Wednesday, 31 January 2007

Important addendum:

The right-hand side of the page is optional, because it really mustn't be any sort of assessment of anyone's parenting, but an assessment of the department's not hindering parenting. The right-hand side is really just to make it more interesting for parents, kids, and assessors.

Meeellions and meeeeeeellions!

Another idea for disposing of my hypothetical millions:
  • Cambridge departments can register their UTOs, and colleges their CTOs, for a scheme which I would set up, probably called something nauseating like Life Value Assessment. At first this would be a thing for parents (or primary carers). Said carer receives a Moleskine diary, one of the ones with a week on the left-hand side and a blank page on the right-hand. If on any day they are prevented by department or college business from doing childreny stuff they have to write this down in the diary; and on the right they can note down anything especially nice/interesting/uniquely revolting their children have said or done. To be fair they can also record any time their job is helpfully flexible, i.e. if they have to collect an unwell child from a child-minder. Twice a year this notebook is assessed by a member of the Life Value Assessment foundation, who gives a big chunk of money to the department or college if they like it. There are small bonuses for anyone whose book has been defaced by crayon drawings, had mashed food spilt on it, or been splashed with sick.
  • Eventually that scheme could be expanded so that non-child-carers could fill in every time their job saw them doing late-night stuff, unpaid overtime, unpaid teaching, etc.

Pop classics

Howard from Take That is quite bendy.

In further Take That news, here is their new video. They've solved the Gary Barlow problem; put him at a piano away from the rest of the group. Wouldn't it be cool if Take That, not bloody Oasis, were the new Beatles?

Tuesday, 30 January 2007

Millions and millions

If I had a very large amount of cash I would buy some stuff, give a bit away, and then I would do these things:
  • start a foundation which commissioned very short films, 30-60 seconds long, and then bought prime-time TV advertising space to show them in. These films would be of three different types, in roughly equal proportions: films to undermine the consumerist message of most adverts; films to make people think about stuff, any stuff; and films which would randomly cheer people up. Ideally the latter category would include a) jazz hands b) lots of people tap-dancing in unison c) baby animals learning to stand up!
  • start another foundation which gave people money for good projects they'd come up with for learning or research, on condition that they did not publish a book at the end. If they felt they had to write a book the money would be forfeit unless they self-published and paid for their own review copies. Then it would be grudgingly allowed.
  • start a further foundation which paid people to spend an hour or so at a time wandering around city centres asking people, very politely, for directions to places which are not very far away and easy to point out. This would make those who gave said directions feel like nice people and give their day a tinge of pleasantness. I have noticed that in Devon the constant need for one car or another to reverse in the narrow lanes results not in aggravation and jostling but in a little exchange of courtesies which makes everyone feel better and more civilised, and this is the best way I could think of to try to replicate that in a city environment.
  • start some sort of institution which took good-natured and patient donkeys into urban settings and charged people 20p a time to pet them. The money would go to charity but really it would be an excuse to get more people petting donkeys. Donkeys are very hard to resist, but when does one get the opportunity? They're all tucked away in sanctuaries. Ideally this scheme could be expanded to include further animals, perhaps elephants, birds of prey, retired police horses, etc.

Sunday, 28 January 2007

Hug a stranger

The Free Hugs man off YouTube is in Cambridge today with his placard. Although I have seen his adventures online and felt very slightly better about the world whenever someone did hug him, I still felt not the slightest urge to participate.

Saturday, 27 January 2007

Beautiful tempestuous Fanina's dangerous surrender to love

One of my bad habits is a fondness for 1960s translations of racy French historical novels. Today I found one called Fanina in a secondhand bookshop in London. The cover has a helpful tagline "Epic novel of a Vestal Virgin in decadent imperial Rome!" which is a fair synopsis.

