Weekend Miscellany

(This is a type of post stolen entirely from the lovely Simon at Stuck In A Book. Simon and I first met when we were the only two Masters students who wanted to do nineteenth- and twentieth-century drama. Simon now has a job that I don’t really understand, but which seems to involve him using MS Paint for money, at OUP. Over the years, Simon has introduced me to many things, including the Magdalen salad bar, Irene Vamburgh, and middlebrow interwar women’s fiction. Kirstie Allsopp once replied to him on Twitter).

  • This weekend, I have been reading How To Live Alone And Like It [1936] and Diary of a Provincial Lady for the first time. The first is a bible for the ‘extra woman’ and a fabulous guide to having a really nice life in one’s London flat. My flat is in Oxford, and I don’t have a maid, so by the book’s standards, I am already failing. I do wholeheartedly concur that one should have manicures and delicious food and splendid clothes whenever possible. I don’t think Margaret Hillis would approve of me eating yoghurt in my pyjamas while I proofread. I would like to read this book forty-five times and then travel back to 1936 and live the book while dressed entirely as Harriet Vane. Diary of a Provincial Lady is also wonderful. Mademoiselle and Vicky are my favourites. What I love most is how they all sit around fretting about pawning great-aunt’s diamond ring and/or the general proximity to penury, but never consider dismissing the servants.
  • I also reviewed Bitch Boxer, now playing at the Soho Theatre – read the review here.
  • An American photography and fashion blogger, Melissa Aquino, uploaded scans of the late-90s US catalogue dELiA*s, with its fashion for pre-teen girls. I have been howling in recognition. Whilst I always lived in & bought clothes in the UK, visceral memories of Tammy, Red Herring and the equivalent publications – Girl Talk, Shout, Mizz, Sugar, and the highly unsuitable More – came flooding back. I had Kangaroo platform trainers with a bit of a platform. And things with stripes down the side. What can I say? I was 11, it was 1998, and I think my parents were mostly relieved I’d come out of the Black Clothes Phase that had started when I was seven. In the spirit of the 90s, I’d like a Body Shop lip balm, some gel pens, a chain letter and a nice blue hair mascara.
  • I am currently designing my first ever term-length Shakespearean syllabus (I’ve taught Shakespeare quite a bit in the past, but not designed a course myself). This is hugely exciting. Those of you who’ve course-built yourselves, how do you prefer to structure it?
  • Other things I like: the University of Leicester and Dickens Journals‘ collaborative project to read Wilkie Collins’s No Name online; the utterly fabulous Spanish Les Mis rendition of One Day More, “Sal el Sol” (Geronimo Rauch is the current West End Valjean. The Spanish Enjolras is just pretty); and, crucially, this gin brooch (which was in the Modern Art Oxford shop for £5 more, chuh).

I will now carry on imbibing Radio 4 and trying to rewrite my latest chapter. I have pages and pages of proper theatrical history to get through before I’m allowed to talk about vampires.

Career planning for the frivolous.

The finishing line of my DPhil is apparently in sight. I’ve rewritten and deleted this paragraph a lot, obviously, but the gist is that I have to send my Faculty a schedule for completion, and my supervisors got quite excited. There is now a schedule. My mouth is quite dry.

Meanwhile, I am obviously researching and angsting over jobs. Again, can’t really talk about that without an oral desert and a twitching superstition gland, but I CAN talk about the other side to job-hunting.

Thus, putting the pro in procrastination, and making public a list I wrote last week:

Jobs at which I secretly believe I would excel:

1. Hostage negotiator.

I could do that.

