Tuesday, 30 August 2011

Back to the Grind (Kind Of)

Now that the stress of moving out of the apartment has worn off, I've managed to get some school-related work done this morning.

I've discovered that it's scholarship application season once again and I'm applying for at least three this year in hopes that I only have to self-fund one year at Oxford.  I'm hoping the process will be a bit easier this year, since I already have a research proposal to work from, but there will be tweaking involved and I know I should try to hunt down reference letters from my University of Saskatchewan professors before I leave for the UK...  So, suddenly, there's lots to do - plus sorting through boxes, plus submitting changes of address, plus trying to squeeze in some time to work on my novel and my "fun" paper and read.

Yesterday, out of nowhere, I started playing around with ideas of how to structure my doctoral thesis.  Perhaps something clicked in my brain, telling me it was time to start thinking about this, as term is only just over a month away now.  I also started coming up with some more specific themes I'd like to track through the Brontes' works: the mentor-figure (and his relationship to M. Heger) in Charlotte's works (without being biographical in a reductionist way, which I always find annoying), Anne's use of more conventional morality, Emily's inclusion of very strong female protagonists alongside her male characters, in Wuthering Heights and the Gondal works.

I'm also becoming more aware that I really need to tackle the juvenilia, since I've only just touched it here and there and don't have a very good understanding of it yet.  I also need to read the two published Bronte novels I haven't been through yet: Charlotte's The Professor and Anne's Agnes Grey.  Both should be very interesting.

As for fun reading, I'm currently about a third of the way through Alan Hollinghurst's new novel, The Stranger's Child, which begins the summer before World War I and runs through most of the 20th century and deals, in part, with a poem and changing perceptions of it.  It's just the sort of the thing I like to read: complex, well-written, British, historical.  So far, I recommend it very highly.  The book hasn't even been released in North America yet (and won't be until October, I think), so I sent my parents on a mission to buy me a copy while they were in the UK on holiday in July (also, the UK cover is nicer, I think).  They picked up a copy at Hatchards, which I really must go visit, as it is the oldest surviving bookshop in London.  They also managed to nab a signed copy, which is quite wonderful.

Sunday, 28 August 2011


Well, we're all moved out of our apartment.  We moved almost everything out of our apartment yesterday, with a great deal of help from family members.  Today we went in very early in order to run the self-clean cycle on our oven (which worked like a dream!) and cleaned the place from top to bottom (again, with the very generous
 help of family).  And now we're over at my parents' place for the next two weeks.  And then, Oxford!

We've discovered, to our dismay, that we have an incredible number or possessions that need to be sorted through.  Yikes.  Oh, well.  Not yet.  We definitely need a break first.

Friday, 26 August 2011

Last Night in the Basement Suite

Well, this is the end, my friends.  Just about.  Tonight is the last night we'll spend in our beloved basement suite.  Tomorrow everything's getting moved out.  Sunday morning we'll be cleaning the place to within an inch of its life and inspecting it with our landlord.  And that's it.  We'll be in limbo until September 14th, when we arrive in Oxford and get the keys to our (tiny) 1-bed flat in Summertown.

We've had very good luck getting rid of furniture, especially since we sold most of our living room to the new tenants at the good price.  Hopefully funds from furniture will help to off-set the cost of buying bedding and fitting out our kitchen in Oxford.

Tuesday, 23 August 2011

Emptier and Emptier; Packing; In Memoriam

The house is still emptying out.  It's amazing how much stuff is in here!

I posted a bunch of furniture on Kijiji today and have had many, many responses.  Sold one piece so far and dearly hope to get rid of the rest before we are officially moved on Sunday.

As of yesterday, we are officially letting a British flat, as the 22nd is the start date for our lease (there's a story behind that, but it's too involved to get into after a long day of packing).

Poor house.  I'll be really sad when (and if) the couches are taken away.  What will we laze about on while we watch Hornblower?  What will I nap on?  (Well, I am pretty darn good at napping on the floor, come to think of it...)

I did a trial pack of my two checked baggage suitcases.  It went reasonably well, though I realized I can only take one nice woollen coat and only half my dresses and about 2/3rds of my shoes with me to Britain.  On the other hand, I haven't taken my carry-on baggage into account yet...  (And I will need to, because I'm sure I must be over the weight limit for checked bags).

