Tag Archives: meme

The Gallery Week 20: A Novel Idea

For this week’s Gallery, hosted as ever by Tara at Sticky Fingers, the theme is a novel idea, the idea being to post a photo which represents a novel, tale, children’s story etc.


When we went to Greenbank Gardens on Sunday (see post from the other day), one of the things I was thinking was that, although it was quite formal in how it was laid out, it also had a slightly wild feel in parts and it wasn’t at all predictable. Which got me thinking about the classic children’s tale “The Secret Garden” by Frances Hodgson Burnett. It’s been years and years and years since I’ve read that, so I don’t really remember the story or anything much about it, but I do remember imagining when I read books like that when I was a kid that the gardens were that same mix of formal and wild/overgrown. Full of unexpected beauty, like this:


The Gallery – Holidays

This week for the Gallery Week 18, hosted by Tara at the Sticky Fingers blog, the theme is Holidays. When I saw the theme I have to say my heart sank. We are well into holiday season now, but thanks to my thesis and its scarily imminent deadline we won’t be having a summer holiday this year. Depending on finances we may try to get away later in the year, but who knows? Of course we did have our holiday this year already in Venice in February (which I blogged about with lots of pictures here), but as I have blogged about that before I didn’t want to go over that again. I was thinking of previous holidays from years gone by (I’ve had some brilliant ones, I must say!), but sadly all my film photos (pre-2004 when I got my first digital camera) are in storage and not yet scanned – I can’t wait till we no longer have to have our stuff in storage, I’m going to really really enjoy going through my old photo albums. Now that really will be a trip down memory lane!

Apart from Venice, HD and I have only had one proper holiday together, which was our honeymoon (we’ve been away together more than twice of course, but other times have been long weekends, staying with friends and family, or festivals, that sort of thing). As the honeymoon featured in last week’s Gallery post I felt a bit reluctant to post on it again, but it did get me thinking. With the vagaries of air travel (strikes, volcanoes, etc), plus the fact that we live in an incredible beautiful country with still so much to explore, we’ve both talked about wanting to explore more Scottish islands. Actually even outwith Scotland I realise that quite a number of my places-I-really-want-to-visit-before-I-die are islands. I can’t provide pictures from places we’ve not yet visited, but for this theme I chose a couple of pictures from Scottish islands we’ve already visited. Enjoy!

Shetland (HD’s not been here, this is from when I had the job interview last year. I can’t wait to take him back and explore some more):

SANY0102 SANY0088

Arran (which we visited for my significant unmentionable birthday last year):

IMGP6981 IMGP6961

Great Cumbrae (visited for a day ‘doon the watter’ in January 2009, and where the idea of moving to an island first really took root) (you can also see the bottom of the island of Bute, and beyond that the mountains of the north of Arran):


and of course Harris from honeymoon (the first picture is as we arrived on the island, the second shows our honeymoon cottage on the shores of West Loch Tarbert):

first view of Harris, from the ferry The cottage and West Loch Tarbert

I wonder what the next one will be? 🙂


I have been awarded a Gorgeous award by Auntie Doris, who is of course herself thoroughly gorgeous. As part of the meme I am to write 6 things that are not generally known about me and nominate 6 other gorgeous bloggers.

I have been racking my brains and really struggling to come up with things, so this post has started as a draft and been added to as and when I think of other things. So it will probably appear weeks after everybody has forgotten all about the meme.

Things people might not know about me:

1. I never wear make-up (well, apart from zit concealer, sigh). The last time I wore proper grown-up makeup was my wedding day nearly 2 years ago.

2. Same as Tractor Girl‘s number 2, I was never christened or dedicated as a baby.

3. When I was 13 I was a member of the Kajagoogoo fan club 😀

4. I have played an entire concerto from memory with an orchestra (Mozart clarinet concerto). Admittedly the orchestra was my school orchestra, but for a comprehensive school we weren’t actually that bad. My husband has never ever heard me play the clarinet (though I do still have it and will maybe dig it out at some point).

5. I still haven’t decided for sure what I want to be when I grow up.

6. I don’t think I have ever (knowingly) tried tequila (though I may have had a cocktail that included it).

I know lots of gorgeous bloggers, many of whom have been nominated by other people, so this is nearly as hard as thinking up 6 things about myself. But if you’re in the mood, I would like to nominate as thoroughly gorgeous:

Intrepid Expat
The Banbury Man
Fuzzy Edge (hopefully a prompt to get her back blogging again!)

