We’re moving house… again. Not too far, this time – we’ve bought a house, still in the same city, but its ours (and the bank’s!). A small, three bedroomed semi-detached home – the box room is going to be my study, and we have a guest room for visitors. Nice big kitchen/dining room, and a comfy sitting room. Small garden. All we could want, really!

Its led to a great deal of stress though. Yes, as I am frequently being told, moving house/buying a house is one of the most stressful things you can do. I know all that. It still doesn’t change our experiences. We put an offer in on the house at the beginning of July; and we got the keys last week, and move in tomorrow. This is a two house chain, so it should have been relatively straight forward. The vendor’s solicitors caused the hold up – here’s a free tip for you – never.. EVER go with the solicitors that the estate agent offers you!!

What it has meant, though, is that we’ve not known when we were moving for a very long time, and this in itself has caused a lot of stress – not being able to plan anything or say “yes” to anything because we simply did not know if we would be moving or not. I have also signed up for a Masters in English Local and Family History, studying part time. I’ll hand in my dissertation for that in January 2017, which right now seems like a very long way away. That started last week, so I’ve been in the pleasant position of starting my MA and trying to move house. Arrrgghh!!

We’ve been focusing on getting things sorted out at the new house. My study was a ten year old girl’s bedroom: Pink hearts and One Direction posters. That had to be redecorated PDQ! Michiel was also keen to redecorate the room that would be our bedroom, in order to make the house more “ours”, rather than the previous vendor’s. In doing this we’ve discovered all kinds of problems that the survey did not (and should have) picked up. There is a strong possibility that the house needs rewiring – which was not reported, and had we known we’d have dropped the offer some – and the previous vendors weren’t great at DIY, took a number of cheap shortcuts that didn’t obviously show at the time we viewed but we’re seeing now. So that’s very much affecting how we view our new home.

However, I think its important to remind ourselves. In many ways, the new house is no worse than our current one, that has definitely been mistreated and unloved for a number of years. At least the new one has a working boiler – this one is very intermittent, which was okay in the summer when we only needed hot water (shower was on a different system) but now it is starting to get colder we’re starting to wish it was working, although given the boxes of books piled in front of the radiators in different rooms, we couldn’t turn it on even if it was working. And at least the new house is ours – with no interfering landlady who takes everything as a personal affront when things go wrong. I’m seriously dreading giving the keys back because I really think they’ll try to stiff us on the deposit, although we’ve reported everything to them.

So. moving tomorrow. We leave this house with very mixed feelings. Its a quiet home – despite the busy road we live on, with buses trundling by every few minutes – the back is quiet, and has fantastic views over the city, which come into their own on fireworks night and new year. This house has healed much of the damage that our old home did. When we moved here three years ago, and sat outside in the peace and quiet of a warm September evening, with no shouts of kids or people arguing or the fear of having our windows chucked in…. we cried. We still have the fear that our new house may be like the old one. It is ex-council stock and some in the area still rent from the council, but the deed is done and we must move. But then, I think we’d have this fear regardless of where we moved and we couldn’t afford a lot. This house has also seen me complete my degree, seen the death of both my grandmothers… seen many changes. Its seen happy times too – Christmasses spent with my mother, the visits of Michiel’s parents, happy times with friends, graduation. For all the problems associated with this house (the infrastructure, the landlady), it has been a good home to us and in many ways we don’t want to leave. I think If we had had the money to buy this house and do it up, we would have given it serious serious consideration.

I just hope that the next house offers us the same happiness. It’ll be a long slog to get it put right – not least the saving up to pay for it all – but given time, we’ll get there.

Goodbye old house…. I hope someday you find owners to love you as much as we do, because you deserve better than you’ve been treated before us…

[* line from a song by Paul Young, "Whereever I lay my hat", originally released 1983. Printed copies of lyrics are widely available on the internet, video available on YouTube.]

I am now in possession of a First Class honours degree in BA History.

To say I am delighted is perhaps understating it, but I am very very very happy.

I just wish Dad was here to see it. He’d be so proud.

Still not quite ready to let go of 2013, mostly for the reasons I typed out last night. So.. in the interests of not letting go – here’s a meme of questions for the year, stolen from a friend on LiveJournal…

01. Was 2013 a good year for you?
Yes. One of the best. A year where I felt I really got to grips with what I’m doing (at uni, how to study and write), started to put it into place, get good grades, and totally and absolutely loved what I do.

 

02. What did you do in 2013 that you’d never done before?
Drove from Leicester to a small Village in Western Germany in one go (i.e. not stopping overnight). On one of the hottest days of the year. It was.. um… interesting.

 

Also took part in a voluntary project to research the educational history of a small village in Leicestershire. It was my first experience of doing what a historian does: working in the archives to pull together the history of something from primary sources, and I LOVED it.