And on a rather sad note, one day late, may I just say how I'm going to miss having Jack Layton in Canadian politics.  He ran the best campaign in years in the last federal election.  I hope more politicians learns from Mr. Layton's positivity and sense of civility.  We lost this man too soon.

Sunday, 21 August 2011

Flights Booked! House Emptying Out

Well, today we booked our flights over to the UK.  We're flying out on September 12th and arriving in London on the morning of the 13th.  We'll stay one night in London (because when we land, all we'll want to do is get to a bed as quickly as possible and spend several hours in a comatose state, if previous experience is any predictor).  And then it'll be off to Oxford on the 14th to take possession of our one-bedroom flat in Summertown.

Also, the house is slowly emptying out.  Our library ending up fitting into 15 banker's boxes, most of which have been taken over to my parents' for storage in the basement.
Bookshelf-shaped holes, partially filled by blue boxes of books and other boxes.

 This process reminds me very much of moving in here, which makes sense, since I suppose it is the same operation in reverse.  Tim and I have discovered that packing is made much more fun when one is drinking sherry.

Saturday, 20 August 2011

4 a.m. Post

Hello, can't sleep.

Thought I would use the opportunity to say that yesterday (the 19th), I finished the second draft of my work in progress.

We also managed to pack up all the books we definitely don't want to take with us to the UK and I started hauling stuff over to my parents for storage purposes.

Also, our visas showed up today.  Our pictures mostly look okay.  Tim is going to book flights tomorrow (er, today) and I will look for a good hotel in London for us to stay in for a couple days when we arrive (to allow for recovery from jet lag).

All right, going to give this sleeping thing another go.  Night!

Friday, 19 August 2011

It Has Begun...

Packing, that is.

Two nights ago, we went around the house with a camcorder and did a little memory tour, and that had me quite choked up, because we had agreed to do this  before we started packing, as the house would look too sad and not itself once we start boxing things up.  When we were finished filming, we did a first pass over some of the bookcases of books we want to take with us.  (I think we are perhaps being overly optimistic so far).

But then last night we did a good couple hours of packing, going through trinkets, picking out books to give away, and it mostly just felt very business-like.

This morning, however, I've just given away two of our bookcases to a friend who's moving and now we have two large, bookcase-shaped holes in our living room.  Kind of sad again.  Ah, well, must press on.

Wednesday, 17 August 2011

Visa Application: Approved!

Huzzah!  My study visa and Tim's dependant-to-my-visa visa have been approved!  We can actually go.

Yikes.  It's really happening now, isn't it?  I think we'll be leaving September 12th.  I'll book the flights in a couple days once we have our passports back.

(I phoned Tim at work when I saw that my visa had been issued and got him to check his e-mail to see if his had too.  He didn't tell me right away but started humming "Hail Britannia" very loudly, so I knew.)

Monday, 15 August 2011

Less Than a Month!

I've sort of just clued in to the fact that this time next month, we will almost certainly be in the UK.  Yikes!  Also, we're now into the last two weeks in our apartment, so I've got to start sorting and packing and chucking today.  Very frightening.

As a side note, I managed to give myself, I think, a small second-degree burn by scalding myself while draining pasta.  It hurt like the dickens and now my forearms looks pretty scary.  I just thought I would mention this, because I've never given myself a burn like this before.  Hopefully I look less bad by the time we move.

Friday, 12 August 2011


I've just made a batch of chocolate chip cream cheese black-bottomed cupcakes; as Tim and the upstairs neighbours are gone (I hope), I'm playing house-shakingly loud music (Nightwish's Dark Passion Play, if you must know), and working on the climactic chapters of my work-in-progress.

Life is good.

Visa Application: Decision Deferred

Well, no.  My study visa application is fine, as far as I know.  However, Tim has to sumbit at least six documents proving that he and I have been "living in a relationship akin to marriage" for at least two years.  Thankfully, we've been living together for almost two years and one month, so we dodged a bullet there.  We'll have all the documents together by Monday, so they should show up in Ottawa by Tuesday morning.  Fingers crossed that this is the only visa-related hiccup we'll have.

Other than that, life is good.  I had a great working day yesterday and got a fair bit of novel-revising done today.  I should probably be working on my paper, but I'm feeling rather lazier today.  Perhaps I'll get my hour in this evening, since Tim's working late anyway.

