>Sabbatical makes for boring blogging

>Sorry for the radio silence lately, but there just hasn’t been much to talk about, really. *However*, I’m leaving today for six weeks in England, so maybe I’ll have more to tell you about from there. The flat I’m renting is in a celebrity-rich part of Belsize Park, so I’ll be sure to tell you if I have any star sightings. 🙂

>RBOC – Gray winter day edition

>Blogging bullets:

  • You may have noticed that I have no blog roll. That’s because it was a Blogrolling blog roll, and Blogrolling has ceased to exist. That’s a shame, because it was a handy system (though the ads on it in the last year or so of its existence were annoying). But I cut and pasted the blogroll before that happened, and when I get the energy for it, I’ll repost an updated version of it.
  • I’m thinking of changing to WordPress. Those of you who’ve made the move, how hard is it to move the archive of the blog? What do you like/dislike about each platform?
  • I’m also thinking of claiming my blog as service/outreach when I do my 5 year post-tenure review or when I go up for full professor. Any opinions about that?
  • My partner has been known as Bullock on this blog because I named him in our Deadwood-watching phase, during which time he grew a Seth Bullock-style mustache and goatee. But Deadwood is long gone and my man is clean-shaven. Plus, even though “bullock” meant “young bull” in Middle English and that’s one of its meanings today, it also can mean a castrated bull, which is not the association I wish to project for my Bullock. (Though it is kind of a funny pairing with Virago.) But it would be confusing to rename him. I’m thinking maybe of just putting a “cast of characters” in the sidebar and explaining the origins of the name. Any other ideas?
  • I have been remiss in telling Pastry Pirate fans that she has long been blogging elsewhere. First she was in New Zealand, working and exploring, and now she’s working in Antarctica. No, really. I kind of think “Baking in Antarctica” should be the title of the blog, but since it started before her life on the Ice Planet Hoth (as I like to think of it), it’s called Stories That Are True.
  • Hey, cool, I managed to blog more than in 2009. Not exactly an awesome accomplishment, since I was really lame in 2009, but still an improvement. What should I blog about next?

Work/Life bullets:

  • Our Christmas tree is up, all the Christmas shopping is done, and all but one present is wrapped (because it hasn’t arrived yet)! Hooray!
  • On Thursday, I wired the deposit for the studio flat in Belsize Park. It’s non-refundable, so this makes it official. I’m going to be living, however temporarily, in a flat in London! I’ve never lived in a flat in London before! Heck, I’ve never lived in a flat before (American apartments, yes). How cool is that?!
  • The one-week rent for the studio flat in Belsize Park (the amount of the deposit) is just over my one-month rent in my awesome two-bedroom Rust Belt Historical District apartment and only about $175 less than our monthly mortgage payment. I’ll never be able to live full-time in a big, expensive city again — I’ve been too spoiled by the low cost of living here in Rust Belt. But hey, now I can afford 6-week jaunts there! So, I may live in Rust Belt, but I can better afford life in the big city in small doses. This is what I keep telling myself, anyway.
  • OMG, my sabbatical is half over!!! Ack!!!
  • Something I realized at the various holiday parties this week: asking me “So, how’s sabbatical going?” is as crazy-making for me now as “So, how’s the dissertation coming?” was for me once upon a time. Also, faculty on sabbatical don’t want to talk about work issues. Come on, people, surely we can talk about something else!
  • Bullock is grading finals. He just said to me, “It must be Christmas time, because a student just spelled Commerce Clause like Santa Claus.”
  • Bullock and I are going to BullockLand for the holidays (with Pippi). I spent Turkey Week in Cowtown with my side of the family and starting this year we’re alternating where we go for Christmas so that we don’t have to do the crazy-making hurryhurryhurry to get to one place and then the next. That makes my going out to LA to visit Virgo Sis and go to the MLA much less stressful (so does going to MLA just to go). Of course, so does being on sabbatical, because otherwise I’d be doing MLA back-to-back with starting our Spring semester.
  • Speaking of holiday plans, in case I don’t blog again before we leave:

>Moving on up…

>…to Bel-el-siiiize! [Come on, sing it with me, to this tune.] To a de-luxe apartment in Bel-siiize!