I picked up this unexalted literary taste because as a child, up to about the age of 12, I would read absolutely anything, and I read very fast. Also, I've always been a bit scared of my extended family, and when we visited aunts and uncles my defence was to find the bookshelves and hide there. My wider family's reading tastes are decidedly demotic. Over time I discovered that Jeffrey Archer's books and the Reader's Digest make me feel like I've spent too long in an underground carpark, so I stopped those, and that Catherine Cookson and her ilk have some appeal until you've read more than one of them. I once burnt a Barbara Cartland (The Taming of Lady Lorinda) page by page, it made me so angry, and though book-burning has unfortunate Nazi overtones I still stand by that action. I read old children's adventure stories, like The Children of the Forest, and nasty horror books like Jaws, and books which came free with tokens cut from coffee jar labels. Forever Amber is very unsympathetic, and the North and South series by John Jakes is seriously twisted.

The ones I still love are the multi-volume historical adventures, like those of Catherine, by Juliette Benzoni, and Angélique, by Sergeanne Golon. Catherine spends her time pursuing her husband Arnaud through fourteenth-century France, while a series of unpleasant adventures -- the death of Joan of Arc, Arnaud's leprosy, the lust of the sultan of Morocco's sister -- contrive to separate them. The Duke of Burgundy is so besotted he names his new order of chivalry, the Golden Fleece, after her (she's a natural blonde). Arnaud frequently takes against her and has to be repersuaded of her charms, often rather graphically. Angélique's husband is executed as a sorcerer in the Place des Grèves and she has to work her way from poverty at the Court of Miracles to fight Madame de Montespan for the love of Louis XVI, before realising that maybe her husband is not so dead after all, and seeking him in (where else?) the harem of the sultan of Barbary. (Is sold to a mysterious pirate in the slave markets of Crete; becomes sultan's favourite concubine; escapes with tall handsome Christian slave; returns to France to lead Huguenot rebellion; all in one volume.) There are 13 Angélique adventures, and the last three haven't been translated. I have read and recommend the rest. Their escapism is of the best kind, optimistic without being sentimental -- these women don't beat themselves up about doing what is necessary to survive -- they'd rather be faithfully by their husband's side but if that's not possible there's no harm in enjoying themselves. I can't see how anyone could think that Lady Chatterley's Lover did more for women's liberation than these huge bestsellers.

Friday, 26 January 2007

Palaeography I heart you

Today my job is going through manuscripts page by page making little notes like "f. 52, small tear in the outer margin" so that we have a record of their state before they go down to the digilab, and also so that if I come across anything that needs sorting out first we can get Melvin the friendly conservator on it. Because we each mostly do this to the manuscripts which we will later bibliograph, I get to do the pre-1100 stuff. This is really the only way to work if you are going to try to be a palaeographer: you need to see lots of things page by page, letting the impressions build up in your mind. That's why Humfrey Wanley, my hero insofar as one can have a hero in this crazy post-modern world, was able to pretty much come up with English palaeography from scratch: he spent decades looking at manuscripts first in the Bodleian and then as librarian to the Harleys. He copied scripts carefully, sought out manuscripts and fragments, and compared them to other specimens. Three centuries later most of his judgements still stand, and his opinion is still worth consulting. (Especially on things lost or damaged in the 1731 Cottonian fire.)

This long-term study or silence before manuscripts is not such an option these days. You know I'm about to mention the RAE; but even before that, at PhD level, you have to commit yourself to judgements which should be made after decades of learning. I talked to my supervisor about this one, back when I was having trouble believing I could ever finish my thesis, and he just said I was quite right -- unless you're a genius you can't do palaeography until your forties or fifties. Not especially consoling, but my supervisor is not a man for sugar-coating or weaselling.

Today I have seen all of Corpus MS. 206. It has previously been thought to be Continental, now mostly agreed to be English. I see as I go through it that it is written in Caroline minuscule, with a lot of Late Celtic features, like the 2-shaped est, and that it uses old "Celtic" abbreviations like pr for pater. This is making me think of two possible contexts: Brittany, though I'm not sure how much Late Celtic features ever got a hold there since they came into use at about the same time as Brittany started to lose its Celticness (in terms of script); and the early take-up of Caroline in England, which was heavily influenced by Irish and Welsh stuff for reasons no one properly understands. There is an unusual form of r, as well. I make notes on these things in the hope that in twenty years' time it will suddenly come to me.

