dolorosa_12: by ginnystar on lj (robin marian)
For the first time in about six months, I was able to make it through half a day or so with all thoughts of politics gone from my mind. It was, quite literally, the aforementioned bread and circuses that did the trick.

Last year, Matthias had the brilliant idea to get us tickets to see Cirque du Soleil's Amaluna at the Albert Hall in London. He'd never seen them before. I have been a devoted, obsessive fan of Cirque for thirty years. My mother first took me to one of their shows when I was about two years old; my parents had taken me back to New York for a holiday in the northern summer of 1987 and Mum took me to see Le Cirque Réinventé. I don't remember much from that performance, other than the fact that they had an act where seven people all rode on the same bicycle, but I was absolutely hooked. The trouble was that Cirque didn't do any tours of Australia until the late '90s. It was ten years later, in 1997, before I would get to see them again, when Saltimbanco toured Australia. By this stage, my sister was born, so she came to the show too.

For the next ten years, we saw every Cirque show that toured Australia: Alegria, Dralion, Quidam and Varekai. I taped shows off the TV years before they ever made their way to Australia, and wore out the tapes watching them over and over again; Quidam in particular was deeply important to me. My gymnastics floor routine at one point used the music from the diabolo act from Quidam. My favourite act in that show was the banquine, which I had learnt off by heart years before I ever saw it in real life. When I did finally see that act in real life, I cried because it mattered so much to me. I even ended up working for Cirque at one point — nothing as glamorous as actually performing, but I spent a month or so selling food and drink at the concession stands at their show Varekai during the Canberra leg of their Australian tour, in 2007 when I had finished undergrad, moved back to Canberra, and worked four jobs for about six months. This did nothing to dampen my enthusiasm, although to this day I cannot hear certain songs from the Varekai soundtrack without getting the strong urge to frantically clean the nearest popcorn machine.

Thought I didn't know it at the time, Varekai would be the last show of Cirque's that I watched for ten years — I'd already seen it once in Sydney in 2006, and I got to watch it once for free in 2007 when I was working for the show. In 2008 I moved to the UK, and couldn't afford tickets (also, a lot of the shows that toured Europe during those years were ones I'd already seen). And thus it ended up being ten years before I saw them again.

Seeing Amaluna was an almost religious experience, like coming home. I'd never been to the Albert Hall before, but it was like a gigantic, glittery jewellery box inside, and although we hadn't planned it that way, Matthias and I ended up sitting in our own private box on the second tier.

 photo 16473446_10102146397938490_6824374070497316099_n_zps16wnb4ys.jpg

It was pretty great!

Matthias was in utter awe, and it meant a lot to me to be with him while he was watching a Cirque show for the first time. The aesthetic was, as he described it, Nightwish-meets-Mad-Max (with an all-female live band), and some incredible acts. My personal favourites were the hand-balancing, which was done with the added difficulty of a large, human-sized bowl of water into which the balancer kept diving (which meant her hands were slippery with water, and meant she had to time the dives exactly, given that the bowl was not very deep), and an incredible act in which a group of acrobats launched each other into the air from opposite ends of a giant springboard, from which they somersaulted, leapt, and sprang. I had been looking forward to the uneven bars act, which was good, but used quite basic gymnastics moves. (Don't get me wrong, they executed them brilliantly, and they had the added difficulty of sharing the bars with multiple other acrobats, whereas in gymnastics of course the gymnast is on her own on one set of bars.)

I also knew they had a banquine act, and given how much the banquine finale from Quidam meant to me, I had high hopes. The trouble is, being the intense fan that I was, I knew the Quidam act off by heart, beat for beat, move for move, right down to every moment of choreography and even the turns of the performers' heads. So I was gobsmacked to notice, immediately, that the Amaluna banquine was essentially identical to the Quidam one: same moves, same choreography, same movements around the stage. The only differences were that where Quidam's banquine act has a kind of violent, despairing desperation in tone (the choreography is quite aggressive and the performers give off a kind of world-weary, hopeless air), the Amaluna act is more joyful — which actually doesn't work as well with the choreography. The Amaluna performers also didn't attempt the more difficult moves performed by their counterparts in Quidam.

The banquine was not the only act borrowed wholesale from another Cirque show: the jugggling act was lifted entirely from Dralion! I guess they're not anticipating audience members who wore out video tapes watching their earlier shows over and over again. I still loved watching the show, and our seats up high in the middle tier of the theatre were perfect for me, because they gave me a bird's eye view of all the mechanisms going on slightly behind the scenes: tech guys making their way across the scaffolding, performers waiting to be lowered down on wires, the acrobats calling proceedings during group acts, the ways in which dancers distracted from equipment being set up or moved away. This was exactly what my sister and I used to spot and discuss in muttered tones when we watched Cirque shows together as children, and it gave me a great deal of joy. Matthias' amazed enthusiasm for the show and awe at the performers' strength, agility, and the jaw-droppingly incredible things they could do with their bodies also made me ridiculously happy, and I'm so glad to have been able to share something so deeply formative and precious to me with him.