 

03. What was your favourite moment of the year?
Getting  a first (just!) in Latin. Mostly due to the really good grades I’d pulled on the literature side of Latin, where I did essays on the Latin sources of the history of the early Roman Empire (thank you, Kevin, from Manchester College!) and the Latin writings of Tudor England and the import of them. Then came the Latin Language exam. I fully expected to fail the exam as I had struggled so much with the language. When I got my results and realised that not only had I not failed (53% – not great, but given my expectations, I was overjoyed) and then, even more, that I had just scraped a first (70%) for the whole Latin module, I was absolutely walking on air for the rest of the day. I got good results in the other modules too (including 74% in the exam on Early Modern Norwich), but I was always more confident of that, so although I was very pleased, it wasn’t so surprising as the Latin result.

 

04. What was your least favourite moment of the year?
Michiel telling me his beloved grandmother had died. She was the last of her generation and the one, I think, that he loved the most. I had been through it myself a few years before, losing both my grandmothers a few months apart. It stirred up a lot of my own memories which I had to deal with while trying to comfort him. It wasn’t a pleasant time.

 

Second behind that (a long way behind) would be getting 60% on an essay, the lowest mark I had had for over 2 years. It was a deeply unpleasant moment, especially when I read the comments and I realised that the marker was advising me to do something that I had actually done in the essay. It made me lose faith in the university marking system for a time, and confidence in myself and my abilities. Fortunately its been resolved now, revised upwards a little (to 62%) and while I still disagree with the reason for the downmarking (I think it was unfair), I also accept that it will have relatively little impact overall on my degree classification, as long is its an isolated occurrence.

 

05. Did you keep your new years’ resolutions, and will you make more for next year?
I don’t really make resolutions. But I do make aims for the year as part of ongoing plans, such as wanting, at this time last year, to get better grades. and I did. mostly (see above about the essay).

 

06. What are your plans for 2014?
Professionally:
- graduate. with a first. hopefully.
- get the funding to go on to do an MA in English Local History.
- start to prepare for a PhD.
- this summer, I’d like to take part in another voluntary project (there are several possibilities, but I’d love to take part in an archaeology project) and find a part time job to help with the finances over the summer months.
-I’d also like to get more involved in social media and history. I read some fantastic blogs and tweets written by historians & archaeologists that I admire, such as Tom Holland, Mary Beard, Richard Evans, Francis Pryor, and Paul Blinkhorn – to name but a few. The human past belongs to everyone, not just academics, but getting the ordinary person to appreciate the past and its present day remnants is a large part of what academic historians and archaeologists help to contribute towards. Internet-driven technology like social media is already forming a large part of spreading the historical word, so to speak. That media and technology is going to increase, and I’d like to contribute to that growth.

 

Personally:
- go back to the low-carb diet that my diabetes prefers. Its slipped over the last few years, with my studies. badly. and my health is starting to suffer. This is no longer an option, but a MUST.
- moving house may be on the cards as well. That’s uncertain at this point though.

 

07. Did anyone close to you give birth?
No.

 

08. Did anyone close to you die?
Yes. My grandmother-in-law. She was ready to go, but it was still painful for me and people that I love.

 

09. How many weddings did you go to?
None.

 

10. What countries did you visit?
We had to go to Oma’s funeral in July. That entailed driving through France, Belgium, the Netherlands and Germany, staying in Germany for a few days, then driving into the Netherlands for the funeral. We stayed there overnight before returning to Germany, then a few days later, we returned to England, with an overnight stay in Calais, so, Germany, Netherlands, Belgium and France. Would Belgium/France count as visits?

 

11. What dates in 2013 will remain etched in your memory?
Specific dates – none. but certain events will. Where I was when they happened, what I saw, experienced, felt.  The day I got my exam results. Oma’s funeral. The birth of Prince George. The death of Mandela. The 50th Anniversary of Doctor Who. The Announcement that THAT skeleton was THAT King. Wimbledon. But I couldn’t tell you, without looking them up, what dates they occurred on.

 

12. What was your biggest achievement of the year?
Passing the Latin!! No, seriously – it was getting firsts in every module in the second semester of the last academic year (including the Latin). The way the degree accreditation works is that you need to have firsts from 6 of the 12 modules you do in your final two years, and an overall average of over 69%. A weighting of 60% is given towards the final year, as you’re more experienced, at that point, in researching and writing and that weighting recognises that. However, at this point I have, already, 4 of the 6 required modules at or above 70%, so I only need two more, and to keep my overall average up. That is a tremendous boost to my confidence and takes a little of the pressure off this academic year. But only a little. This page gives an overview of my educational progress to date. Its kept reasonably up to date even when the rest of the blog isn’t.