Only in the ASNC department would it ever have been possible for me to study English and "Celtic" scripts together, and this is why scholars elsewhere think you can write about English Square minuscule without mentioning Welsh National Hand. (I lament because I see this tradition dying from term to term in the one place where it should have been safe.) If I had five years to study I would look at Continental Caroline minuscule and see as many manuscripts as I could. But I certainly couldn't promise that at the end I would write the definitive guide to Continental Caroline minuscule, so it's not something I will ever be able to do. I hope to be able to get a permanent job one day in a manuscript collection, because it seems the only way I'll ever get to be a proper palaeographer.


The Crusader church of St Anne's, Jerusalem, is famous for its acoustics. I have set as my mobile ringtone a recording I made of a friend of mine singing Salve Regina there. It works wonderfully in the Parker library. Might be more conspicuous on the train.

Wednesday, 24 January 2007

Geek value

I really like the way that there is a strong movement on the web to retreat from complex technologies back to paper and pen. You manipulate the paper and pen to best effect by using templates or techniques you found online. There's the hipster pda thing, which eschews techie personal organisers in favour of a bunch of 3" x 5" index cards held together with a clip. As this nice man says, let's make one together! Cheaters use Moleskines. Then people write reviews of exactly which pen is the best to use, and what sorts of index cards they like. It's a wierd combination of making things much simpler and then complexing the details up again.
There's something very satisfying about some of the templates you can get though. The PocketMod has to be one of the best as it makes a little customised booklet to carry around. I bet kids would like it too.

It can all go a bit far though. This "Network Catch-o-matic" lets you track your interactions with people from first catching sight of them through various levels of communication e.g. eye contact, to either a) becoming close personal friends or b) selling them something. You get increasing levels of points as you do each of these things. It's a bit disconcerting. It makes me yearn to surrender, print one out, and carry it around at all times, filling in bubbles with a pencil every time I force someone to talk to me.

Monday, 22 January 2007

No really I am working it's just the perl script takes ages to run

The surprising thing about Robbie Williams is that he keeps being not rubbish. This song ought to be about Britney but I suppose that wouldn't scan:

Click here for a pixillated version of the Rock DJ video -- because seeing a rock star's privates is the shocking bit, not where he pulls off his flesh and throws it at previously uninterested rollerblading supermodels who then smear it all over their faces, oh no.


From Friday's dull repetitive task, which relied heavily on a technology allegedly invented by Bishop Eadfrith of Lindisfarne, I have turned to my other job, where today's dull repetitive task involves altering XML files and running them through a perl script which I don't understand in order to create a webpage with a complex working "nav bar". How adaptable am I? Very, that's how.

As I watch the command line flicker past with messages which mostly start "rem" and mean nothing to me, I ponder the meaning of blogging. I'm concerned that fellow bloggers are writing incisive and meaningful things, which makes me wonder if I should raise the bar somewhat for my own output... When I started my blog I assumed that no one would read it -- I still haven't put my name on it and I can't now remember how it got "out" as I don't remember telling anyone about it? Or did I? Anyway, I've always treated it as a place for the overspill of my brain (Ted Maul might say "the twisted brain-wrong of a one-off man mental!"). Since my brain is like Homer's and largely full of cartoons of cows dancing or a happy tune I'm humming to myself, my blog is mostly at that level. I think the only feasible route is to keep it that way... Today, for example, I am mostly humming National Express, by Divine Comedy.

After all the "blogosphere", not unlike a Cambridge college, is really a place where you'd have to pull off something pretty spectacular to stand out as odd...

In the meantime here is McSweeney's "Character from a Pynchon novel or someone who recently sent me spam?" list. Disappointingly it gives the answers. Get it together, McSweeney's!

Friday, 19 January 2007

Paid labour

William Morris famously said that he didn't think much of anyone who couldn't compose an epic poem in his head while working a loom. People often say they don't have time to blog but I have been thinking out an entry while --- actually I'm not prepared to say what my job involves today in any sort of public forum. (Suffice to say that it takes about 10% of my brain and is dull and repetitive while at the same time it's very very important I get it right. It's the thing most likely to survive of my life in 100 years' time. And although I know it needs doing I still feel slightly queasy about it.)

