You are currently browsing the monthly archive for September 2008.

I’m nearly there on the research project. The introduction section could do with a tweak, but it’ll do if I run out of patience. Method, just about done. Results, just about done unless I think of yet another thing that could do to go in. 400-word abstract, done. References, all typed up. Appendices, all available at the push of a button, including all raw data and SPSS output transferred to disc for submission.

Still remaining: the discussion section. Which is pretty important. When I did my undergrad RP, I wrote the discussion in about two hours. And yes, it could have been a bit better, but I rattled it out in two or three hours with no problems. I was totally on top of my background reading and my results, and bang, bang, bang, it was done. This time, I’m not so on top of things. Maybe it’s my age. Maybe it’s the fact that I’m not prepared to push myself to the edge of endurance like I was last time. Whatever.

In addition to other, more understandable factors, I have this little voice in my head and, even though I’m so nearly completed, the little voice is muttering “it’ll be crap, you know it will be crap. You’ll never get a decent mark, you’ve taken too long to get this finished. Might as well quit now. No point putting yourself through the disappointment. Just leave it. Walk away. Put it down. No point in carrying on with this.”

I am so tired. I really really want to go with the advice of the little voice.

BUT. I am so nearly there. Do it. Do it now, says a crosser voice. Finish it, write whatever comes into your head. Just get it finished and you can hand it over and really relax. Don’t listen to that fool. GET IT DONE. Nearly there. One more day.

Go away little voice. You are no friend to me.

There’s a cake in the oven for m’sister (birthday today) and last week I made one for my Big Little Brother. It was an M&Ms cake. The top was coated with buttercream and M&Ms, and the cake itself had four types of food colouring; blue, red, yellow and green. I handed it over then ran away, expecting his whole family to be bouncing off the walls with E-numbers as soon as they’d eaten it.

Only problem with being the baker in the family is that no one makes me a cake (whine, sob, violins). My sister made one the year I was 40 but she found it incredibly stressful and swore to never bake again. My brothers don’t bake, and m’mother is quietly sulking on the baking front (for a whole year) because m’father prefers my sponge cake to hers.

I shall have to start making my own birthday cakes. In secret. And then I can sit in my bedroom with the door closed and eat it all.

We’ve had a lousy summer. Loads of rain, not much sun, often overcast on the days when it doesn’t rain. Now we’re moving into autumn it’s even gloomier as the days get shorter, and the damp overcastness is developing a real chill. But this morning the sun came out! Hurray! I actually managed to finish a draft of my RP introduction, then Sparky and I rushed out to enjoy the light.

The view down the hill and over towards Staincliffe.

Ponies roaming on the hillside. In the bottom of the valley there’s a mix of old stone farmhouses (like the one on the right) and Victorian mill buildings, plus modern industrial monstrosities.

Looking along the valley towards Dewsbury. The sun is just around the corner.

One beautiful and happy dog.

Here are a few photos from our 20th wedding anniversary picnic on August Bank Holiday Monday.

You can’t see the dog, but this is my baby brother swishing Pippa the Jack Russell terrier in the ornamental lake at Nostell Priory. She had distinguished herself by spotting a pile of fox poop and rolling in it, as soon as she got out of the car, so an enforced bath was her fate before we got around to eating the picnic.

Baby brother gives baby nephew a pull up the hill in the parkland.

Then once we got up to the top nephew was free to roam. Mainly he tried to climb the sheep netting, but we managed to get a couple of runs out of him.

Third-and-final-son climbs on the obelisk lodge gatehouse. Sparky tried to follow him – up a vertical 7ft wall.

Nephew gets a hand to join in the climbing. Seconds later baby brother nearly had his head torn off by my understandably worried SIL.

Back at the cars, we spread out our blankets and settled down for a picnic feast. Nephew ate quietly for a little while, then discovered the joys of a hardboiled egg. Look at my big little brother behind him – maybe I should rename some of these photos ‘Like Father Like Son’.

The sight of the egg is tantalising Pippa.

So Grandma finds a beaker for him to carry his egg in.

Nya, nya, nya – no egg for you!

After a vigorous game of badminton we lined up the dogs for a family photo. It took several goes to get all three facing in the right direction. Willy is on the left, Pippa in the middle and Sparky on the right. Those are firstborn’s legs. Unfortunately m’sister and Willis the dipstick terrier couldn’t join us that day.

Or should that be, more signs on top of the blackberries, crabapples and general jam-making frenzy. Anyway, I spotted these out walking yesterday. I have no intention of picking and eating them.

The colours are simply glorious. I can’t decide if that’s despite the dank, overcast weather we’re having, or because of it. Maybe these shades are naturally more vibrant in autumnal light.

Seeing lovely things like this almost makes up for everyone saying, all the time: “It can’t be autumn – we haven’t had a summer yet!”

Other signs of autumn: a Christmas catalogue arrived in the post this week, and I felt driven to clearing clutter away from the kitchen/ dining room fire. It’s not actually cold, but the change in the light spurred an urge to be able to get near the fireplace ready for a warm.

Stressed because I got a phone call yesterday reminding me that the MSc student conference is on Monday. I had totally forgotten. Title and 200-word abstract needed asap; presentation to be given at 3.15pm Monday. Shitbuggerdamn was all I could initially come up with. A large part of me wants to quit right now. A smaller, yet extremely stubborn, element won’t let me. I have to keep going until I get kicked off the course.