2. Member of the Kennedy family.
3. Set dresser for theatre or TV, but only if all the sets were people’s student bedrooms.
4. Florist.
5. Royal nanny.
6. Curator and/or founder of a small (it must be small), esoteric museum on any of the following subjects: bookplates, Madge Kendal; Dorothy L Sayers; the Mitford sisters; Shakespeare’s women; the reasons why Jo March should have married Laurie; the now-demolished Surrey Theatre; sundry instances of Liverpudlian true crime; Alfred Douglas’s deranged family; and the less successful partners of famous actors/writers/artists. In no particular order, and somewhat worryingly, these are the subjects on which I know most, and which (crucially) that I think might make the kind of small, weird museum (nothing that would merit a large, lucrative museum is included) run entirely on an individual’s obsession, and which slightly frightens the punters. These are the museums I most love. It is my parents’ fault for accidentally taking me to Boscastle Museum of Witchcraft, as a child. They were thinking Bedknobs and Broomsticks, but there turned out to be pictures of naked Satanists. I wish I’d been more traumatised. Also, when finding a link to check it was actually Boscastle, I discovered, heartstoppingly, that ‘Neopagan Witch Cecil Williamson tried to open a museum to hold his collection of witchcraft and occult artefacts in Stratford-upon-Avon in 1947‘. Guys. We could have had Cecil’s Museum of Witchcraft AND Gyles Brandreth‘s Teddy Bear Museum (you don’t know. You weren’t there) both in my town.

I could hold that (I definitely couldn’t make it).

7. Suffragist.
8. Travelling tutor for children who live/perform in circuses.
9. Parisian.
10. Proprietor of year-round Christmas shop.

There, you see. If academia doesn’t work out, that’s at ten plausible career options…

That was quite a silly post. I am planning more sensible posts, regarding lecturing-from-iPads, Oxford’s new Interdisciplinary Network on Celebrity, and my thoughts on the RSC‘s #RSCWinter13 season (though that’s less a post, more feelings), but now I’m going to edit the draft I’ve been editing since the late Middle Ages, and then see Quartet. Have a lovely weekend.

 

 

Advent Calendar Day 19: MacColl.

Yesterday marked twelve years since the (heroic, tragic) death of Kirsty MacColl. Above, MacColl and everyone’s favourite Celtic punks sing “Fairytale of New York” (MacColl at her absolute best), which is (in turn) everyone’s favourite tale of embittered alcoholics and singing policemen.

Advent Calendar Day 16: Quiz!

This image is marginally relevant to the quiz. One of the things I really enjoy about life is that wherever literate women gather, you can always find someone willing to scream with you about Jo not marrying Laurie.

Earlier in Advent, the fragrant Jem Bloomfield described this month’s project as my “literary Advent Calendar”, coincidentally slightly before I started posting clips of 70s sitcoms and much-loved puppet shows. To reinforce the high moral tone, therefore, I offer you a lovely Christmas books quiz from the Guardian website.

Christmas, games and quizzes obviously go together like cheeseboards and heartburn. I love games and quizzes. I am pathologically incapable of not playing to win. This has encompassed the very nasty Scrabble game I played between Oxford interviews (I was convinced it was a subtle, informal form of testing; I’d like to confirm now that it DEFINITELY WASN’T), the Shakespeare board game with E’s mother in which my competitive streak led me to trounce EVERYONE, and the daily Bananagrams tournaments which embroil my mother and me in psychological warfare.* In the spirit of taking part meaning absolutely nothing against the joy of a Monopoly game won (even if your victory is by default following your opponent’s death or sleep), do enjoy the quiz.

 

*I looked on Amazon for seasonal variations on Bananagrams, to expand the family game horde. All the reviews consist of people screaming NOT AS GOOD AS BANAGRAMS in the allcaps of addicts. The tiles are addictive.

Advent Calendar Day 15: Muppets!

The Swedish Chef, Beaker, and Animal share a choral moment. Enjoy!

(You should of course also take the time to watch The Muppet Christmas Carol, the GREATEST of all Dickens adaptations, and its slightly alarming making-of documentary. I am word-perfect on this film. It’s awesome.)

Advent Calendar Day 12: Global!

Decorated trees, lit buildings, and Father Christmas in Beijing, China.
A woman wearing a niqab is photographed alongside a shop selling Christmas decorations in Cairo’s Shubra neighbourhood. Photograph: Odd Andersen, AFP.
An underwater Father Christmas in Malaysia, 2010.
The Bolshoi Theatre at Christmas, Moscow, Russia.
A Nigerian woman prays on the beach at Lagos, Christmas Day 2011. Photograph: Reuters.
The Apollo Theatre, 125th Street, Harlem, New York, illuminated for Christmas.
In Chandigarh, India, little schoolchildren dressed as Santa Claus sing Jingle Bells (and do the actions!). Photo: Reuters.

Advent Calendar Day 10: Carrots!

I understand that you’re feeling confused. Disturbed, and perhaps a little excited. Here is a place and a way of life you never knew existed.

