Thursday, 5 October 2017

PhD-Ness Part 1, All at Sea-Ness,Trains, New Campus, Love Arts-Ness, New Desk and general ness of all kinds.....

Mono print made yesterday at the Love Arts Festival launch, student travel pass, pass card to Leeds Library, notes and misery....
It's now official - I am a PhD student at the University of Huddersfield (EEK but also YAY!!!) - I have a new email address, new website to get to grips with, new printing facilities to access, new campus to navigate, new colleagues and all other manner of new-ness to get my head around.

One of the loveliest newest things is my new desk - am hoping this will help with back pain and stiffness as it is much better proportioned than the old one and I can sit at it with my legs underneath it comfortably as opposed to my legs being jammed under drawers (though those drawers were very useful indeed for holding passports, mini sd card adapters, usb sticks and the like) - old desk has been moved to the garage where it will (hopefully) be used as a printing desk. The rest of my workroom still needs organising better - the plan is to do a big book cull and get new bookcases too and then maybe I will be able to sit on the sofa bed and read - as opposed to use it as a bookcase...

The plan was to have done all this by the start of term but the boiler was condemned and that was much more of a priority to get replaced (and then the shower wouldn't work alongside the new boiler because of the changes to the water pipes so we had to get a new shower sorted as well...ARGH and indeed OUCH wallet-wise) so new bookcases are still waiting on the shopping list. Aside from actually buying the house (which we effectively bought on tick thanks to a mortgage) last September was the most expensive month I think we've ever had - new boiler, new shower, guttering needed cleaning and new down pipes fitting, uni fees (GULP!!) new glasses for us both, travel pass - got a bus and train one to make getting to and from Huddersfield easier, root canal treatment for me. All adds up to 'new bookcases will have to wait for the moment'.

But along with all those necessary expensive things I also treated myself to student membership of Leeds Library - the one that's above Paperchase on Commercial Street in Leeds - I have wanted to join since I went there for a book launch some time ago. It's a beautiful building, it's the oldest surviving subscription library in the country and it was founded in 1768. It is steeped in history, the staff are really lovely and helpful - they were very helpful when I was doing my MA and I am sure they will be equally helpful now I'm studying for a PhD. Plus best of all they have many Victorian novels, newspapers and periodicals - the actual original paper versions - not reprints or digitally scanned copies. I will be a mix of a kid in a sweetshop and a Bisto kid - breathing in that delightfully heady mix of 'old' 'must' 'candle and coal soot' and 'paper rot'.  I can't wait to start reading their wares. One of the things I am interested in is how the stories I read now as compete editions looked when they were originally published in serial form and what they were placed next to,and what adverts they were surrounded by.

They also have a lovely DVD collection from which I borrowed the delightfully grim and hilarious Arsenic and Old Lace - Peter Lorre as Dr Einstein is glorious and the BBC adaptation of North and South which I am halfway through watching. It's quite tough going - am not finding the characters portrayed on screen as sympathetic as I did when reading them..but I will persevere - I'm intrigued to see how the scene where Margaret Hale is bonnet-less (caused scandal in the 19th century) and steps forward to protect the mill owner John Thornton will be done.

I am also getting to grips with the library at Huddersfield Uni - it's nowhere near as gorgeous to look at as the Brotherton, it's quite labyrinthine, quite noisy and I'm not sure where the librarians live in it as all the booklending is done by a machine which scans your card and the books...call me old fashioned but I prefer to interact with a human and have my book stamped. But there are lots of helpers about - one of whom helped me navigate the difficulties of loading cash onto my printing account (it's mostly done online - ARGH!!! Another one of my bugbears as I prefer to pay for things in person if possible) and then it seemed fairly smooth. I found the book I was looking for and checked it out, I also found my way to and from the print room and got some nice b+w prints done of more recent images I've made.

I'm slowly but surely finding my way both round the campus and Huddersfield itself too - I've still to check out the cafe in the Parish Church (though I have had a look at the graveyard surrounding it) - am loving the 19th century architecture, the charity shops, Walkers the jewellers and the vegetarian sausage rolls from the pound bakery. I love the bit of the campus that goes over the canal - even though on the whole the campus is a bit too toytowny architecturally for me. Am looking forward to doing some more exploring off campus. Including of course Edgerton Cemetery which opened in 1855.

I have found where to get a good baked potato for lunch and got chatting to the lady sat opposite me whilst eating it yesterday. She turned out to be a fairly big cheese in the university and has offered to help me find a scientist type at the university who can help with analysing whether or not the 'mourning' brooch I got in Cleethorpes a while back is made with human hair. It was sold as a mourning brooch but it has no personal dedication or general memoriam-ness which makes me wonder if it is in fact a more mass produced fashion item or love token. Exciting times.

I was however given some undoubtedly authentic mourning items at the weekend by an old chum who kindly gave me a box of Royal Mourning Pins - they're completely black and not shiny and so therefore suitable for use during periods of deepest mourning. Not sure who made them but am guessing by their title that they were made after 1861 (death of Albert) to cash in on Victoria's going into deep mourning and helping make it a more fashionable/expected thing to do. He also gave me mounts for funeral card dedications - it's not clear whether they were 'real' people (will check next time I'm in the local history library where you can access the Ancestors website without having to subscrtibe to it) or examples for printers. The designs are gorgeous and will make beautiful outlines for making both cyanotypes and anthotypes.

Thanks to a workshop run by the lovely Hayley Mill-Styles  - you can find out about her and her work here that was part of the Love Arts Festival launch which you can find out  about here.

I made an image using printers ink and a tile yesterday (see red and white shapes above - I was channelling my inner late 60's early 70's design loves there) which has given me lots of ideas for developing my own work and my aim to present photographic images in a non 2D way. I need to get some new supplies - and dig the enlarger out of the wardrobe as I'll be able to use it to project images and so stencil them onto polystyrene...and then print with them - hopefully with added grave dirt/site specific material from the places they are images of.

The Love Arts Festival runs until October 18th and there is so much to choose from - art shows, plays, perfomances, a special showing of Now Voyager (on 35mm!!) at Hyde Park Picture House at 2pm on Sunday 8th October for which I've written a short introduction, and a pop up outside the by then newly reopened Art Gallery on Saturday 14th October from 11am til 4pm.

I have some of my coffin lining prints on show as part of the pop up exhibition in the Light and as ever I owe The Arts and Mind Network (the people behind the festival) massive gratitude - it was them that gave me the opportunity to take part in the Place and Memory Project which in turn led to me going back to big school (Leeds College of Art now the Leeds University for the Arts) to study for a Masters degree and in turn the PhD I'm studying for now.

I've also written my first proper grown up academic article - currently awaiting feedback on it, had a proposal accepted for a conference on death and memorialisation at Hull University next year, been booked by Darling Roses again to do a talk about my work, so although I've not been making much new artwork recently - the research  into the stuff that inspires me to make the work is ongoing....

What else - as am still settling in, am still trying to work out how best to do my PhD work but I have bought a notebook from the student union shop that is half lined paper and half graph paper and on its front is the embossed gold legend ' LABORATORY BOOK' which I am very much looking forward to filling with notes on anthotype experiments. I am hoping to still have proper down time too and to make that a part of my daily schedule too.