OK, OK, I’m not really *moving* to London, but I am going spend a 6-week research trip from May to June in Belsize Park, a very posh neighborhood that I wouldn’t normally be able to afford. In fact, the apartment I arranged through SabbaticalHomes.com is pretty darn pricey, too, and when I first started looking, I put it pretty low on my list as too expensive. But then I got a little windfall of money I wasn’t expecting, which made me decide that it would be really fun to pretend for six weeks that I’m the kind of person who really could afford a swank place in Belsize Park. And it’s just as well, too, because all the cheaper places that I was interested in — the ones that weren’t way out in SE23 or thereabouts — turned out not to be available for my dates. They were listed as available, but then the owners said they already had parties interested. People! Update your listings! Stop leading me on with your promises of elegant little Bloomsbury 1-bedroom apartments for relatively reasonable prices! Or they said, sorry, but they couldn’t do 6 weeks, they could only do full months. Then say so in your listing! I went through 7 possibilities before the Belsize Park person said yes, it was available for my dates and he’d be happy to rent it at the advertised price with no hidden charges. Hooray!

Thank god I don’t have to look for *permanent* housing in London (or any other insanely expensive city). I’m pretty sure I’d go mad in the process or I’d be more willing to commute from Zone 6 or something. The place I’m renting has a monthly rate that’s roughly three times the cost of our monthly mortgage (although at least the bills are included in the rent) for a 600 square foot loft studio (vs. our nearly 2000 square foot, four bedroom house with a yard and a garage). I know that sounds like madness, too, but for my purposes in the short terms, it’s pretty much within the range of the expected. Put in these terms: it’s the same per night as the Holiday Inn Express in the area charges, but I’ll get to live as if it’s my own house (because it will be for 6 weeks), spread out in a bigger space, cook for myself (thus saving on dinner especially), do my laundry in my own space, and so on. And out of curiosity, I looked at a real estate website offering apartments in the area, and the comparable ones had much higher rent, so I think I’m doing well for the area. The only way I’ve done things cheaper is to rent a student room, once at Goodenough College and once at the University of London’s College Hall. But this time I’m going to be there while it’s still term time, so those options aren’t open to me. (Well, Goodenough might have a room available, but you have to share showers. In the summer, when few people are around, it’s one thing, but I really don’t want to share a shower with a hall full of students, even if they’re mostly postgraduates. And last time I lived there, I was three floors up from the kitchen — *very* inconvenient.) If it were available to me, I’d think about College Hall again; its ensuite rooms are very nice and there’s a pantry or two with a fridge and microwave on every floor (though for 6 weeks, microwaved food might get sickening).

Anywho, the place I’m going to rent is swuh-ank! It’s sleek and modern and all recently renovated, top to bottom, with gorgeous, gleaming dark oak floors, huge French windows letting in all sorts of light, and an open-plan kitchen that’s reasonably roomy for a studio apartment. Put it this way: the minute I showed Bullock the pictures, he said, “Oh, that’s NICE!” and he has pretty demanding taste. When I will the lottery (heh), I’d love a pied-a-terre just like it. I’m not the only one, it seems: I contacted one of the previous renters and she said she wished she lived there all year round. She stayed there with her husband and child, so it should be roomy enough for just me.

I promise, though, that while I’m there I’ll work very, very hard at the BL and not sit around my flat pretending to be posh or hanging out with the celebrities who live in the area. And come visit me — I’ll give you the king size bed and I’ll sleep on the couch!

>I feel like I won the lottery or something

>So, a couple of posts ago — in this post — I talked about how much out of pocket expense my summer travels might cost me. And in that post I mentioned I might get the internal grants I applied for.

Well, hot damn, I did! The big award gives me a month’s salary plus about $3500 in additional expenses. And another travel award gave me an additional $700. And since NCS is in the next fiscal year, I can apply for regular faculty development travel funds for that.

Woo hoo!

Now I’m definitely going to make a big donation towards the cost of taking our cast and crew to the performance in Toronto, especially since my own costs there are now pretty much covered from a variety of sources and opportunities. I feel like I should pay if forward, you know? Especially since I’ve been saving frantically for the combined costs of summer travel and reduced salary for a full year’s sabbatical next academic year.

Speaking of the latter, the board of trustees hasn’t officially signed off on it yet, but my sabbatical application was approved up through the president. I’m a little superstitious about celebrating things that aren’t finalized, but fingers crossed, I won’t be teaching after this semester until Fall 2011.

I feel like with all this awesomeness something really terrible is around the corner — more terrible than the jury summons (ugh) I got this week. What, me paranoid?