 

13. What was your biggest failure?
Not getting to grips with my diet. I have serious trouble reconciling the demands of my studies with the demands of my diet and all too often its my diet that loses out. This is something that MUST improve in 2014.

 

14. Did you suffer any illness or injury?
No. Apart from the odd cold.

 

15. What was the best thing you bought?
My tablet. It has saved so much money in printing costs (I can read articles on it, where I struggle to read them on the laptop/computer) and the camscanner app, which enables me to quickly scan parts of books in the library/record offices. Tech like this has revolutionised the experience of research – I can very quickly scan large amounts of material in a single morning in the library, then come home to read it. It doesn’t actually save time, but it does mean that I can work in the comfort of my own office at home, rather than in the library. The University library is a wonderful place but during term time, it is very busy and it is often difficult to concentrate there.

 

16. Whose behaviour merited celebration?
One of my lecturers. He’s someone who has been teaching me in the last few months (since October) but he will be teaching me for the rest of the academic year, and probably in my MA as well, as he teaches on that course. What he does, though, is unprecedented. He’s one of these people who is a naturally good teacher, seems very confident speaking in front of a class, very relaxed about it, but that’s not why he’s someone who merits celebration. What is, is the way he works with my interpreters. I’ll be revisiting this subject in May for BADD 2014, but he gives the interpreters and notetaker whatever they need to get their job done. He works with them when they cannot translate a word (e.g. a difficult name), happy to write it out on the board. He never visibly chafes at the interruption. He laughs with them, and gives them all the breaks they could possibly need, understanding that interpreting is difficult and tiring work. He even, at a meeting that was unrelated to the course on which he actually teaches me, where he was the last of 5 speaking, stood up to speak, looked at my interpreter and notetaker, and said gently: “would you both like a five minute break?” This was after an hour and a half of continuous interpretation and notetaking from some people who spoke very very fast (in fact, one speaker, they had to ask to slow down, she spoke that quickly), and after a 3 hour class where they had been working for that three hours and they were shattered. It said volumes about his appreciation of what they do and how difficult their jobs can be made by unthinking lecturers. And on top of all that.. he’s a gifted teacher, with genuine enthusiasm for his subject that comes across in his classes, which make his classes really interesting, despite the somewhat obscure subject. The net result is that I actually have interpreters competing to work on his classes for the next semester – which is unheard of! I really really appreciate his work (and yes, I have fed this back to the university, I firmly believe in rewarding good behaviour!) and I will be telling him in person at the end of the year. I don’t want to embarrass him before then!

 

17. Whose behaviour made you appalled and depressed?
Someone who I, personally, have very little to do with (deliberately so, they are poison and I don’t need that in my life) but others who are in my life have chosen to try to keep trying with them. I cannot judge them for that – they have a different relationship to that person than I do, and understand why the others in my life keep trying, but I still look at their behaviour, how they treat the people in their lives and am absolutely appalled. Each and every time I am more and more determined that I will have as little to do with them as possible, and so incredibly sad that the people I do love inevitably wind up being hurt by them. I wish it would change, I really do, I pray it does, for the sake of the people I love if nothing else, but I don’t think it will. and that makes me more sad than anything else.

 

18. Where did most of your money go?
The mobile money pit. AKA the car. Most recently, the dual flywheel in the gearbox went and was about to shatter (if it had, it would have meant a new gear box which would have been even more expensive), and that cost £700 to replace. The car insurance is also far more expensive than I would prefer. However, each year that I drive (without incident) it does go down. It’ll go down even more when I have a garage that I can park it in every night.More pleasant large purchases have been the new sofa (leather, with reclining seats… ah.. I LOVE the sofa) and my tablet & phone.

 

19. What did you get really, really, really excited about?
well.. duh. If reading the rest of this hasn’t told you what my answer will be then you’re really not paying attention! My degree studies of course. Specifically, my dissertation. I haven’t mentioned that yet, but you knew it was going to be history related, didn’t you? I’m not going to say too much about what I’m digging into, but it is exploring local history during the time of Mary I (the one what set fire to a lot of people, yes) and how that local history is remembered in the last 500 years. Its very exciting and I am really enjoying exploring it.

 

Other things I got excited about:
Richard III’s discovery and watching the University and Archaeology department reap the benefits of that;
Victoria County History and Local History in general;
Ingress – I’m currently at Level 7 and half way to Level 8.

 

20. What songs will always remind you of 2013?
I have to be honest. I don’t really listen to new music these days so.. no song.