All in all, it was a wonderful day out in London. We also ate lunch at this restaurant, and it was excellent. It's in a great location if you're going to a show at the Albert Hall or seeing an exhibition at one of the museums in Kensington, so I highly recommend it. The food is a little expensive, but there's a set theatre menu which is a bit more reasonably priced, and it has an amazing range of cocktails. It was nice to put the things that are making me anxious and terrified aside, if only for a little while, and exist in a space where everything is Cirque du Soleil and nothing hurts.
dolorosa_12: (Default)
I've added a bunch of new people as a result of [personal profile] st_aurafina's recent friending meme, so I thought it was high time to introduce myself.

Feel free to skip if you've had me in your circle/flist for a while )

I'm really looking forward to getting to know you! Please feel free to ask whatever questions you like.
dolorosa_12: (le guin)
This has been my tradition since 2007, and I've found it to be a good way to take stock and pause for reflection in the moment as one year slips into the next.

Questions and answers behind the cut )

Happy 2017, everyone.
dolorosa_12: (emily hanna)
The three things in this post's title sit rather incongruously next to each other, but together make up this weekend. I spent most of yesterday in Bedford, where Matthias had to travel to take his 'Life in the UK' test, a prerequisite for a successful application for British citizenship by naturalisation. Matthias will be applying for this in the near future, and this test is simply one of the administrative hoops through which he is required to jump. It involves answering a series of simplistic and somewhat silly questions about British history, culture and politics. Although he had studied, and passed every practice test without difficulty, we were more concerned that his proof of address (a printed bank statement) wasn't going to be accepted by the test administrators, as at least one person we know had been turned away for the rather silly reason of not having his name printed on each page of his bank statement. Thankfully, Matthias was not turned away at the door, and the test was so easy that he completed it in three minutes. He was informed that he had passed then and there, and so his naturalisation application can go ahead. For various bureaucratic reasons he will not be able to apply until early next year, but it's nice to have this out of the way good and early.

After the test, we met up with some friends who live in Bedford for beer (or, in my case, gin) and curry, which struck me as a very British way to celebrate Matthias' impending Britishness.

Today the two of us met up with [personal profile] naye and [personal profile] doctorskuld and went to a food fair. There were a lot of free samples, and Matthias and I came away with sausages, various types of cheese, and a small collection of vinegars and sauces. We opted not to eat lunch at the food fair and headed over to a hipsterish cafe with antique bikes hanging from the ceiling, and a menu in which half the items consisted of avocado on toast. I don't like avocado, but luckily the other half of the menu was filled with things I like, so there was no danger of going hungry.

I've just written a review of some of my recent reading. It's a review of books by Shira Glassman, Becky Chambers, and Kate Elliott, and can be found at my Wordpress blog. I highly recommend all three books.

Yuletide is fast approaching. My nominations have all been approved (there was never any danger of that — I'm highly unlikely to nominate borderline fandoms, but it's nice to have the confirmation), so I guess I'd better get on to writing my letter and thinking about what fandoms to offer myself!

I hope everyone else has been having wonderful weekends.
dolorosa_12: (teen wolf)
I'm a cautious person, so I like to wait for contracts to be signed and things to be in writing before telling the world, but now that that's all happened, I can talk about two pieces of very good news. Both are employment-related.

Firstly, Matthias recently applied and was successful in applying for a new job. His old job was an entry level library assistant job in one of Cambridge's departmental libraries, and although he liked it and got on well with his coworkers, it was more junior than he really wanted, and it was also only full-time on a temporary basis: he'd originally been hired to work two days a week, and three extra days had been added on to do a specific project, which was due to end in October. We had been quite anxious about what would happen then, and he had been applying for new jobs since January this year, and had been shortlisted and interviewed for several, but not made it past the interview stage. So it was a great relief when he was successful in this particular job - a more senior role in a different branch of the university's network of libraries, doing varied work in a field in which he has a great interest. Most importantly, the new job is three grades higher than his old one, and the resulting pay increase has come at a very good time, given that we're trying to save for a wedding. He's just started this week, and has found things to be good so far.

Secondly, my job, which was originally a two-year fixed-term contract (due to finish in December, 2016) has been made permanent, which was a great relief. I really enjoy it, like my colleagues, and appreciate how supportive my boss is in terms of letting me do lots of training, attend workshops and conferences, and generally develop my skills for career-related reasons. I was not relishing the prospect of jumping back on the job applications merry-go-round, so I'm thrilled to be able to stay on as long as I want in my current role.

As you can imagine, we are both over the moon, and realise how fortunate we've been. I hope those of you going through stressful job hunts have similar luck.
dolorosa_12: by ginnystar on lj (robin marian)
How was your Sunday, Ronni?

