This months post it note - accompanied by some of the reading I've been doing, some lovely skull emblazoned post it notes that were a present from a chum and some beautiful genuine nineteenth century death related ephemera - given to me by a friend when going through paperwork after her mother had died.
The envelope contains a card from the twentieth century (1914) but I'm showing it as it was typical in the Victorian period for death notices to be sent in envelopes that had black borders (same as condolence letters) and the top of the two cards on the left (the one with lilies pictures on it) is from 1898 and the one beneath it with just the words 'In Memoriam' is from 1890 and it also has the following verse on the inside:
Affliction sore long time I bore
Physicians were in vain
Til God above out of his love
Did free me from my pain
Far from affliction, toil and care
The happy soul has fled;
Her breathless clay must slumber now
Among the silent dead.
I've often seen the first verse inscribed on tombstones but never the second.
We've been blessed with foxes again this spring - been watching them get bigger and more confident over the last 5 weeks or so and they have been an absolute delight to watch (disclaimer - I do not keep hens or rabbits and these are urban foxes that seem to survive on a diet of discarded bits of take away given the number of KFC wrappers we find in the garden) - they are nothing to do with my studies but they have been making me smile a lot as well as tut when I couldn't get them in focus or missed the shot.....
This last month has seen me doing quite a bit of reading, an awful lot of writing, quite a bit of doing and an overall angsting as my upgrade viva gets ever closer.....
The reading has been of books like the one pictured above - a thought provoking analysis of the ephemera which surrounds death and The British Culture of Mourning from The Enlightenment to Victoria by Ester Schor, re-reading Camera Lucida by Roland Barthes, and all sorts of others - some which have made me rethink my thinking, some of which have made my brain hurt and some which have made me go 'wow'. Currently it is Adam Bede by George Eliot that is making me go 'wow'. Wordy but beautifully descriptive - I can see the 'methody' Dinah Morris which was my main reason for reading it. One of the women buried in St George's Field is Ann Carr (1783-1841) and she was a real life itinerant methodist preacher and I am hoping to gain some insight into what her life might have been a little bit like from George Eliot's novel.
I've also had the delight and privilege thanks to the hard work of the librarians at Huddersfield University to read a book called The Art of Hair Work - Hair Brading and Jewelry of Sentiment with Catalog of Hair Jewelry by Mark Campbell - a collection of patterns for making memorial jewellery out of braids of hair from loved ones (taken either in life or in death) first published in 1875 and which came to me from the Utah Merril State University Library in America via an international library loan brokered by the British Library. Amazing book - amazing way for it to get to me. And the patterns and tools you need to do them are essentially lace work. I hope to try and make something inspired by the patterns in the book and there were some excellent tips for working with real human hair. I've been experimenting with acrylic hair (it doesn't quite behave the same but it is a whole lot cheaper) but once I've got better I might invest in some human hair.
In terms of writing - it's been a hard slog of bursts of eloquence followed by frustratingly long blankness of mind and blankness of page but I finally managed to complete a first draft and then got very useful but difficult to enact in places feedback which I've been working hard to take on board and incorporate into the second draft. This is all for my upgrade document. It's a kind of report of what I've been doing since enrolling at Huddersfield Uni last September. I also have a to do a presentation to my tutors and two tutors who don't know anything about me or my work and they then say what changes I may need to make to my approach or research plan and so go into my second year or they might (absolute worst case scenario) say 'no' and I can't go into second year or I have to do the report and presentation again to see if I can.
I'm hoping for the first of those outcomes and fingers crossed that's what'll happen - please keep your fingers crossed for me too.
So what have been doing in terms of straightforward doing then? been taking lots of photographs, some on digital but the majority on 35mm but I did also get round to finishing off a medium format film that I initially started using back in March in the snow....I also did some double exposures on that so I must go and pick them up from the place I take all my colour film - The Photo Shop on North Lane in Headingley.
I've also been doing some grave rubbings - there is no way to write that, that doesn't make the juvenile in me snigger at the word rubbings. However the end results haven't made me snigger though they did make me go 'ouch' at times whilst I was doing them as one of the gravestones I was rubbing is taller than me and I'd done some different exercises at the gym the previous day and so my arms were especially achey. Graphite pencil makes a sharper clearer rubbing than charcoal and it also doesn't make the kind of noise that is similar to chalk on a blackboard (writing that I realise there will be many now who will go through their entire education and never have the (dis)pleasure of hearing that particular teeth clenching sound. I've then photocopied some of the rubbings and it's interesting how that changes some of them - the copier I use automatically copies them in colour and so the accidentally squished greenfly show up much more clearly on the copies. It also makes the graphite look shinier somehow. Interesting how things change whilst also retaining their essence.
So that's the reading,writing,doing,angsting covered - what else have I been up to? been to a couple of really interesting conferences/seminars including one on the history and uses of medical photography and can those images be used as texts, a talk which featured the work of Godfrey Bingley where I met a fellow St George's Field enthusiast which was really lovely.
So busy, busy, busy and it's going to stay that way - presentation preparation, researching and practicing. It's all go and mostly in a good way. Long may it stay that way.