovely.

Maybe I look back on my time at MHC with rose tinted glasses, but I think it really was one of the happiest years of my life, and it radically changed who I am and how I see myself and how I look at the world, so going back was amazing and emotional and fantastic. It probably doesn’t help that it’s much more acceptable to have emotions in America, and they go out of their way to make people have emotions, but I went a little mental while I was back. It literally got to the stage where I was almost in tears from using my one card to swipe myself into the dorm I was staying in. It was super super happy.

One of the best things I did while I was there was go to one of the back to school classes that were put on for reunion attendees, which was on Mount Holyoke songs and traditions. It was led by this amazing MHC alum who graduated in 1944 and had a little half sized guitar and sang songs with us. Apparently back in the day each dorm had a song leader and they would all come together once a week and sing songs together, and they had special songs to say thank you to people, or to recognise someone who had done something really good. It was kind of brilliant. We sang a lot of songs about find boyfriends, and being drunk, and mocking other seven sisters students, as well as the adorable ones about loving other people in your dorm, and some really lovely nostalgic type songs about the MHC campus. It was also really interesting to talk to the other alums who were at reunions about how they saw Mount Holyoke students and other five college students.

It was just very special, and not something I could imagine happening at many places other than Mount Holyoke. I suppose Mount Holyoke is a special place, and one I am very very honoured and proud that I got to be a part of, even though it was for a short period of time. Being part of Mount Holyoke feels almost like being part of a family. Maybe this is something you get at any smaller university, but I guess because the traditions at Mount Holyoke are so strong, with Elfing and Big Sisters and Mountain Day and Pangy Day and J Show and Laurel Parade and Canoe Sing, things that have been happening for over 100 years, that you have a link with other alums in a weird way.

This was also obvious when I stayed at my friends’ house the night before reunions. They live in a flat which they rent from a Mount Holyoke Alum class of ’62. They don’t know this lady, but she took them into her home (the flat is at the top of her house). What was also lovely is that this lady sees her first year roommates every couple of months to spend some time together. Recently they had bought Ukuleles, and so I went down and played with them and chatted with them. It was so lovely. Isn’t it amazing how music brings people together?

Thursday, 16 May 2013

Marginal Misadventures

As is evidenced by the fact that I posted my plane blog last night, I have made it to America safely and in one piece! It was a little touch and go, since BA somehow managed to check in too many people onto the flight so I sat in my extra special seat with lots of leg room trying not to make eye contact with any of the air staff so they wouldn’t kick me off the flight when they realised I had no checked baggage so I wouldn’t be too hard to transfer onto a later flight.

In the end take off was only delayed by about half an hour and the flight passed relatively smoothly. This is the first time I can remember travelling to the states without a fancy visa that lets you cut queues and it takes FOREVER to get through customs with the rest of the tourists. Literally took almost an hour.

Then I got to face the Boston T by myself. It so happens that the Silver Line is my favourite ever “underground” line, because it’s a bus, that drives around the streets of Boston, and then disappears into a tunnel and becomes an underground bus. I think it’s fantastic. It’s like a bus with an identity crisis, which appeals to me quite a lot. I also got to take the Red Line and the Green E Line. And I’m not going to lie, I was feeling pretty good about my ability to navigate a little known city by myself.

That was probably my biggest mistake. I rocked up to the building I thought I was going to. And realised there were three apartments and I had no idea which one I was going for.  So I just pressed all of them. When a nice young gentleman opened the door I got a wee bit worried. Nevertheless he was very amused to find a British girl knocking on his door in a slight panic to find that, no, he did not live with my friend. Luckily the “I’m British and I’m lost” routine worked very well and he let me in, and I used his internet to find out that my friend had given me the house number wrong and she lived next door.

In another startling fail, I brought the wrong converter, so while I could plug things in to continental plugs, I cannot charge anything in America. Well done me. 