Oh, not too bad, not too bad, I just GOT ENGAGED!

The ring is supposed to look like the Earth as viewed from space )

Matthias and I have been together for many years now, and getting married was always something we intended to do. It was just a matter of finding the right time(frame) to do it. We decided, while on holiday in Australia in December, that the time had come. After that, it was just a matter of determining exactly when to announce our decision. But although this clearly wasn't something that happened spontaneously, I think we'll consider today the official start of our engagement, for anniversary purposes.

I am, as you might imagine, very happy and floaty. Everything feels hopeful and wonderful, and I am very much looking forward to many more years with my fiancé (which still feels weird to say), Matthias, my favourite favourite.
dolorosa_12: (pagan kidrouk)
It's the early afternoon, and the sun is streaming through our living room windows, and there are daffodils in a vase, and everything is generally wonderful. Today is the last day in what ended up being a ten-day holiday — something I didn't realise I needed until it happened.

I spent the first four days of the holiday up in Anglesey staying with [tumblr.com profile] gwehydd and her husband and son. Matthias and I have quite a few friends in that part of the world, and try to get there once every year or two if possible. Apart from going out to a restaurant on the Saturday night and a pub lunch on the Sunday, we stuck pretty close to home, as our friends' toddler son makes it difficult to do lots of travelling. But to be honest, a weekend spent hanging out indoors, playing board games and laughing at the adorable antics of our friends' son was exactly what I needed. Anglesey is a really beautiful part of the world, and unfortunately on all previous trips it's poured with rain. This time we were lucky enough to get sun during the moments we ventured outdoors, which was fantastic. [tumblr.com profile] gwehydd and her husband are going to be doing a lot of travelling in the upcoming months — he is a university lecturer and is on the verge of taking first study leave and later a sabbatical — so it was good to be able to catch up with them before they head off overseas. Our other good friend in Anglesey is married to a Polish woman and is about to move to Poland with her, so we're also not likely to see much of him in the next year either (unless we go to Poznan for a holiday, which we've been idly considering for a while but not planned seriously). It was therefore great to be able to catch up with everyone before they scattered to the four corners of the Earth.

After our trip to Anglesey we spent the rest of the holiday in Cambridge. I realised that this was the first holiday I've had in about four years that hasn't involved either going somewhere else to stay with friends or family, or having people stay with us, neither of which I find particularly relaxing. It was so amazing to just be able to hang out in Cambridge, binge-watching TV, cooking loads of food, and doing life admin without any demands on my time or feeling like I needed to entertain people. I think I'm going to insist on having at least several consecutive days of holiday like this every year from now on!

We did go out with Cambridge friends to the pub on Thursday night (I think I ended up spending most of the time ranting with [tumblr.com profile] shinyshoeshaveyouseenmymoves about Song of Achilles (which I detest and which seems to pop up in fandom spaces when I least expect it) and our general dissatisfaction with the direction some corners of fandom seem to be taking), but other than that, Matthias and I only left the house for some forays into town to buy food. (Inevitably, these coincided with pouring rain.) We made an attempt to binge-watch Daredevil, but have so far only made it six episodes in — not because we don't like this season, but because we had so much other TV to catch up with! In any case, I'm thoroughly enjoying Daredevil so far, although it does suffer in comparison to Jessica Jones.

I'm also doing a reread of Philip Pullman's Sally Lockhart books, which are as good as I remember them. There are some authors I like for their characters, some whose plotting is exquisite, some whose themes resonate deeply with me, and some I like for their turns of phrase. Pullman is one of the few whose work is good at all four of these elements, and whose books always reward rereads. Coming back to these familiar stories is like settling in under a warm blanket.

All in all, the past ten days have been utterly restorative. I kind of wish I didn't have to go back to work tomorrow!
dolorosa_12: (emily)
This has been one of those weekends where everything came together perfectly, seemingly without much effort on my part. It was desperately needed: not only was the past week particularly exhausting (and seemingly endless) but I have also not really had a free weekend for at least a month. So although this weekend ended up being quite packed, it was relaxing, and I feel rested in a way that I haven't for a long time.

On Friday night my colleagues and I had our work Christmas party. We went to this restaurant, which had amazing food. I'm someone who likes to keep a fairly rigid separation between work and the rest of my life, so although I get on well with my colleagues, I always feel a bit weird about seeing them socially and drinking alcohol with them. However, the party was fun, and I'm glad I went.

I ended up spending most of yesterday rushing around running errands. The final Obernewtyn book (an Australian YA dystopian series that has been in existence since 1987, and which I've been reading since 1999, to give you some idea of how long I've been waiting for the last book) was delivered on Friday, but as no one was home, I had to go and collect it from the depot on Saturday. (My heroic mother pre-ordered a copy, and then paid $AUS60 to send it to me in the UK, as it's not published here yet.) As the book is over 1000 pages long, and as it's the kind of thing that I will need to start, and then not stop until it's finished, I haven't actually begun reading it, but it is reassuring simply to have it in the house.

