Monday, 16 May 2016

MA-Ness Week 6 - Final Term EEK!!! Busy, Busy, Busy, Walking and Talking and Clicking All At The Same Time...

Quite a neatly written on post it note today, and flyer for the conference I spoke at on Friday - doing my second ever proper grown up academic paper entitled 'Hidden In The Grave' and it was much more cheery as it sounds - though there was a paragraph that consisted of a list of diseases from the burial register for 1865...but it was subtitled 'an illustrated talk brought to you by moden magic lantern'.

Am in the middle of a really busy few days - I was supposed to have been catching up with a chum today but I have rearranged it for another day as I am feeling quite tired and I needed to catch up on all the stuff of the last few days...before I forget it plus I am in the midst of the next really busy few days. I hope this doesn't sound as if I'm complaining about being so busy - I'm not but I am finding it hard to keep up with myself and make the time to just sit and quietly think about stuff and plot my next moves.

Plus as much as I enjoy what I'm doing I also find it quite tiring and in some ways quite stressful too and I'll be glad of a proper rest next week when I'll properly be able to put my feet up. I think I'm also finding things a bit harder than I would do ordinarily as am bit under the weather as my knee is still bit sore.

But that's enough of me moaning about being tired - what have I been doing to make me so tired? well last week I attended the Dying Matters Day at Leeds Museum...which I first heard about via a good old fashioned paper advert on a bus. It was an occsion where all sorts of groups like Leeds Bereavement Forum, Dying Matters, NHS groups, local independent funeral directors, Sage (supporting older LGBT people in Leeds) and the Museums and Library Service got together to get people to find out more about what services are available and most importantly to stress the importance of telling people what you want to happen in the event of your death - either by ideally making a will and leaving instructions in it detailing what you want or by filling in a form from an independant funeral advisor with details of your next of kin, what kind of service (if any) you want, what kind of coffin, what music played etc.

The day kicked off with a parade around Millenium Square by a New Orleans style jazz band - complete with very snazzy patterned and bejwelled jazz umbrellas, an opening talk and then you were free to talk to people at the stalls. It was really nice to meet people in the flesh who I'd been chatting to online previously. Plus I was able to have a long chat with Peter from Hugh Gooding Funeral Services who very kindly answered my many questions about how funerals are being done now and the different practices amongst different cultures and how fashions are changing and how some things eg horse drawn hearses are coming back into fashion. I found it a really useful positive event.

I first wrote my will and wishes for my funeral a long time ago (almost 20 years now) when a good friend of mine died and sadly he hadn't written down what he wanted. I was determined them that my loved ones would only have to deal with the distress of loss as opposed to the worry of whether or not they were doing the right thing. I also made out a living will as it was then known - they're known as advance directives now, which reminds me I must check with my GP and see if that is still on/in my medical notes.

I'm on the organ donor register at present but am also thinking about donating my body to medical science - but they can be quite choosy. Whatever happens I want no religious service, to ultimately be cremated and the music to start with Meet Me At The Cemetery Gates by The Smiths because I hope that'll make the people there smile, Boys in the Back Room by Marlene Dietrich, Trois Cloches by Edith Piaf and Les Gymnopedies by Satie and my ashes to be scattered in St George's Field - a change from my original plan of Almscliffe Crag.

I then went to college to do a lot of printing - printing and preparing for my second proper grown up academic paper which I delivered on Friday 13th (one of my favourite dates) at the Victorian Representations Conference at Leeds Trinity University. I originally had almost 40 slides so I cut that down a bit and also after reading it aloud to my ever patient and supportive husband rewrote a couple of bits of it so it flowed better and didn't repeat the phrase Victorian Representations quite so often...I did read it out to Mapp as well during the week but she was her usual taciturn self and she didn't give me any useful feedback, though she did demand biscuits and treats.

Once I was happy with it, and I had checked and rechecked my references and historical facts I put it on a memory stick, emailed it and uploaded it to my google drive as well - the more places it's in the better in case of memory stick failure. I then realised I had left out one important picture that proves my point re lack of angels at St George's Fields and so had to insert that particular slide, delete the copies I've saved and emailed and then redo all that saving and emailing and uploading again. But far better to have realised that late on Thursday afternoon rather than on Friday as I was actually speaking. 

The day started with a really interesting keynote speech by Dr Trev Broughton from York University about the role of mothers and  anxiety as revealed in the correspondence between John Constable and his mother. Trev also kindly gave me some suggestions for further reading for my own research which I'm in the process of hunting down now, there was also a really useful session about funding opportunities and how best to apply for them. It was also really useful and lovely to chat to fellow victorianists over lunch and then it was the afternoon sessions. I was on last in my section and I got progressively more nervous the closer it got to my speaking time. 

But I took a deep breath and reminded myself of a piece of advice a chum gave me a while ago before I gave a talk to a WI group - which was that I was the expert in the room on what I was talking about , and whilst on Friday I was in a room of experts and some were far more expert than I am in various aspects of the Victorian Period - I am an expert on what bits of St George's Field inspire me to make artwork and their particular historical context.

