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.
June 28, 2014
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.
January 1, 2014
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…
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.
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!
December 31, 2013
…. 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.
August 2, 2013
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!
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
August 1, 2013
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!
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!
May 1, 2013
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.
September 7, 2012
Few links to photo sets, and an update of our summer….
In June we drove to Germany to stay with Michiel’s parents for a couple of weeks. We daringly decided to drive, having just bought a car a few months beforehand. Michiel was a little apprehensive about the idea of me driving on the “wrong” side (as was I, if I’m honest) but in the even it went swimmingly, and I only had a couple of problems. Unfortunately when we were returning from a visit to the Netherlands to visit with his family a small deer ran out in front of us and I was unable to stop or swerve to avoid it. It was killed on impact, fortunately (and not running around the woods in pain). Fortunately there was very little damage done to the car, just a bit of dented bodywork – and a rather shaken me! We also visited Osnabruck, to look at the Cathedral and the Liturgical Museum which was amazing, had BBQs and went strawberry picking under a blazing blue sky. We had a fantastic time, having the car made a lot of difference to our freedom while there, and next year we plan to drive to the south of France to stay with his parents there (they have a caravan down there).
In July my mother’s church hosted a 24 hour “entertainathon”. I offered to make some cakes/buns for this, and we went down to help. I got roped in doing flowers for the church, doing an arrangement I was very pleased with, and I was pretty pleased with the varieties of cupcakes that I produced too! Took the opportunity to take photos of the fields surrounding Mom’s church, as well as photos of the event but I can’t post those on a public forum, alas.
In August Mom visited for her birthday and we went to Donington-le-Heath Manor house, near Coalville. The friends of Donington were hosting a “Donington at the home front” day, with lots of demonstrations of crafts and a live fire exercise from the home guard! Mum and I had a lovely afternoon wandering around the gardens and house, and jumping at the bangs coming from the demonstration, and talking to the various volunteers.
Just a couple days ago I visited St. Mary in Arden, a ruined church in Market Harborough, Leicestershire. its very picturesque and well worth a visit. I returned a couple days later with the camera, and these are some of the results. I’ve visited other properties but i keep forgetting to take the camera, so this is all the photos there are! I also visited St. Dionysus (the main church in Market Harborough) but the photos of that visit were hurried and not so good.
A mini update: In terms of my uni studies last year, I’m pleased with the vast majority of my work. I just missed out on a first across the whole year, but that doesn’t affect my final degree grade – all that is required from the first year is to pass (40% or above). Full details, as ever, are on the education page. With regard to my health and diabetes, my weight has been steadily creeping up again, and my blood sugar with it, so I have to make an effort to get that under control again. Jess is fine. Another dog attacked her earlier this summer, cutting the skin around her eye quite badly and shaking all three of us up and necessitating a trip to the emergency vets. But with antibiotics and lots of TLC she was soon back to normal. She’s getting old and slowing down, sleeping a great deal, but otherwise, is fine. Like many of Britains cats and dogs she contracted fleas this summer, so we had to deal with that too. She definitely didn’t like the scratching! The house is good as well. we settled in very quickly and have loved this summer, being able to sit outside in peace and quiet. I developed a little garden in the yard, out of a series of pots, which has been lovely to watch and potter around in over the summer as well.
So on that note I’ll leave you to enjoy my garden photographs… till the next update!!!