Instead, I've been reading Evangeline Walton's Mabinogion, fantasy stories based on the Middle Welsh Mabinogi. This was on the recommendation of [livejournal.com profile] la_marquise_de_'s essay on the author. One of the things Kari emphasised in her essay was the way Walton's writing captured the tone and mood of the original Welsh material, and this was something I most appreciated about the work. It had the strangeness, cadences of the original language, and that undercurrent of melancholy that I find running through so much medieval literature. I'm grateful to Kari for alerting me to the existence of Walton's writing, and highly recommend it.

On Saturday night, Matthias and I celebrated his birthday with several friends of ours. We went out to dinner at a new pub, which seems to be focusing on Belgian beer, gin (its gin menu listed about thirty different types), mussels and steak. This somewhat strange combination worked really well: the food was excellent, the place was heaving, and I was forced to choose between gin or mulled wine. It was freezing, so I stuck with the wine, which was handmade, and fragrant with cinnamon, cloves, and oranges. Now that none of us are students any more, it's difficult to get groups of our friends together, so it was great to be able to hang out with everyone for an evening.

Today has mostly been filled with Yuletide writing — I finished my assignment, which means I should have time to get at least one treat done before the deadline — and watching Jessica Jones. We've only watched the first two episodes, but I'm absolutely hooked. It's everything I ever wanted from a TV series, and I'm finding it powerful and resonant in a variety of ways that I will outline further once I've watched the whole thing.

Now I'm just drinking tea and gearing up for the next working week. I wish I could have more weekends like this!
dolorosa_12: (teen wolf)
This weekend seems to have been filled up mostly with eating.

My friend [livejournal.com profile] lucubratae came up to stay with us on Saturday. He's moved from Australia to London to do an MA, and wanted to get out of the city for a day or so for a change of scene. We hung out for a bit in one of the faculty libraries so that he could work on an essay for his coursework, and in the evening we went with Matthias, and several of my medievalist friends to a pub that was having its own Oktoberfest, selling lots of German beers and serving German food instead of its usual menu. The pub was busy and lively, and I almost lost my voice by the end of the night, but a good time was had by all.

Today Matthias and I went to the Cambridge Botanic Gardens for their 'Apple Day'. They had twenty-nine varieties of apples available for tasting and for sale, none of which were varieties I'd ever tried — or even heard of — before. I prefer apples that are really sour, and which have a very crispy texture, and I was able to find a lot that fit these specifications. We bought bags of three different types of apples.

I also came away with a little sampler box of gin — sloe and cherry, lemon, and raspberry — and several jars of chili sauce.

After hearing [personal profile] naye talk about [twitter.com profile] GuerrillaKitch, I'd been keen to find an opportunity to try their bao, and I was fortunate enough to discover that they were at the Apple Day. So Matthias and I each had a chicken bao and shared pad thai chips for lunch. A cup of coffee for me and a cup of perry for Matthias and we were set for the afternoon. Thankfully the weather today has been lovely, and it was the perfect day to wander around the Botanic Gardens and walk around in the sunshine.

On a sadder note, I'd like to remind everyone about the fundraiser for Rochita Loenen-Ruiz. It's still going, although the organisers have met the original goal. They are now leaving it open and attempting to reach various stretch goals. As well as helping out a really wonderful human being during a horrible time in her life, donors gain access to a site full of downloadable goodies, including short stories by Aliette de Bodard, printable colouring sheets by [twitter.com profile] Likhain, poems by Rose Lemberg and Shveta Thakrar, and a short story by Bogi Takács. Donors also go into a draw to win lots of other rewards. Please spread the news about the fundraiser, and donate if you can.
dolorosa_12: (teen wolf)
This weekend was the alumni festival at Cambridge, and my former department hosted a drinks reception on Saturday evening. Matthias and I went along, although we spent more time speaking with current PhD student and postdoc friends who are still based in Cambridge, rather than people who have moved on. It was great to just hang out with so many medievalists again, though. I say I want nothing to do with academia any more, but it really is wonderful to be able to talk to people about medieval Irish literature or Welsh manuscripts or Anglo-Saxon legal history and not have to justify why you might be interested in stuff like this. It reminded me how much I really did love my PhD subject and do enjoy talking about it from time to time, in contexts where the pressure to perform isn't there.

The reception also included a presentation by my friend Myriah, who is in the final stages of a PhD on the Black Book of Carmarthen, and whose research gained a lot of attention from the mainstream media earlier this year (to the extent that she was fielding questions from the BBC and the Washington Post on the one hand, and having her work misinterpreted by alien conspiracy theorists on the other). Her talk was essentially an expanded version of her earlier post on the departmental blog, with PowerPoint slides, and it sounds as if the experience was both surreal and rewarding.

