Saturday, December 20, 2008
A lot has occurred since my last, several months of research, a month and a half of living in a London Lounge room, lunch with the gorgeous foodycat, a trip to Ireland, back to England, and now back to Ireland again.
My research has gone pretty well I think, I spent a week in Ipswich and then a week in Winchester, I didn't see any sights though, just the inside of the record offices, not very exciting. A few pub dinners along the way and a few pints which kept me going. I took a week off to work from home and then headed to London where I spent a week and a half at the National Archives at Kew, which is an impressive building, and they have an excellent system for the archives, though nothing riveting there. My next point of call was the National Maritime Museum, which is officially my favourite place, and I spent the rest of my time in London going there, apart from one day at the British Library. I must say here, that I had planned to spend more time at the British Library, but went back to the Maritime Museum, and I am so pleased I did... more on that later, but I will hint that there may have been a mild 'misadventure'.... but more on that later.....
I found some great material and now I have the fun task of going through hundreds of digital photos of 18th C letters and taking notes on them all!!
I headed to Ireland mid-November, but the work I had counted on there didn't quite come to fruition, so I eagerly headed back to England for a little more work at the Maritime Museum, some nice walks in the park, and a little sojourn including a trip to Portsmouth to see the Victory and the Dockyards, a Dickens festival, and a little domesticity....
Well I am back in Ireland now, and am trying to get ready for Christmas. It feels a bit strange and my Christmas spirit hasn't really kicked into gear because I haven't baked 10 cakes, too many mince pies for words and a pudding, and I am not in charge of all the food for Christmas, there will be no Christmas Morning Muffins, no Boxing day pie, no pistachio and cranberry stuffing for the chickens....but I will just have to take a back seat and try and enjoy myself, and if nothing else, I will have the Doctor Who Christmas Special to keep me going, so that will be a nice consolation prize....
Well that is it for tonight, but more on the misadventure later and perhaps something a bit more reflective or a little more insightful!
Christmas Tree, Grafton Street, Dublin
Nelson with the Victory
Nelson with the Figure head of HMS Trafalgar
Monday, September 15, 2008
Friday we had planned to drive home across the Yorkshire Dales, and I had been reading Wuthering Heights in preparation, but alas we didn't end up going that way, so Wuthering Heights was locationally in vain, perhaps I should have read Wordsworth or Beatrix Potter instead.
Sunday, September 14, 2008
Last week was the conference that had been a major factor in getting me over to the UK when I did. It was at the University of Northampton, which though a bit difficult to get to, was nice enough. I arrived the day before the conference and as the conference organiser had suggested it, went to dinner with some of the other delegates who had also arrived early. We went to a lovely Indian place, the food was delicious and the service excellent. There were a few Aussies there, one girl who was studying at Glasgow and a couple from Melbourne over for the conference. There was another fellow who was from a place about 20 minutes from where I was born in Northern Ireland, and he was lovely, it is funny how small a world it is. (What made the world even smaller was that there was another Australian girl at the conference who not only went to my uni as an undergrad, but had my supervisor!) It was a great night, though probably a bit late and a pint too many for the night before the conference, and so I was exhausted the next day, though thankfully my paper was not until the Friday.
Thursday went well, there were some very interesting papers, particularly interesting to me were the ones on masculinity and the key note speaker was excellent. Spent most of the time with my new Northern Irish friend and at dinner was at a table with him, an academic from Tasmania, a fellow from New Mexico who studies at Exeter, a Gallic speaking Scot from the Highlands of Polish descent and an English Lady. I was pleased with my efforts of talking to people and socialising, which I think was greatly assisted by the first night's proceedings. Even though the actual conference was very interesting, the most interesting thing I learnt that day was that Bob Geldof has Napoleon's penis, he bought it from a collector in California years ago. The things you learn at history conferences!
Friday also went well, my paper went well, and there was a very interesting paper given on Marine's which held my interest very well indeed. The key note was a bit arrogant, but good all the same, all in all it was a good day. I was sad to be leaving, truth be told, and doubly sad as we don't have the same conference scene at home an I can see where I am missing out in terms of getting my work out there, as well as networking and keeping in touch with what others are doing. I wonder if what I am able to produce from Australia will be able to compete with British/European works. I went back to the Indian place with the Australian couple, which was nice and a great improvement on the 1/3 a packet of pringles I was planning on for dinner.