UPDATE: OK, now that I’ve done all the math, in terms of the “expenses” part of my London trip, it’s still going to cost me over $2000 out of pocket, even with that $4200 in travel and expense money. And I know not all of the Siena trip will be covered, either. Damn, this is going to be expensive! But at least there’s that extra month of salary, so that will cover it.

>Dr. Virago: International Woman of Mystery and Credit Card Debt

>I’ll be traveling to three foreign countries for professional activity in Summer 2010: Canada, the UK, and Italy. The first trip, at the end of May, is for the sake of medieval drama. The other two destinations will be part of the same month-long trip from the end of June to the end of July: first, to study the early modern book in England (in manuscript and print form) at the London Rare Books School; then, to do about a week and a half of research at the British Library; and then to go down to Siena, Italy, for the New Chaucer Society Congress.

I’m very excited about all of this. The Chester production and conference will feel like the capstone of many years of work on medieval drama, and I’m looking forward to spending a weekend watching theater groups from all around North America and the UK interpret and perform the cycle, as well as to hearing people present new research on the plays at the symposium. The European trip, meanwhile, is all about new avenues of my research into manuscript-oriented studies which, like the drama, cross the medieval-early modern divide. That research is still a little inchoate, in part because I’m largely teaching myself how to work in a set of new sub-fields, including manuscript and textual studies — hence my attendance at the LRBS. It’s also a move into new genres of literature (or rather, new genres for me to do work on) and for some reason I’m presenting on that work in progress at NCS, even though, as I said, the works is still rather inchoate. Ack! But still, I’m looking forward to NCS because, well, it’s in Siena! I’ve never been to Siena or Tuscany, and besides the usual academic conference stuff, NCS – as usual – is offering excursions to villas and castles and working Benedictine monasteries! And a final dinner at a vineyard estate in the Tuscan countryside! How fabulous!

But of course, all of this is going to cost me a whole heckuva lotta money. Mucho dinero. Mega bucks. And all this right before I take a year’s sabbatical (approval still pending) in which I’ll be paid 2/3 of my usual salary. I’m squirreling away as much money as possible to pay for it all, especially for my sabbatical year. I’m saving, as usual, for ordinary summer living expenses (since we’re paid only during the nine months of the academic year), but not just for summer 2010, but also for 2011. And then, in addition to that, I’ll be putting into savings every stipend I’ve been awarded, every honorarium I’ve been given (for example, for being a peer-reviewer for a book manuscript), every monetary Christmas or birthday present I’ve gotten or will get, and all of my tax refunds. I’ve also agree to edit a number of texts for a forthcoming largish literary anthology, for which I’ll be paid a flat sum, and that will be squirreled away, too.

I applied for travel funds to cover my costs for the Canadian trip, and I was allocated what I needed as long as I can travel in our production team’s van and don’t have personal transportation costs (although that may not work out), but I may be chipping in to cover some of the costs of taking our cast and crew there for our play in the production. We had originally signed up for a play with a small cast, but then found out we were also being assigned an episode from another play in the cycle — for good scholarly reasons — which more than doubled the cast members we need to take! Our theater department is still managing to cover most of it, although we may be the only group there that uses the technique of ‘doubling’ (one actor playing two parts) — we’ll see how well that works in open-air performances at multiple stations! But students might have to pay for food for themselves, and I’d like us all to go out and eat somewhere cool together at least one night there; I can’t really expect poor students to pay for that themselves.

I’ve also applied for an internal summer fellowship that will cover the cost of the London trip and give me a month’s additional salary. But that fellowship prioritizes junior faculty. Tenured faculty have gotten it in the past, and I think I wrote a good proposal that speaks well to people outside the humanities (I even called manuscript research our version of “field work”), but it’s certainly not guaranteed. Keep your fingers crossed for me.

And since NCS is in the next fiscal year, I can apply for more regular travel funds for that, but whatever I get will be a drop in the bucket of the total cost, even if the London portion of the trip — including the overseas flight — is covered by the summer fellowship. So even if I get all the funds I’m applying for, I’ll still have to carry some serious costs myself. And then next year, in 2011, I’m planning at least another month or so of research in UK libraries. Again, I’ll apply for all available funds — including some external ones this time, as I hope my project will be better defined by then — but who knows if I’ll get any.