After the reception, several people came back to our place to watch the rugby. I'm not a huge fan, but Matthias and many of our friends are, and I'm always happy to hang out with people at home and drink wine, so that was lots of fun.

Today my boss at Newest Library Job had invited all of us over for lunch at her place, along with partners and families. She and her partner live in Shelford, a small village five minutes away from Cambridge by train. It was a beautiful afternoon, and we sat out in the garden in the autumn sun, watching chickens wandering in and out of the bushes and two colleagues' children throw balls for the dog. Everyone brought a plate of food, and it was massively overcatered, so I suspect a lot of leftovers will show up at work tomorrow. It was great to meet the families of my colleagues, and to introduce them to Matthias (although several people already knew him, given that he also works in the Cambridge library system).

All in all it's been a really relaxing weekend.
dolorosa_12: (what's left? me)
I'm taking my turn at that meme that's been doing the rounds, the one where you're assigned an age and answer a few questions which contrast your life then with your life now. [personal profile] naye gave me 18.

Answers behind the cut )

It was really great to do that meme. A lot of the things that caused me great distress at 18 had obvious fixes in retrospect, but I wouldn't have lived any other way. It makes me happy to see how far — literally and metaphorically — I have come.
dolorosa_12: (emily hanna)
Hello to all the new people now following me as a result of the friending meme (and for those of you who haven't seen the meme yet, it's here).

I thought I'd introduce myself to all of you. Feel free to ask me questions about anything.

Feel free to skip if you've had me in your circle/flist for a while )
dolorosa_12: (sokka)
Today is a public holiday in my part of the world, and I'm absolutely astonished at how productive I've been able to be when I have three days off work instead of two. So far this weekend I have:

  • Cleaned the bathroom

  • Planted lavender, thyme, mint, and rosemary in our garden

  • Gone through all my clothes and thrown out anything that's worn out, filled with holes or otherwise unwearable (I wear my clothes to death - there were some items that were fifteen years old in the latest clear-out, so nothing is ever in a state to donate to charity)

  • Gone through the massive stack of paperwork on my desk in our study, and sorted it all into folders, tidied it away, and thus cleared a working space in an area that has been covered with piles of paper for months on end

  • Cooked an extremely elaborate roast chicken dinner, and made a soup using the chicken bones and leftovers

  • Cleaned the kitchen, including wiping out the inside of drawers and the fridge

  • Done two loads of laundry

  • Written and queued up a book review for a new project one of my friends has started (the review isn't scheduled to post for a few weeks, but I'll link it when it's live)

  • Made plum-infused vodka


  • In other words, why can't all weekends be three days long?

    Last week, Matthias and I went to the Norfolk coast with four friends. The place we were staying was in between Cromer and Sheringham, and although we were expecting pretty miserable weather, it was super warm and we were even able to hang out on the beach for a morning.

    Photos behind the cut )

    All in all, the last week has been pretty great.
    dolorosa_12: by ginnystar on lj (robin marian)
    Wow, it's been a while since I've posted on LJ/Dreamwidth. Lots has been happening, though, so I have plenty of stuff to update you all about.

    My mother essentially spent all of July (and the first week of August) in this part of the world. She's been visiting me annually since I moved to the UK. For this particular visit, she spent the first week in Cambridge. Matthias and I were both working, but Mum knows Cambridge quite well by now, and was able to entertain herself during the day, meeting me each evening at work to walk me home. I walk forty-five minutes to, and forty-five minutes from, work every day, and I normally do it alone, so it was nice to have some company. She even discovered a (much nicer) secret short-cut that I hadn't known existed, so now my daily walk takes me past canals, community gardens, and horses.

    The week after that the two of us went on holiday to Norway. This is something we'd been talking about doing for years, but it was always complicated by either my PhD or visa situation. This year we were determined to go. We spent four days in Bergen, which was absolutely wonderful - another town that I fell in love with - and about a day-and-a-half in Oslo. It poured with rain in Bergen, which I gather is normal, but that didn't prevent us from spending one day doing an absolutely breathtaking hike from Mount Ulriken to Mount Fløyen. We're pretty tough hikers, but the terrain was a bit of a challenge, in that we had to scramble up and down mountains, dodging bogs and jumping between stepping stones. We met some great people along the hike, including a young Swiss couple who were going on and on about how expensive Norway was (Switzerland is so cheap, they said, which made us raise our eyebrows a bit), a pair of friendly middle-aged Norwegian sisters who walk the track every year, and a Finnish family whose little daughter gave us her last piece of chocolate at the top of a particularly steep hill.

    Apart from more hiking, we spent our time in Bergen eating vast quantities of amazing fresh fish. The Fish Market was pretty much heaven to me.