Anyway, what we should all be doing is this: It's like blogging, only on paper! Forget the tyranny of the RAE: let's just put things out there in book form and not worry about print runs. I'm considering doing it with my PhD -- it would seem pleasingly subversive. Also I might make a booklet about my Granny, who died in September. We are having a family ash-scattering at some point and I want to give people copies of an interview I did with her many years back about her childhood in Argentina.

Thursday, 18 January 2007

Love me love me

When I got my first long-term contract in 2003 three years seemed like forever. Then I was offered another job which I really wanted while I was still doing a job I really wanted, so I started working half-time on each. I've been lucky there (also possibly naive as doing two part-time jobs can be wearing on the brain). But my fellowship runs out in September, and one of my jobs sometime between September and the end of the year, and although the other one could last for a couple more years it seems like it's time I should be thinking about applications again. So I am currently applying for jobs in London, Toronto, Kent, and Exeter.

I'd forgotten that rather miserable thing where you have to switch into CV-speak to sell yourself. Active verbs and bullet points; a breezily self-confident tone; lots of spin. The result has very little relation to what I'm actually like, but I suppose it shows how well I can play the game. Also I've been purposely avoiding the RAE rat race for the last few years and instead publishing things I find interesting; it's depressing to look at something I enjoyed doing and thought would be interesting or helpful for other researchers, and just think "well it's a bit short isn't it". One of the applications will involve a section on media work too. I haven't done much of that for a while.

I don't know if it helps or not to have a strong sense of the absurd. I'm going to put on one of these CVs, under Skills, that I am conversant with Web 2.0 technologies. Web 2.0 is a term made up by journalists, but on the other hand I have embedded a YouTube video on my blog (see below) and I do I have a tagcloud on my tiddlywiki! The people who read this application (I know and respect them) will hopefully not think less of me for this but rather see it as a sign of flexibility on my part. I know that particular department is under pressure to go all Web 2.0 -- very Blairite. The temptation is to get carried away and start talking about collabularies and folksonomies.

Wednesday, 17 January 2007

Alors! Trop mimis tes rats

I'll get some video of mine sometime soon.

Monday, 15 January 2007

Either fire or fire

I went on a very good retreat this weekend, at Little Gidding, home of Nicholas Ferrar's community in the seventeenth century and inspiration for the last of T. S. Eliot's Four Quartets. It was led by Richard Carter, who was chaplain to the Melanesian Brotherhood at the time of the murder of seven of its young members. (You can read here his message to the Anglican Communion at that time.) It was an excellent retreat; it made me a little confused, but sometimes confusion is a step forwards (she says hopefully).

Anyway one of my favourite things about retreats is being in silence with other people. It reminded me that this is one of the things I like most about going to the cinema. You sit in a large group with no expectation of speaking or having particular attention to paid to you; you are still and quiet and all concentrated on the same thing. It's very soothing, and I think this may be why I am unfortunately prone to sleeping in cinemas instead of watching the film. It's one of the reasons why sitting eating dinner on trays before the TV as a family is quite unfairly denigrated by people who think it's contributing to the decline of society; it is a way to be with your family which can easily be more productive than trying to talk to them. (Especially if there are teenagers involved.)

Of course it's a bit different on a religious retreat, as when you eat breakfast in silence together or sit quietly in the dark after compline the idea is to be still before God as well as each other. I wish it were possible for me to do it more often -- I wish we did it more in church. Maybe I should join the Quakers.

Friday, 12 January 2007

God bless you ma'am

For one reason or another (ahem Alain de Botton) I have been involved in discussion recently about the "popular" versus "academic" presentations of philosophy and I was feeling glad that Anglo-Saxon history doesn't have these issues to quite the same degree. Then I saw this attempt to trace the "real" heir to the throne of England, i.e. someone connected with Edward the Confessor, Harold, or Edgar the Ætheling -- a question which no one satisfactorily resolved after the death of Edward on 5th January 1066, and which is unlikely to have become any clearer in the intervening 940 years (and one week). Obviously it's all Tony Robinson-fodder and not expected to be taken seriously. (A similar exercise but only going back to the Queen of Bohemia was in one of Jane Stevenson's excellent novels.)