Some answers

I have given this precisely no thought at all, so my answers this evening may be totally different to my answers tomorrow morning. But I have finished my chapter and can’t face marking the OU essays yet, so what better than a bit of procrastination, and as it’s relating to my thesis I can kid myself that I am using my time constructively. So, here are some answers to Tractor Girl’s questions about the experience of being a postgrad researcher.

What have been some of the most stressful parts of the process, and how have you dealt with them?

It depends on the stage of the PhD. At the beginning, it was feeling like everyone else doing a PhD was Brain of Britain and I was a fraud, and that one day they would find me out. When I was on fieldwork, it was picking up the phone and asking a complete stranger in a foreign language if they would give me some of their time so I could interview them (I’m a bit phone-phobic). Since being back and writing up, managing my time has been probably the most stressful thing. I think I dealt with them by a. realising that everybody else felt like that; b. feeling the fear and doing it anyway (cliche but true), and c. er, I’m not sure I have dealt with time-management very well to be honest!

Other stressful things included moving to the other end of the country away from friends, job, security, etc; having a long-distance relationship (that was lovely too, but did add to the time-management issues); and financial concerns. And the fact that I had to do so much work for the teaching side of things (it was part of the deal as I didn’t get Research Council funding – in return for doing all the tutorials and marking essays for the 1st year undergrads, I got my fees paid and a stipend). It was, by and large, a good deal, as it gave me some really good experience, but the time pressure was enormous and I don’t think I managed it very well.

How do you strike a balance between work and the rest of your life?

Not very well! I think there is something to be said for treating it like any other job, and working 9-5 Monday to Friday. But the thing is it’s not any other job – sometimes the distractions and procrastinations are actually really productive times and you need what looks like time out or wasted time in order to fully “chew over” what you’re going to write (sometimes of course they are just wasted time!). But I often bring work home in the evening – as often as not it will sit there in the bag making me feel guilty and I end up taking it back to the office having done nothing in the evening, not even taking it out of the bag never mind looking at it properly, but if I don’t take it home I feel guilty that I could be doing more work instead of the frivolous stuff I do do in the evening. It’s a bit of a vicious cycle, and one that after 4 years I am no nearer getting out of. But again, as in the question above, realising that everyone else does it as well and therefore I am not actually a failure is quite helpful! Having people around (in real life and online) to encourage me to do normal things is also helpful!

What has made you most excited in your studies?

Having the chance to go abroad and meet really interesting people – mainly on fieldwork, but also at conferences here and abroad too. Realising that I’m onto something and not just making it up. Being taken seriously by people I respect. Seeing connections and disconnections between what my respondents have said and what is “out there” in the public domain and trying to make sense of it all. The fact that after 4 years I still think my research subject is interesting!

How do you see theological work relating to the wider world?

The original question came from a panel of theology students – obviously I am not part of a theology department and in that respect am doing secular research. But because of the nature of my subject, religious voices have had (and continue to have) strong opinions which they’re not afraid to shout out. From the perspective of my research, I see theologians (some official, some armchair) doing great damage both to the people and practices they condemn and to their own cause. It’s very sad. I hope that my research can build some bridges, but the reality is if it is not ignored (honestly, the most likely scenario) then it will piss some people off. I still need to work through how I disseminate my research outside of the academy. Which leads me on to …

How do you see your own work as part of your calling?

This is a difficult question in a way. A couple of years ago, before and after my fieldwork, I spent a bit of time with someone much wiser than me discussing the idea of vocation. This included consideration of the possibility of ordained ministry, but we both quite quickly came to the conclusion that that was not where I was at and not where I was being called, at least for now and for the forseeable future (and, with any luck, beyond that as well 😉 ). We spent quite some time, particularly after I got back from fieldwork, discussing this very question, which was a useful exercise though possibly not the best time to be doing it, as returning from overseas fieldwork it takes a long time to adjust and process your experiences, and I was also just getting ready to get married (hooray!). In terms of my actual research, I still feel that I can use my experiences and insights in some sort of bridge-building way, but I’m still vague as to how, where, etc. It’s not helped by the fact that, by and large, the religious voices I am dealing with in my research are so strident, shrill, and frankly offensive (not to mention very often bonkers). However, they would feel exactly the same about me, and a major part of my challenge and calling is to find a way of imparting grace when what I really want to do is hit them with a bloody great big Clue Stick.