    We had been advised to catch the train between Bergen and Oslo, which was a long journey, but well worth it. The route takes you through lots of little mountain villages, and around stunning clear lakes and waterfalls. There was snow on the mountains, even though it was the middle of the northern summer.

    Our Oslo time was a bit of a whirlwind tour, taking in the centre of town, a hipstery-student area, the upmarket redeveloped former docks (doesn't every harbour town have an upmarket redeveloped former dock area?), the Viking Ship Museum, and a park in the embassy area of town.

    After Oslo, Mum headed back to the UK for a week working from a base in Cambridge (she's a radio journalist and always puts together at least one programme when she visits me, interviewing Cambridge- and London-based academics) and a bit of hiking in Suffolk. I flew into Germany for a weekend visit with Matthias' family and then a holiday with him in Hamburg.

    Hamburg reminded me a bit of Oslo (although without the insane Norwegian food prices), in that every neighbourhood within it had a very different feel. (It also had the ubiquitous trendy upmarket redeveloped former dock area, although for some reason the Hamburg version of this was filled with shop after shop selling Persian carpets.) We managed to do a bit of everything in Hamburg, from a harbour tour to a museum exhibition on the curating and sharing of memories from the earliest days of photography until now. My highlight was probably the tour of the spectacularly over the top Rathaus, which was well worth the 4-euro price. Our tour was in German, but they also do tours in English and French, and I would highly recommend it if you're ever in Hamburg.

    After Hamburg I joined Mum for a weekend in London, where we walked two stages of the Capital Ring Walk (we did Wimbledon to Richmond and Richmond to Osterley Lock - you can do them as two separate walks, but we combined them as together it was only something like 13 miles). Then it was back to Cambridge, and work. Mum stuck around for another week, and flew back to Australia last Saturday. It's been weird walking to work without her.

    In extremely good news, I got my new visa, which I had applied for in March and then spent a stressful four months waiting for. It's for five years, and is a great relief to finally have in my hand, as not having a visa puts you in a kind of weird limbo. The category of visa for which I applied allows you to request your identity documents back (which is how I was able to travel to Norway and Germany), but I was extremely worried that I would have trouble at the UK border when I tried to reenter with only proof of application. In any event, it went fine, and the application was approved and sent some days later, but I'm glad to put this particular application behind me. What with gathering documents for evidence and then waiting, the whole process really took about seven months, which is long enough! When Matthias called me to say the visa had been delivered, I danced around my office!

    I've been reading some truly wonderful books, and I really must do a bit of a roundup at some point, but for now, I'll leave it.
    dolorosa_12: (what's left? me)
    Birth: Stop wrapping your arm around your neck. You're hurting your mother.

    0: Yes, your parents are at present a rock music journalist and a foreign correspondent flitting all over North and South America. Don't worry. They won't expect you to ever be that cool.

    1: Don't worry. The vacuum cleaner can't hurt you. Neither can the blender. Neither can the food processor.

    2: Don't worry. The cracks in the ceiling and in the tiles of the bath aren't ants. Neither are the black lines painted on the floor of the swimming pool. They can't hurt you. The cicadas make a really loud noise, but they're tiny little insects, not one giant animal 'as big as a bear'. It's not your fault your mother didn't explain that in a way you understood. The cicadas can't hurt you.

    Your aunts are going to allow you to walk around them in circles, talking at them. They will draw pictures of the stories you tell them. They will transform the couches on your front patio into two horses that take you on adventures. Your grandfather will build you a bedhead and swim with you in the ocean, and your grandmother will tell you stories. Your other grandfather will build you a bookcase, and your other grandmother will sew clothes for your dolls. You will be surrounded by cousins. This will be more precious to you than gold.

    3: Stop being jealous of your newborn sister. She is amazing, and you will love her very much.

    4: Don't worry that you hate preschool. There is a boy there who hates it even more, so much that he will spend every lunchtime attempting to climb over the fence and escape. One day he will succeed. Your mothers will bond over their children's reluctance to be at preschool. Years later, his mother will be your mentor in your first 'grown-up' job.

    5: Don't worry. You will learn to read. It will happen suddenly, and it will feel like a thunderbolt resounding in your head, and you will be astonished, and it will lead you into a thousand other worlds.

    6: 'Just ignore them and they'll stop doing it' is the worst piece of advice you will ever be given.

    7: The way they treat you is not okay.

    8: The way they treat you is not okay.

    9: The way they treat you is not okay.

    10: This new friendship group is great, but it will not survive one of its members returning to East Timor. Sorry about that.

    11: The way they treat you is not okay.

    12: You've cut your hair and pierced your ears and changed your name. That's a good start. These new friends you've made in high school seem pretty great. You might want to hang onto them.

    It's okay that you love Hanson. You don't need to be embarrassed.

    13: The way she treats you is not okay.

    14: The way they treat you is not okay.

    15: He's not a mind-reader. Tell him how you feel about him.