Now, I’m not complaining here. Really, all I’m doing is a little financial planning in public. Because Bullock and I are DINKs (Dual Incomes, No Kids — an acronym that never really took off, alas) in a city with a low cost of living, and because we don’t live extravagantly (well, unless you count our taste in food and drink; or my penchant for the practical-but-cute, but also expensive, La Canadienne boots for winter; or the money we’ve spent on training, boarding, and grooming Pippi), I can afford to take a full sabbatical year and also make multiple trips out of the country. But I don’t know what I’d do if we had kids or lived in an expensive area, or both, as many of my academic friends do.

And I guess I’m posting this as a kind of public record of what professorial life is like for the vast majority of us (or, well, in my field, anyway) — those of us teaching at the less-than-elite colleges and universities. Many of my students are surprised to find out I’m not paid in the summer or that the research and conference trips I undertake aren’t fully subsidized. I know most of my readers know these things, but my blog gets Google hits all the time (often misdirected ones….but still). So, if you’re wondering, Do professors have their travel paid for? The answer is: usually only in part, and sometimes not at all. We get partial funding for one trip a year at my university. Do professors get paid in the summers? Usually, no, unless they’ve arranged the 9-month paychecks to be distributed over 12 months, or unless they’re teaching summer school or they’re a chair or a program director or other administrator. Do professors get paid while they’re on sabbatical? Yes, but often not their full salary. At my university, it’s 100% for a semester, 66% for a year. Your mileage may vary. And, in fact, I’m lucky that my university hasn’t cut sabbaticals entirely — as others in the state have done recently — although they’re being very stingy with them. Anyway, all of this means that we’re often footing the bill for our own research expenses, especially in the humanities and social sciences, whether that means the time we need (summers and sabbaticals), or the travel we undertake for conferences and research. And don’t forget, our job performance evaluations include research — it’s not just a hobby.

So, for the record, here’s what I’m estimating the major expenses of these three trips will cost all together, at current exchange rates and fares, and using government standards for mileage costs and per diem (though I spend a lot less on food and incidentals that the per diems allow):

Travel to & from Toronto (if there’s not room for me in the van or if scheduling doesn’t work out): $300 (using IRS mileage rat)
Lodging in Toronto: $ 250 (if I stay in the dorms, which I probably will)
Toronto per diem: $555

Subtotal: $1105

LRBS Tuition: $886
Round trip flight to London: $1200
Lodging in London: $1500 (I’ve arranged a cheap university dorm room already)
London per diem: $3060

Subtotal: $6486

Round trip flight from London to Florence: $220
Lodging in Siena: $370 (if I share, which I’ll likely do)
NCS registration, final dinner, and excursions: $435
Meals not provided: $300

Subtotal: $1325

Grand total: $8916

To put this in some perspective, that’s more than 10% of my gross income when I’m not on a reduced salary. Of course, as I said, Toronto is covered, and I’ll get something for Siena. If luck prevails, I’ll get that summer fellowship, too, and if not, I’ve got money saved. And there are my credit cards (hence my post title). I actually haven’t carried credit debt for more than few months at a time — usually after trips like these — since the third year of being a professor, when I finished paying off the $11,000 I still had from graduate school. (Though I still have about $28,000 student loan debt, much of which was taken out originally to pay off credit cards, swapping a higher variable interest for a very low, fixed one.) But I think after this summer it may take me awhile to recover.

Anyway, we’re doing a better job of letting students know the costs of pursuing academic jobs — the real costs and opportunity costs; the personal costs, as well — but I thought I’d throw out some more data on the costs that continue to accrue, depending on your field and your area(s) of research, even if you do get the coveted tenure-track job. I often get the “must be nice” comments from non-academics and students when they ask what I’m doing with my summer, and it *is* nice, I’ll agree, to spend a productive day in a manuscript library and then to walk “home” through Russell Square, or to spend five days in Tuscany with the world’s experts in Chaucer and other late medieval English literature. But it’s often partly or entirely at my own expense.

>Go, Speed Researcher, Go!

>12 manuscripts in 3 days.

Granted, I wasn’t reading or transcribing large chunks of any of them — this nascent project is all about bits and pieces added in margins, on blank pages, and on flyleaves. But still, 12 manuscripts in 3 days is pretty good, especially considering it wasn’t 4/4/4, but 5/1/6.

And I’m really proud of the fact that I managed the BL MS request system perfectly: I ordered three MSS in advance by e-mail for the first day, and another three on Monday afternoon for Wednesday, and whenever I was down to 2, I put in additional orders, so I was never sitting around waiting for one.