In general, I tend to see calling and vocation as, in the broadest sense, being who God made me to be. So in that sense my research work is part of my calling in that it is more than a 9-5 job, it is a reflection of me and how I work as well as (more importantly) a reflection of the people and situations about whom I am writing. This is something I’m going to have to explicitly acknowledge and explore a bit in my thesis – for all the talk about researcher neutrality, we all come to our research with our own baggage and expectations and values and – at least in the type of research I’m doing – it would be dishonest to claim neutrality.

How has your own faith been part of your work?

In a very low-key and understated way, I think. It’s a secular study, not a piece of applied theology, so it’s not ever going to be an overt thing. I think though that my faith is part of it in the same way that it was part of my work in nursing and all the other things I’ve done – through treating people with respect, and trying to give them a fair hearing, and taking care of the things (insights, opinions, resources, time, relationships) they have trusted to me. I don’t think that having a faith gives me a monopoly on these actions and ways of working – I’d say all of them are hallmarks of good feminist research methods for example – but for me that’s where they spring from.

What advice would you give beginning students? What might you do differently if you could start again?

For practical stuff, I wrote about this a year ago so would direct you to this post. Also, remember that not only is it not about you, it is totally about you, so reflect reflect reflect and take care of yourself. What would I do differently if I could start again? I hope I wouldn’t spend so much of the 1st year faffing about, I’d really like to be more organised, and I think I’d be more systematic about things like research journalling and that sort of thing. I’d have also got into NVivo from the beginning rather than leaving it till the last minute. Other than that though, I think I’m basically glad with how it’s turning out.

Intellectual meme

The other day on her blog Tractor Girl outlined a panel presentation she was part of to new postgrad students, exploring the following issues, and invited other postgrads to think about the same things:

– What have been some of the most stressful parts of the process, and how have you dealt with them?
– How do you strike a balance between work and the rest of your life?
– What has made you most excited in your studies?
– How do you see theological work relating to the wider world?
– How do you see your own work as part of your calling?
– How has your own faith been part of your work?
– What advice would you give beginning students? What might you do differently if you could start again?

I’m just putting this up here to remind myself – I really want to do this as I think it will really do me good to think about these things, and interesting as I am currently at a point of being somewhat unenthusiastic about my PhD*, so I wonder if that would change my answers. I will come back to this in the next few days, once I’ve finished the current chapter of doom. For now though I’m going to bed (what a lightweight, it’s only just gone 9!).

* I love it and really believe in my research, I’m just finding the thesis quite a restricting and distinctly unsatisfying medium in which to communicate.

Another tag

In all the excitement (!) about my essay, I hadn’t forgotten that Dith tagged me last week. She wanted to know 6 of my habits. I actually struggled to come up with six, but here are the first ones that came to mind (eventually):

1. My dishes, plates and bowls are 3 different colours. When I put them back in the cupboard I can’t bear to have two of the same colour next to each other – they’re all stacked yellow, blue, orange, yellow, blue, orange. I realise this is really anal, so when I had a lodger I never told her this as I was too embarrassed, and I never rearranged them if she’d put them back wrong, but I always noticed and rectified it when I was next to put the washing up away.

2. My books (of which I have lots) are organised on various bookshelves throughout my flat not only in category order (this bookshelf for novels and biogs, this shelf for travel writing, this one for Christian stuff, etc) but within those categories they are arranged in alphabetical order. I don’t categorise my CDs, but they are in strict alphabetical order as well. The only exception to this (admittedly very anal and neurotic) filing system are the shelves near my desk that have files and books relating to w*rk and study, which look like this.

3. When I clean my teeth, if I’ve not yet been organised enough to put my contact lenses in and am still speccy, I have to take my glasses off before I start cleaning my teeth. I physically can’t clean my teeth when I’m wearing specs.

4. When I start my car, I always rap my knuckles on the dashboard before pulling away. There is a reason for this (my petrol gauge stays on ’empty’, even if it’s full, if I don’t hit it). Passengers always find this amusing for some reason.

5. When I log into my wiblog account, I always follow the same routine. Firstly to the monthly stats, then to the last 48 hour stats to check if I have any new and groovy flags, and only then to the administer blog entries section to write my words of wisdom.

6. If I’m eating sweets where there is a mixture of colours (I would say Smarties, but I don’t eat them anymore as they’re made by evil N*stle – let’s say M&Ms instead) I always leave the brown and red ones till last. Blue and yellow and green are eaten first. If there’s orange in the mix they’re eaten after the blue and yellow and green ones but before the brown and red ones. I know there’s absolutely no difference in taste or content (apart from the precise E-number), but I always eat them in that order.