Sticky because I am up to my eyebrows in preserves. I love this time of year for all the stuff I can harvest, and I am passionately addicted to making jams and jellies – but this is not so good when there’s other work I should be doing! Plus I got so carried away picking crabapples on Monday that all the resulting juice didn’t have enough room in my jam pan to get a good rolling boil going. After it ran all over my cooker top (and didn’t seem to be achieving anything like a set) I poured half into a smaller pan, where it is still awaiting attention.

Here are the crabapples. Aren’t they beautiful? And also free!

Here’s the resulting jelly. Cinnamon, cloves, lemons and root ginger were added to the mix. M’husband isn’t keen on cloves, and they did smell very strong in the kitchen while doing the initial boil and strain, but fortunately the jelly has turned out both clear and deliciously flavourful.

Also needing attention: a bowlful of bramble and apple juice. Really, I should have frozen the berries but I’d had them in the fridge two or three days already. I’d like to make more curd (really really delicious on hot toast or freshly fried mini pancakes) but it’s too much of a faff given current time pressures. More jelly for the store cupboard.

I love dahlias, especially the pompom ones. But every time I try to grow them the hordes of slugs and snails in my garden move in for a feast. I am therefore reduced to looking at other people’s dahlias with envy. These are in Greetham, Rutland, where we stayed whilst visiting Burghley Horse Trials.

I’ll post more pics of Greetham another day. I was walking around, snapping away with my camera, while m’husband hissed “you can’t keep taking pictures of people’s houses!” I was convinced I’d stepped back in time to Cranford so I ignored him, as Miss Matty was far too genteel to step out and accost me.

Why do I blog? Well, I started, I think, because it seemed like everyone was doing it. Therefore it must be easy. I soon discovered I couldn’t be bothered writing up what I’d been doing each day but I was getting something undefined out of it so I cottoned on to the picture-a-day idea. Turns out I’m not so good at that one either, but I like taking pictures of the life going on around me so I’ve kept up some intermittent activity. Today’s picture is of the Derby House stand at Burghley Horse Trials, where Katie Price, aka Jordan the glamour model, launched a new clothing range.

However something has been niggling at me. All these country pictures I take are only a small part of my life. I live in town now; have done for the last 20 years since I got married. I worry that I’m trying to pretend I’m still a country person. Why I worry I’m not entirely sure, as I always will be a country person to some extent, regardless of where I live. I may end up living back among the fields someday, just not any time soon. And besides, I don’t want to be only a country person – no offence to those who are happy to be exactly that. There’s a sense of peace, comfort and rightness to wandering around fields and working with animals, but at the same time I’m aware that I’m not firing on all cylinders. These are the cylinders that power up when I’m in the university library with a clear head, or on a national strategic or research committee with a squad of quick-thinking, like minded souls and brains. If I don’t let them fire regularly I slowly slide into mood swings and depression, regardless of how much glorious country life I indulge in. I really really need to get my balance right between intellectual stimulus and sitting in a field breathing in the sweet smell of horse.

The event that brought these thoughts to a head was Burghley Horse Trials. M’husband and I spent a few days there last week. We’ve been before and really enjoyed ourselves, but this visit I felt very out of place. Burghley is a bit like a country house weekend for the Historically Horsey Fraternity. For anyone not British, this is one of those weird social class divisions we have: upper class, or upper middle, devoted to country pursuits like hunting, shooting and fishing. The weather on Friday was lousy, and the place was awash with waxed jackets, tweed and Dubarry boots. If you actually get round to talking to individuals they are generally lovely people, but the uniform is intimidating even if you have no intentions of wearing it. I had to keep reminding myself that I wasn’t there to find a tribe to belong to (or a new waxed jacket) but because I love horses and horse sports.

Another outsider at Burghley was Katie Price, aka Jordan the glamour model, who was launching a new clothing range for Derby House. She’s also been selected as the face of a new campaign to get British youth into horse sports ready for the 2012 Olympics. Here’s another shot of the Derby House stand at Burghley, with pink balloons galore, ready for the launch:

Katie’s come in for some stick from certain sections of the equestrian community as not having the right image. Not everyone is against her though, and more people should read Simon Barnes, columnist on The Times, who writes lyrically about horses, sport and country life. Here’s a quote from Simon: “Horsiness is not about social class. Horsiness exists for itself alone.” I would have bought something to show solidarity with Katie, but pink and diamante really isn’t me.

Then, after husband and I had fled the relentless rain and were curled up on the bed in our (lovely, warm and dry) caravan reading the newspaper, I came across an article about Hardeep Singh Kohli. Hardeep, who is best known in the UK as a standup comedian and occasional roving reporter for The One Show, has written a book called Indian Takeaway: One Man’s Attempt to Cook His Way Home. The newspaper interview, and his book, attempt to show how all the random parts of his upbringing and personality combine to produce the person. Hardeep has to work out how to be a Sikh with a Scots upbringing, an excellent sense of humour and a love of British food. To me, these seem like a bunch of distinctly different ‘tribes’  with very little overlap. So it should be relatively easy for me to combine country, town and city, plus horsiness, wife-and-mothering, and academia.

I hope this makes some sense. What it boils down to is: I need to post more pictures of my town and city life. I also need to give the town and city parts of my life more weight and significance as I try to manage my time.