And can I just say one of the gentlemen working the request desk has a prodigious and impressive memory. When I came in on Wednesday after not having been there since Monday, he simply handed me my pre-ordered manuscripts with asking for my name or my reader card. Wow!

But now, having spent the last three days squinting at mostly 15th and 16th century amateur handwriting, I’m ready to go home. Of course, if this nascent project turns into something bigger — just what, I’m not yet sure — I’ll have many hours of such squinting in my future. Maybe then I should slow the pace down just a wee bit. Because if I spent four weeks here, for instance, and saw an average of 4 manuscripts a day, that’s 80 freakin’ manuscripts, and only if I take Saturdays off. The mere thought makes my head explode.

>Castles and manuscripts and semi-automatic weapons, oh my!

>I made it to Windsor today to look at an eight-line poem written in the fifteenth century in a blank space in an earlier manuscript. And though a small bit of text, it was a fruitful trip in many ways. Yay for successful fact-finding missions, however marginal they may at first glance seem. But my, what a process to get there! For eight lines!

To get where I was going at Windsor Castle, I didn’t have to go through the usual tourist entrance, but instead was told to enter through the Henry VIII gate and ask the policeman there to direct me to the pass office. Easier said than done. I will spare you the detailed story about how just getting to Windsor was an adventure because I stupidly took the wrong Tube line and so missed the 08:23 train from Waterloo and got to Windsor a half hour later than intended (it involved the Northern Line — I now loathe the Northern Line, for it is wicked), and skip to arriving at the Henry VIII gate to be faced with a kevlar-armored police commando holding a semi-automatic weapon across his chest. It’s bad enough to enter through the Henry VIII gate — will I be divorced? beheaded? or will I survive? — but *you* try explaining to a heavily armed policeman that you’re here to look at a medieval manuscript. It’s rather intimidating!

Actually, he was very nice, as was his less armed partner, and they both directed me to a yet kindlier policeman inside a vestibule, who seemed to be the Copper with the Answers. It was a bit like a set of nesting dolls — you had to get past the big imposing one, then the medium sized one, to get to the adorable one at the center. And the ones on guard in the afternoon were equally friendly: when I “surrendered” my pass, one made sure I wouldn’t be coming back, and when I said yes, he said, “Well, our loss then!”

And once I was directed to the pass office and came back with my pass and showed my passport for ID (which the man with the gun had trouble with because apparently US ones have the picture in a different end than UK ones — “trust you lot to be different,” he said in a jovial way), everything went smoothly until I was confronted with a chain across the stairs leading to the archives. What with the heavily armed policemen around — not to mention all the ceremonial swords on all the traditional guards — and, I’m sure, CCTV covering every nook and cranny, I didn’t really like the thought of ducking under it. So I went back to the kindliest of the three bears, er, policemen, the one with the Answers, and asked him, “Yo, dude, what up with the chain?” OK, not in so many words. Kindly police officer that he was, he left his post and walked back with me to figure out what was going on, and undid it for me, telling me it was just to keep the general public out. Awesome — I’m not the general public! (Do you now have “Tenderness” [Link = YouTube clip] going through your head? Yeah, me too.) Later, when I was exiting that part of the castle, yet another chain was up across another space, but that time, knowing that I was not the mere general public, I very cavalierly undid the chain myself and walked out, as curious tourists wondered who I must be. OK, maybe they didn’t care, but I thought I was pretty special.

It’s not like I saw anything fabulous that tourists couldn’t see from other vantage points, but I was in a part of the castle that’s its own little world, separate from the tourists and State Rooms and changing of the guard and all that royal ceremony hoo-ha. In the Horseshoe Cloister, which I passed through to get to the Vicar’s Undercroft, it seems there are living quarters, presumably for residential castle staff. I took a picture of the unusually curved building (hence the name “Horseshoe Cloister”), but as you may recall, I can’t upload my pictures at the moment. It’s a half-circle building in the style now called “Tudor” (only here it was obviously the real thing) — brick on the bottom, beam and plaster on the top — and has a continuous covered walk around its length over the entrances to all the residences (hence “cloister”). I know it was residential for two reasons: there were signs that said “Residents Only on Grass”; and as I left I caught a glimpse of the inside of one of them. They reminded me of the “rooms” (that is, apartments) that some Oxbridge dons have “in college.” And beyond the Horseshoe Cloister, near the Vicar’s residence and on the back side of St. George’s Chapel, a whole little village seemed to open up. As I was leaving, a man and woman with a baby carriage were entering, presumably to go home.