    16: He's not a mind-reader. Tell (this different) him how you feel about him.

    17: You're right. You have found your tribe. Hold on to this feeling. You will feel it again, but not for a very long time.

    18: You're right. Leaving Canberra does feel like cutting your heart out. You are going to take six years to get over this, but I promise you that eventually you will feel that same sense of place in Sydney.

    19: Your mother is amazing, but you don't need to take all her advice.

    20: How you're feeling is not your friends' fault.

    21: You are making really good academic choices.

    How you're feeling is not your friends' fault.

    22: I wish I could say 'don't move back to Canberra', but if you didn't, you'd never meet the sraffies, and you'd never go to Cambridge, so you're going to have to grin and bear it.

    23: You have made the best and bravest decision of your life.

    Remember what I said about finding your tribe? Yeah, you've found them.

    24: What he did to you was not okay.

    25: You will never feel such extremes of emotion again.

    He saved you, but don't make it mean more than it should.

    One day, you will be grateful to him for walking away when you couldn't.

    (Late 25 and) 26: Hold onto this one. He is what home feels like.

    27: Don't move to Heidelberg.

    28: Applying for JRFs is a waste of your time and limited emotional energy.

    29: See! You were capable of getting a PhD.

    30: I'll get back to you in December.
    dolorosa_12: (ship)
    My partner's parents visited us in Cambridge over the Easter long weekend (and will be here for the next week or so). We mostly stayed close to home, although we ventured out to the Scott Polar Research Museum on Saturday. On Sunday I cooked a rather over the top lunch, and yesterday we went on a bit of a seaside adventure to Hunstanton.

    Photos behind the cut )

    I love the sea, and I really miss it. In Sydney I was a five-minute walk from water, and had a clear view of Sydney Harbour from the roof of my apartment building. I grew up swimming in the ocean. I miss having it as part of my regular landscape.
    dolorosa_12: (pagan kidrouk)
    For various reasons, although Matthias and I moved into our current house about two-and-a-half years ago, it's remained a bit of a bare shell with very little character, beyond a collection of mismatched bookshelves, filled to bursting with our books. Apart from a coffee table (that the TV stands on), Matthias' bedside table and one low bookshelf, none of the furniture is ours. We inherited it from a mixture of friends and Matthias' relatives, acquiring it incrementally. The walls are bare, the tables and other surfaces are unornamented (although covered with books and DVDs), the couches lack decoration and the courtyard garden is a weed-filled mess.

    Initially I was too overwhelmed with stress about my PhD, and then I had the time, but no money when I was working three part-time jobs, and Matthias has always worked four different jobs so he had no time either. But now I have both the time and the money and I am determined to turn this little house of ours into a proper nest.

    There are several hooks already on the walls, and we have a few prints and pictures ready to go up, so I'm going to get quotes from framers and fill the walls. I've just ordered some cushions with prints from Likhain's collection and they should be arriving next week. I want to replace the hideous red rug we currently have in the living room: it's a pain to vacuum, and it just looks awful. I want to buy a vase so we can have flowers in the house, and I've started buying candles again so that the place will smell nice.

    The garden is another matter. The fences are all weighed down by massive ivy bushes. Periodically I cut them back, but it's really beyond me, and I'm considering getting someone to clear the whole lot away so that I can start with a blank slate. Same goes for the weeds that keep growing up from under the patio. I've never gardened before: my mum did it when I was a child, and when I was a teenager we moved into a flat where a pot of mint and a pot of thyme was the extent of our garden. I'm a bit at a loss as to where to begin. We have two narrow strips of dirt running along the two bits of the fence (the other half of the garden is bordered by our house), and the area on the other side of the fence is technically free for us to grow stuff, although I think a series of large pot plants might be better. I've always wanted to grow herbs, but I think we need this ivy out of the way before I'd be in a position to plant a single thing.

    But I'm determined to do something. If all goes well, Matthias and I will be here for quite some time, and I'm sick of the garden being a wasteland and the house having no character. This post is mostly an attempt to hold myself accountable!
    dolorosa_12: (sleepy hollow)
    It's not every day you get a PhD. It's not every day you get a new sister. I was lucky and got both on the one day. 19th July is certainly going to be this year's most memorable day!

    My dad had been making vague noises all year about coming to Cambridge for my graduation, but I knew that his and my stepmother's new baby was due on 29th July and it was probably not a good idea for him to be on the other side of the world. In any case, I was proved right - I was woken up by a text from my dad at about 1am on Saturday, informing me that the baby had been born early. Her name is Maud, and she is the youngest of five sisters, joining me, Miriam (who has the same mother and father as me), Kitty and Nell (who have a different mother to me and Miriam). People were joking on Facebook that my father is like a modern-day Mr Bennet (from Pride and Prejudice) or Tevye. I'm just glad his economic future doesn't depend on marrying us all off! There is a range of twenty-nine years in our ages, and we're all at such different stages of life: I've just finished a PhD, Miriam finished an MA last year and is working for the public service, Kitty is going into high school next year, Nell is in the early stages of primary school and Maud is a newborn baby.