 

21. What do you wish you’d done more of?
Taken more advantage of certain opportunities that came up through the university. I took advantage of one, the volunteer project that I took part in over the summer, and it was fantastic. I learned so much – not necessarily specifically about the history of education in my chosen village, although I did that (and the history of education in general) but it was the knock on things that I learned that had a major impact on my life, and the project led me into other opportunities which have been great. If anyone who is interested in history, especially local history, has the chance to take part in Victoria County History, or a similar local history research project, then jump at it. You won’t regret it.

 

22. What do you wish you’d done less of?
Television watching. I watch far too much, as its my favourite form of relaxation. It used to be books, but, frankly, when you’ve spent the day reading and wrestling with texts, a book is the last thing you want to relax with. Although its getting better – in the first few years of my studying I didn’t even want to touch a book in the evenings. These days I tend to read trash fiction – easy read stuff, thrillers, like Dan Brown – which don’t tax the brain. And even now, in the middle of dissertation research, my evening book is Eric Ives ‘The Life and Death of Anne Boleyn‘. So I guess I am getting better with that one. But back to the Television Issue: I used to spend too much time watching it. The last couple years have seen a severe curtail on what I do watch has helped. It means I really can just spend a couple hours a day watching the box in order to relax in the evening, rather than spending 5 hours in the evening watching rubbish. But I still think I can probably prune more stuff. Slashy/stabby/violent crime shows (as Michiel calls them – e.g. CSI/NCIS/Mentalist/Castle etc.) as an example.

 

23. How did you spend Christmas?
With Mum and Michiel, the two most loved people in my life. There are others, but those two are the most important to me. If I could have had the others, I would, but they have their own loves to be with.

 

24. Which fellow blog/social media users that you got to know online did you meet in person for the first time?
Two American friends who were visiting England in April. They were passing through Sheffield, an overnight stop on the way north, so we agreed to drive up and meet them there. We introduced them to Sheffield pubs, beer (proper beer, not lager), whisky, and pork scratchings. And there were some really colourful pubs. I think they enjoyed themselves!!!

 

25. Did you fall in love in 2013?
No. Not newly in love, anyway. Unless you count Ingress, anyway!

26. What was your favourite month of 2013?
Its impossible to pick.

27. How did you see in the New Year?
With some champagne, at home, with Michiel. Nowhere else I’d rather be.

28. What was your favourite TV show?
oh that’s impossible to choose. ‘Doctor Who’ has had a massive year, what with the 50th anniversary celebrations, the departure of Matt and the arrival of Peter. So I’ve certainly loved that. I was particularly disgusted with CBS for spoiling the who-was-Red-John mystery that has kept us enthralled on ‘The Mentalist’ on my facebook, just because the US was several weeks ahead of the UK. From the comments I think quite a few others were too. I’ve loved a range of US-based stabbymurderviolencecrime shows, that I mentioned before. Here, I’ve loved Strictly (Abbey was lovely (until she talked) but I think the better dancer was Natalie. Her American Smooth final dance with Artem made me cry, and although I cry at the drop of a hat, it’s not usually over Strictly). Also loved the Great British Bake Off, University Challenge, and anything with Michel Roux Jr in it (that doesn’t also have Greg in it, so not Professional Masterchef). His Christmas food and drink show with Mary Berry was an absolute delight. He’s a consummate gentleman and professional, and many a TV chef could learn from him.

29. Do you dislike anyone now that you didn’t dislike this time last year?
no. Not that I know personally anyway. I possibly despise politicians like Cameron more than I did last year. Its hard to say really, when you already despise what they’re doing so much.

 

30. What was/were the best books you read?
Do you actually want me to relax today? hmmm. Professionally, Norman Jones’s ‘The English Reformation‘ has just about the best explanation for understanding how people experienced the English Reformation that I’ve read thus far, and has really helped me to understand the import of it on people living through the tumultuous years of the sixteenth century. Eamon Duffy’s ‘The Voices of Morebath‘ has been given to my Mom to read as a present – tough going, but worth it. The Richard III dig at the University has been amazing to watch, and I was lucky enough to get a signed copy of the book ‘Richard III: The King Under the Car Park’ written by two of the archaeologists on the project, one of whom (Richard Buckley) has just been appointed OBE and nominated as Archaeologist of the Year, run by Current Archaeology (last year’s winner was Phil Harding, for fellow archaeology buffs). Otherwise, Catherine Bailey’s ‘The Secret Rooms‘ gave a real insight into the life of a historian with her book on the mystery of the 9th Duke of Rutland as well as being a thoroughly enjoyable mystery in its own right. It’s not often the two are able to be married together.

