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

Saturday, 20 October 2012

Dusting off the soap box...

Recently there's been this tendency amongst people I know, in real life and on the internet, to come out with the phrase "first world problems", from some internet meme that's really taken off. I find this troublesome. I've tried to explain this to people a couple of times now, but I'm an English student, and frankly I do better when I have some time to think and write things down. (Read: when I can make revisions later.) So here's my two cents.

The Postcolonialist in me takes issue with the whole idea of "First World". It seems to me it is actually an outdated mode of thinking. Mostly because it refers to a cold war state where the First World was Northern America, Western Europe and a couple of other places here and there who were capitalist, and (at least outwardly) largely democratic, the Second World was the Communist Block, and the Third World was ... everywhere else... Clearly there are several issues with the Three Worlds mode: firstly, with the end of the Cold War there is no second world and so the definition of third world becomes even more dubious than it was before, secondly, the "third world" lumps together a whole bunch of different countries with hugely different living conditions, and most of all, the system of numbering imposes a sense of hierarchy which seems hugely arrogant.

My main objection though, is that it seems to me as though what the main point of what is actually being said is "middle class problems". There are plenty of people living in so called "First World" countries who wish that their most serious problem is that they couldn't find a parking space close to the door, or that there is too much goats cheese in their salad. Similarly, I'm fairly sure that there are people in Africa right now wishing the TV show they want to watch was available in HD or struggling to choose between the white and black iPhone.

Also, even if you want to ignore the above, if you think about it, "#firstworldproblems" doesn't even make sense. "First World" refers to the economic and political state of a country, so either your tweet should be "couldn't find any lemon and garlic flavour humous at Waitrose #individuallivinginafirstworldcountry'sproblems" or "Mitt Romney #firstworldproblems".

Oooooh. I just went all political on yo' ass. (It doesn't count as swearing if I'm talking about a donkey....)  

Sunday, 14 October 2012

Bibliophilia (totally as risqué as it sounds)

I come from a long line of hoarders and bibliophiles. Well, at least four that I know, going back to my great-grandmother, Oma Ans, one of whose books is currently in my suitcase.

A love of collecting things and a love of books is a poor combination, particularly when it runs through all three generations of women attempted to downsize a book collection.  I know this because over the summer we spent the best part of a week, trying to decide what to do with my Grandmother’s personal library, since she’s moving into a much smaller place. This has been moderately successful, although personally I’ve stolen a large collection of assorted books, and there are piles that are to be given to so and so, who has an interest in photography, and another friend who once wrote a dissertation on luxury fashion brands.

It’s actually kind of sad to be throwing away these books, when I say throwing away, I think actually a book collector is coming to look at which ones are valuable and can be sold and then the rest are being given to charity or whatever. All the books have either my great-grandmother, my grandmother or my grandfather’s name in, the person who gave it to them and when, and then some of them say things like “Summer holiday in Crete, 1973” or whatever in them. It’s weirdly interesting to see.

My dorkishness never ceases to amaze me. 

Thursday, 26 July 2012

Slightly Belated, but not Late

Yes, yes I know I haven't posted since I promised to post more often. I have learnt 2 things, one is that I will never ever make a new years resolution ever again, and the other is that when all those people told me that 3rd year was going to be hard work, they weren't joking. Still, I finished with most of what was left of my sanity intact, only mild sleep deprivation, and that elusive first. Success. So what have I been doing since, you ask, the answer is as little as physically possible.

On saying that I went on some adventures in York before I left, including a trip to Flamingo Land where I got unfavourably compared to a warthog, a visit to a country house where we saw lots of art and some adorable small children dressed up as Victorians, and an English girlie day out to the Bronte museum, which was amazing, and the Yorkshire moors where we ran around shouting Heathcliff at the tops of our lungs, like the cool kids we are.

More recently I have just completed a mini tour of England in the trusty Nisan Micra. I was going up to Manchester, (Didsbury technically, if you're at all interested) for a Frisbee tournament, so I packed up the car, picked up a frisbee player from the station, and set off for Manchester. That was at 2 o'clock. We finally arrived in Manchester at around 10 following having painstakingly inched along for 213 miles, and having completely failed to get dinner in Stoke because it was packed out with Jehovah's Witnesses at a convention. Nevertheless, fun and frisbee frolicks were had by all and I even got a bit of a tan! Hurrah!

Following Didsbury I went on to explore the delights of Macclesfield (good roast dinner) Manchester (good chinese) and then went on a brief sojourn up to York to watch the new housemate on the telly. She was on University Challenge, looking all smart and fringy. If twitter is anything to go by, her fringe was in fact the only thing worth discussing about her television appearance, but in case you were wondering York won. Of course.

From York I went to Nottingham to visit the old housemate, who made me yummy dinner and we went on a walk around Nottingham and did general girlie hanging out type things, and then in the morning she brought me tea in bed and made me breakfast and it was just like old times. Then I went on a mini-trip to Staffordshire, where it rained Old Testament style, they had really good fish and chips and I pinched a hoodie.

And then I made my way home, where I have settled into a life of domesticated bliss, watering tomato plants, doing laundry, reading in the unexpected sunshine (yes, American friends, we do have some sun in England too...) making my brother dinner when he comes home from work and so on. You know, as you do, when you're a domestic goddess like I am. 

Wednesday, 18 January 2012

And then things happened...

So in a startling turn of events I have not been blogging, not because I'm not doing anything interesting but because I've been really busy trying to catch up on work because I've been doing so many other things. And now I shall tell you what I have been doing.

This weekend it was a big frisbee tournament in York, which was really fun, there was much frisbeeing and running and watching frisbee games and playing silly games and generally freezing my nose off. Also, much eating of bagels and talking about baked goods and hugging and laughing and ridiculous behaviour. It suddenly got really cold this weekend and so it was colder than the inside of a icicle in the tent where the tournament was being held, so I wore my ski jacket for most of the weekend. Eek.

I had a team from Nottingham Trent come to stay in the flat overnight between the two days of the tournament, and it was really lovely to hang out with them and have dinner and get ready for the party. Each team got a Disney or Pixar film to get dressed up as. The girls staying over were dressing up as Lions from the Lion King. Our film was Toy Story, so I dressed up as Wheezy. Because I'm just that cool. There were actually two Wheezys, and Tom had flippers, but I think my beak was better. So there.

Also, I've been hanging out with my friends at the Library and catching up, because when you usually see people every day suddenly three weeks over Christmas seems like a long time. And then there's the housemates to catch up with, and cook with, and go on runs with. And then on top of all of this there's library and work and meeting with supervisors and tutors and so on. On which note, I'm going to go try to upload my masters application again, since the website is being pooey and not letting me on.