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Saturday, 28 February 2009

The significance of the thing...

I am working again in the Upper Reading Room (U216, as usual). Siriol came in and we spoke briefly. As she walked away toward the reserve desk I could see her carrying two rucksacks. This is a sure sign that we are all working very hard.

The good thing is that I'm dealing (once again) with sign theory. At least it's a subject which interests me (though not as much as laughter and dick jokes, bless).

Spring?

Today, Erin, myself, and Ben...

Friday, 27 February 2009

Immeasurable beauty

Do you find things of immeasurable beauty in your everyday life?

Today I was walking down Hollywell street just after 5 pm, drinking green tea, with my flapjack in my pocket. At the junction of Catte street and Broad street a girl cycled past. She had thick long blonde hair draped over one shoulder, wore a large pale pink jumper, and her leather handbag was hanging on one of her handle bars. With one hand she steered her bike, and her other hand held the apple she was nonchalantly eating.

A few days ago I was feeling ill and stressed. I found Her Morning Elegance by Oren Lavie. It made everything better.

Last year during autumn the 50 meters just outside Keble College's main gates were covered in the brightest gold. Not the kind of shimmering gold you find in eastern orthodox iconography but a warm, buttery gold. The leaves of the ginko trees had changed colours and the sidewalk was paved with them, while more swayed over head. They fell like snow only more lingeringly, dancing as they descend. I could have been walking in a fairy land.

Years ago I came across 'The Underground' by Seamus Heaney

There we were in the vaulted tunnel running,
You in your going-away coat speeding ahead
And me, me then like a fleet god gaining
Upon you before you turned to a reed

Or some new white flower japped with crimson
As the coat flapped wild and button after button
Sprang off and fell in a trail
Between the Underground and the Albert Hall.

Honeymooning, moonlighting, late for the Proms,
Our echoes die in that corridor and now
I come as Hansel came on the moonlit stones
Retracing the path back, lifting the buttons

To end up in a draughty lamplit station
After the trains have gone, the wet track
Bared and tensed as I am, all attention
For your step following and damned if I look back.

I still think it is beautiful.

Just now I was supposed to be working but instead I turned on my Google Reader yet again, and found something else that convinced me of the fact that beauty is everywhere. I hope you think so too.



[via piece of work]

Thursday, 26 February 2009

Flying by the seat of...

Occasionally it comes home to me just how utterly ignorant I am, and how patchy my knowledge of my field is. Whenever that happens I am slightly confounded as to how I ended up on scholarship at one of the world's top academic institutions (Thank you, Lord, for bringing me here, and thank you also, for populating my life not only in Oxford but all along the way with the most wonderful and gifted people who have enriched me in so many ways).

Whenever I am awoken by the realization that I am often flying by the seat of my pants, I am struck dumb. How can I possibly write about anything in the Middle Ages if I know so little?

I guess the answer is that I'll do it the same way I've always done: make it up as I go along, and rely on useful hints and tips for those who know more. So I've just drawn up my two essay topics and submitted them to our indubitable Graduate Studies Officer. How do they sound?

For my course on bibliography, palaeography, and theories of text, I have:
'Go, litel bok, go': medieval literature in the age of digitisation.

For my course on Chaucer before the Tales, I have:
Almost Famous: the quest for a 'certeyn thing' in Chaucer's early poetry.

It's hard to believe that in 3 weeks time I will have produced, uh, 5,000-7,000 words for each of these two titles. God help me. Panic dawns.

Tuesday, 24 February 2009

Cured...

Today I woke up feeling like it's going to be a non-starter day. It was not a cold morning but I felt cold. I had no energy. Breakfast didn't make it any better. I ate but did not feel full. A muscle going from the back of my neck to the base of my head kept twitching painfully. I have no idea what's wrong with me.

I made it through most of my day and ended up at 2 pm in the Upper Reading Room of the Bodleian Library as usual. I pretended to work but in reality this one muscle was still throbbing and all I wanted to do was go home and lie down.