All in all it was a good experience, I met some nice people and learnt some interesting things, mainly that Bob Geldof owns Napoleon's penis.
Tuesday, September 2, 2008
It will be a week tomorrow since I arrived in the UK. After taking a few days to get over the jet lag and to regain my bearings I did some work on my conference paper and then headed to London. First stop, Trafalgar Square. Now I have been there before, but I really do like it there, I don't know if it is just the giant Nelson , or that a whole square is dedicated to something I enjoy and am interested in, but it seems like a good sort of place to me. After subtly taking Nelson's picture with Nelson, I went to the National Gallery which was one thing I was dissapointed not to have done last time. It was very good, though I didn't have that long. I saw all the 'famous' ones plus a few of my favourite artists and all the 18th C ones. I then met up with a friend I went to school with and we went to the Natural History Museum, which, while good, was not really my thing and it was crazily hot there too. Nelson had his picture taken out the front, but he wasn't allowed out in the museum, as I didn't want my friend to think I was mental.
Today I went to the National Army Museum, which was very well done, though not as good as the Maritime Museum. It didn't take me long there so I made it the the National Portait Gallery, which was great! The Tudor section was good with several paintings of Queen Elizabeth and the wives of Henry which were good to see. The 18th C section was my favourite and it was good that I recognised a lot of the people without reading their captions. Emma and Nelson were together on the wall, which was nice, and Jane Austen was in the next room. The little sketch by Cassandra Austen really is very small but it was good to see it. It was also good to see Virginia Woolf.
The rest of the week is taken up with my conference and next week I go to the Lakes! Despite all this activity I am looking forward to getting to Ireland to see my Nana & relations and then getting back home. 1 week down, c. 19 to go.
Monday, August 25, 2008
Monday, August 11, 2008
Last week I met with a prominent Historian in my field, she was over from America possibly seeking a job at my uni, but I had a chat with her which was very helpful and then listened to what she termed her 'job talk'. It is always good getting other people's perspectives, though I think I may have come across as a vague idiot. Today a chapter of mine is the one of two papers being discussed at our Post grad seminar, I am extremely apprehensive about this and only wish I could have baked something to distract the class from actually speaking about the paper, and have found it is harder for people to be mean to you when you have baked them something delicious!
In baking news, have made more of Nigella's super chocolate cookies from Nigella Express with half in the freezer for another time. More delicious and delicate however were her Pistachio Macaroons from Domestic Goddess, why I haven't made them before I do not know! They were amazing with a strong, though not over powering pistachio flavour. They were sandwiched with pistachio butter cream and with the left over I am thinking I might make some rose water cupcakes and ice/fill them with this lovely green butter cream.
Wednesday, July 30, 2008
Tuesday, July 22, 2008
I have however been baking my heart out, particularly on Sunday when we had high(ish) tea for a friends birthday. I made Potato Cakes with Smoked Salmon (from Nigella Express), Caramelized Onion and Feta Tarts, Mini-Lamington Fairy Cakes (Women's Weekly cupcake book) and Mini-strawberry shortcakes (Domestic Goddess). All worked really well, I would like to try the strawberry shortcakes at their full size and the Potato Cakes with Smoked Salmon were great, Nigella used instant mash in the cakes so they were nice and light and delicious.
Sunday, July 6, 2008
Production levels here are still remarkably low much to my disgust, though I seem to be able to fit in everything else, other than my thesis! Not the way it should be and I will seek to address that soon.
I had a meeting with my associate supervisor, now main supervisor, and he put me on the spot by asking me straight out, what my argument was! However I managed to rally and told him something about how family was an important, guiding force that was competing with patriotism and the nation. He was quite pleased with that, and pronounced it to be an argument, and more importantly not mad!! He is quite young, though already slightly jaded with the system which leads him to have interesting insights into the whole research progress. He said new ideas or arguments are either wrong, potentially right and will shake things up, or completely mad. Mine, thankfully he feels falls in the middle category. Excellent, I am one up on the week!
In other unrelated news, I went to the Swans match last night which was rubbish! Poor effort from the red and the white I must say.
Also I am watching North and South today, so in honour of that and Mr Thornton's long association with Lint Intense Orange Chocolate (now Orange Intense) I made some 'Intense Orange' Chocolate Shortbread for the occasion.