It's two months since I last wrote a blog post, this blog started out as just a general place for me to write about my obsessions, research and projects and then it became my official research journal for my MA. I'm not quite sure what format the academic hoops I have to jump during this PhD malarkey will take - I may update this weekly again like I did or I may just keep notes in a notebook instead - this is another question to ask my tutor when we meet....I already have a list for her.

Tuesday, 8 August 2017

Pre-PhD Ness - Ongoing Preparation and Prevarication and Procrastination, Slow Cookers, Gaskell-ness, Transporter Bridges, Barthes, RSI and Things.

Some of the books I've been reading, notes for my blog post, a piece of in progress embroidery (v long in progress - started it about 18 months ago but am determined to get back into sewing and knitting as a way to relax in the evenings) guide book to Gaskell's house - if you haven't been GO! for it is wonderful.

The aformentioned Gaskells house in the sunshine - check out their website for opening times, not only is it a marvellous place to visit I can thoroughly recommend the chocolate cake in their tea room.

the actual gibbett used to hang William Jobling - as seen in South Shields Museum, this made me think about the use of actual as opposed to reproduction objects in musems (as did the Gaskell house) plus I also learnt that apparently bodies hung in gibbetts were often covered in pitch in order to ensure they hung there for as long as possible so as to be a warning to other n'er do wells of the potential consequence of their actions. You can find out more about his story here and decide for yourself whether or not his punishment was appropriate to his crime or whether the fact that there was a strike on at the time also had something to do with it.

Along with Gaskells House, Tynemouth and South Shields I've also (thanks to a lovely chum) had a day out in Hull looking at the soon to be demolished remains of the Eastern Cemetery and the Western Cemetery which also features a very impressive cholera monument and pivotal places in turning points in the English Civl War.


It's over a month since I last wrote a blog entry, and I feel well out of practice with it. I reckon getting back into a regular habit with it will help PhD wise and will mean I'm not scratching about at the last minute to hand any writing in, it's a practice based PhD so it won't be as heavy on writing as a non practice based PhD but writing will still be a major component of it. Plus doing this helps be not just collate my thoughts but also to clarify them which can only be a good thing.

I'm also trying to get my workroom in order, read what seems to be an ever increasing pile of books but I made good progress recently on that front. Finally managed to plough my way through both Uglow's excellent 600+ page opus on Elizabeth Gaskell and re-read Camera Lucida by Roland Barthes (it's a beautiful book and read it if you haven't) and also finished Photography Degree Zero edited by Geoffrey Batchen - a collection of essays by various academics in response to Camera Lucida. This was quite a slog in places - I again feared about developing RSI reaching for the dictionary to look up words I had never encountered before or didn't understand.

Thanks to a top tip on a postgrad facebook group I'm part of I am making my own handwritten (in black archival ink) not in alphabetical order dictionary of words I have to look up. Apparently there is some evidence that you are more likely to remember something if you write it down by hand, I am also employing tactics like 'heuristic' is to do with learning and is *almost* similar sounding...it's not a perfect method but it's getthing there and the book about Barthes has added two A4 sides worth of new words and their defintions and I no longer panic and feel stupid when I see the word 'hermeneutic'.

Other things I am trying to do to get ready are things like:  sorting out food cupboard,stocking up on tins of beans and sausages and stocking up the freezer with easy, comforting,  stick in the oven meal components like oven chips, fishfingers, veggie sausages and that kind of thing. We've also started using a slow cooker (impressed with it so far) as I find it easier to prepare a meal in the morning before I start working at my desk* than I do cooking from scratch at the end of the day when I get up from my desk and I'm tired. Using a slow cooker seems a good way to capitalise on this character trait as that way I can get up, prepare the ingredients, put them in the slow cooker and hey presto meal is ready at the end of the day and only further effort needed is to serve it up and eat it.

I'm still in the habit of looking at social media and online news (still mostly avoiding it on the radio and tv as frankly it's not getting any better) when I first wake up but I need to break out of my habit of looking at it so often through the day. This can be difficult though as writing something like this for instance means using the tinternet, the words I'm looking up aren't always in the dictionary so I have to look them up online and whilst I'm there I could just have a quick look at Facebook or Twitter and then I'm either chatting to mates or getting lost in links to other websites - not all of which are pertinent. It's a mix of potent addiction (though I am not so addicted that I have to look it up whilst I am out and about, properly watching a programme or at the cinema or in the pub chatting with mates) prevarication and of course procrastination. I'm getting better at undertsanding why I procrastinate some jobs more than others - some kind of fear is usually at the base of it...plus when I do procrastinate I invariably end up feeling guilty for wasting time as well so anything I can do to help balance out this equation as equally all work and no play/distraction makes for a v dull time indeed.

Like at the moment I have a deadline for an article and though I have made some notes on what I want to write about (some of which came to me in the middle of the night in Tynemouth when I was having difficulty sleeping and my non smart phone was put into use as a notebook by drafting a text) and the bulk of the actual historical research is done I still haven't actually sat down to write it. I think this is a mix of 'eek, I've never written a proper grown up academic article to go in a journal before' and 'eek, one of the people in charge of this journal is also a friend (and someone I've known for longer than I've been doing this research) and I'm scared they're going to read what I've written and think I'm hopeless'...so I need to counter this with - just sit down and make a start...I can remember the fear when I started writing my dissertation (and the mental pain) but I made a start by just formatting the document and making notes plus lots of things I've never done before aren't so scarey once I've started doing them and as for making mistakes - that's how you learn. Plus this isn't a matter of life and death - well the subject matter might be...but I am not doing this in an attempt to pursue a formal career in academia so if I make a mess of my first attempt at one it's really not the end of the world.

I'm very lucky that I'm not desperately pursuing a formal academic career as the pressures seem to be immense and the jobs at the end few and far between.

So back to what I've been up to over the last few weeks more than what I intend to do. Along with reading I've also been doing my physio exercises in attempt to strenghthen my knee and back and whilst they are no miracle cure they are definitely helping - managed to walk round lots of bits of Tynemouth and South Shields and I wouldn't have been able to do that last month.

The trip to Tynemouth was part of my birthday celebrations which actually kicked off with a trip to Manchester(ford)** and home of my literary hero de jour - Elizabeth Gaskell. It is a fantastic museum and the volunteers on duty are enthusiastic, helpful and knowledgeable. You are encouraged to pull the doorbell that before you the likes of Charlotte Bronte (who hid amongst the dining room curtains) and Charles Dickens have pulled. I'm not sure if it's still the original bellpull though - it's definitely a replacement bell (one of the volunteers said so) and the rooms have been fitted out with items from the Victorian period or that have been made to resemble items from the period (the wallpaper was handprinted to match a sample found when the house was being renovated) you can sit at a desk in the same spot as Elizabeth herself would have sat. There are some original artefacts (things like plates given to William Gaskell in honour of his ministerial duties) but it has made me think again about the use of original versus reproduced or replica items in museum settings.

