Wednesday, 3 June 2009

TWLOHA, Glasgow, 7th June

Event starts at 12:00 PM
Ticket price: FREE
TWLOHA Meet & Greet.
George Square - Glasgow City Centre
Gathering for supporters interested in getting involved as TWLOHA starts to happen in the UK. Meet Stuart and Olivia from the TWLOHA team. Please send questions to

If you haven't heard of TWLOHA, please check it out:


Tuesday, 2 June 2009

A Fascination with Hair

I've been, pondering the Victorians' obsession with hair, particularly women's hair. If you have JSTOR access, I'd really recommend you check out The Power of Women's Hair in the Victorian Imagination. Like most academic reading, though, it requires effort. Hence I've not read all that much of it!

Pictures are much more suited to my mood in these post-dissertation days. Check out The Seven Sunderland Sisters. That is some impressive hair. There seems to be an element of the freak show about them - not necessarily in a negative way: there's money to be made if you can make yourself worth staring at. Hair could also be considered erotic, of course (it still is, in many cultures, hence the obligatory headscarves and whatnot), which I suppose must have had something to do with why it was usually tied up. In some of those pictures, the Sunderland sisters get as close to suggestive as can be expected of the time.

One can't neglect to mention, of course, mourning jewellery, made from the deceased's hair. Most people are grossed out by it. I'm not, particularly, though I can appreciate why people are. It has been cut off a corpse. Even so, why is a corpse itself revolting before it has even begun to decay? Victorian attitudes must have been different to this kind of thing. More accustomed to death, I suppose. Why would they want the deceased's hair? If it were simply a reminder, surely anything would serve? It seems to be a way of holding on to, literally, a little part of someone, a little part that can be immortal.

The Guns of Brixton

No guns, actually. A Counting Crows gig: me, Jon, James and Elle.

I wore my new blue maxi dress. I thought, on the tube, what a good maternity dress it would make, and hoped I still have it when I'm pregnant. Which is a bit odd, considering Jon and I don't want to start a family for another five years or so. Motherhood, pregnancy, babies... all that stuff never seems to be far from my mind. While I'm quite happy to wait, I'm magnetically, instinctively drawn to thinking about it. I look forward to it. I feel more woman and less girl than I ever have before (I suppose I would, really). I find myself luxuriating in my fertility like a cat in the sun. I feel a ripeness, anticipate a fruitfulness. And I feel myself envied by barren women, just as, approaching my wedding, I feel myself envied by lonely women. I envy thin women and slim women and beautiful women. We all envy someone. As I try to choose a career - or, rather, a path through the world - I'm simultaneously choosing a social identity and my main response is to be a fox in the headlights, yet the role of earth mother is calling me. I will dedicate myself to home and hearth and children. That was never a question, though. The questions are: How to earn money? What is my role in the church? How will I fulfil myself intellectually? How will I write? Will I pursue recognition?

But back to Brixton. I could have sworn I had never been there. But one venue looks much like another, and Jon reminded me of last time we were there. I was fourteen. A whole group of us went to see Delirious? It was my first ever gig. So the Christian rock played, and people raised their hands, and the keenos jumped up and down at the front. Meanwhile, Jon and I sneaked away to the back and sat down and made out enthusiastically through the entire thing. So that, of course, coloured this Counting Crows gig for me, and I was alternately amused and nostalgic.

My feelings about the performance itself were mixed. I wished I had listened to more of their stuff, instead of listening to the same few tracks over and over. They played Mr. Jones and Round Here and Colour Blind, my favourites. Colour Blind is the epitome of the Crows' angst music which is somehow both incredibly beautiful and hilarious in its teenage overplayed intensity. Adam Duritz looks like a cross between Bob Marley and Jonathan Coulton, which doesn't help you to take it seriously, especially as he takes it so very seriously. He's an incredible performer, raw, charges every note full of himself. But, at the same time, I can never make out the words - even when he speaks - and many of the songs went on far too long as he stuck a load of randomness in the middle. Hardcore fans probably really appreciated it. I was a little bored.

Jon and I danced like losers. It's inevitable, whenever we attempt to dance, so we just go with it. I love how much fun we have together.

Monday, 1 June 2009

The Big Red Button

I fucked up.

I hadn't been taking my meds. The more I live a "normal" life (and, oh, I'm almost there), the more I want it. I am so well, for months at a time. I fool myself. Look, look, at my well-adjusted life, my degree, my friendships, my healthy relationship. How can there be anything wrong with me? This optimism draws me like a magnet to try, time and time again, for complete "normality." And by normality, I mean health and happiness, not conformity.