Outside of my studying, many of the books that are found on my kindle (on my phone… I LOVE my phone! Samsung Galaxy Note II… which will be prised from my cold, dead fingertips!) include authors like Rick Riordan, Suzanne Collins, Lauren Kate, Laurence O’Bryan, Scott Mariani, Charlaine Harris, Helen Harper, Ilona Andrews, Kelly Armstrong, Kim Harrison, Laurell K Hamilton, Richelle Mead and Elizabeth Hunter. I’m sure you can see a current theme if you look hard enough. All I can say is that I like my escapism!

31. What was your greatest musical discovery?
I have wonky Ears. I don’t think this question applies to me.

32. What did you want and get?
Higher grades. Which I worked for, and got.

33. What did you want and not get?
Healthier diet, which I didn’t work for, and didn’t get.

34. What was your favourite film(s) this year?
This is the year of the cinema for me. I discovered subtitled screenings! We went to see serious stuff like The Hobbit (both I and II) and Rush, and silly stuff like Man of Steel and Despicable Me 2. absolutely loved Despicable Me 2. Its the minions, you know. They steal your heart when you’re not looking…

35. What did you do on your birthday and how old were you?
I was 41. What did I do? I can’t remember to be honest. I don’t think I did much on the day itself. Did go to a party the day after, which was pretty damn special. :)

36. What one thing would have made your year more satisfying?
getting back on the diet wagon.

37. How would you describe your personal fashion concept in 2013?
fashion? dear god, I don’t really do fashion. Comfort, I suppose, would be the key buzzword.
.
38. What kept you sane?
My kindle. Being able to read escapist stuff about werewolves and vampires that has nothing to do with history, just escape into a different world for 10 minutes between classes is a godsend.

39. Which celebrity did you fancy the most?
mmmm. getting a bit old for that sort of thing. I suppose if I was pushed, Benedict Cumberbatch is rather fascinating in a wierd sort of way. be easier to tell you who I can’t stand. (Cyrus, Bieber, all of the Kardashians and people associated with them!)

40. Which political issue stirred you the most?
Disability issues. What’s going on, politically, with disabled people in this country at the moment is an absolute scandal. Benefits for disabled people who can’t work are being cut, people who can’t work are being told that they can, that they’re making it all up and that they really can work, and even when they DO get into work, they’re finding that pots of money that are there to help businesses defray the costs of hiring disabled people are being cut as well. So they’re buggered if they do, and buggered if they don’t. What the government really wants is for them all to crawl into a corner and die. Preferably quietly so they don’t cause too much inconvenience to the rest of the able bodied population. It STINKS. and the sooner people wake up and realise what is being done in their name, the better. </rant>

41. Who did you miss?
My grandmother. There are so many times I wish that I could’ve talked to her about my degree studies, about Richard III this year, as she was 30 years ago, when she was bright and with it and working on her own book about the Monasteries of England. She would’ve loved all the Richard stuff. I know she would’ve been immensely proud of me. I miss her.

42. Did you treat somebody badly in 2013?
Probably. I know I take Michiel far too much for granted at times.

43. Did somebody treat you badly in 2013?
Probably. I know Michiel takes me far too much for granted at times.

But we still love each other. :)

44. Tell us a valuable life lesson you learned this year?
Relationships is like gardening. The best things grow slowly, take time, love and care. There’s only one way they differ. Relationships don’t appreciate manure!

45. What would you like to have in 2014 that you didn’t have in 2013?
Letters after my name. :)

46. Quote a song lyric that sums up your year…
‘Its been a long road, getting from there to here. Its been a long time, but my time is finally near.
I will see my dream come alive at last. I will touch the sky.
And they’re not gonna hold me down no more, no they’re not gonna change my mind.
Cause I got Faith, of the Heart, I’m going where my heart will take me.
I got faith, to believe, I can do anything,
I’ve got strength of the soul, Noone’s gonna bend or break me.
I can reach any star, I got faith, I got faith, faith of the heart’.

Trekkers will know them as the lyrics to the opening of each episode of ‘Star Trek Enterprise’. This became very much the driving force behind getting better from the terrible things that happened to me over 11 years ago, and my university studies are part of that. So, yeah, this seems fitting. :) 2014 will see my dream come alive at last!

…. I freely admit that I don’t want this year to end.

Stepping over the threshold into 2014 brings the possibility of my university time ending that much closer. While I fervently hope and pray that I can get both the grades and the funding to pursue an MA, and then a PhD, the fact remains that at some point I will have to stop studying. Yes, its possible to keep studying privately, while holding down a full time job. Possible… and very very difficult. As a private individual you do not have access to Academic Journals or University Libraries. Such things are necessary to produce academic quality work – at least as a historian, where, in studying any new subject for the first time, it is necessary to examine the history of that subject as well – that is, what has already been written about it, and to analyse that corpus of literature. This is why academics remain working within universities, despite what some might see as the inconvenience of having to teach (and those, I think, are the fools, not their students. But that’s for another time). Its the access to sources of data, to the libraries, that enable them to conduct their research and to write their books and articles.