Tuesday, July 1, 2008
I feel best when cooking, which doesn't help the thesis or my hopes to 'obviously lose 20 pounds'. Inspired by foodycats Blackberry Jelly I made Nigella's Slut-red Raspberries in Chardonnay Jellythe other weekend, which was amazing, delicious. I am now thinking how I can make a pimms and lemonade jelly as I think that would be amazing.
Wednesday, June 11, 2008
However I must not get too caught up with these historical figures as sentiment will only cloud my judgement as to what is interesting and worth writing about and what makes me well up with tears because I am the world's biggest softie!
MP sent the following comic to me. It is from http://beatonna.livejournal.com/ and I thought it was only appropriate to share it here, and now, when I am trying to distance emotions from history.
Tuesday, May 13, 2008
125g very soft unsalted butter
4 eggs, separated
300g plus 1 teaspoon caster sugar
100g plain flour
1 teaspoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon bicarbonate of soda
zest of 1 lemon
4 teaspoons lemon Juice
2 teaspoons milk
1/2 teaspoon cream of tartar
150 ml double or whipping cream
150g good quality lemon curd.
Preheat the oven to 200'c or 180 fan forced. Line & butter two 21 cm sandwich tins.
Mix the egg yolks, 100g of the sugar, the butter, flour, cornflour, baking powder, bicarb, and lemon zest in a processor. Add the lemon juice and milk and process again.
Divide the mixture between the prepared tins. You will think you don't even have enough to cover the bottom of the tins, but don't panic. Spread calmly with a rubber spatula until smooth.
Whisk the egg whites and cream of tartar until peaks form and then slowly whisk in 200g of sugar. Divide the whisked whites between the two sponge-filled tins. Spread one flat with a spatula and make peaks in the other. Sprinkle 1 teaspoon sugar over the peaks. Put tins in the over for 20-25 minutes.
With a cake tester, pierce the cake that has the flat meringue, no sponge should be on the tester. (Meringue will fall back once you take it from the oven). Remove both tins and leave cake to cool completely in them on a wire rack.
Unmould the flat-topped one onto a cake stand or plate, meringue side down. Whip cream until thick. Spread sponge side with lemon curd then cream. Top with second cake,the peaked meringue uppermost.
Sunday, May 11, 2008
I realise that I am slowly turning into a kooky historian who gets overly excited about the smallest things. I am currently building up my supply of quirky earrings and clothes so that when the transformation is complete, I will be ready. I do apologise for my rambling.
To make up for it, I made a cake. Although FatCouriers services have been employed, their record for delivery stands against them. I made a Lemon Meringue Cake today, lemon curd and all. I almost lost the top when I was carrying it to the table as I hadn't pushed it down enough and the curd was a bit slippery. Disaster was thankfully averted.
Wednesday, May 7, 2008
It is also very exciting! I have spent most of today nervously reading about the famous battle that this captain was involved in, taking an American ship with great speed, bravery and despite the obviously violent nature of war, compassion. This compassion, however, didn't do him any favours, as he was severely wounded, so that his 'brain was showing', by the very men that he was trying to save, though they were the enemy. After providing his men with a rousing speech which ended "I feel sure you will all do your duty; and remember you have now the blood of hundreds of your country men to avenge!" lead the boarding party onto the enemy ship calling to his men "Follow me who can!". It is fascinating learning more about this man and his naval endeavours, particularly compared to the modest picture he paints of himself in his letters to his wife. It also moved me to read, that when he was wounded and his officers brought him back onto his own ship and undressed him, they found a blue pouch around his neck which contained a lock of his wife's hair, which they saved, cleaned and returned to him.
I still have a lot to do, but am starting to feel excited again about things, which in something so long and potentially drawn out, can only be a good thing.
Friday, May 2, 2008
I am tossing up what to write on, I have the diary of a woman who accompanied her husband, a colonel in the British Army, to Ireland between 1802 and 1809. Or the correspondence of a Naval Captain, writing to his wife between 1809 to 1813 whilst on active service. Both are quite interesting, the former will allow me to look at social networks, British and Irish relations and family life as impacted on by the army. The latter will be about the absent husband and the family left at home, as well as imagined places as the husband creates an almost pastoral ideal of his family in England, influenced by his strong desire to return home to them.