When Stephen Fry did his The Secret Life of a Manic Depressive documentary, the question he asked everyone was, "If you had a big red button you could press, that would make you not bipolar, would you press it?" Most people, pretty much all except those who were really, really sick, said no. I was always in the no camp, rejoicing in the creativity, the sensitivity, the uniqueness, etc. Especially when things were really bad - as I kid, I would glorify in the suffering, in order to make it bearable, I guess. I mean, if you're going to suffer anyway, I suppose you might as well.

I've switched camps. I want the big red button. I guess I've only just realised: the reason I keep stopping my meds is because I don't want to need them. I don't want to be bipolar anymore. I've grown out of that identity. Tough shit, though. Bipolar I most certainly am. I'm going to have to find a way to come to terms with it, or I'll keep making myself ill.

I hadn't been too bad, just kind of weepy and irritable, and with the world's most ridiculously low stress tolerance. My goodness, I've been stressed, and anxious. But last night crossed the line. I'm not going into it here - I did on LJ, but that's locked. Basically, I flipped.

So, afterwards, I cried a lot and I took my meds, like taking poison after a military defeat. I took some sedatives to counteract the waves of agony shuddering through me, only 50mg (most people take about 400mg a day!) but still I passed out cold for 12 hours. I woke up feeling like I was wading through treacle. Jon wanted to go out so I shuffled around Windsor like a zombie for a few hours, my limbs heavy and everywhere a surreal, post-apocalyptic feel. Then I napped and felt better, and we went to the pub.

So, yes, I admit defeat. I take the pills quietly and I shake my fist at the sky that I have to. I don't want to be a tortured artist. I want to enjoy my life and be a happy wife, mother and friend. I've learnt so much from my illness - I would even say that I'm glad I had it: it's made me who I am today - but I want to be completely recovered now. Wouldn't it be weird if they found a cure?

Saturday, 30 May 2009

The Night Before I Was Free

Sunday 17th May, 9:15pm

After hearing woeful tales of the difficulty of getting a seat in the Bedford Library, even at night, I have instead imprisoned myself in the postgrad common room. This is the final push – I shall be working with very little in the way of a break for the next 21 hours, and then I will hand in this nightmare. I am alone, naturally. I shouldn’t really be in here. It’s a little frightening and a little exciting – someone may burst in at any moment: either security staff or, indeed, one of the boisterous males on the corridor, or, more alarmingly, the people who use this room illegally and leave unnerving traces of themselves. Last year we had terrible trouble with smokers. Today I came in and someone had arranged the chairs as makeshift beds. There is an empty suitcase in the corner. This very familiar room has become eerie, even though it isn’t yet night. Still, I can have tea and coffee, and I brought microwave food. It’s all a bit of an adventure.

Kerry will be here in twelve hours, and then I will have to work elsewhere until noon, when we’ll polish this thing off. Before noon, I need to have this thing written and mostly edited. It’s scary stuff. I have a checklist of the specifics.

4854 words written.


5028 words. Time for a cup of tea, methinks.


5222 words. Hope to finish the Christianity section by midnight, and will then have a little break.


5435 words. This section has 200-word paragraphs for some reason.


5596. Just the introduction and conclusion to go, and then the Christianity section will be done.


5677. Just turned my introduction into proper prose. Just the conclusion to do now and I can tick the first item off my list and chillax for a bit.


Done! The Christianity section is 1546 words, and I have 5798 words in total. So, in the last couple of hours, I’ve written a thousand words. Pretty average. I know, of course, now, that I was being ridiculously naive on Friday when I anticipated another ten hours’ work! Just looking at my Paganism section... looks like about another 1500 words. I may cut stuff out. I’ve still got an introduction, conclusion and three floating paragraphs to squeeze in, plus filling out the footnotes, and I can’t exceed 8000 words. It’s good to have room for cutting, though: I’m sure I’ve got stuff that doesn’t push my argument but just kinda sits there. Break time, now, though. I need a wee, and I wish I had some biscuits. I feel great, though, and it’s going well. Praise God.


I have a coffee. Not that I’m drooping yet, but I anticipate drooping. I fear sleepiness. When the Paganism section is done, I shall eat my microwave meal. If I am sufficiently far along, when the sun rises, I will go and sit in the woodland out back and watch the sunrise. I can’t remember the last time I watched a sunrise. I fear it was samhain when I was sixteen, perhaps seventeen. But I’d better not – I might not get back into the building. I guess we crack on, then – I’ve got to come up with an argument for this section.


Written the first 38 words of the introduction – will write the rest at the end when I have something to introduce! Current word count: 5837.


Wrote a paragraph and added a bit more to the introduction. Word count now 6071.