    Anyway, I managed to get back to sleep after being woken by Dad's text, I woke up and it was my graduation day. My mother and Miriam had come to the UK specially to be here for this, and they and Matthias were my guests. Graduation in Cambridge is a rather strange affair: students all have to wear black and white clothing (suits, black skirts and white blouses, or black dresses)* and a combination of hood and gown which varies depending on the degree they are to receive, any Cambridge degrees they already hold, and their age. As I already held a Cambridge MPhil, I had to wear an MPhil gown and hood. Graduating students have to process from their colleges to the Senate House through the centre of town. I'm lucky - my college is a two-minute walk from the Senate House - but it was a swelteringly hot day, and also kept threatening to rain. The woman next to me in the procession was someone I knew vaguely - she was also an Australian, and we'd both been wheeled out at the same event a while back to talk to a bunch of Indigenous people who were interested in coming to Cambridge (neither of us are Indigenous, but they just wanted Australians to give their impressions).

    The ceremony itself is always very brief. Students are led forward four at a time by their college's Praelector, presented to the Vice Chancellor in Latin, and kneel down one by one before him (when I received my MPhil, the Vice Chancellor was a woman, but she has since retired). He mumbles a bit more Latin over the student, and that's it. I was concentrating so much on not tripping over my gown when I stood up that the whole thing was a bit of a blur, but Matthias said he felt a bit weepy.

    Then we milled around outside the Senate House for ages, and took photos. I only have one so far, but once my mum's emailed me hers, I will upload them too.

     photo 10520086_10100955798768770_7477471729212381438_n_zps44805d5a.jpg

    Graduation was followed by a buffet lunch in my college's formal hall. We were lucky to be seated next to a really nice Irish family, who became extremely chatty when they discovered what I had studied. I've never met an unfriendly Irish person, nor one who was uncomfortable talking to complete strangers. I'm sure they exist, but I've never met them.

    After lunch, we met up with some friends for drinks in a nearby pub. People came and went, but the group included Former Housemate H, Former Sort-of Housemate J2, V, P, R, Matthias, Miriam, Mum and me.

    So all in all, a wonderful day, filled with celebrations. I'm very relieved to be closing a door on the PhD side of my life. The PhD years were good years, growing years, learning years, changing years, but also very challenging years. I'm grateful to have been able to learn what I learnt about medieval Irish literature. The stories I studied were beautiful and will stay with me forever. And there really are no people like a really enthusiastic bunch of medievalists to have as friends. But once was enough! And a PhD is as far as I'd like to go in terms of academia (although I'm not ruling out some kind of taught MA at some point in the future).

    I am Dr Dolorosa, and that's enough for now.
    __________
    *Those in the military are allowed to wear military uniform, and students are also allowed to wear 'national dress', although this is very vaguely defined. I've seen some women graduate in saris or kimono, and that's about it.
    dolorosa_12: (una)
    This time five years ago, I was getting ready to go to my department's annual garden party, over the moon because I had submitted my MPhil and was confident of passing, and of being accepted for a PhD place at Cambridge. Today, I'm getting ready for the garden party, happy in the knowledge that my PhD corrections have been approved and that (after I've paid an extortionate amount for binding and submitted a hardbound copy to the Board of Graduate Studies) I will be graduating in July as Dr Dolorosa!

    These past five years have been a mixed bag. Some parts of being a PhD student were filled with joy, while others threw me into despair, self-doubt and fury. I am glad to have written it, and to have learnt what I learnt - about medieval Irish literature, and about myself. I am so grateful that it allowed me to meet a truly wonderful bunch of people, and to become part of several amazing international groups of friends. I met my partner because of my PhD. As a result of my PhD, I had the good fortune to meet several awe-inspiring older women who have acted as mentors for me in all sorts of ways. I can speak and read a good many more languages than I could five years ago!

    My PhD gave so much. It took a lot from me, though. I don't talk a lot about that very often, because ultimately I feel that I made the right decision. If nothing else, doing a PhD at Cambridge got me to where I wanted and needed to be, with the right people around me, and the opportunity to meet others who, although not much a part of my life right now, connected with me at the right time to help me become myself.

    I guess what I'm trying to say is that my PhD allowed me to live. And while I never want to live through those years again (some of them were just packed with so much living and so many emotions that they were exhausting), I am privileged and grateful to carry them with me.
    dolorosa_12: (sokka)
    Brace yourselves! I've just done yet another music meme.

    Questions and answers behind the cut )

    *You haven't lived until you've driven between Canberra and Sydney listening to my mother, sister and me belting out the lyrics to every song on one of our many 'driving CDs'.

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