If we assume that Edward the Confessor had no right to give away his throne either to the Normans or the Scandinavians, and then ignore the ancient right of the king's council to choose the next king on the grounds that the hereditary principle was well established by this point (although we might think back just fifty years to the Danish Conquest of 1016 and question that idea), then obviously the next king should have been little Edgar the Ætheling, the last male line descendant of the House of Wessex and Alfred the Great, etc. He had two sisters, but of the three siblings the only one to have children was St Margaret of Scotland. I've just published a well-illustrated book about her, as it happens, very reasonably priced, and written in a style which coming from a Cambridge Fellow might startle Alain de Botton. (I.e. I'm not expecting to earn any RAE points from it.) So I probably ought to be bending my knees and scanning the horizon for an approaching bandwagon here.

Anyway for once I actually know what I am talking about, but I'm afraid it's not going to make very good TV. Three of Margaret's sons became kings of Scotland and the third, David, established a long-lasting Scottish royal dynasty with which all subsequent Scottish royalty were connected. One of Margaret's daughters became Henry I's queen Edith-Matilda, mother of that William the Ætheling who died in the White Ship, and also of the Empress Maud, who was mother of Henry II, and from then on Margaret's descendants were thoroughly ensconced on the English throne too. With the unification of the English and Scottish thrones under James the Ist and VIth we got a double dose of Margaret. And given that Archbishop Parker was undoubtedly right that the Anglo-Saxons were Protestants, the heir to the kingdom of the English is obviously: Queen Victoria. But, I don't think anyone's going to get very excited that the heirs to the English royal throne are the English royal family.

During the English Revolution the Diggers and other radicals talked a lot about Charles I representing the Norman Yoke, and exiled royalists countered with St Margaret to show that the Stuarts were precisely who ought to be on the throne by anyone's reckoning. You can read all about it in my fascinating new book (only when I say "all" I actually mean "a smattering of things I think interesting").

Thursday, 11 January 2007

The Lord is Linda's shepherd

Nothing can wind me up quite like other Christians.
  • I went to church with my parents over the break and was forced to listen to soft rock, not live soft rock but recorded on a CD, when the vicar invited us to pray -- or rather, to "go quiet for a bit".
  • Then just to show the other side of the spectrum, older unmarried Anglican priests in Jerusalem were constantly winking at me as if to say "No really, it's OK that you're a woman".
  • If you are finding the eucharist rather dull why not have a U2charist? Except that I beg of you, do not.
  • This is highly disturbing, a webcam of the reserved sacrament. I've only recently become acquainted with the idea that having consecrated the bread at communion you might then not actually eat it but put it in some sort of container, possibly a monstrance, using some complex apparatus (humeral veil, anyone?) and then adore or possibly worship it. (Apparently you must eat it eventually, and the use-by date of the body of God is about a week.) As with most things that I find initially disturbing and possibly offensive I have been suspending judgement until another time. Now I have to get used to the idea of having it in a little pop-up window on a computer screen. There has been some debate about whether you can adore it properly over the interweb, with the Vatican saying No and others being a bit more flexible; and these people at least find it as confusing as I do.
  • In its way the Personal Promise Bible is rather sweet but also disturbing. You can have the name of your spouse too, and be reassured that "Gina's two breasts are like two fauns". (I don't know how it works if your spouse is male, perhaps then it's your own breasts that are like fauns, which would be wierd to read.) Also, the place where you live: "May the Lord bless Nancy out of Zion, And may she see the prosperity of Minnesota all the days of her life."
  • It's certainly less troubling than Biblezines though. These teenage girls like it but my inner youth is saying "euugh!" The New Yorker seems to have reservations too.
The problem is that these are my people, especially the evangelical ones; reading this mystery worshipper report of a festival gave me a real access of nostalgia. And at least there is still the Ship of Fools: read here about their experiment to find the ten funniest and ten most offensive religious jokes. The second funniest is just brilliant. This young man thinks it's wrong for Christians to laugh at Christians, but I think it might be better to laugh at them and by implication myself rather than to erupt into their midst with a blazing machine gun one day, which seems like the other option.