This section is a nightmare. It’s so... bitty. There’s no argument, and I can’t think of one that threads all of the material together. Current word count: 6222.


Finish the Paganism section! 707 words. Good. Total word count now: 6516. We are getting there. I might even get a nap this morning. I don’t know how I’m going to sort of the structure of this thing, do the introduction and conclusion and find somewhere to put those floating bits. Food time now, though.


The tiredness has hit and I want my bed. But I’ve decided what goes where now – and what I’m going to omit – so I shall get a coffee, take a couple of Pro Plus and press on with my introduction. My body is not going to forgive me for this.


I have half an introduction and 6780 words. The other half plus a conclusion should bring me to 7000-7500. Then, once I’ve tidied up, added in some missing bits, linked things together and polished of footnotes, I should be at 7500-8000. Win.


7114 words. Only half a conclusion, because I’m crap at conclusions and want Kerry’s help! I now have a first draft, which I’m going to save and then have a little break before I start editing.


Been sorting out my line references. Down to 7031 but have lots of gaps to fill so it’s fine.


Sun’s coming up. I’m editing away. Currently have exactly 7000 words.


Only 6856 words now, but a couple of holes left to fill yet. May need to pad it out a little. Saving second draft and going to home to bed now, anyway. I’ve got as far as I can without Kerry.

Sunday, 17 May 2009

Surviving May 16th


Humph. The Jubilee line is down so I’ve just spent an hour travelling here to the British Library to work with Katie. The British Library is a fantastic place and Katie and I went to look at the pretty manuscripts and said, “Oooh,” and then I went to register and the bastards wouldn’t let me in! They won’t let you register now unless you want to look at specific books. And, as she needs the books and I don’t, Katie and I aren’t going to get the day to work together, despite both of us having come all this way and who knows when we’ll see each other next? It really annoys me: a public library is a public library.

So I’m sat in the lobby for forty-five minutes, Katie and I will have lunch, then I will head to Senate House (more expense) and work there. I could have had an extra hour in bed, and I’m so sleep-deprived at the moment. Grrrr. Grumble, grumble, grumble. By the time I get to Senate House, it’ll be half the day lost. I’m going to have to pull an all-nighter tomorrow now.

Right, I’m 3360/7500. Three and a half more paragraphs and I’ve finished the free will section. So tired.


3573/7500. Thirsty, as usual. I feel guilty for this lunch I’m about to take... I think I’ll swap my travel time for study time by staying in this lobby this afternoon.


3639/7500. We had scampi and it was good.


3822/7500. Past the half way mark now. We plough on.


4218/7500. One more paragraph to go and this section has already exceeded its word count. Excellent. I’m sat on the floor with a very numb bum. How many words have I written today? Nearly a thousand, not bad. When I’ve finished this section, I’m going to go and have a wee and see if I can track down a bottle of Diet Coke. I think I may be addicted to Diet Coke. Ah well, there are much more disastrous things I could be fuelling my dissertation with. More fattening things too. Right, one last push and then I’ll allow myself a break. This section – in fact, the whole thing – will need so much editing once I put the draft together, though.


4570/7500. And I’ve put all the prose I have so far on to a document which is growing into a first draft. It’s nothing like comprehensible, though – oh, the editing that awaits me! And the writing too. I’ve one and a half smaller sections, an introduction, a conclusion and two or three random floating paragraphs to go. Alas. I’m having a break first, though.


Just under an hour left here. I was hoping to get to 5000 words but I’ll have to reread The Dream of Scipio so it mightn’t happen.


4796/7500. More than a thousand words since half way there. I’m getting somewhere.

Friday, 15 May 2009

Surviving May 15th


Here I am, having got breakfast and coffee, taken the scenic route through the park, faffed around finding myself a seat with a plug for my laptop, gone to the toilet.... no more procrastination now. (Besides this, of course!) No internet connection, most terrifying of all. The dissertation and I are sat in this library, face-to-face, and there is to be no shying away until lunch time! As usual, when faced with beginning or rebeginning a significant piece of work, I am desperately afraid and I do not know why. I will be okay once I get into it again. I’m writing this so I can update it, record and pin down the achievement of words written. I’m also hoping it will help keep me sane. I hope the hours pass quickly!

Right, it is now 10:46am. I have a total of 1008 words out of 7500, which must then be edited and revised. It is Friday morning and I need to have this ready by Monday evening. I will not allow myself to leave this prison this evening until the section on free will is completed and that should be about another 3000 words. I will begin by incorporating the Kolve notes and adding a couple of sources to the bibliography, and then I will begin the free will section, at the top.