Wednesday, 15 May 2013

The Return of the Itinerant Blogger

This post marks the triumphant return of the travel blog! I’m writing this on the plane somewhere over the Atlantic Ocean, on my way to Boston to attend Mount Holyoke Reunions, and I am beyond excited. To add to my general euphoria, I have Pringles, and even more excitingly, Les Miserables! Last time I watched this was right before York Indoors, the tournament I organised back in January, with two of my favourite Frisbee friends, so it has some pretty brilliant memories. And you know, it’s just a fantastic film, anyone who has seen my DVD collection knows of my extreme attachment to film versions of musicals.

Possibly this isn’t the best film to watch while in a public sphere, my overwhelming urge is to sing and dance and sing along. Plus every time there’s a really good chord I get this absurd grinny grin. I feel bad for the poor girl sitting next to me.

I feel like this is a particularly good film version, they’ve done some really interesting things with the class in the film, particularly when considering the use of regional accents for much of the chorus, for example the men in the chain gangs, the women working in the factory, and the prostitutes, as well as some of the revolutionaries. Gaavroche is also an interesting case, he is able to move through different worlds, for example when he climbs through the carriages of the rich in his introductory scene, but he is also party to information about Javert and so on.

Personally I don’t really have a massive problem with some of the more, well, raw performances, particularly from Russel Crowe, which seem to annoy others. I feel as though Javert has a lot of rough edges so it kind of works with his character. Particularly in the Stars song, which I think is one which bothers most people. The internal struggle of the character in this scene I think is beautifully captured by Crowe, and I don’t suppose Javert would have been overly concerned at this stage with correct diaphragm support. But then I suppose Stars isn’t one of my favourite from the musical, and I feel like the emotion was captured and that’s the important thing for me.

What does bother me, much more than everyone else in the world, apparently, is Anne  Hathaway as Fantine. Granted, she’s absolutely beautiful, and her singing is, if you’ll excuse the pun, a dream. Her performance in I Dreamed a Dream is almost flawless, I love the way the way the shot is framed makes it look as though she’s lying in a coffin (coffins are used in really interesting ways throughout the film), which really speaks to the line “don’t they know they’re making love to one already dead,” not to mention the sleep as death trope which persists throughout the musical. However, there is a but, and for me it is a big but, I still think Fantine should be blonde. There I said it. I’m just a massive fan of the fallen angel motif seen in post-realist fiction, and Victor Hugo really does do the best job of making the most of it; the idea that Fantine’s only dowry is the gold in her hair and the pearls in her teeth. Which kind of makes the whole thing come together, why do they have to take Anne Hathaway’s hair when it’s not even gold? Eh?  

Amanda Seyfried, however, is very very blonde. And goodness me can she sing high. I approve.

In the interests of honesty I should probably point out at this stage that I watched I Dreamed a Dream 4 times in a row. And it’s blinking brilliant. But it would be infinitely better if Anne Hathaway were blonde. Just sayin’.

I also watched the end of Who Am I? about 6 times, because it is my favourite. And I enjoyed the last chord. Every. Single. Time.

Sadly, my screen is a little dodgy, since part of having the fancy seat with all the leg room is having a fold out tv screen, and I think there must be a bit of a dodgy connection. It also means I get to be up close and personal with all the crying babies (there are three), but luckily one of them is the cutest little thing I have ever seen.

(Incidentally, I was reading about the Vietnam war, while listening to Les Mis, since my screen wasn’t working, and it’s oddly fitting. Also highly distressing.)

Saturday, 23 March 2013

Home alone

I've been left home alone, since Matthias is raving it up in the Fatherland, and Jamie is off doing fieldwork in Sweden. Luckily Becky is still around, since I definitely would have locked myself out this morning had it not been for her lending me a key once we got to the library, meaning I could avoid this face for now: 

Over the last couple of weeks I've mostly been adventuring in academia, and not much else, not even frisbee practice, which is slightly sad. Unfortunately my battles into the underfunded world of arts research has been short lived. But it's OK, because I am planning different adventures, either into the job market, where I would like to find something that will keep me busy 9-5, Monday-Friday, so I can spend the rest of the time reading and thinking, because I just haven't gotten enough of that yet. Or into the actual world, do some TEFL and some nomading around Africa with my PoCo course mates. Both of which would be exciting and enriching in their own ways.