I know it's irrational but part of me felt disappointed that it wasn't *the* desk Elizabeth had sat at but one like it. Maybe that's because I'm such a superfan of hers. Plus you could tell me that something was original or reproduction and unless it was completely obvious eg a modern Ikea table masquerading as an 18th century dining table I would be none the wiser. It's made me think again about authenticity and its importance.

So after fangirling at Gaskells house - which isn't just about Gaskell but the times she lived in and the place she lived in and sampling the very fine chocolate cake in the tea room and of course making a purchase or several in the bookshop we then headed to see True Faith at Manchester Art Gallery - the exhibition which is about Joy Division and New Order and is a mix of work made by artists that was inspired by their work and original posters, videos and at the end in a case all its own, permanently guarded by a gallery assistant to make sure you don't take a photograph, lit from below is the holy grail of the exhibition - the handwritten lyrics of Love Will Tear Us Apart. I was quite surprised by the scale of the reliquary like, quasi-religious worshipful atmosphere around this artefact on its own. I am a Joy Division fan (though I prefer Atmosphere) but I thought this was taking the religious inference of the title just a tad far. I felt like I was expected to genuflect in front of it or dip my fingers in holy water next to it - though maybe this says more about my probably not as lapsed as I'd like to think it is catholicism. It's on til Sunday 3rd September so go see it if you can.

The following day we headed to Tynemouth and stayed in the same house Harriet Martineau - friend of Gaskell and pioneering sociologist and femninist stayed in for five years when she was very ill. From our room we could see the Collingwood Monument, the Priory and watch ferries coming in and out of the rivermouth. We went on the pedestrian ferry to South Shields, chatted to a vicar and looked at the remaining gravestones, had a quick look round South Sheilds Museum which was very marvellous indeed - not only was there the gibbet as pictured above but also the dictaphone Catherine Cookson used to dictate her novels into and then there was afternoon tea at the Grand Hotel as stayed in by Margaret Rutherford, a mooch around the remaining magnificant gravestones of Tynemouth Priory, a climb up the steps of the Collingwood Monument and the following day a go on the Middlesborough Transporter Bridge and a trip to Sound It OuT Records in Stockton On Tees where a long chat and giggle was had about Goth as a musical subculture. Marvellous.

I also managed quite a bit of walking around Hull - unexpectedly encountering the very fine Cholera Monument which has these words written at the base of its big obelisk:
this monument
erected by the Hull General Cemetery
with the aid of private subscription
was set here to commemorate
the great visitation of cholera
during the months of July, August and September 1849
and to remember
the 1,860 in habitants
1 in 43 of the population
of this town
who fell victim to that
fearful disease
700 of whom
are buried near this
monument.

I don't have a good enough image to share as it was too dark for my cameraphone to take an image and the film on my regular camera had been used up by then.

I've taken lots of pics when I've been out and about and also took some instant pictures at a friends wedding - the later mostly came out okay and she was very pleased with them but they confirmed that my photographic pleasure doesn't come from taking pictures of people and events but of places and things. I'm really pleased with a couple and already have plans to use them to make cyanotypes and anthotypes. One thing I am really excited about starting back at big school is getting access to professional printing facilities again. I'm also looking forward to being able to borrow different kinds of cameras too - even though each camera is a learning curve and it takes a few goes to get used to a new viewfinder and the view from that viewfinder.

Well it's taken me quite a while to write this - it's quarter to three now and I started about eleven am - though I have had breaks with for lunch and a couple of social media breaks too, how long taks take is something that's on my mind at the moment too but I feel like I've got one more thing ticked off my to do list and collated some of my thoughts to do with authenticity.

Still to do on my to do list is lots of reading - I want to finish The Life of Charlotte Bronte by Gaskell that I started a couple of weeks ago, reread Dracula, Barthes Mythologies, and something that is nothing to do with any of my formal studies as one thing I also need is a proper break from them at times too. One thing I don't need though is anymore stationery for the time being - in fact if anything I've probably got enough notebooks to 'see me out'.


*
sitting at desk can also be trip to library, archive, making/ taking pictures
** as a diehard Victoria Wood and Acorn Antiques fan - it'll always be Manchesterford to me...

Monday, 26 June 2017

Post MA-Ness Pre PhD-Ness Part 3 - Proactiveness, Pain, Picture Taking, Procrastination and other things.....


A piece of paper covered with scribblings, and the wonderful biography of Elizabeth Gaskell I'm currently ploughing my way through.

It's just over a month since I last wrote and I've been a mix of busy, not so busy, melting with the heat and at times incapacitated due to an ongoing poorly knee in that time. Poorly knee has meant I've not been able to go to see some art events I would have liked to but I did get to see the very wonderful Pete Mitchell in conversation with Martin Parr at the Hyde Park Picture House - a wonderful evening in which he talked about his love of typeface design, the palette of colours he loves, why he loves and still uses film. It made me get a copy of his wonderful book Strangely Familiar out of the library and me and my husband spent a lovely evening trying to find the locations on googlemaps and see how they have changed in the intervening years. I did get to take some pinhole photographs at St George's Fields though thanks to my ever lovely husband acting as both my photographic assistant and at times human walking stick. I did also get to mooch around Ripon and if you get the chance to go to the Workhouse Museum there - you must for it is fascinating, moving and humbling. Also visited the Police and Prison Museum there too - and the Cathedral. The latter as my husband said being more of a building of hope - the former being more buildings of despair.

I am struggling at times with both the poorly knee itself (though physio does seem to be helping a bit) and the discomfort but also the impact it is having on my sense of independence and ability to get around. Some days it really gets me down and has me worrying that I'll either end up having to have an operation or housebound or brooding that this is the beginning of the end and that my life onwards is just going to be one of decline - thoughts which I am trying hard to snap myself out of as they aren't helpful in the long run. Plus if this the beginning of the inevitable decline then I'd best make the most of it before it becomes really declinous (I know that isn't a word but you get my drift).

I'm glad that the heat has become much less over the last few days - I had to decamp to the dining table downstairs as that was a cooler place to sit and read than my workroom which is under the glare of the sun most of the day and so even with the curtains closed becomes unbearably hot. I'm back to my cramped workroom now - I really do need to sort out some more books for the charity shop - I've already got three boxes ready but there are more shelves to go through. I'd especially like my workspace to be a bit less cluttered by the time I go back to big school in September which means I'm going to have to be ruthless. Things is I adore books and find it very difficult to become unattached to them - often times they have not just content value but sentimental value too. But I must harden my heart and send more on so that others can enjoy them too.

So proactiveness and procrastination have been much on my mind - I've been re-reading Barthes, making an A-Z of words/concepts I find difficult to understand - a hand written one as I read somewhere that you are more likely to retain information if you handwrite it as opposed to just type it. And this seems to be working a little bit as I no longer have to reach for the dictionary/look up online the following words: hermeneutic, ontology or heuristic. Eschatology and epistemological are words I'm going to have to write out a few more times though....

The difference between writing by hand and writing by keyboard is for me quite considerable. I still write my proper journal style diary by hand (using a fountain pen filled with black archival ink) and I make ordinary notes using biro or pencil. I have been attending a creative writing class the last few weeks and I have found I draft my efforts longhand on paper and then when I'm reasonably pleased with it, write it up on the computer using the thesaurus function to help me choose better more apposite words. But even when I'm sat at the computer I often have a pen or pencil in my hands - to make notes as I go, add something to a to do list (always written by hand - never on the computer) or scribble down an idea.  As I type this I have a pencil in my left hand - I am left handed...

