Friday, 21 June 2013


Our first stop on our Easter vacation was Paris, which we had both visited four years ago.  So this trip was a good chance to visit new neighbourhoods and see sights we had missed the first time.  We stayed in a rental apartment right on the corner of L'Esplanade des Invalides (last time we stayed in the Marais).  Luckily for us, the first full day of our trip was the first nice day of spring (France apparently had a cold and rainy early spring, just like the UK).  It was lovely to walk around in the glorious sun and to watch the leaves coming out.  As we were right at Invalides, we visited Napoleon's Tomb (above), which is crazily grandiose, and also the military history museum attached, which is very good.

We took the metro to Montmarte to finally visit Sacre Coeur.  You can see the multitudes of people sitting on the hill, enjoying the sun.  The bit of Monmartre we saw was unfortunately rather touristy, not very bohemian anymore, alas.

Then, onto the metro again to Pere Lachaise cemetary.  For some reason, I had been picturing a massive lawn covered with orderly tombstones, with a few monuments thrown in.  Oh, no.  Pere Lachaise is filled with family vaults of varying degrees of ornateness and delapidation.  There are proper paths (like the one pictured), plus innumerable little alleys between vaults.  Some vaults have lost their doors, or have had blocks fall out, or glass broken.  Where there are holes, part of me seized up with horror-film fear of what I would see if I looked over the edge - garbage, unfortunately.  The cemetary is huge, and well-treed, both peaceful and slightly eerie.  We meandered through a good portion of it, and ended with a visit to Oscar Wilde's grave.

Another day, we walked past the Palais Royale, to Place Vendome (pictured above), with its column made from melted down cannon from the Battle of Austerlitz (!).  We saw the Opera Garnier, but couldn't go in as it was closed (alas).  Then we revisited the Louvre.

One of my favourite parts was a courtyard that had been glassed over.  It was lovely to see the statues in natural light.  As I recall, we did a big loop home from the Louvre that day, crossing the two islands, visiting Notre Dame, winding through the Latin Quarter, taking a little break in Luxembourg Gardens, and then finally wending our way back to our apartment.  My feet were sore by the end!

Thursday, 20 June 2013

Blog Apologies and General Life Update

Hello!  I realised with some shame that it has been two months (ish) since I've updated this blog!  Partly it's because I've been busy, and then because I wasn't sure I had anything to say.  So, I've decided to break the ice with a quick update on the Easter vacation and Trinity Term have been like for me.

In the last two months, I've...
  • Gone to Paris, the Loire Valley, and Avignon on vacation (see obligatory Eiffel Tower photo above - with more pictures to come!)
  • Finished another section of my thesis, this time discussing domestic violence and other forms of male dominance in the Bronte novels.  Next up is a short section on male relationships (primarily on how they can be damaging when they impinge on domestic/family life).
  • Read many books for fun, including some that I plan to review on the blog in the near future.
  • Given the Michael Mahoney Graduate Seminar at my college - a one-hour lecture on my research, which was actually really fun, especially as it was followed by a fancy dinner in the chapel (which is currently serving as our dining hall).
  • Completely rewrote the end of my novel for the first time.  The ending is different from what I originally intended, but it fits better with my expectations for and conception of the book now.  I hope to start submitting it really, really soon - after one more proofread and a couple small changes.
  • Helped to organise this year's Oxford English graduate conference, "Object", which went really, really well.  I chaired a fantastic panel on Victorian material culture; there was an fabulous panel discussion on the Book as Object, featuring Nick Cross, Digital Products Manager at the Oxford University Press and fellow SCWBI member, Paul Nash, the University's printing tutor, and Stephen Walter, text/map artist.  The day was capped off by a fantastic keynote address on the construction of the author as "object" by acclaimed children's author Frances Hardinge.  (Her most recent novel, A Face Like Glass is amazing and Frances is absolutely lovely in person to boot!)
  • Went up to London to see The Book of Mormon (amazing, with brilliant music, and much blasphemy - not for the easily offended) and finally visit the Tate Modern (loved the first floor Surrealists, then became increasingly bored by the abstract art and installations - I am a bit of a traditionalist, I suppose)
  • More recently, went up to London to see Neil Gaiman talk about his most recent novel, The Ocean at the End of the Lane.  Amazing.  Also snagged a signed first edition, which is very good so far.
  • Plus, I attended the seminars for the Developing Teaching and Learning course run by the Humanities Division and am working on a teaching portfolio to submit in hopes it will gain me Associate Fellow status with the Higher Education Academy.  As part of my teaching training, I ran revision classes and tutorials to prepare first-year Mansfielders for their exam on Victorian literature, which was a rewarding experience.  It was great to really dig into the Victorians with friendly, enthusiastic, and hard-working students.
Okay, I think that's it.  I will try to update more frequently, and will definitely post pictures from our France trip.  The next big thing is that we're going home for two weeks on Saturday, which is shockingly only two sleeps away!  Yikes.