Argh. I am peckish – why? I’ve had breakfast. It is 10:53am. A ridiculous time. I’m beginning to think I can’t do this. I will treat it as an exam – I am fine during exams, once they begin. I will start at eleven on the dot and then I will work solidly (brief progress reports excepted) until half past twelve when I text Jon to make lunch plans. And then a longer progress report, and then either lunch or a bit more work, depending on Jon.

10:58. Open documents. 10:59. Ready, steady.... go!


Ha! How soon. Just to report: the Kolve, and the Miller sources in bibliography, both done. Someone is training a librarian somewhere nearby – it is intensely annoying. On to free will.


Another 306 words down. Total: 1314/7500. Long way to go – this may take longer than anticipated, which means putting in more hours before Monday. Le sigh. I’m thirsty.


Another paragraph done: 304 words. I seem to average 300 words a paragraph and 600 words an hour. Total so far: 1618/7500. So only about ten hours until I’m ready to edit the thing, if all goes well. Should get another four or even five hours done today - again, if all goes well. So, yes, this should be just about doable. Time to text Jon, I think.


Jon declares that everything is “blowing up” on him – I hope he does not mean that too literally. Lunch will happen when it happens so I’ll just plough on. I would sell my grandmother (I can say that quite safely – both grandmothers are long dead) for a bottle of Diet Coke. I’m going to sneak one in this afternoon and swig it surreptitiously (can you swig surreptitiously?) between bouts of productivity. Incidentally, I was surprised by the spelling of “surreptitiously.” Where would we all be without spell check? I am quite ashamed. Jon promises a more specific lunch time soon. He also promised a phone call – which, as I am in a library, I certainly don’t want – so I said to text instead and, oh look, he has. “Lol ok.” Well, that was worth texting for. Right. This is not work. Hello, work.


Another 293 words. Total: 1911/7500. I have written 900 words today, and all is going well enough.


Just heard from Jon – he’ll be a while. I’m going to finish this paragraph and then go and get that Diet Coke. I shall sit in the park with my book and wait to hear from my lovely one. It may mean quite an extensive lunch break, but I’m gasping and I want to have lunch together. It should be okay.


That paragraph was 222 words which brings me to 2133/7500. I fear a struggle for the final word count.... it might happen and it might not. It’s too early to tell. I should be okay. Who knows, maybe I’ll end up over. The next paragraph will be a tricky one – I’m glad I get a break first, though of course I’ll be nervous and out of the “flow” again so maybe it isn’t such a good thing. I should have a clearer head, at least. This argument feels long-winded and packed with unnecessary stuff – relevance and necessity are not one and the same. It will probably be improved by being cut, if I can afford to do so later, oh so much later. Right, as the advert says, “Diet Coke time.” Hopefully it’s reasonably sunny out there and has lost this morning’s dampness. I can, if not relax, immerse myself in The Secret Scripture, which I started on the tube this morning.


And here I am, back at a desk. I didn’t read The Secret Scripture at all in the end, as Jon was ready by the time I got out. What took so long was finding a laptop-friendly seat. I traipsed around the fifth floor and then gave up and came back to the fourth (quite by chance, as I had originally intended to go to the sixth or seventh but I got flustered in the lift and just went where everyone else was going). Behold, the big room of desks here is all computer-friendly. I must say, I do like having a desk and a proper chair: my legs and back feel so much better for it. The disadvantage of this room, though, is all the people working around you. I’d much rather be surrounded by books than people, which I guess says a lot about me.

This room is light because of its tall, high windows: the daylight and the artificial light (is it really necessary?) sit uncomfortably against one another. All I can hear is the wind wailing dismally somewhere and hundreds of fingers tapping on keys and hundreds of pens scratching on paper. Everyone here is so industrious. The air is humming with words being written, clever words at that. I feel very young and childish and unproductive - and sick, because I scoffed a mint Aero before I came in, which I really shouldn’t have done because I had chocolate yesterday too. Today’s second bottle of Diet Coke is hiding in my bag: I’ll never get away with drinking it in here. The woman next to me is watching a film on her laptop – I thought I had a procrastination comrade but, looking at her pile of books about film, she seems to be working as hard as everyone else. I don’t like it in here.

Okay, so it takes me two hours to write a thousand words, plus another hour of writing here and wasting time. So, in order to reach my 3000 word goal, including a much-needed break at some point, I should be finished by... about eleven o’clock! Ha! That’s not happening. This place closes at six, or possibly half past, and then I shall have to find a cafe and rely on the good will of my laptop battery. And then I shall have to stand in the cold outside a pub while Jon and his colleagues drink beer, and I will attempt to be friendly and conceal my complete apathy and longing to leave. Then, by the time we get home and have eaten, we’ll be tucked up in bed, or I shall at least be too tired to string together a coherent sentence.