While I don’t know, at this point (no one does) whether MA study is possible, a number of tweets and Facebook posts by university colleagues, about – like me, the thought of their university time coming to an end – or the trepidation of actually graduating and being launched into the world – has been strumming in the back of my mind all evening, and I finally realised why I haven’t even touched my books all day, preferring instead to spend the day with Michiel. I don’t want my time at University to end. 2013 is possibly the last year I shall have spent entirely devoted to studying, with the clear, single minded purpose devoted to my degree. There’s a clarity to that, to answering as well as possible, the essay title set, researching the topic, of putting one foot in front of the other, eyes fixed firmly on the goal in front. Michiel said it very well a while back, that he envied me. Not the work or the subject, but my fixed vision, my very clear and identifiable goal. I know what I want and I’m working very hard to achieve it.

In the run up to Christmas has been ‘Strictly Come Dancing’ – and I freely admit, I’m a Strictly fan. You can keep your x-factor, your Britain’s got talent, your dancing on ice. Gimme Strictly any day. Many of the contestants have talked about the “Strictly Bubble” – and I think, in some respects, I know what they mean. Not the sequins, the make-up, or the tanning booth. But the Goal – the Strictly Glitterball Trophy – and all the hard work that people put in, all the small steps that they make, are all wayposts on their way to that final goal. It gives a remarkable clarity to life, a singlemindedness. And it is that that I shall miss, I think, if I do not manage to continue with my goal of first the MA, then the PhD. I’ll wind up rudderless, goalless – and that is a prospect that – at this point in time – is actually quite terrifying.

So.. no. 2014 isn’t welcome, not here. not now. Now I cling to the dying moments of 2013… cling to my singleminded vision of my future path… cling to some of the happiest years I have known in my life so far.

another day, another control field.. this one in the north of Leicester, covering abbey park, the space centre, the pumping station.. a much bigger field and one that took me up to level three. yay!

second control field

the second control field established, to the north of city centre. the white lines with big blobs in is the river soar – the big blobs are in abbey park.

On the negative side, my little field and at least one portal that I took over yesterday have been taken out… by the guy who I originally took them from. Such is Ingress. Its not a defensive game. But soon… soon I will take them back from him… :D

first portals under attack

you can see at least one of the portals i took over yesterday has been turned green. my little field at the top of the screen has vanished, and the whole is overlaid by a big green field. I don’t suppose it will be long before the other portals are taken down too.

Michiel has been playing a new game on his phone for a while… and he’s dragged me into it. I managed to delay as long as possible (pleading uni work, VCH – more about that in another post) but today, one of the hottest days of the year, I finally succumbed and had a go.

Its surprisingly good fun – at least, it is when you’re not slugging down drinks because of the heat – 30*C in the shade is NOT the days to be out and about!

Enlightened portal

A portal in action – how its seems on our smart phones. The green swirly thing is an Englightened Portal. Resistance Portals are blue.

If you want to know what Ingress is, then click the link (wikipedia) but, in a nutshell, and for those a bit less IT-savvy: its a game, using the GPS signal on your smartphone, linked with google maps. The computer server that the game talks to takes your phone GPS and works out where you are, and puts it onto a map – in that sense, its no different to a satnav. What is different is what happens next. on the server, overlaid on the maps are”portals”, which can be hacked, different pieces of equipment can be deployed around them, theycan be attacked, and they can be linked to form fields. Each player collects points; points relate to their level, which relate to the strength of the portals that they attack/set up in the game.

So far, it sounds pretty much like a standard computer game, right? Here’s what makes it different: you can’t play it at home. You have to get out, take your phone to the physical location that matches the location on the server map, where it picks up that GPS signal, so it forces you to get out and about and explore. The game is also split into two sides, two factions, if you like – The Englightened (green, or froggies) and The Resistance (coloured blue, or smurfs). You get better points for your faction if you work as a team; the aim of the game is to set up control fields (via linking portals together), but the game is never really won.

Oh, and this game is worldwide.

I loaded the game onto my phone, via an invite from Michiel last night, and this afternoon we went into Leicester city centre to have a go at playing. there were a few unclaimed portals where we set up resonators to support the portal, a few where the resonators were very weak and susceptible to attack (blowing up a portal feels surprisingly good) and a few that Michiel had to deal with. but we had fun. And at the end of it… I’ve claimed my own portals, set up links between portals, and created my first (rather small) control field. and I’m now Level 2 (out of – so far – 8). yay! More ingress playing yet to come!

first links

The first portals I claimed – and see there are lines between the top two, and also between the bottom three? those are links.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

First control field

the first field. see the area between the three blue portals is sort of vaguely blue coloured? that’s a control field. its created by linking three (or more) portals together.