The World Carrot Museum may be mainly virtual, but as this image shows, curator John Stolarczyk has taken at least part of his passion into the physical world. This Christmas tree is in Skipton, UK. We too will thither bend our joyful footsteps, or at least follow the link and (as Mr. Stolarczyk suggests), discover the power of carrots. After all, the carrot has long been associated with the Christmas festivities.

I am 99% certain this is neither a big sectarian NOR a phallic cult. Happy Christmas, Rudolph.

Advent Calendar Day 7: Charity!

The quintessential Christmas charity is probably the Salvation Army. Personally, though, I’m uncomfortable donating to the SA due to their historic (and contemporary) attitudes to LGBT people, and, of their militaristic, evangelical style of Christianity.

Christmas Charity Fun Run, 2011. Awesome (and unrelated to the SA...)
Christmas Charity Fun Run, 2011. Awesome (and unrelated to the SA…)

Enough hate. Today’s window opens on other and perhaps worthier causes (chosen in entirely idiosyncratic and incomplete fashion by me) to which you might like to donate this Christmas!

Of course, not everyone has spare cash for donations at the moment. So, here are places where just a few moments’ clicking or playing allows you to donate to charity without spending any money yourself:

[PODCAST]: Oscar Wilde’s Women for Great Writers Inspire

A couple of weeks ago, Alex recorded me for a podcast that rounds off the series called Great Writers Inspire. Great Writers Inspire is an amazing project providing open access, FREE lectures, talks, ebooks and other material on all sorts of writers. You don’t need any kind of educational affiliation or specialist background to enjoy them – they’re a great way to discover new writers.

Equally, listening to the other podcasts (generally in a state of sweaty apprehension and/or while on trains) allowed me to revisit authors I’d not studied since undergrad. Since I’m massively about to plug my own contribution, I’ll pre-emptively recommend those I most enjoyed:
Dr. Jennifer Batt on Mary Leapor, a fascinating eighteenth-century kitchenmaid and poet of whom I’d never heard (I didn’t get much beyond Stephen Duck).

Professor Daniel Wakelin on Chaucer (I loved this & enthused nostalgically about glory days of undergad).

Professor Tiffany Stern on Shakespeare and the Stage (concise, entertaining and illuminating, this is the best of the introductory talks).

My talk is here: Oscar Wilde’s Women. If the link dies, I am also searchable on iTunes, which will never stop being bizarre. In the podcast, I talk a bit about the ways in which I find seeing Wilde’s life as radical or inspirational problematic, wave the flag for Constance Wilde, and then suggest where the really radical Wilde is to be found – in his society plays’ depictions of women. I very much hope you enjoy it.

I was incredibly nervous about participating, but am so glad to have been involved. Do check out the Great Writers Inspire blog and library (including the unexpected opportunity to download Fanny Hill to your Kindle).

And, if you’re reading this in Oxford, enjoy the last of -1st week…

[EVENT] The Hogge Hath Lost His Pearle, 22 September, Oxford.

Saturday, 22nd September 2012. 10 a.m. – 5 p.m.

The Malone Society with the Oxford English Faculty, at Corpus Christi College, Oxford.

A semi-staged reading and discussion of Robert Tailor’s The Hogge hath lost his Pearle.

Registration, to include sandwich lunch and a copy of the text (or alternative Malone soc publication): £35 full, £15 student/Malone Society members. You can register online here.

If you prefer, please send a cheque payable to the Oxford English Faculty to Emma Smith, Hertford College, Oxford OX1 3BW.

Corpus Christi College, Oxford. (c) college website, 2012.

Corpus, incidentally, is the prettiest of all Oxford’s smaller colleges excluding ORIEL and Brasenose.

I was there yesterday, showing E. the wonders of its Jesus-pelican, inexplicable greenhouse, stunning gardens and commitment to really beautiful planting. Also, there’s a sun terrace.

(Note to Oxonians: did we know about the sun terrace? Shall we all meet up there and share sundry ice-cold beverages? Is Corpus so cool that its possession of a sun terrace is, to the …corpuscules,  not even A Thing? In any case, here’s the view from said terrace).

So yes. £15; Hogges; Pearles; sun terrace. Please do propagate the link and forward it to anyone who might be interested!