Some many years (forget how many) after getting a copy I finally got around to reading The Artists Way by Julia Cameron and one bit in it really stood out for me (otherwise I found it a bit too syrupy and simplistic) which was the bit about procrastination and how often it isn't laziness or being easily distracted that causes it but fear. FEAR. That really struck a chord with me. Fear of failure has often stopped me - in the same way fear of further pain/getting stuck is limiting me at the moment. I need to work on being less frightened.

I've got a note on my piece of paper (note to self - get into better habit of referencing as you go along) about how the writers mind is chaotic and what a messy and chaotic process writing is as in effect you are inventing out of nothing. I find I tend to write a lot then as I look back over it and start rewriting that I also start doodling.

I don't hold a pen or pencil when I'm making or taking pictures though, enjoyed using a pinhole lens in St George's Field the other weekend - taking advantage of the sunshine to do some exposures, though as some were looking into shaded by trees enclosures of graves they were long exposures - some up to 5 minutes. I'm quite pleased with some of the results - it's making me want to do more long exposures so I can get the blurring of movement of leaves in the breeze, ghostly figures but I think I'll do these using a different lens that I can get better focus with. Pinhole lens are difficult to get a really sharp focus with but some of the images I've taken look delightfully old - even though they're not.

There's been a lot of listening to old music as well - though one of the albums I especially like at the moment was actually made in 2017 (it's What Kind of Dystopian Hellhole Is This by The Underground Youth) but after seeing a documentary about the making of Sergeant Pepper that's been on a lot - not least for the mention of Pablo Fanque who is buried along with his wives in St George's Field and so has an album I've not heard for years but have fond memories of becuse it used to make me laugh - namely Quark Strangeness and Charm by Hawkwind. I'm not a fan of Hawkwind as such but I do love that album in all its shonky glory. Damnation Alley seems very on point in these benighted days of Trump related horror. I do of course intersperse listening to it with blasts of Laibach and The Sisterhood so I don't become too ungoth and have to hand in my goth card again....... ;-)

I gave a paper at a Persepctives In History conference at Huddersfield University earlier this month - it seemed to go down well and it has just made me even more eager to start there in September plus it was really lovely to meet some other students from there and find out some fascinating facts from other periods of history - though there were a couple of fellow Victorianists as well. I really enjoyed putting together my paper as it really made me think about what it is I am hoping to achieve with my work and the way history feeds into it.

Other food for thought is the excellent Elizabeth Gaskell biography by Jenny Uglow which I'm ploughing my way through at the moment (up to page 461) - regular readers will know of my unashamed love of Gaskell (see also ME Braddon and Wilkie Collins) and I love the way this biography is not just about Gaskell but also about the times in which she lived and worked. I can almost see Elizabeth writing and gossiping - I really must go to her house when it is next open and see inside. I was saddened to see that the Cross Street Chapel in Manchester which her husband was Minister at from many years and which she worshipped at too was destroyed by bombs in 1940. A chapel is still there but now it is a modern building.

Another thing which has given me much thought and which I must listen too again are the Reith Lectures by Hilary Mantel, both of which were absolutely fascinating and have provided me with much food for thought. So much food I am still digesting it. So on that digestive point - I'd urge you to listen to them if you haven't already - you can do so here.

Right best crack on - these books and workroom aren't going to sort themselves out....





   

Monday, 22 May 2017

Post MA-Ness-PrePhD-Ness Part 2, Preparation, Procrastination, Presentations, Pop Up Shows and other things beginning with P...

A blink and you miss it pop up show in St George's Fields as part of my walk around the site that was part of the Jane's Festival nb no gravestones were harmed in the putting up of this show as they were either propped up against or hung with black ribbon - but my husband did get quite cold whilst keeping an eye on them for me. 

This months post it note - looking a bit empty but that's because I've been really busy at times.
So what have I been up to since I last updated three weeks ago? I've taken part in some academic research into gothic subculture and its origins, led people around St George's Field as part of the Jane's Festival and in the process ticked off one of the things on my bucket list - namely have a pop up show in a former cemetery - see image above, particpated in Reimagining The Gothic 2017 at Sheffield University (and somewhat stupidly forgot to take a picture of my pop up show there - doh!!) and so seen the fantastic film 'Gothic Heroines' made as a result of research by the Melodrama Research group at Kent University - you can see it here , been to the opening of the very lovely exhibition at Leeds College of Art which features Ann O'Donnells wonderful jewellery, sat through another Eurovision Song Contest (one of the highlights of the year for me) and delivered a paper at the Cemeteries Colloquium at York University.

So all in all - quite busy.....and I continue to be quite busy as I've got a paper to prepare for the Pespectives in History Conference at Huddersfield University in a fortnight, as well as trying to get in lots of reading before I formally start PhD studies in September. A thing that makes me feel a mix of eek and yay - yay continuing to outweigh the eek but the eek is there nonetheless.

So it has been a mix of the P's so to speak - preparation, procrastination - usually in the form of pressing the refresh key on social media or getting distracted by trains of thought but also a little bit of painting too - I painted some plain wooden picture frames in two of the traditional colours of  Victorian mourning - namely black and purple and I do find the application of paint to surfaces a soothing thing to do. I wish I could transfer what I see in my minds eye through my fingers onto surfaces using paint but I can't - hence my use of photography as a medium instead. Though as ever I am trying to show/create images in a way that isn't just the traditional two dimensional print on a wall in a frame.

I've also been watching lots of films - The Cars That Ate Paris (1975) a beautifully sinister and disturbing film, The Legend of Hell House (1973) which was v good in places and had the most fantastic set design and a soundtrack recognisable in many a sample - most notably Orbital's 'I don't know you people' from 1999, Mindhorn  (2016)  which really made me chuckle, Dracula (1957) - an old favourite in which Peter Cushing is simply wonderful and I've been listening to/watching lots of interviews with John Waters - there's plenty about at the moment as he is promoting his latest book 'Make Trouble'. I adore him as much as ever, and he continues to be an inspiration.

So there's been lots of food for thought - both in terms of learning new information/new ways of looking at things and in terms of presenting my research and arguments in as professional a manner as possible.  One new way of looking at things has arisen from being asked my use of 19th century literary texts in my research - primarily Gaskells'  Mary Barton (1848) and North and South (1855) and I'm still mulling over this, another suggestion from the colloquium was there is a firm of undertakers in London who have a museum - I shall try and visit but in the meantime I have also emailed one of the oldest firms in Leeds to see if they too have an archive I could consult.

I need to think about my methods of working - partly for the methodolgy part of a PhD but also in a how best can I work kind of way - I need to reorder my workroom to make it a bit more efficient and also get better at switching social media off whilst I'm working so I don't get distracted so easily. I'm still not listening to or watching the news - beyond looking at the front page of the BBC website and picking bits up from Facebook and Twitter and I am finding that much more conducive to working as it's doesn't have the negative impact it was doing on my mental health.