Plus I have got my fingers very dirty indeed researching some of its history - after pouring over original copies of the Leeds Mercury from 1835 not only did I have dirty fingers but also when I blew my nose I blew 19th century candle and coal fire soot out into my hanky.

My paper went down very well (PHEW!!!!) and I got feedback like 'really interesting' , 'fabulous' and 'beautifully illustrated' which I was especially pleased with as I had spent a lot of time on the slides and they comprised a mix of pictures of the archive sources I was quoting/using and images of the actual artwork I'd made as a result.  

I also got asked if I would be a visiting speaker for a dark tourism module at Bishop Groseteste University in Lincoln - which was very flattering and reassuring and made me well up a little bit actually. I can see I'm going to have to work hard to get over my anxieties re travelling and plus if my slides hadn't made anybody think they looked good I'd be questioning why I was calling myself an artist. Well a gothic photographic artist but you know what I mean.

Then on Saturday it was my first guided walk and talk around St George's Field - I led a fabulous group from Darling Roses WI around the space, and gave them a general overview of the history of the place and it's evolution into the form it has today. Plus I stopped at various bits along the way round either to read a bit from contemporaneous newspaper reports, point out a particular bit of grave adornment, or lack of them in the case of angels, read from the paper the details of Susannah Derby's funeral - she was Pablo Fanquo's first wife and was killed during one of his performances, I also pointed out the bit where the Sisters of Mercy did a photoshoot back in the early 1980's, the use and significance of subscription graves and their being laid flat to make pathways, and all other manner of grave related stuff, especially with relation to women and how they're described on tombstones or in the registers. On graves they are often 'dutiful and beautiful' but in the register there is of what trade or profession they might have had (unless they were being listed as the parent) on the register entry of the dead woman.

The dead women in the Victorian period were ever listed in the registers by their marital status so wife, widow, spinster or relict. They were a lovely and appreciative audience and they have suggested I do it again but either with themes or on special occasions so a tour at night or one on Halloween or one around photography, which is giving me lots of food for thought as well as being really good feedback. If someone wants you to do it again then they must have enjoyed it first time round.

Saturday night was one of my favourite nights of the year - EUROVISION and we watched it with our equally Eurovision obsessed chums with a continental buffet and many a glass of red wine. The new voting system was a bit bewildering though and though James and Jake weren't as robbed as Scooch were in 2007 they should have come a bit higher up the list than third from bottom. Although if I'm completely honest the only bit of Eurovision I love is the Te-Deum by Charpentier at the beginning, which I have taken to standing and saluting during a la Father Jack style to the Marseillaise...

Then it was time for a trip to Elvington Air Museum which was quiet yesterday in terms of the number of people but also very noisy when an engine from a plane was given a test run. After that it was time for a bit of little old cemetery exploring. After seeing pics from a chum who is tracing his family tree I too wanted to go to the little old cemetry in Nun Monkton on the outskirts of York. What a beautiful little village - though call me a dyed in the wool townie but as picturesque as it was, it also had an undertone of Wicker Man about it to me but that could just be because I have read and seen far too many horror films. The way all the houses looked onto each other round the green was a bit Bentham Panopticon too but the old parish church was beautiful - really gorgeous stained glass windows designed by none other than Edward Burne-Jones and William Morris. Apparently Burne-Jones wanted people to say 'oh, only oh' upon seeing them and I'm afraid I didn't - but I did say 'wow, oh wow' which I hope is a suitable early 21st century exposition instead.

I took lots of photos, and it was really lovely to feel a proper camera in my hand again after a few weeks that have either been taken up with typing or printing or embroidering. But alas my trusty Canon film slr gave up the ghost whilst in the middle of taking what I hoped was a suitably artful shot of my chums ancestor grave. I'm hoping it's just the batteries that have run out. It takes CR2 batteries and annoyingly I only have one new one - when it takes two so I can't check til I've been to buy another one. Fingers crossed that it what it is or else I shall cry lots and lots. I have other good film slr cameras but this had become my go to fave - partly because of its functionality but also because it is lighter and more compact than the others I have and so slips into my bag easier. Oh well - will find out tomorrow....

Might have to go on another trip - as we also visited a very lovely church and graveyard at Kirk Hammerton but I only had my camera phone to use by then and it's okay for recording things but not for taking the kind of 'proper' pics I was in the mood for making and taking.

Other thing I've been writing lots of is words. I am still musing on whether or not to do a phd - or rather what on and where to do one. So I thought I'd roughly tot up how many words I've written over the course of this Masters and was GOBSMACKED that an average of 2,000 per blog post (ie my research journal) coupled with my dissertation, papers, presentations and what have you and it comes out as 292,500 but alas I have no more eloquent response to that other than FUCKING HELL....


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