Hmm, I’m detecting a few worrying themes here. I really like to think I’m spontaneous and free-spirited and all the rest of it, but I’m actually hopelessly anal. Sigh.


This will have to do till I (finally) finish writing up my assignment – I was just tagged by alice, so here goes:

7 things to do: take veg waste to the compost bin at community garden, tidy up Stately Pigsty Pile, pay credit card bill (eek), reply to various outstanding emails, tile bathroom, finish assignment (argh), write profound blog entry.

7 things I can’t do: belch (it’s true, honestly!), rub my head and pat my stomach simultaneously (or is it the other way round?), sustain a long-term relationship (sigh), listen to George Galloway for more than 2 seconds without turning the TV or radio off, think of 3 more things for this list.

7 things that attract me to my mate: existence would be a good start! But things I like about a guy include: funny, interesting/curious, different, sensual, a bit naughty/mischievous, bit of a paunch, thoughtful faith, doesn’t slobber when snogging. Oops that’s 8.

7 books I love: Harper Lee “To Kill a Mockingbird”, Jung Chang “Wild Swans”, Charles Dickens “David Copperfield”, Homer H Hickam “Rocket Boys”, Vikram Seth “A Suitable Boy”, Louis de Bernieres “Captain Corelli’s Mandolin”, Isabel Allende “Paula”.

7 things I say: Sigh. Argh. Bugger. Knickers. Bonkers. Whatever. Er…

7 movies I’ve loved: Edward Scissorhands, Amelie, Il Postino, Local Hero, Little Shop of Horrors, Moulin Rouge, Sense and Sensibility.

7 people to tag: Over to you 🙂

Four (otherwise known as: No I really don’t want to tidy up!)

This is the latest meme doing the rounds, and as I’m somewhat in need of a procrastination tool it couldn’t have come at a better (worse?) time.

Four jobs you have had in your life:
Worker in Weetabix factory (2 summers when I was at uni the first time)
Office Manager
English Teacher
Health Visitor

4 Movies You Could Watch Over and Over:
Local Hero
Monty Python and the Holy Grail

4 Places You Have Lived:
Wellingborough (my home town)
Egham (I went to Royal Holloway, one of the London Uni colleges)
Tirgu Mures, Romania (also known as Marosvasarhely to the Hungarian-speaking population)
Brockley. Sarf London, innit?

4 TV Shows You Love To Watch:
Father Ted
The Simpsons
anything narrated by David Attenborough

4 Places You Have Been On Vacation:
Norfolk Broads

4 Websites You Visit Daily:
Ship of Fools
Glasgow University (weekdays only, if I can help it!)

4 Of Your Favorite Foods:
Quinoa (pronounced keen-wah) (thanks to St Carol of Vorderman, whose quinoa pilaf is delicious, easy, filling and just totally marvellous and wonderful)
Fried egg sandwiches (don’t tell Carol)
spicy lentil soup (a recipe gleaned from someone from SoF)
Death by Chocolate (what a way to go!)

4 Places You Would Rather Be Right Now:
warm, sunny palm-fringed beach with white sand and blue blue sea and virtually no other people, watching the sun go down and the moon rise with someone special
disembarking from a plane at the start of An Adventure somewhere exciting
round a campfire with interesting people from round the world (I did that in Canada once, it was fab!)
in a garden I could call “mine”


This is the hardest one I’ve had, but if I didn’t do this then you’d be subjected to a long streams-of-consciousness rant that means not that much to anyone but me (you may still get that tomorrow 😀 ). Anyway – five random facts about me, I’ve really struggled to think of any, but I came up with a few classics in the end.