One thing I am thinking about a lot is the creative writing class I'm going to and the fact that a lot of the language to describe writing - eg viewpoint, is the same as the language used in photography but I'm not sure which came first as a descriptor. I've also been doing some writing that is purely imagined - as opposed to writing up stuff that I've done like this, or notes or presentations and I've been really enjoying it - have even *gasp* managed to finish a couple of pieces. I like the way it's making me think - the same as I like conferences for meeting other people, hearing new approaches, honing arguments, and for getting research tips or feedback.

Purely for pleasure I'm reading Music for Chameleons (1980 ed) by Truman Capote at the moment - I picked up a copy in Meanwood Community Shop a few weeks ago - oh it is exquisite writing. It's a collection of short stories and they are gorgeously descriptive and I shall be using this quote from the story Hidden Gardens 'the voice of the hour bell tarries in the greening air, shivering as it subsides into the sleep of history' - utterly wonderful stuff. I was reading it purely for pleasure but now it has become part of my thinking

Right I'd best crack on with stuff - need to do a bit of tidying and a to do list......and as they kind of used to say on Sesame Street - todays blog post has been brought to you by the letters P and the numbers 1855 CE.....

  

Thursday, 4 May 2017

Post MA-Ness - Pre PhD-Ness, Fan-Girlness, Walking and Future Plans

Diary (still old school paper one) and various notes I've since I last wrote this way back in January) 

Disperse Ink Prints - made on coffin lining material and mounted in embroidery hoops.

It's been a while since I've written, I'm afraid my post MA resolution to write at least monthly somewhat faded away over the last few months. However it's a habit I'm going to have to get myself back into as all being well I'll be going back into full on official academia as from September when I'm due to officially start PhD studies at Huddersfield University. I'm a mix of tremendously excited about this and a little bit nervous too.  I did a lot of thinking about what I wanted to achieve from formally furthering my studies after xmas and looked at various institutions and options, made enquiries, applied, got nowhere with some institutions and some way with others and then BINGO :-)

So it's not that I've not had stuff to write about but that I've been busy doing other sorts of stuff. Sitting at the computer writing up what I've been up to has always been on my to do list but it hasn't especially appealed. But it's appealing now as I am trying to get back into the habit plus it seems a good way of rounding up what I have been doing these past few weeks and getting my head round what I want to be doing next.

I've been doing lots of reading - am taking part in a Braddon read along on twitter. We're reading her novel Aurora Floyd in monthly installments of three chapters. The same as it would have been when it was originally published in installments in Temple Bar Magazine in 1862. It is a rattling good yarn with all manner of goings on - deceit, blackmail, romance, feverish illnesses and faintings just for starters. Read along with us if you want - you'll find it all at #MEBAread.

I've found it incredibly difficult to put it down at the end of the alloted three chapters and on Monday night I read just a little bit into the next installment. It's such gripping stuff. Plus it's really interesting for me to read something that isn't just about life in the Victorian era but was written then too, though admittedly I am reading it with 21st century eyes. I can't imagine just how shocking the hat falling off and the hair falling down scene must have been then. I wish I could find the diary of someone reading it then to see what they said about it - there are contemporaneous critics responses but I'd love to read an ordinary readers response.

I have taken to writing my own notes/key plot points on it though as I go along and a little precis of what has happened over the three chapters - as I got a bit confused at one point as to what had happened. Not because Braddon's writing is sloppy but because my memory can be poor at times.  Am guessing they'll have been printed in the Magazine with a brief catch up before each installment though - that reminds me I must ask Leeds Library if they have any original copies as it'd be amazing to see them in situ as it were and see what they were next to and what the main adverts around them were for.

Along with with my Braddon addiction - my Gaskell addiction continues apace and I was *so* excited to see some of her quill pens and ink bottles at the The Life of Objects Exhibition at the John Rylands LIbrary - along with a tin helmet used by Delia Derbyshire's father during the last war, and a glove worn by Queen Victoria. Sadly I wasn't in Manchesterford when her (Gaskell's) former house on Plymouth Grove was open but I did see it from the outside and it is definitely top of the list of places I want to go to. I read a potted history of her life by A Shelston and was amazed to learn that she was close friends with Florence Nightingale's sister who was called Parthenope. A name I had never come across before and am keen to get back into circulation as it's so marvellously old fashioned and unwieldly. As I don't and won't be having a child I could call it -  best I can do for the moment is tell everyone about it and my beloved cat Mapp now has it as her middle name. Much to her continued non plussedness about it. Unless it involves biscuits or catnip she's not fussed about much really.

Elizabeth Gaskell was also friends with Harriet Martineau who I'm going to have to do some more research into and read some of her works. She was a pioneering feminist sociologist so am definitely going to have to read some of her works too.

My Wilkie Collins addiction also shows no sign of abating and I finished No Name a couple of weeks ago - again a rattling good yarn (a serialisation is on R4Extra at the moment if you can't face reading 700 pages plus it features the delightfully voiced and much missed Jack May as Captain Wragge) with fascinating and thought provoking insights into the Victorian era's attitude towards women and their place and status in society along with that of 'illegitimate' children.

I've also been to see A Quiet Passion (2017) Terence Davies exquisite biopic of Emily Dickinson. Twice, As I enjoyed it so much the first time I went to see it again. It's made me want to read more of Dickinson's poetry and find out more about her as I know very little indeed. She is played beautifully by Cynthia Nixon in the film, the dialogue is captivating as is the period detail and the music used so sparingly is wonderful. It was very unusual to see a film that didn't have musical clues signposting what was about to happen. It's v funny in places too. I did have a couple of quibbles though - I found the brother a little bit wooden, there are modern umbrellas used in a rainy funeral sequence but those are very minor quibbles indeed as overall it is magnificent.

I also got to see a little of the behind the scenes at Thackray Medical Museum the other week. Thackray Museum is housed in what was the workhouse (somewhat ideally situated opposite Beckett Street Cemetery) and they have all manner of medical related stuff in their archive - including hearings aids made specially to be used and worn during periods of mourning. I am still somewhat blown away by this - that mourning culture extended to personal aids in this way, talk about talking something to the nth degree. They would have been expensive though - so only really available to those with the cash. I also learnt more about gutta percha and its uses - like vulcanised rubber it also became a way for those who couldn't afford jet jewellery to have look-alike jet jewellery. Gutta percha is still used by dentists today in root canal work apparently. I must ask my dentist if he has any spare next time I see him.

I was part of the Gothic Transformations Conference at Sheffield University on 17th February 2017 and all being well will be back there for the Reimagining The Gothic Creative Showcase on May 13th but this time instead of giving a paper about my work I'll be showing some of my prints that I've made on coffin lining material. I was also one of the presenters at the Death and Disease day at Abbey House Museum in March, talking abit about the history of cemeteries in Leeds, St George's Field in particular and quite a bit about cholera outbreaks in Leeds in the 1800's. I really enjoyed both of the days I did with the Museum service and hope there are more.