 

 

 

 

 

I just went back to read last year’s BADD offering. There, I confidently stated that I hadn’t experienced disabilism at uni and didn’t expect to. I wish… oh… how I wish I could say the same thing this year. But I cannot, and that makes me extremely sad.

I’m very unsure how much in the way of detail to give about this, mostly because lessons have been learned, which is the most important part. I feel its important to get that out there right away: that the response of the University was fantastic, they acted straight away to ensure that what happened that day never happens again to anyone else. Which makes it sound far worse than it actually was, but I do want to write about it… and the impact that it has had on me.

As part of my degree studies this year, I had to take part in a group project, delivering a group presentation which was graded – everyone on my course did. Its a fairly standard part of degree studies these days as so many people have to go on to take part in a group project or give at least one presentation in their working lives at some point and having the group project experience really adds to the C.V. I really enjoyed my group project. I won’t say what it was about, its irrelevant to this, but the people I was working with were fantastic – five of us in total and they worked really well with my interpreter, and made allowances for me the few times we had to meet without an interpreter (including the memorable, and unavoidable occasion we had to meet in a very noisy student’s union – and they were fantastic at scribbling things down!).

No, my experience of disabilism wasn’t from them; although one might have expected that. It came during the group presentation. We’d been told that we had to give the presentation to two other groups, we were all doing presentations on similar period of history, and we all had to listen to each other’s, and to pose questions to each other at the end of each other’s presentation – how well we responded to those questions would form part of the grading structure. I had arranged, since it was going to be a long afternoon, for two interpreters to be present, to spell each other. they were sat at the front, next to the people giving the presentation, in a largish room (and for a notetaker to be present – who was seated to the rear). the first presentation began: one of their team was late and kept us waiting for 15 minutes. Eventually they were told to start without him, which i can imagine rattled the team quite badly (and he showed up 5 minutes into the presentation, to murderous looks from his team!). One of the team then began to speak. He was undeniably nervous, whether the lateness of his fellow team member had made that worse, I don’t know, but he was mumbling and speaking very very quietly. Neither of the interpreters could hear him, and they were sitting 2 yards away from him! The assessors were at the rear of the room. The interpreter stopped him, apologised, said that she could not hear him and asked him to repeat what he had just said. he did so. the presentation continued. The interpreter had to stop him again… and again. On the third time that she stopped him, one of the assessors got up, came to her and asked her to stop interrupting him. The interpreter protested and said that it had been agreed with the other assessor that she could do this, and that She (pointing to me) had a right to access what was going on.

What we didn’t know then was that the assessors had been told by the university that they were not allowed to interrupt on the basis of not understanding what they were saying. If the presenters could not be understood they were to be marked down accordingly. This was to give everyone a fair chance, to make sure that each and every team being assessed was being treated equally. Which was fair enough; except that no one had told us. And it led to a situation where the Assessor was torn between making sure I had equal rights and obeying the rules governing the assessment (which were, and are, and need to be, as strict as the rules governing examinations, for example). Unfortunate, bad planning, yes, absolutely, but the only incidence of disabilism thus far was in the university’s failure to plan ahead and to see a situation where this could have arisen. Its not like they didn’t know I was there and the University has an AccessAbility office which should have been involved in the planning for this kind of thing – as it was, it was left to me and my interpreter to bring up the issue of communication support a couple of weeks before the assessment.

That much, I could understand, as could the interpreter, although we found this all out later. It was what the assessor did next that was really beyond the pale. When the interpreter protested that I had a right to access what was going on, the Assessor’s response was: “she’ll have to make do with the handout”. and that was the end of it – he sat down and the interpreter had no choice but to continue to interpret what she could hear, and do the best she could in a bad situation.

Now… this was disabilist on several levels. 1) it was directly discriminating against me, preventing me from accessing information on the same level as everyone else. 2) It was discriminating against me because it was telling the rest of the people in the room that it was okay to discriminate against me, that its convenient to shove the rules aside when it suits them. 3) The tone in which he spoke implied, and perhaps I am being oversensitive here, that he thought I should be damn lucky to get the handout and that I really should just siddown and shuddup and stop making his life difficult. And finally, it was actually discriminating against my classmates. By preventing me from accessing what was going on, it prevented me from asking questions at the end. The purpose of the questions is not just to be marked; it was also to give the group a chance to consider alternative perspectives from outside the group, which could then subsequently be built into their group report, giving them a chance to increase their marks, expose any weaknesses, and so on. While I don’t claim to be any kind of genius, by preventing me from being able to ask those questions, it essentially meant that any feedback I could have offered the other two groups was removed.