However, in my attempts to be an interesting, cultured and well rounded individual I have done some of that going to the theatre stuff, which is actually the main point of this post. Not that you might have guessed.

I went up to Durham to stay with some friends for a couple of days, which I've actually done a couple of times now because I have an incredibly accommodating friend who lets me stay in her house and generally looks after me. She is pretty amazing. Also, we look pretty similar from behind. Fun fact.

Anyway, so I went up to stay with her, and while I was there I got to go see another friend in a musical adaptation of the Sweeney Todd story. But not the one you think. It was actually really cool, they did that walking theatre business everyone seems to be so into at the moment. My guide through Fleet Street, otherwise known as Durham Indoor Market, was called Mildred, and she was utterly delightful in a toothless kind of way. We got to see various people singing and acting and we got pie and ale and it was generally brilliant. If you'll allow me to be ponce-y and English student-y for a moment, I thought it was really interesting because it broke down what it meant to be in the audience of a musical, due to the audience participation, which didn't seem forced and actually furthered the plot, and also I thought it was interesting that the musicians interacted with both the actors and the audience, which is unusual since usually they at least get relegated to the pit where they belong. Despite the fact that some of the singing was a little, um, raw,  I genuinely think it was one of the most innovative and fantastic things I've seen in quite a wihle. Granted there were some flaws. The narritive structure was interesting, although in all fairness, the suspension of dis belief was such that I didn't really notice until after I left. Also, it was a little bit distracting to see one of the flautists having a technical moment half way through a song. And, worst of all, some fiendish scamp stole my pie!

I also got to watch the Durham Choral Society sing Bach's Magnificat and Beethoven's Mass in C in Durham Cathedral. Which was absolutely spectacular. I don't really know enough about music to comment on it in detail, but it was one of those things where you realise how wonderful classical music can really be. And it made me disproportionately happy. The choir was amazing, the soloists were pretty fantastic, and it was all just wonderful.

Lastly, back in York, I went to go to see the RSC's travelling production of The Winter's Tale. I have a soft spot in my heart for The Winter's Tale since I was in a production of it back in secondary school. I wasn't too impressed with the first half. Sicilia was oddly Persian, with the men increasingly dressed in suits as the psychological drama increased, which was interesting but seemed almost a little token. Maxmillian was brilliant. And I thought it was super interesting that the only not white actor in the production was cast as Paulina. However, the second half was absolutely brilliant. There were inexplicable sherlock costumes, lots of bawdy humour, a random lady wandering around playing the bassoon, morris dancers, and lots of silliness. The way Shakespeare should always be done really!

I can't think of an interesting and satisfying way to end this post. So I might just leave it there.  

Friday, 21 December 2012

Adventures into Academia

This post might be a little over due, but I decided a couple of weeks ago to apply for a PhD, which I had been thinking about for a while, but hadn’t really settled on a research project, and was a little daunted by another 3 years in Academia. However I have bitten the bullet as it where and drafted (and redrafted, and re-redrafted) a research proposal, knocked out a personal statement, and sent more emails than I think I’ve ever sent before in my life asking people if they would be at all interested in supervising my crazy little brain child.

Of course, I have left the whole process very much to the last minute, it seemed to get squeezed out by masters work, and trips to Birmingham and essays and flu season and all those other things that people are expected to do in order to stay fairly functioning members of society (you know – laundry, showering, sleeping, doing dishes, admitting that Christmas is coming up…). Nevertheless the application deadlines are marching along and I will probably need to submit my applications this week.