1. When I was 13-14 I was a member of the Kajagoogoo fan club (I had the biggest ever crush on Limahl).
2. No.1 notwithstanding, I didn’t have any teenage rebellion till the age of 32 (Interestingly, this (the lack of teenage rebellion, not the silly but rather fun thing I did at 32) was something that through my counselling I realised is very significant in the scheme of things when I think about the issues I have difficulty with now).
3. The most profound thing I think I’ve ever written online was shortly after I joined Ship of Fools 3 years ago and was taking part in the Nativity Play in the pivotal role of Sheep 1. It was the night when the baby Jesus was born (I suspect Smudgie might well remember it!), and in real life I was out that evening so wasn’t really able to take part. But I made sure I logged in just for one post before I went to bed, where I posted something along the lines of “Sheep 1 wanders in, peeks at the manger and wonders if he’s missed anything important”. I was rather proud of that.
4. I can sing the entire soundtrack of “Little Shop of Horrors” pretty much word for word.
5. I once screamed (or more accurately squawked) “Waaaaahhhhh, it’s Jason Donovan!” when a friend and I happened to be walking through Leicester Square during the London premiere of the Tom Cruise/Nicole Kidman film “Far and Away” in, ooh, about 1993ish. My friend just looked at me like “I can’t believe you just did that”, and I was soooo mortified because I couldn’t believe I’d just done that either, it just kind of came out. That same evening we also saw Ricky (Rickaaaaaaay) from EastEnders, and we saw Paul Daniels cross the road after using the cashpoint.

It’s all about meme

Both blonde and ERG tagged me with this one, and in the absence of anything else blog-worthy, here goes – more to know about moi:

Ten years ago
I was working for a charity in London and learning about development (how to/how not to) and working with one wonderful and one absolutely awful co-worker, learning all sorts of things from both. I was living in a fantastic flat in Forest Hill with two fantastic friends. I was also researching which nursing colleges to apply to to do my nurse training. Two fab holidays that year – Easter was spent sailing in the Norfolk Broads, and then in the summer I went to Canada (Vancouver and the Rockies). I met a grizzly bear, lived to tell the tale and now have a great dining-out story (which occasionally gets a bit embellished, depending on the amount of wine consumed).

Five years ago
I’d just finished working on an orthopaedic/rheumatology ward at a major central London teaching hospital (my first job as a qualified nurse) and just started working as a staff nurse with the district nurses in lovely Catford. I had just started a diet which led to me losing over 3 stone over the next year (I really needed that – I’ve put about a stone and a half of it back on but I don’t ever want to be that big again). I was just about to start my Open University Masters degree. And I was looking for a house to buy. What goes around comes around. A few months earlier I’d been on another fantastic holiday, this time to Namibia, which is utterly amazing and has some bonkers wildlife (though probably not as bonkers as Australia’s).

One year ago
I was a few months into a great new relationship, not knowing that the following week it would be over. Hmm. We split the same day it was confirmed that Dubya had been re-elected – really not my best ever day, at the time it felt like the world had ended twice in the same day. I’d just damaged the ligaments in my shoulder (falling over at wedding reception – oops. It’s still not 100%). I’d just handed in my Masters dissertation, having done my research in Moldova a few months earlier, and was waiting for the results. And I was in the final decision making process about whether or not to apply to do the PhD

Five yummy things
quinoa, good Indian food, Guinness, cheese, good red wine (not plonk!)

Five songs I know by heart
This is a toughie. Um. Somewhere Over the Rainbow. I Will Survive. I used to know more 20+ years ago (Smash Hits was a regular buy). I probably shouldn’t admit that I could sing Wham Rap word perfectly back then, but I doubt I could do that now.

[ETA: Does Shine Jesus Shine count? argh]

Five things I would do with a lot of money
Buy somewhere with a garden. Travel a bit. Random surprise gifts to random surprise people. Probably set up a charitable trust so I could keep on making donations rather than just a one-off huge gift. I don’t know, this is tough – I know I moan that I don’t have much money at the moment, but really I’ve got all the *stuff* I need and more, I think I’d enjoy giving it away more than spending it.

Five places I would escape to
The place I went on retreat to in Cornwall a few years back. A village I’ve been to a couple of times in Turkey. Mont St Michel. Amsterdam. Canada.

Five things I would never wear
Anything in size 8. Thigh length stiletto boots. A dummy/pacifier whilst standing in a queue for a club. Hot pants. “Jesus Loves You” T-shirt.

Five favourite TV shows
Pride and Prejudice, Red Dwarf, Father Ted, The Simpsons, Blackadder.

Five things I enjoy doing
Drawing. Savouring the feeling when I’ve just handed in an essay that’s been hanging over me like a big black cloud. Snogging. Daydreaming. Gardening.

Favourite toys
BigTed (he was a present when I was a baby, he now has no fur, his stuffing is pouring out and he doesn’t smell so great, but I’d go back and rescue him in a fire). Shaun the Sheep. Pass the Pigs. Mousetrap. Lego.

Five people who get this
I think most people have already been got. I’m enjoying reading everyone else’s.