I've also just found out I've had an abstract accepted for the Perspectives On The Past Conference at Huddersfield University on June 9th 2017 which is exciting as well as a little bit nervewracking. Plus I am leading a walk around St George's Field on Sunday May 7th at 1pm as part of the Jane's Festival - full details here so am still busy busy busy. But I must also remember to build in proper down time too and take advantage of my not being an official student at the moment as well.

I did have a few weeks where I didn't take any pictures at all but I have been doing a bit of picture taking and making recently too, some on film and some on my lovely old trusty point and shoot digital which is very handy for taking note type pictures in archives as well as being small and light and so easy to fit in my bag when I want to travel light like I did to Birmingham the other week.

I saw the exhibition about Frank Hurley's incredible photographic work on Shackleton's Antartic expedition of 1914-1916 at the Library (and got to go on their amazing escalators again) and also had a long mooch amidst the Victorian splendour of the Art Gallery where I gazed in delight at such paintings as A Widow's Mite by Millais from 1870, and Walter Langely's Never Morning Wore to Evening But Some Heart Did Break from 1894. The title comes from a Tennyson poem apparently (something else to add to my reading list) and is a heart rending painting which for me captures perfectly that all encompassing pole-axing feeling of grief. I also fell in love with Charles Rossiter's To Brighton and Back for 3s and 6d from 1859. As you can probably tell I am a bit of a sucker for Victorian narrative paintings and would happily gaze at them all day.

There were also some fantastic modern photographs and paintings of people from Birmingham, but the art gallery and the museum are so big you really need to decide what you want to see before you go so you can make the most out of it. I made quite a bit out of the Edwardian Tea Rooms in the gallery as i had lunch there and a post narrative painting hot chocolate and that's where I read most of the potted history of Elizabeth Gaskell before making my way back to Leeds.

My plans for the next few days are get head round getting back into a proper habit of reading and writing - as although formal study doesn't start til September it'll be best to start making good habits now plus I do have a couple of papers to prepare over the next couple of weeks...I'm also going to have to think about things like methodology (I'm quite magpie-like in terms of inspirations and following leads from unlikely places) and read quite a bit more Barthes....



 




   

Tuesday, 31 January 2017

Post MA-Ness What I Am Up To Now and What I Have Been Up To Over Last Few Weeks

Gone for something a bit bigger than a post it note - but that's because a post it note was okay for when I was writing this on a weekly basis but now it's more monthly a bigger piece of paper is necessary....now where to start......
Think I might go along with Julie Andrews and so start at the very beginning as it's a very good place to start - so will start at top of the page and work my way round. So PhD proposal - I have redrafted it after a bit more thinking and reading on my part and some very useful feedback and input from a chum who has just completed a practice based PhD herself.

I've had a positive response from most of the people/institutions I've submitted it to so far (still awaiting a response from one) and whilst it might need a bit more work on it the basic premise of it is okay and something they'd be interested in supervising.

PHEW!! This gives me a mix of yay and argh! yay in terms of I want to continue this study/work malarkey and argh! in terms of 'it's really difficult - will I be capable of doing it?'

Plus application forms have always made me feel a bit anxious - they can be even more scarey than a blank page. I wish I could just kind of click my fingers and skip straight to already got a place and funding if possible and have started it - that would make me very happy indeed.
But that isn't realistic so I shall keep on plodding through 
the next stage and then of course there's applying for funding too and interviews.
I use the word plodding because I often feel I am - literally because my knee is playing up again. But thankfully I have a referral to an NHS physio and fingers crossed they'll be able to help, I did see one privately and it helped a bit but not enough and I would rather see someone who is on a salary rather than commission and see what they can suggest - so fingers crossed they'll be able to help so I can move again and not feel quite so ploddy...or uncomfortable. 

The inspiration from friends is something I'm always grateful for - be it the recommendation of a film, book, painting, a way to develop a piece of my work, a new technique or simply just to hang out with as this art making and researching malarkey can be quite lonely sometimes. It's another reason I really miss the supportive atmosphere of college - to say nothing of the printing facilities, it was so lovely to be amongst other people also involved in creative processes which although different to mine either had overlaps or things I could learn from or things they could learn from me.

I'm still in touch with most of my classmates/chums from college but I don't see them as often as I did - and annoyingly I was too poorly to make it to the last sort of reunion that we'd organised but I did see them at the opening of Walking In Urbana by Karen Tobias-Green (currently on show at Leeds College of Art Blenheim Walk Campus) last week before going on to see Sir Christopher Frayling talk about Angela Carter and introduce a showing of Jean Cocteau's La Belle et Le Bete which was utterly magical.

Magical for lots of reasons - one it was lovely to catch up with arty chums I am missing seeing so often, two - on chatting with a chum getting ideas for photographic techniques that don't need traditional darkroom facilities and three Frayling is such an intelligent, thoughtful, insightful and engaging speaker and four - revolting and unpleasant portrayal of the money lender aside it's such a beautiful film.

I'd gone to see the film really - I first saw it a couple of years ago at the John Rylands Library in Manchester and seemingly anti-semitic moneylender portrayal aside completely fell in love with it - the chandeliers, the dreamlike floating, the fireplaces with human faces plus it's rather a lovely love story really.

Plus entirely by coincidence and luck I'd bought a copy of Angels Carter's In The Bloody Chamber in a charity shop the previous weekend and read the story so his discussion of Carter and her work made more sense to me than it would have done otherwise. But regardless I would have loved and enjoyed the tales of her calling the Arnofini Gallery in Bristol the Anal Finney, their asking Bath City Council to erect a plaque to Mary Shelly creator of Frankenstein and being told 'no, that's more Hollywood really than literature', her wearing lots of layers rather than having heating and her suggestion that children would learn to read best with a King James bible and a whip in the hand of the teacher. It's also interesting the way fashions change in academia and how Gothic Literature is acceptable in academic circles now in a way it wasn't in the mid 1970's  and how comparatively difficult it would be to try and study DH Lawrence now.

I've also really been enjoying the biography of Wilkie Collins that was on Radio 4 Extra earlier - in which I learnt that when he was a child in Italy with his parents they saw yellow sedan chairs going past which contained people who had cholera. (I've been reading a lot and talking a lot about cholera recently as I was asked to talk about it at a Death and Disease in Victorian Leeds study day at Leeds Museum) containing people afflicted with the disease, the amazing success of The Woman In White and how he lived in age of an increase generally in printed books as printing techniques changed and materials became cheaper.

I've also just finished watching the 1982 BBC adaptation of The Woman In White which I also really enjoyed - although I don't think Count Fosco was quite right - beautifully menacing and manipulative but not quite melodramatic and flourishy enough. The lighting wasn't right either, lighting looks much more natural in modern television dramas whereas this looked like big studio lights were full on the action - something my husband says is likely down to the camera then needing huge amounts of light to work whereas digital sensors now don't need so much.

The lighting was in huge contrast to the lighting in House of Frankenstein (1944) which I rewatched a couple of weeks ago. By contrast it is sublime, the shadows in the monochrome are just amazing. It's a terrible load of old hokum as a story and it just sort of fizzles out at the end but as an exercise in lighting design it's a masterclass. Plus Boris Karloff is always a delight for me to watch.