But there is so much work to be done.

You know that I don't spend all my time in the Bod working. I couldn't. I did my usual thing and switched on my Google Reader and through Design Sponge I came across the most beautifully filmed video.

It made me feel so much better. I'd like to share it with you.

Geekery also...

Ewan went and sat at seat 1066 at the British Library, because he's a geek.

Saturday, 21 February 2009

This too shall pass

Yesterday we got our feedback (finally) from Michaelmas term. Everyone passed (phew) and some of us even scraped a distinction (including, unexpectedly, yours truly - though I honestly suspect that they had meant to write 47 but instead wrote 74. Sh!).

One person admitted to thinking that he had failed when he handed in his paper - but he got a distinction (even better than mine). He cropped into my head when I saw some lovely pictures of a new painting on Little Robot, the blog of one of my favourite artists. This:


and this,


In her blog she says she is at the stage of 'hating everything.' I often hit that stage in the midst of essay writing, but luckily the examiners don't tap directly into our frames of mind at that particular point (OMGWTF - what am I writing? NO NO NO I will fail etc.), cos it ain't pretty.

So this made me think of...

"This too shall pass" (Hebrew: גם זה יעבור‎‎, gam zeh yaavor)

One day Solomon decided to humble Benaiah Ben Yehoyada, his most trusted minister. He said to him, "Benaiah, there is a certain ring that I want you to bring to me. I wish to wear it for Sukkot which gives you six months to find it." "If it exists anywhere on earth, your majesty," replied Benaiah, "I will find it and bring it to you, but what makes the ring so special?" "It has magic powers," answered the king. "If a happy man looks at it, he becomes sad, and if a sad man looks at it, he becomes happy." Solomon knew that no such ring existed in the world, but he wished to give his minister a little taste of humility. Spring passed and then summer, and still Benaiah had no idea where he could find the ring. On the night before Sukkot, he decided to take a walk in one of the poorest quarters of Jerusalem. He passed by a merchant who had begun to set out the day's wares on a shabby carpet. "Have you by any chance heard of a magic ring that makes the happy wearer forget his joy and the broken-hearted wearer forget his sorrows?" asked Benaiah. He watched the grandfather take a plain gold ring from his carpet and engrave something on it. When Benaiah read the words on the ring, his face broke out in a wide smile. That night the entire city welcomed in the holiday of Sukkot with great festivity. "Well, my friend," said Solomon, "have you found what I sent you after?" All the ministers laughed and Solomon himself smiled. To everyone's surprise, Benaiah held up a small gold ring and declared, "Here it is, your majesty!" As soon as Solomon read the inscription, the smile vanished from his face. The jeweler had written three Hebrew letters on the gold band: gimel, zayin, yud, which began the words "Gam zeh ya'avor" -- "This too shall pass." At that moment Solomon realized that all his wisdom and fabulous wealth and tremendous power were but fleeting things, for one day he would be nothing but dust. (via the layman's best friend, Wikipedia)

Is that a suitable reflection on such a beautiful day? The cherry which blossoms in spring is in part cherished for its fleeting beauty. Perhaps you can't have one without the other (transience and beauty, I mean).

Thursday, 19 February 2009

Just now...

I read a passage in French in an article on the medieval metaphor of grammar.
It reminded me that you are suppose to sit a French exam soon.
I hope that you are feeling confident and prepared.
Best of luck with that.

Tuesday, 17 February 2009

Grey skies and LAN jacks


This morning I woke up and the skies were very grey. Weather report says it might rain. I didn't want to wear my boots yet again, but I didn't want to risk wet feet either... To cheer myself up I decided to share a beautiful picture with you (via English Russia).

Now I am at college and about to go and try out all the LAN jacks in the library to see if they are working (oh, the joy).

A few nights ago and I was watching Lost in the MCR and they were paddling in a canoe out at sea, in the sun. I wanted to trade places with them - except the bit about being on an island which is moving randomly through time, and getting shot at by complete randoms.

