I think most people who read/have read here know that I am deaf; and I have explored some of my feelings about this before. Tonight a TV programme was shown, exploring some of what it feels like to be Deaf, rather than deaf.

Before you all think I’ve completely lost the plot, I should explain: for the Deaf community, there is a key difference between Deaf and deaf. Deaf means linguistically deaf, sign language deaf, culturally deaf. You may have grown up being deaf, learned sign language from your parents, but if not them, from your classmates, your deaf friends, at a deaf school, or later, at a deaf club. Friends are deaf, jokes are done in sign language, gossip in sign language, sorrow in sign language. It is a hidden community, almost, because a Deaf person, in isolation, on the street, looks no different to a hearing person: the linguistic differences are not visible until communication begins. Some of the Deaf may be almost militantly deaf, speak of deaf pride, proud of their language, their culture, their history, fight against things that they see as taking away from their community, such as Cochlear Implants. They celebrate when their children are deaf, as it means they’ll be like them. They see themselves as a linguistic minority, rather than a disabled one, and reject overwhelmingly the medical model, the idea of deafness as a loss. Its not hearing loss, hearing impaired. They reject disability negative language, and focus on pride. They are DEAF. In sign language, it is emphatically signed with two fingers held out from the hand, the rest closed in, and strongly, firmly, proudly placed on the ear, blocking the sound. There is no mistaking it.

This is all in opposition to the deaf, those who see themselves as having a hearing loss, perhaps going deaf as they get older, who wouldn’t dream of doing that funny handwaving in the air and making a spectacle of themselves, who prefer to quietly wear in the ear, invisible hearing aids, who might go to the lengths of attending a class on lipreading, but who would never dream of hiring a lipspeaker to interpret at important events. They focus on being as normal as possible, just a little bit deaf, they can talk and understand what’s going on and they absolutely are not DIFFERENT. They’re not DISABLED. They’re not like those poor mites who can’t talk. Just a bit… you know… hard of hearing. They won’t understand the Deaf community, any more than a hearing person who has had no contact with a Deaf person would; and will almost certainly emphatically reject any kind of association with Deafness.

These are two extremes, and I have deliberately polarised them from each other, almost as a caricature so, in order to demonstrate the differences between them. Its important to realise that Deaf/deafness is a spectrum, and that there are many people at many points along that spectrum, and that each person’s position on the spectrum is right for them: in other words, I’m trying not to criticise anyone for choosing where they lie along this spectrum, to criticise them for the choices they make in their self-identity. I am explaining this purely in order to explain some of the language I use in the rest of this blog post.

What has prompted this post is the programme I saw tonight. Grayson Perry, the artist, has made a series of programmes and artworks exploring the central question of identity, “who are you?” [4 On Demand has the programme here, but this will NOT be available after 4th December 2014, nor if you are outside of the UK]. He explored this through three groups tonight; the others were Northern Irish Loyalists, exploring their attachment to and celebration of Britain, of a Britishness that most people living in Britain today would struggle to recognise, and a group of BBWs (Big Beautiful Women), who are on the same path towards acceptance and equality that – as Perry said – gayness was a decade ago, that women were a century ago. And then there were the Deaf. He interviewed a family; Tomato and Paula, both in their late thirties, from North London, both … many might describe them as being militantly deaf. They have two daughters, both of whom are deaf, but the film showed Perry going with them to the audiologist when their youngest daughter’s hearing was checked over. Perry asked a key question: “how do you feel about the audiology exam, the language that the audiologist has used”, as the audiologist was saying that it was good that their daughter’s hearing had not deteriorated any more. Tomato explained that he felt it was almost abusive, because he remembered his own childhood, of similar exams, of watching his parents anxiously watching him, praying that there had been some improvement in his hearing, and wanting so much to please his parents, reading their body language and the audiologist’s to give a false reading, and the … joy of his parents, reinforcing the message that was given to him: your deafness is bad, a horrible thing. It brought memories back of my own in the same situation: of watching the back of the audiologist’s hand, of wanting so badly to be normal and to make my parents happy and the deep fear and sorrow when I felt that I had let them down.