So as you can probably tell my obsession with the 19th century shows no sign of abating - (which is just as well as I hope to do a PhD in aspects of it) and the other thing I'm especially enjoying is reading Aurora Floyd by one of my other literary heroes - Mary Elizabeth Braddon. I am doing this as a read along on twitter with other Braddon enthusiasts and it's really good to be able to talk about it with others.  You can join in too if you want - just look up #MEBAread on Twitter.

I am still loving Twitter as a way to chat to people and find out what's going on locally and nationally. Plus the humour in the anti Trump movements is much welcome. I'm finding the news terrifying and depressing at the moment so it's good for my soul to see digital defiance.

Plus I have put the people I follow on Twitter into different lists which all concentrate on different areas eg gothic studies, death studies, victorian studies, and I make a point of checking these lists at least once a week. Which is just as well as if I hadn't I would have missed a deadline for an art showing opportunity - which I haven't been successful in getting but it was really good practice to put together the application and now I have it in electronic format I can copy and paste it for other ones. I applied for two - one I've heard back from with a no and one I am still waiting to hear back from.

I'm hoping that now I have set up a better system of reminding myself about closing dates - a combination of printing off an A4 calendar sheet, electronic reminders on my phone, and notes in my diary. I had neglected to put details of the one I almost missed in any of those places but thanks to them changing their deadline by extending it a week I was able to put in a submission. PHEW!! The one I didn't get. Oh well - better luck next time.

In other news I have completely fallen in love with a painting called Maid Reading In A Library by Edouard John Mentha which was painted in late 19th -early 20th century and you can see a version of it here,  can't find out much about it or the man who painted it though as yet, so I'm going to ask the help of the college librarians as although I'm no longer a student I am a Leeds College of Art alumni and so can use the library facilities.

In redrafting my PhD proposal I reread some of my old notes about practice as research and they make much more sense now than they did at the time. A fact which is either explainable by my having learnt lots or my having been subsumed into academic speak - or maybe a combination of the two. Though I still find it difficult to define and explain as a process - it's more just something I do instinctively really rather than analytically. But I am going to have to get better at that if I want to succeed PhD-wise.

I also remain rather in love with Francis Bacon having seen a documentary about him at the weekend, and read a book of conversations with him published by Phaidon. The book is especially beautiful as it has prints of his work and the work that influenced him too so much so that I had to write down some quotes from it as they are givign me much food for thought:

 'photographs are only of interest to me as records...a means of illustrating something and illustration doesn’t interest me’....

’since the invention of photography painting really has changed completely...'

photographs were my aide memoire, they were useful to me simply as a tool’

'...cinema is great art, during the silent era the image had tremendous force’...

’a photograph can also produce emotions’.

‘the way people regard my work is not my problem, it’s their problem.I don’t paint for others, I paint for myself’.

‘I’ve probably been influenced by everything I’ve seen’

‘Life and death go hand in hand in any case, don’t they? Death is like the shadow of life.When you’re dead you’re dead, but while you’re alive, the idea of death pursues you.’

I didn't like the concealing of his then lovers death George Dyer until his exhibition in Paris had opened though. That's taking art too far.

The other notes on my sheet are TERMAGANT and RELICT - put there because I wanted to get better definitions for them. If I hear the word termagant I think it's some kind of bird but I know it isn't because of the context I hear it in - it does in fact mean:

noun
  1. 1.
    a harsh-tempered or overbearing woman.
  2. 2.
    historical
    an imaginary deity of violent and turbulent character, often appearing in morality plays.

    and in medieval times it was the name incorrectly given to a god christians thought muslims worshipped.
     

Relict - I had thought could only be applied to women and meant they were widowed and didn't have any children but I think I had partly misunderstood it as it seems it can be applied to man or woman and is used to describe the surviving partner in the marriage when the other one has died.
eg A relict is the surviving spouse upon the death of the other partner, either husband or wife. The word refers to the survivor of the marriage union, not to the survivor of the other person -- as is commonly thought.


I also find it a desperately sad word - sadder than widow or widower as to me it also implies no longer needed.

Well I think I've covered all the points I want to make - I want to keep in a semi regular habit of doing this because it keeps my brain ticking over and once I'm back at college (fingers x'ed eh?) it'll make the transition back to it easier. 

Wednesday, 4 January 2017

Post MA-Ness New Year New Start - Same Obsessions, Round Up and Thoughts/Plans For The Next Few Months.....

these are the books I got this morning from Meanwood Community Shop not just textbooks about the Victorian period but Victorian era texts too - namely Shirley by Charlotte Bronte and Mrs Oliphants Autobiography and letters in beautiful proper old editions that just exude old world-ness.
Meanwood Community Shop is in my opinion one of the best charity shops in Leeds - not just for their stock but for the work they do. There's also a picture of me in my graduation outfit I've had printed for my Mum - it was taken by my brother and made monochrome to tone down the hideousness of the blue gown and yellow outfit I had to wear also in the pic is my lovely supportive husband without whose support I wouldn't have been able to do the MA at all and my slightly garbled notes - note to self - get back in proper habit of leaving notes in one place/same notebook as opposed to different places so I can keep track of things better.

So 2017 is in its infancy just 4 days old and I've been meaning to write this for the last few days. I initially set up this blog many many moons ago so I could write about some of my obsessions like lovely old picture postcards, vintage Sooty and Sweep machines at the seaside, art shows and projects I was involved with and then its sole focus became being my research journal for the MA in Creative Practice at Leeds College of Art which formally came to an end last August when I handed in my last assignment. But that wasn't quite the end as there was getting the results and then of course the end of year show and then the graduation ceremony at the end of November.

My Mum came over for the graduation ceremony and was here for just under a fortnight which meant that my workroom aka the back bedroom had to become more bedroom and less workroom. It took me a good three or four days days to try and make it sleepable in again - but even so there wasn't really room to unfold the sofa bed (til them mostly in use as an extra temporary to long term bookshelf) but thankfully she is a very little lady and so could comfortably and happily sleep on it as an unfolded sofa.

It still has the same stuff on the walls (a mix of inspiring quotes, work in progress, pictures by other artists) but there are now double and triple piled bookshelves, see through plastic stacking storage boxes full of stuff and lots of mini portfolios piled up.

Yesterday and today is the first day in what feels like weeks but isn't that long in reality since I've sat at my desk and tried to get things in order again - after all this PhD proposal isn't going to write itself and I really need to do some work on it. I also have another number of projects I want to work on/through and it's taking me a while to get my head round what needs doing and when - cue lots of disjointed bits of lists as thoughts strike me so it's good to be slowly but surely getting back into the work habit I find most conducive and productive - ie sitting at a desk in front of a 'proper' ie desktop computer and deciding what needs doing and then doing it.

I last posted on this blog on 9th November in which I was talking about the end of year show, the preparations for my Mum's visit and needing to get to grips with my PhD proposal. I didn't talk about needing a rest which I think was and in some ways still is just as important and still needed. I have had a few days of lovely peace and quiet over the festive season (once the worst of a relative's  health scare had passed) and it made me realise that wherever possible I need more of this resting malarkey or else I run the risk of becoming poorly myself. I've been struggling with anxiety and feelings of panic the last few months and these get appreciably worse the more tired I am. So proper rest and a holiday of some kind is now on the the to do list as well. I know some people find making lists isn't helpful but I find it better than not making one as then I'm not struggling to try and remember everything I have to do. It can get a bit depressing though when I look at it and realise how much of it is unfulfilled but hey ho onwards and keep on keeping on.