PS click here for the self-styled "Dow Jones Industrial Average of end time activity". Current chance of rapture is a disappointing 68.8%.

Wednesday, 10 January 2007


Did you know that Catholics and Lutherans have separate commandments for not coveting your neighbour's wife and not coveting your neighbour's field? As a Protestant, though, I am only transgressing ten percent when I yearn for an iPhone. Only, I am a bit worried about what would happen if you were, as it happened, sideways for perfectly legitimate reasons, i.e. maybe you were lying down on a sun lounger or abseiling somewhere (the last one sounds a bit frivolous but really I'm sure I'm quite frequently sideways). The automatic horizontal/vertical sensor would make it harder to read, is my point.

Also I want one of these things to convert tape cassettes to mp3 so much that I may even part with money and buy one. It would be the ideal way to fill up the remaining 27Gb of my ipod.

I also want some things on ebay like the Virgin Mary in rhinestones, or a medal for being a champion in the socialist order (only $35). This medieval seal has an insectoid pelican on it. I recently put something on for 1op which I felt too guilty to throw away, and it just sold for £8.20 including postage. Madness!

Although according to some interpretations it's OK for me to want an iPhone as long as I don't want to deprive someone else of one, so that's alright.

Getting it out there

I read some of Alain de Botton's works on love when I was a teenager. They were even more simplistic, sentimental, and annoying than I was at the time.

I'm also not that keen on the televisual work of Tristram Hunt. Bring it on!


On the plus side this is my dream job; on the minus, two good friends of mine have resigned from it in the last two years, both of them honest, intelligent and hard-working, both of them distinctly bruised by the whole experience.

Tuesday, 9 January 2007

I heart my Tiddlywiki

Just now I decided I wanted the list of all the tiddlers a particular tag was tagging to be on the right not on the left of the screen. I didn't know how to do this, so I opened the StyleSheetLayout tiddler, looked to where it said "Tagging" and changed the bit beneath it from "float left" to "float right". Which worked immediately. Anything which can get me using css so simply is a work of genius.

Monday, 8 January 2007

Geeked to the max!!!

I have been organising my life with a Tiddlywiki and a copy of Getting Things Done by David Allen. If you do not know Tiddlywiki you are missing out: it's the computer equivalent of a really nice pad of quality paper and a smooth pen; just intrinsically satisfying in itself. Each Tiddlywiki is just one html file, but the thing has been cunningly written in Java so that you only see certain parts of it at a time. These parts are the side and top bars and a few pieces of "micro-content" known as Tiddlers. All of it is remarkably easily customizable -- at least in my experience, and although I have a gung-ho attitude to technology I also have the attention span of a gnat. The best thing is that you can give each tiddler a "tag" or series of tags. Then you can manipulate them, i.e. you can have a tiddler which shows all tiddlers tagged "urgent". I set up a system to sort out my life back in the summer, and now I have found a few more plugins to refine it.

Getting Things Done I gave in to recently because it's like Atkins was a few years back, something people evangelise about fiercely. I find that actually most of what's in it I already had in my Tiddlywiki system, but what I have taken from it is the idea I should think about the next single action necessary for things, and that sometimes things need to be labelled as pending action from someone else. So I now have a TagGrid which shows all the different areas of my life along the top: ChartersWork, ParkerWork, ASNCWork, CollegeWork, ResearchWork and HomeLife; and down the side the four statuses: NextStep, Waiting, SomeDay, and Done. Each square of the grid has a number in it corresponding to the number of tiddlers which are tagged with those two tags, and clicking on that number lets me access each of the tiddlers so I can see what I need to do about them, to move them into Done, or Waiting.

The vital thing is to be able to dump my mind in a way which I know I can get back later, to get rid of that nagging feeling I've forgotten something. It worked well this afternoon when my boss suddenly called and started asking me to do lots of things; I just fed them into my system calmly and then dealt with them one by one, instead of putting them on the back of some envelope in a panicky way. My Tiddlywiki is actually a wiki on a stick, with portable apps too! (I put a picture of Sydney Bristow at the top as she is the geekiest woman I could think of in a whole number of ways.)