The assessor was someone who had actually taught me the previous year. He knows what I’m capable of. He has had multiple interpreters and notetakers in his class. He knows that this is not just a “tickbox exercise”, that this is a genuine need of accessing what is going on in order to contribute to the class. More to the point, and more shockingly, he was the Accessability Officer for the School of Historical Studies that semester. Part of his job is to liase with the AccessAbility office to make sure that all the material used by the School of Historical Studies is accessible to people with disabilities. For him to speak in the way that he did was not only unnecessary, but worse, disabilist as well. Not in a deliberate, “I hate disabled people” way (I’m sure he doesn’t, and would be horrified if he heard this story from someone else) but in an unthinking way, in the sense that deafness hasn’t impacted on him, that he hasn’t considered the implications of what he was saying. Which, in some ways, was worse than if it had been said with malice.

After this confrontation, I was extremely upset. I was shaking, angry, upset and distressed. That I managed to hold it together enough to deliver my own presentation was a minor miracle – I know it affected my delivery of it, rattled me enough that I stumbled a lot and it was anything but the smooth presentation I had given in the practice run a few days earlier. After the whole thing was over, and everyone bar the assessors had gone, I stayed to talk to them, along with my primary interpreter. I tried to make them understand how the whole thing had made me feel, but the assessor that had caused the issue was more interested in telling me that “I wouldn’t be penalised for the whole thing”, and refused to listen to what I had to say. In fact, he was NOT-listening and interrupting me so much that at one point I had to actually stop him and says “I was talking, would you actually do me the courtesy of letting me finish?”. I think he realised he had messed up and just wanted to be anywhere but there, which is understandable on the human level but… honestly? If he had just apologised and explained what had caused the situation and apologised for his reaction, that he was caught on the wrong foot, we would have understood. Neither of us (my interpreter and me) are PC-mad, we would have understood that, c’est la vie. Shit happens, as my father-in-law is wont to say – and let it go.

I was ready, at that point, to put in a full complaint and take it all the way to the top. The School’s reactions – or, perhaps more accurately, the reactions of the Head of the School and the other assessor, pre-empted that. the head of the school heard what had happened, realised it must not happen again, and asked the other assessor to write a report suggesting changes to ensure it didn’t happen again. That assessor asked both myself and the interpreter to meet with him to discuss what had happened and to make our own suggestions for avoiding this. We did, and the report was subsequently written. I am told that future presentations will be changed so that no assessors are put in that position again, and that some deaf awareness training will be included as part of the “giving a presentation” lecture that we all received as part of that module before the presentation. Other things have also been put in place: its clear that the University understood that what happened was unacceptable and that they needed to step up to the plate – which they did.

I haven’t seen the assessor since. I remain very angry about his reaction, because I have received no apology from him. I resolved to avoid having him for a dissertation supervisor, and thankfully, that has happened. I could well wind up with him as a teacher for next year. I don’t know how I will handle that if it does happen.

But more than that, I want to talk about how this has affected me. I feel disillusioned. Not about the University (their response was great and if anything I’m really proud of how they handled it). But about the individual. I had hoped – perhaps foolishly, perhaps naively, that things were getting better, that people were understanding more, that the idea that someone disabled should “have to accept things” had gone. Its clear that I was wrong.

This happened last December. Since then I have been plagued with dreams – no, nightmares – of an extremely misogynistic, disablist company I used to work for about 15 years ago. A company that tried everything they could to get rid of me after first hiring me to make themselves look good on the equal opportunities sheet. I don’t think its a co-incidence that they have come back after 15 years – the incidence at university has stirred up a lot of bad memories. But all that makes me wonder: Am I over-reacting – is it the bad experience from 15 years ago that is driving my feelings about what happened at that presentation last December? I find it very difficult to seperate the two – and I know that part of the anger I feel towards that assessor has to do with blaming him for stirring up all this stuff, making me have to deal with it all over again. And I need to be careful: that when, and if, I do have to deal with him again, that I don’t unfairly blame him – he isn’t responsible for what happened 15 years ago.

What is clear is that since then, I have been … ultra-sensitive to any potential incidents of disablism at uni. One of my teachers is foreign; her attitude and an incident in class made me question whether she was expressing prejudice towards me on the basis of my disability. I had to get external verification that she actually probably wasn’t, before I could let it go within myself (the teacher in question knows nothing of this, this is an internal battle). I hate that ultra-sensitivity, that anger. That’s what I mean about being dissillusioned. I feel like one of those ultra-PC people who go around with massive chips on their shoulders, seeing prejudice everywhere, even places it really doesn’t exist. I don’t want to be that way. I really don’t.

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