Thursday, 11 August 2011

Visa Application: Arrived

Checked my e-mail today and my visa application (and I'm assuming Tim's too, since they were sent in the same courier envelope) has arrived in Ottawa and is being processed.  I really hope they go through quickly and without any hitches.

Yesterday was a great day.  Not only did I get lots of work done on my novel and paper, but I also got to watch the new episode of BBC2's The Hour (which I'm liking, but not loving as much as I hoped I would), read more of The Girl Who Circumnavigated Fairyland in a Ship of Her Own Making (they're trying to catch wild velocipedes!), and watched the first part of the fifth Hornblower episode/TV movie.

Oh, Hornblower.  This series was one of the first things Tim and I watched after we moved into our beloved basement suite.  We watched the whole thing through last summer too, and had to watch it once again this summer, before we move away.  We are both bitter that more episodes weren't made (they had to stop after 8 because they were too expensive to make.  However, the money was well spent.  The first episodes were from the late 90's and have incredibly high production values for that period.)  Perhaps Ioan Gruffud will get his wish and will some day be able to make more.  I hope so.  I do hope so.

Today was another good writing day.  I went through most of Chapter Thirteen (in which a Very Bad Thing Happens - fittingly), which didn't need much work at all.  It was really rather exciting to read over, since I don't think I'd looked at it for several months, at the very least.

What I'm discovering, now working on this poor novel in a sustained way (which I haven't managed for months and haven't done consistently in years) is that all my previous writing (creative and academic) and reading are really coming to bear in ways I hadn't expected.  Revising my thesis has given me great tools to use in revising my novel.  And the time away, though born out of laziness, probably hasn't hurt either.  I find it so much easier to stop unnecessary description or telling ("I felt so happy."  Axe!), or to find places where specific imagery or description is needed.  I know when the prose or dialogue feels a little dead and am okay leaving it for the time being.  I am confident now that I'll spot it when I go over that particular section again and will be able to replace it or hew it out.

All this makes me look forward to whatever novel comes next.  This one, though being revised by a 25-year-old Erin, was born out of 20-year-old Erin's brain.  In five years, I've done a heck of a lot of reading and writing and travelling and living and I can't wait to see what creative work will be born out of that.

But, for now, I'm happy to be working on really whipping this novel into shape and doing right by it.  And at the end of the tunnel, which now seems much nearer, I'm totally going to attempt publication.

Wednesday, 10 August 2011

Visa Application: Submitted

Back from our lightning-quick run up to Edmonton.  We took off later than we would've liked due to a trip to the mediclinic that lasted 2 hours and 45 minutes, in part because at one point the doctor didn't realize he had my chart (sigh) and because I had to wait at the rental car place for them to bring me something smaller than an Explorer to take on the trip.  We ended up getting an Impala, which was nice for me, since this is the car I learned to drive on.  Also, the seats were much more comfortable than the Kia Soul's that we drove while on our summer vacation in July this year.

We had a quick visit with Tim's sister when we got in and then, next morning, we drove downtown to the office where our fingerprints were scanned.  We had to explain to the people handling our applications that we did not in fact need to submit supporting financial and/or academic documents (which changed in April and July).  Our applications should have reached Ottawa today.  Fingers crossed that our visas go through without a hitch.  A co-worker of Tim's, who's going to be studying at the London School of Economics for an Master's in Politics next year (and thus will be one of two people that we actually know in the country) said her application arrived in Ottawa on Friday and, today, she had an e-mail saying the visa had been granted!  I hope ours go through that quickly.  I'm getting anxious to book our flights.


So that's done.  I had a very creatively and intellectually productive day today, which was lovely.  I put in two hours on my novel (I've now finished going through the first twelve chapters of my novel, of which Chapters 10 through 12 underwent a fair bit of reworking.  I can now speed on through the last eight chapters, which encapsulate the really exciting bits and, I think, need less work).  I also worked for at least an hour on my academic paper, which was nice.  Except that the bold red pen I use for recording quotations had sprung a leak and, after staining three of my fingers red, had to be sent to an early grave in a garbage can.  Alas.

Hoping for an equally productive day tomorrow, with French and Latin added to the mix.  I'd like to improve my French reading abilities and get my Latin back to where it was at the end of the two beginner courses I took five years ago (Gosh, was it really that long ago!  Yikes!)