Productivity fail. I’m procrastinating now for sheer distaste, rather than fear, though the next paragraph will be a bitch to write. I’m quite fed up. Well, on with the show.


A total, now of 2600 out of 7500. I have done a lot, but it’s still a small fraction of what’s left to do. The wind is so loud. It’s stuffy here, like Founders’ Library is stuffy. Why must libraries be stuffy? Stuffiness is conducive to sleep rather than work. I’d rather it was cold. I’d quite enjoy being hunched up in fingerless gloves and surrounded by old books. With snow outside, perhaps. This building makes my mouth feel hot, as if I had just drank tea or coffee, but without the nice taste or refreshment. My hair feels greasy too. I hope I have time to wash it tonight. My fingernails are different lengths and that bothers me, as do the remnants of nail polish. I look such a state these days. Being an academic will make me an ugly woman, if I do decide to be one. I’m well on the way already, both in terms of academicness and ugliness. Sitting in front of a laptop all day makes me fat and sluggish. I shall go to the lobby to drink my Coke there. I hope I am not arrested or, worse, told off. And I hope no one steals my laptop. I’m not packing it up – it’s heavy and I’ll only be gone a few minutes.


Thirsty work, this studying business. As soon as I put the Coke back in my bag, I am thirsty again. Maybe I have an exciting illness. I wish I’d brought my hairbrush. I hate knots in my hair. You have to go through the barriers to get to the ladies’, which is stupid (so many things in this building are stupid – like having to get three lifts to get to the English Lit books on the fifth floor), but I did find a Pingu pin badge, which made my day. I’m going to have to start another pin badge bag. I wonder what happened to all those badges I took off the old one. I do love writing down my every thought, and, once I start doing it, I can’t stop. A strange, egotistical disease. Hypothetically I should have no problem being a writer. I was once so sure it would happen, now I am so doubtful and fearful about my adult, or rather my out-of-education, self. When did that happen? When it got close enough to become real, I suppose. It was all going to be so exciting and I was going to be brilliant, whether that was dynamically brilliant, wise and caring brilliant, or romantic and tortured and gifted brilliant. Now I find I’m all grown-up and not especially brilliant and I can’t quite fit myself into any of those roles, or have them all at once, and I don’t know what to do with myself besides carry on studying because it’s what I know. That’s not primarily the reason I’m going on to MA, but it is partly the reason. All I know is studying and I can’t imagine how one goes about doing anything else. Or I can, but I so fear being unfulfilled, whether intellectually, interpersonally, artistically or spiritually.

But this is not my dissertation. Come on, girl, crack on - ignore your thirst for Diet Coke and your thirst for life and your thirst to just write, write, write yourself into being.


I have written, in total, 3158 words! I’m still 1000 off today’s target but I’m also already at where, a couple of hours ago, I feared I’d be right at the end of the day. I’ve hit close textual analysis, which is my strong point, and the words are tumbling out of me. I have, God help me, been enjoying this! And there’s plenty more to say. The free will section will almost certainly reach 3000 words, as I had hoped. I wonder if this place closes at six or half past. The room is a little emptier now but still quite full. When I’m one of only a few left, I shall leave. Either that, or someone will come and shout at us all to get lost.

I’m approaching the half way point! That is a nice feeling. Debating whether or not to have a quick drink in the lobby. Can’t hurt.

Actually, no, I’m on a roll. I’ll just do this quick bit and then I’ll be finished with the stuff about The Book of the Duchess.


3332/7500. What I wouldn’t give for another day in the library to get this done. Tomorrow I shall have the afternoon, at least. I will have to get up at a reasonable time. I may even get up at nine again and meet Katie in the British Library for the morning as well. Yes, that’s what I’ll do. This place evidently doesn’t close at six. That must just be the Classics Institute. I’ll check out closing times while I’m in the lobby with my Diet Coke in a minute. If I can, I’ll stay here while Jon’s at the pub. But now it’s my drink time.


It closes at half six. Had I been here yesterday, I could have stayed ‘til nine. Damn, damn and an extra pint of double damn, as Fry and Laurie would say. Ah well, I’ll stay in a cafe (typed “cage” then – Freudian slip?) until Jon’s released and then maybe I can sit in the street with my laptop and work while Jon and his Clara homies talk about things I don’t understand. I’ve certainly done more eccentric things. I am reliant on battery power, though. Were I a polytheist, I would pray to the battery god. Actually, I’m fairly sure my God has that covered. Fifteen minute burst of productivity then, and I’m off.