Sunday, 15 February 2009

Robots, Roses, & other things...

Today I seem to have left my brain somewhere. I worked for a while on my digitisation paper, and this is what I eventually came up with:


On the plus side, I've finally gotten around to getting a new bag. Dan James and I went to the covered market and I picked up this exceedingly expensive shoulder bag. I think it's worth it because I finally have a bag I like, and it'll last me (hopefully!) a good long time.



After I got my bag, Dan and I went to St. Mary's to have a cup of tea. We drank really good whole leaf Darjeeling, and ate carrot cake (or rather, he had carrot cake and I had brown bread with butter). On our way out I noticed two bracelets which had obviously been lost , and were hung up on the wrought iron gates waiting for collection. I immediately gave them a good home (with me).


Then I went back to work and unfortunately missed Hall because I forgot that dinner is at half-six rather than seven on a Saturday. I had to go to Wok & Roll for takeaway instead. Their Chinese cooking is really most peculiar. After finishing my dinner in the MCR I worked some more at the Keble library (straying yet further from my topic, no doubt), then came back home at around 10. I found a massive paper box waiting for me in my room. It contained a card, and:

... which made me cry.

Saturday, 14 February 2009

Blue sky

This morning I woke up to an impossibly blue sky.
I hope it's as beautiful today where you are as where I am.

Friday, 13 February 2009

At home...


Right now I miss you.
I am hoping that you are ok.
I imagine you drinking your morning coffee.
I debated about sending you chocolates but, decided against it (it's not my place ).
I hope very soon we will be friends again.

Wednesday, 11 February 2009

Termly progress...

Yesterday I submitted my termly progress report...

My first term in Oxford was a strange time. Everyone seemed to be better prepared. Despite reassurances that others were feeling just as insecure, I didn't immediately feel better about being often befuddled. To make matters worse, Anglo-Saxon literature depressed me, and thinking about having to read the Exeter Book made me cry. I found the amount of time I had to devote to my work to be frankly inhumane (though I am not sure if this is because I'm studying at Oxford, or because I had forgotten during my year out how hard students actually have to work). It got to the point that every time I walked into the library I heard the opening lines of All Along the Watchtower in my head. The lack of computing resources both at college and the Bodleian made things worse. On the plus side I had very enjoyable sessions for my C course with Dr. Mapstone, which I found both intellectually stimulating and immensely amusing, because I was given the option of focusing on only the things I was interested in (humorous literature in Older Scots). Another good thing is that I found the MCR at Keble to be very sociable and supportive. I don't think I've ever made so many friends in such a short measure of time. Once I got used to the amount of work and stopped comparing myself to others (as well as coming to terms with the fact that I may only get a pass rather than a distinction) I began to enjoy myself much more. Although I have not yet received the results of my MT assessment I am on the whole happy with what I turned in (that said, I didn't have the guts to look at it again after I turned it in). Now I am genuinely enjoying my time here, and also, in a way, my work. I've found that the trick is to focus on those things that interest me, and to do only what is required of me to scrape by in regards to what does not interest me. I think Hilary is probably the busiest of my three terms so I am mildly surprised that I do not seem to be quite so stressed out as some others. I attribute this to the fact that I have given up on trying to do everything, though I do often wonder if I am doing enough.

Pick me up

Today a beautiful girl wearing a beautiful coat in the Upper Reading Room made me smile.

Tuesday, 10 February 2009

Just now...

I was looking at things on Etsy while I should have been doing my work, and I wanted to go home and share them with you.

Saturday, 7 February 2009

I forgot to say...

Thank you, for being the most important person in my life for three years, for making me the happiest that I've ever been, for always always being there for me no matter how far away you were.

I want to call and make you better but I'm not the person to do that any more.

So in case if you see this... don't drink too much, take care of yourself, and finally, feel better, when you can.

Friday, 6 February 2009

What happened?

Today I am so sad.

Thursday, 5 February 2009