Later, Tomato showed Perry the home made punk style hearing aid covers from his youth. These, simple metal covers designed to fit over a hearing aid, with a row of spikes protruding from them, like a row of mohican spikes, spoke eloquently to Perry, and to me, for quite different reasons. Tomato, evidently, had chosen to celebrate his deafness in his youth, to play up his hearing aids, to be, almost, ‘in-your-face’ about his deafness and his hearing aids. It spoke eloquently of a pride and a confidence that I could only watch, enviously. I think back to my own formative years, and while I was never into the punk movement, so would never have reached out for the same kind of imagery, I also cannot find an example of any way that I was similarly celebratory about my deafness.

Quite the opposite in fact.

I experienced my deafness through the prism of school. I mixed with other deaf people in deaf clubs for a very short while after leaving school, for perhaps a year or two, and then for around 5 years with people who were more like me – who spoke, who might know sign language but who came from hearing families and sort of straddled both worlds, the hearing and the deaf. And then I left it totally and had no deaf friends at all, no deaf contact. These days, when I think of my experiences with the Deaf, I think of school. And since I had a bad time at school, my thoughts about the Deaf, about the Deaf community, are pretty negative.

But what I was seeing with Tomato and Paula showed me, clearly, that they didn’t see it that way. And I thought about a conversation I had recently with someone who was hearing, but who had Deaf parents, and who had grown up in the Deaf community. I had talked to her about why I chose not to be involved in the Deaf community, about my negative experiences of it. I found it cliqueish, closed minded, unaccepting of anything different from the mainstream (ironically so). I detested that, so I left it. She simply said at the time that she didn’t see it that way, which I accepted – perhaps she instinctively understood that I wasn’t ready to see her world the way she saw it, I don’t know.

But now, having watched that programme, I wonder: have I, in rejecting the Deaf community so wholeheartedly, condemning them all for the actions of a few, dismissing them as being cliqueish, narrowminded, have I done damage to myself?

I don’t mean here, in terms of what I’m potentially missing out on, although that’s an element too. [I certainly know that Deaf Culture can be expressively beautiful and joyous.] I mean: in relating the term DEAF with something so overwhelmingly negative, what message am I sending to myself, about myself? Am I hating on myself, to use the American term, in a way that is doing overwhelming damage to myself? And even more key: if I hate, and am ashamed, and embarrassed about, and feel I have to excuse and make up for my own deafness…. how the hell can I ever expect anyone else not to? How can I expect, demand even, that other people step up to the plate and make the amendments that they SHOULD make, on the basis of equality? And in having such a negative image of the Deaf, am I setting up a self-fulfilling prophecy for when I do encounter Deaf people?

Again, this goes to the heart of a conversation I have had with one of my interpreters, who is turning into a good friend but who is also, slowly (bless her heart), helping me to see that the Deaf world does not have to be the overwhelmingly negative one that I was subjected to for so long. And I suppose tonight is the nex step along the path she’s been dragging me along for the last 3 years: that deaf people are people, that they behave both well and badly, that there are people who are good for you and bad for you, and that to reject someone on the basis of their chosen linguistic style and choice of culture/community, even by dint of just choosing not to interact with that culture even when multiple opportunities are laid in front of you, is wrong. It is disabilist in the worst way. And that’s something I need to stop doing if I am to develop a sense of pride in who I am, deafness, warts n all. If I am going to demand that people accept me as I am, deafness, warts and all. If I am going to demand that people give me the access to make the most of myself, deafness, warts n all.

I’m not sure where I’m going to go from here. But I think even just writing this, realising this, is quite a breakthrough. Perhaps the next step is to stop resisting joining the Deaf community, to reach out, see who’s out there, and to form some healthy, positive friendships with people who are good for me, and where I am good for them. Perhaps from that a new, positive sense of deaf self-identity can grow within me, and merge to join the rest of my identity, to form the whole that is me.

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.

 

 

 

 

 

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