Monday, 8 August 2011


Today Tim and I are off to Edmonton for a very quick visit in order to have our fingerprints scanned and our photos taken as part of our visa applications for entry to the UK.  (I am endlessly amused by the fact that though Tim is most likely out of the two of us to make money over there, he is submitting his application as a dependant on my study visa).

This will allow us to spend an evening with Tim sister and then tomorrow morning hike over to a high school where a private company will collect our biometric information.  Apparently the whole process takes about 5 minutes, which is somewhat disappointing since it will cost us approximately 12 hours of our lives in driving time to get there and back.  (For some strange reason, there are only four cities in Canada that offer this service.  I'm so pleased we are at least within driving distance of one).

Very happy to finally have the visa application rolling.  I'm getting antsy to book our flights.  And it would be nice to know that I can actually enter the country I'll be going to school in this fall.

Friday, 5 August 2011

The New Regime

Yesterday was my first official day of unemployment.  I've come up with a plan for this grey zone between the end of full-time work and the beginning of full-time study.  It goes something like this:

Everyday until we leave for Britain (hopefully around September 9th or 10th, but all this is up in the air until we have our visas in our hot little hands), I will aim to do the following:
  •  Be functional by 8:00 am everyday (which shouldn't be too hard, since that's when Tim leaves for work)
  • Revise my novel for at least 1 hour or approximately 1000 words
  • Spend at least 1 hour working on my current academic paper (undertaken sort of for fun but with the view that I should be attempting to publish something at this point in my academic life - it's on Michel Faber's The Crimson Petal and the White and discusses the themes of female madness and emasculating revenge, with reference to Charlotte Bronte's Jane Eyre - fun!)
  • Spend 15-30 minutes working on both French and Latin
  • Read for fun (at least 1 hour per day)
All these items add up to approximately four hours per day.  The rest will inevitably be spent packing in the days ahead.  I'm very hopeful I can complete the current draft of my novel in this time, so I can survey this new and (I think) much better version.  I'm also hopeful I can make good headway on the paper, as I suspect I won't have much time for it once I start school and I actually think it might be rather good.

Books.  I'm currently in the midst of reading three books.  I started on Flaubert's Madame Bovary because I've owned a copy for years and felt it was time and feel I really ought to read more foreign literature.

But then a friend recommended Catherynne M. Valente's imaginative and hilarious The Girl Who Circumnavigated Fairyland in a Ship of Her Own Making, so I started on that and am maybe a third of the way through and enjoying myself greatly.

But then, my dad loaned me Bill Bryson's Notes from a Small Island, which charts the author's valedictory tour of Britain and which is also hilarious.  I've been gobbling it up, using it as mental preparation for our move to fine Britannia.  Also, I'm very pleased that Bryson and I share a horror of ugly buildings, especially modern monstrousities in the midst of lovely, old architecture (brutalist architecture on the U of S campus, I am looking at you).  However, I think I will be so overawed by the nice British buildings that I won't care quite so much about the dodgy ones.

Thursday, 4 August 2011


Hello, and welcome to my new blog.  My old blog, which has been silently mouldering over at Livejournal for the last, er, seven months had outlived its useful life.  The blog took me through about seven years of my life, from the end of highschool, through my undergraduate degree, my Master's degree, moving in with my boyfriend, and getting my first real job.

It feels like its time for a fresh start.  A more mature, urbane sort of blog.  That first job I just mentioned, a clerical position which allowed me to continue working in the library of my much beloved alma mater, came to an end yesterday (being a mat leave cover only).  Now I find myself with just under a month before I must move out of the apartment I've shared with my partner, Tim, for the last two years.  In just over a month, we will be packing up a selective version of our shared library and leaving the continent.

This is where the title and URL come in.  Having always intended to return to school and begin a PhD this fall (because I love school, despite the stress, and very much want to make a career in the Academy), I knew we would be moving.  What I did not know was that the university gods would smile down on me quite so vociferously and allow me to be accepted into the University of Oxford's English DPhil (not PhD - it's special that way).  So, we are moving to Britain, to Oxford, and will stay there for the next three years while I beaver away on my dissertation on the Bronte family and their representations of masculinity.

I'm not good at remembering to take pictures, but for the sake of the blog, I will try.

So, I expect that this blog will contain much about Oxford and doctoral studies, with a smattering of talk about novels written and books read and any travel I may happen to undertake in the next few years.

Yours very sincerely,
Erin (not yet) at Oxford