But back to the graduation ceremony - it was a strange and lovely day. Strange in that I'd never been to one before - I'd not gone to my undergraduate degree ceremony as I hadn't wanted to and so never had the obligatory photo clutching certificate so beloved of parents - especially parents who haven't had the same opportunities. My Mum had never forgiven me for this decision so if anything she was even more excited about the ceremony that I was. She said she felt tearful when my name was called out and I walked across the stage to get it. Or rather get a letter explaining there was a delay with the Masters certificates and it would be posted out. I have it now - albeit still in its stiff envelope and I teared up when I got it. I'm not entirely sure why - some of it though is sadness that such an enjoyable and wonderful time is over but fingers crossed there'll be a new similar chapter soon.

I might frame the certificate and put it on the wall but there's no point doing that until I've finished applying for courses as I'll need it to hand for that. It also felt very odd for me to have to wear clothes on the day that a) weren't my choice and b) weren't in a colour I feel comfortable wearing (ie black, red, purple, grey and maybe a bit of dark green). My antipathy to being told what to wear stems from childhood - the secondary school I went to was fantastically strict about uniform and a very hideous uniform it was too.   And worse than having to wear such a monstrous for me colour scheme was the fact that you had to pay for the 'privilege'.

It was beautiful to be amongst the wonderful Victorian splendour of Leeds Town Hall though - a building I love partly for its quintessential Victorian loveliness and the history of that period which has soaked into its stones but also for emotional reasons too. I got married there and also saw films and listened to organ recitals with a much missed friend Henry Tickner - who I know would have been thrilled for me on the day as prior to his untimely death he was one of my 'Man Ray People' - see previous post for an explanation of what being a Man Ray person means.  So it's a poignant building to me for many reasons and now I have another one to add to it.

After the ceremony there was much relief that the clapping was over and much needed food and drink could be had - which we had in abundance and then there was lots of merrymaking with my Mum til she flew home a few days later and then there was getting ready for Xmas. Though thankfully the bulk of that work ie a proper deep clean and sort out of the house had already been done in terms of getting ready for Mum's visit. Lots of stuff for the charity shop, lots of stuff for recycling and sadly some stuff for landfill too as it was too broken/unre-usable though thankfully there was relatively little of this.

So in short - hardly any art making or academic style working over the last couple of months really but I did go to a fascinating symposium at Leeds Uni School of Art in part about the representation of the Artic which has made me think again about the patience and skill of Herbert Ponting, the way we think we are seeing things that are original but often they are instead original through the lens of current fashions in restoration or viewing eg rewriting of intertitles, re colourisation or de colourisation of films and also perhaps most fascinating for me is the knowledge that the paintings made on some artic expeditions were done using lamps lit by seal oil and the colours look different under that kind of light. Same as all things can vary depending on what kind of light you are looking at them in/with....which in turn is making me think about Victorian light and shades thereof eg light from coal fires, gas mantles, candles and whether or not there is a difference (aside from smell) between the kind of light given off by tallow candles as opposed to beeswax ones and whether or not it can be recreated or approximated. As ever more reading and research to be done.

Also fascinating was the talk I went to at the School of English at Leeds Uni about the relationship between photographs, and their use in/mention of in Dracula by Bram Stoker and how photographs were used by and in the theatre in the late Victorian period. As ever much more research and reading to be done.

And in terms of reading - I am tremendously looking forward to this - a read along Aurora Floyd by Mary Elizabeth Braddon organised by Courtney Floyd of the Braddon Association. I have made a start on the introduction to the edition I have (the latest Oxford Classic) and can't wait to get started properly. I was lucky to be a recipient of some of Braddon's short stories for xmas including  The Cold Embrace and The Shadow In The Corner - both of which were delightfully creepy. I look forward to reading more soon. Gaskell and Braddon remain my favourite authors of the moment.

I've even taken some 'proper' photographs as in ones I've really thought about composition-wise as opposed to just snaps as an aide memoire and using a 'proper' camera as opposed to the one on my phone (though I do specifically use that on occasion - most notably in my John Waters homage piece 12 Belle Ends and a Douche) with my trusty Cannon film SLR and my new instant mini Fuji for which you can get monochrome film. A fact that makes me very happy.  I've yet to have the film pics developed (I took the pictures on Boxing Day - what better day to go to a former cemetery and I also took/made some more when we went to Whitby for a day trip between xmas and new year) but I will do soon. Part of the joy of the instant ones is the fact that they are instant - though the ejection noise made by the camera isn't as iconic and evocative as the one made by Polaroid cameras.

Mention of Whitby reminds me of another place of Victorian era pilgrimage I have found and another one I want to visit - namely a blue plaque from Whitby Civic Society on a building on the end of Hudson Street near the Royal Hotel proclaiming that Elizabeth Gaskell (1810-1865) novelist and biographer stayed there in 1859. Whitby though it is known as Monkshaven in the novel is the place central to the action in Sylvia's Lovers, which is apparently 'the saddest story' she ever wrote. Given that 'barrel of laughs' (Cranford stories aside and even they are bittersweet in places) is not an epithet I'd give to her work so I think I'll wait a while to read this. Another one of my xmas presents - I was very lucky indeed this year.

I must also make time to visit her house and home of the Elizabeth Gaskell Association in Manchester too. For me there is something tremendously exciting about being in the same physical space as your heroes have been. I felt the same excitement standing in the entrance to Oakley Court knowing Peter Cushing had stood in the same spot for many of my favourite films.

One of the things I normally do on the start of a new year is write a list of all the famous folk I think are likely to die in the next 12 months but frankly 2016 has been so full of deaths of folk that meant something to me that I didn't bother. I'd more than had my fill, especially when my work is often so death focused/inspired - or maybe loss focused is a better description. Anyway the latest death to make me sad was that of John Berger whose Ways of Seeing I recommended just a week or so ago to my brother who wanted tips on how to take 'better' photographs. I loved the way Berger's writing challenged me to think about things differently and the way he spoke to and valued the contribution of women in his Ways of Seeing programme. The way women are treated, portrayed, discussed, viewed, represented in programmes is something I am increasingly aware of and excised by so if you haven't watched his Ways of Seeing on Youtube - please do. It's eye opening and beautiful. RIP John Berger and thank you.

So my immediate plans include thinking about and making a proper plan re my PhD proposal, getting some discipline back into my next few days in terms of working on it and and also preparing for the Death and Disease in Victorian Leeds I'm co presenting at and a Gothic Transformations Conference too. So although the immediate college related pressure is off and I must take advantage of that by building in some proper down time there's still lots on and very glad I am about that too. Though it is a bit strange writing this knowing I am no longer being examined on it in an academic sense and don't have to hand it in.

So anyone who's got this far and even if you haven't - here's hoping 2017 is full of loveliness and very little horrible-ness indeed.