Despite my need to work on this, the allure of social outings won over the allure of history this weekend. I saw two excellent French Films, Paris and Molière, both of which were among the best films I have seen in a long time. I love foreign films, I can't remember an occasion where I have left the cinema and have not enjoyed it. I will have to make an effort to go a bit more often. I also went out to Thai for dinner, hosted a BBQ and went to Yum Cha! I also had a tremendous amount of road rage, as every stupid driver in Sydney was on the road all weekend! They tend to come out more when I am running hideously late, which is 70% of the time. I also, in a distracted and late state, almost got run over earlier in the week, as I forgot to check for cars coming around the corner as I crossed the road.
I did manage to get some baking in too, making another Chocolate Guinness cake, but also Spanish Macaroons, which are gorgeous with almond meal, Orange and cinnamon, fragrant and delicious. Which reminds me that I want to go and see some films in the Spanish Film Festival which is about to start at Palace Cinemas.
Friday, April 25, 2008
I also got word that I was accepted for a Masterclass in June to be held at the University of Tasmania, which will be nerve wracking as I think it is only for 20 people, but also hopefully very useful.
I have no cooking to report, having somehow managed not to be in for dinner at all this week. I did make a Lime Yogurt Poppy seed cake at the end of last week, which is an old favourite. My tin had been giving me grief on previous outings so I buttered and floured it and the cake obligingly slid out. The icing was a little thin, but all in all it was good. I will have to do some baking this weekend as I am going into withdrawals.
Tuesday, April 15, 2008
Of course today, instead of working solidly, I was planning and cooking a dinner party for some work colleagues of my Dad's. I was working from Nigella Lawson's Feast and her "Italianified Supper for 6". It all turned out well, the involtini (eggplant stuffed with mozzarella, feta, Parmesan, mint, parsley, pine nuts, raisins and lemon zest, baked in Nepolitana sauce) was lovely and the Baci Di Ricotta (ricotta and cinnamon balls) were amazing. I also made, and was very pleased with, the chocolate Guinness cake to go with coffee. It was gorgeous and moist and the cream cheese icing did very well on top. It is also from Feast and I would rate it amongst the best chocolate cakes I have ever had. It was almost mud cake like in moisture and density but without the over powering sweetness and stickiness that many mud's can have.
Saturday, April 12, 2008
This week has been a mixed week, though for the most part filled with blank pages, procrastination and a few thousand words. Two chapters were due on Monday just past, and they are still not finished. I am rather embarrassed, but to my great disappointment I do not have a time machine (preferably a TARDIS) so they are, and will be late. It is a rather strange feeling as prior to this year I have never handed anything in late, and though I don't lose marks, I fear I am losing the respect of my supervisor. I need to work on that, so on Monday, I think I will bake her some biscuits. Surely a plate of delicious snickerdoodles or Spanish macaroons will be more interesting than a literature review, and certainly a lot let tedious for all involved. That is my plan, and so long as she doesn't think I am trying to bribe or poison her, all will go well!
Friday night was enjoyably spent with four girls who I went/go to uni with. As we all study history and are at various stages of post grad work, our conversation naturally turns to history. The question was raised; which is worse, to praise a woman because she is displaying traditionally masculine qualities, (political involvement, literary achievement etc) or praise her femininity (motherhood etc)? So many histories only report on women who were seen to step outside the mould and behave like a man, and it is these qualities that have been praised. While at times, the woman who performs what is seen as feminine duties, motherhood, wife, 'private' duties, can be overly read being oppressed or worse dull and not worth being placed on the historical record. Were all women who were not breaking the mould oppressed? Were they, as my friend put it (and does not believe) they all sitting in their gendered towers, unable to articulate, but screaming, 'Let me Out!' Can we, should we, try and look at the past (and perhaps the present) not in gendered terms but in human terms, or is this impossible? Or worse does it deny and strip us of a major part of our identity?
Now, I am a feminist, in the line of SSS's post Where are you Daughters of Germaine and I write history about women. However, I don't want to fall into the trap of only writing about women, forgetting men and their achievements. Worse still, I don't want to ignore the past that was not breaking moulds, but was living, loving and surviving. This is why I think I have moved towards looking at families which will hopefully let me look at 'people'. I however, cannot give up gender, as it was a reality and an experience that people lived, and therefore important and vital to understanding their lives.
I will be interested to know what you all think. I am not sure if I have articulated what I am thinking, but I just thought I would put it out there as it is where my head is at.
Tuesday, April 8, 2008
"This is a wretched beginning indeed! My sole dependence was on you; and I am sure nobody else will believe me, if you do not."