I’ve actually had a fairly positive response, particularly considering the slightly off the wall nature of the project, and the fact that not many academics (read no one at all) in the UK appears to be working on my area of research. I’ve heard back from people in Newcastle and Leeds, and my current supervisors at York have suggested I stay on here. I change my mind about what I want to do approximately every 30 seconds. While I would love to go somewhere new, particularly Newcastle since I would be working with leaders in the field, I also really really love York, both the city, and the supervisors I would be working with.

I’ve been trying to decide the best way to explain my proposal to people with little or no interest in the field, so far the best explanation I can come up with is that I want to look at short stories by Vietnamese and Holocaust writers and think about how grief, memory and trauma are dealt with within these stories. Which should be super interesting, but no one really seems to be working on Vietnamese stories in English Departments in the UK and so it’s hard to find an appropriate supervisor, Leeds even shunted me across to the French department.

I’m not really all too sure how successful my PhD applications will be, not only because of the whole no one is looking at this stuff thing, but also because as I said earlier I haven’t had a great deal of time to spend on developing my ideas because of the fact that masters year is INSANELY busy. But I’ve actually strangely enjoyed doing it, and I’m just considering it as my first foray into the big crazy world of academia. Here’s hoping I don’t get too lost…

Friday, 7 December 2012


I was doing so well at posting every week, and then masters happened in a big way, and everything went a little mental BUT! I actually went on an adventure last week! I really really didn't have time to go, and I probably don't have time to write this, but you guys! I went on an adventure that wasn't to do with frisbee and didn't involve a new section in the library (you know like when I got a book out of the N section the other day, EE was pretty exciting, I narrowly missed out on a long stint in the microfilm room, such are the adventures of my daily life...)

About four years ago, I went to the German Christmas Market in Lyon and it was amazing and beautiful, and I loved it, and I haven't been to a Christmas market since, and so when I found out that the largest Christmas market outside of Germany was in Birmingham, and one of my friends invited me down to see it, (I might have planted the idea in his head, in the interests of honesty) I decided this was the perfect time to recreate the experience. So wrapped up in a million layers, because it was really really cold in York, I set off on my merry way to Birmingham, where I was met at the station no less, and we went shopping in the Bull Ring, which apparently is famous, but I've never heard of it, so I don't see how it can be...

The Bull Ring in Birmingham

It turned out that it was significantly less cold in Birmingham than it was in York and I was wearing far too many layers to be comfortable inside a shopping centre, but it was delightful nevertheless. We had lunch at a really really nice Thai place, and had tempura vegetables to start (side note - tempura vegetables are brilliant, but the tempura spinach was a stretch...) and then I had Pad Thai, which was yummy and had mango, but no prawns, which I was totally ok with, and Dan had a very nice Thai Green Curry. In short if you're looking for somewhere to eat in Birmingham, you could do worse than the Thai place next to the Bull Ring. Also, they have really fancy taps in the toilets and orange-y glow lighting which makes you look like you've stepped out of an episode of TOWIE.

After lunch we did a little bit more wondering around and then FINALLY made it to the Christmas market. AND IT WAS BRILLIANT! Granted it was a bit crowded, but the advantage of being with a 6'4" city boy is that he kinda barges through, and the (relatively) little Surrey country bumpkin can trail along in his wake. It was like a kind of crowd water skiing. There were a lot of food places, and a lot of Gluwein places, and despite my completely unfounded prejudice, Birmingham City Centre is actually a pretty nice place (granted it's no York but you can't ask for everything). Incidentally, Birmingham does also have a really large and very lovely Waterstones, which was exciting to me. At the Christmas Market there were lots of pretty stalls, and things to look at, and lots and lots of people to watch, so I was happy as larry. Particularly since the aforementioned boy bought me a wonderful Gluewein mug which I'm currently drinking Christmas tea out of. 

Two mugs of Gluwein (note how my nails match my coat and my mug)

In short I had a fantastic day, there was much eating (of Thai food and wine gums) and much drinking (of gluwein and mulled cider) and days which involve much eating and drinking are my favourite days, particularly when I get to do these things with wonderful company.

Christmas comes to Birmingham