Saturday, 6 January 2007

No Kidding

I am very annoyed because I am still feeling too ill to go very far from my sofa, and I had been going to spend the evening in London with Mr Kidd. (See extremely unflattering picture of him left; those are breadsticks and I think he did eat them later.) We were going to eat curry and flick through his hundreds of cable channels, sniggering at things in our best Beavis and Butthead manner. It'll be ages before I can get down to London again. Next weekend, for example, I will be on a retreat where I am the only woman: on the plus side I will get a bedroom to myself, but on the minus I will spend the whole time being called a "lady" by those both aware and un- of its modern overtone of unconvincing trans-sexual. And the weekend after that I have a big student dinner in my department. The problem with Cambridge is how much it takes up of what ought to be my own life. I'm not 100% sure what my own life is, or would be, but I think it would involve less time wearing smart clothes, or trying to be a good example (or at least not a bad one).

Thursday, 4 January 2007

Booze and paracetemol

I went to Sainsbury's to buy Kleenex and Lemsip and got myself some smoked fish as a treat, and it came open somehow in my bag smearing its oily fishiness everywhere, which I didn't really need, and I'm not sure even Febreze is going to sort it.

But TV and the interweb are really coming through for me (aided by afore-mentioned Lemsip and some medicinal Pinot Grigio). Lily Allen and her pigdog have been reunited, which is very happy news, CBBLB told me that Dirk Benedict is 61 years old, which interested me pleasantly, and now there's a new Ray Mears series on BBC2. Ray Mears is the best. And he has been joined by an older University lecturer with a beard and no moustache. Ray Mears used to have a beard many years back (see image), when he did the Essential Guide to Rocks. With or without a beard he looks very like our college chaplain, who has also eaten witchetty grubs, showing the interconnectedness of life. Plus this evening there is the last episode of Green Wing. I want her to end up with the one who looks like the donkey, because the blond-haired one is very annoying and I'm fed up with magazine supplements going on about how good-looking he is.

2007: some thoughts

I don't usually do the new year's resolution thing for obvious reasons, but in 2006 my life got rather cluttered (due to the fact that I do three jobs at the moment, the two half-time ones plus the teaching and other work with students) plus I had a big break at the end of December, so it seemed like it would be a good chance to make some plans and restart some things I'd let slide. Unfortunately on the morning of New Year's Eve I was already feeling a bit dodgy, and by the evening I was definitely ill, and I have spent most of the time in between in bed or on my sofa nursing the worst flu I have had since autumn 2000. I think I got it from some ill monks in Palestine, in a reverse of the usual situation where one goes to monasteries for healing. That would explain why the uncomfortable flu vaccination I took the precaution of having (grrr!) has failed to protect me from it. I suppose it's an illustration of the vanity of human plans, or something.

The only tiny good thing about flu is the point where your voice goes all gravelly, and I can go around saying "Oh Mr Rigsby!" to myself and giggling. I suppose even this small satisfaction is denied to men, but maybe they can say "It was a time of heroes" which might be as good.

In the meantime, I'm trying to think of some reason why the 8th January 2007 is a natural division. It's the day after Orthodox Christmas, and it's the feast day of both St Pega and St Wulfsige, but I'm not currently finding any of those very convincing.

Wednesday, 3 January 2007

TV candy

Oh Big Brother, there is no point trying to resist you. I love that they brought the Face off of the A-Team in in a van not a limo but he had a bit of trouble leaping out of it. He seems to have some sort of dodgy knee these days.

Maybe this week my celebdaq dividend will beat last week's 20p which is a record even for me.

Monday, 1 January 2007

Trades descriptions

The thing is, the car can't really do this, can it?


I went on holiday with a national treasure and two clergymen, and I have put some pictures online. I took them with my little camera phone, which has 3.2 megapixels but obviously not the best lens ever, so they are not amazing, but actually I quite like the slightly grainy lo-fi feel. Particularly in churches and other religious places where a) it feels rude to use a flash and b) hazy pictures better fit the numinous atmosphere.