In other words, I was in a living modern-medieval castle, bustling with life and activity on a grand scale, and not just because of the mad swarms of tourists. I know the traditional guards have horses somewhere, but here there were cars parked in reserved spaces in the Horseshoe Cloister and in the next court yard. The castle was guarded by modern versions of knights and infantry – some with swords, some with guns. The tourists were the courtiers and visiting statesmen, while the residents and staff and various and sundry went about their daily business, and I and the other “clerks” were busy doing things with manuscripts, and, in this case, microfiche, photocopies, Word texts, and PDFs, too. Meanwhile, the royal household was a presence without actually necessarily being present.

Plus ca change…

Post script: given all the fire power and other security (I had to apply for my pass in advance, presumably so they could look me up on watch lists and also see if I had a record), I was pretty surprised that there was no bag check. Nope, not one bit. In the *archives* I had to leave my bag in a vestibule inside their locked door (entrance by buzzer only), but no where outside of the archives was my bag a problem. After the archives, I even wandered around the tourist parts of the castle for awhile. (No one asked to see my entrance ticket — there was 12 quid wasted on the discount ticket I bought with my train fare. D’oh!) I went in and around St. George’s Chapel with my bag strapped to my back, and wandered around the middle and lower wards with it as well. Very strange.

>Conference paper title changes — or not

>In his final post on NCS, JJC writes:

The typical NCS performance began by announcing a change in title. The speaker would then make reference to the very long version of the paper from which this tiny and insufficient piece was being extracted. He or she would last apologize for not having a sufficient number of handouts.

The pique“mildly amused observationalism” with which Jeffrey writes this explainsfails to explain something to me. At my own presentation, I cheerily pointed out, to my own great amusement, that on my handout I had *accidentally* changed my title. There was a word that begins with M that was different from the original title, but made just as much sense — hence the reason why it found its way into my handout without my catching the mistake. I thought this was kind of hilarious, given the rampant purposeful title-changing at the conference, but my audience didn’t even seem to smile.

But for some reason they absolutely guffawed when the next speaker crowed triumphantly that he had not changed his title. Hmph, I say, hmph!

Oh, and for the record, I did worry out loud that I didn’t have enough handouts, but actually I did, and I finished my paper *under* time. Ta-da!


In other news, I’ve settled into London now — in the world’s narrowest hotel room, not counting those “pod” hotels — after visiting friends in Yorkshire. Blogging may be light as I’ve got to make good use of my scant three days here to do massive manuscript consulting. But I do want to revisit some things I’ve been thinking about all that posing, posturing, and prestige-chasing that I perceived at NCS and why it annoys and bores me so much. It may not be until I get back to the States, though, that I’ll have time to write that post.

>My job is cool

>I mentioned in an earlier post that while I’m doing my scant three days of research in London this summer, I’m going to add in a trip out to Windsor to look at a manuscript there. I am now totally psyched to do this.

First of all, with a little research detective work I was finally able to track down more about the manuscript and it’s chock-a-block full of the sub-genre I’m looking at (not just the one piece I knew about), so even if it doesn’t quite have the provenance I think I’m concentrating on, it’s an interesting manuscript and so I’m still going to go see it, and look at the bits that haven’t been edited. At this point I’m not sure where this project is going, but now that I’m tenured and feel less pressure to produce a certain outcome, I feel the leisure to follow leads and tangents and hope that they’ll end in serendipitous discoveries.

But what’s really cool about this is that I’m going to be spending the day with a manuscript in a freakin’ castle, which also still happens to be an active royal residence. How awesomely cool is that? I mentioned before that I have to pay for entrance to the castle, but I’m not entirely sure that’s the case anymore. But I did have to fill out a day pass application form in advance so that they can do a security check on me (because it’s a royal residence and all), and on the day of my visit, my pass will be waiting for me with a police officer. OK, I know it’s not top level intelligence classification, but I still feel kind of wickedly special. And did I mention it’s a castle? And the archives are in a part of the castle called the “Vicar’s Undercroft.” And the archivists all have very English names of the Rupert Giles type. And work in a castle. In a castle!

So next time some random person asks me what I do for a living, I’m going to say I read medieval manuscripts in castles. And if they want to think I slay vampires, too, that’s cool with me.

>RBOS: Random Bullets of Summer


  • Hm. Random Bullets of Summer sounds like a gansta rap album title.
  • Thanks to everyone who offered congratulations and huzzahs and woo-hoos in the last post. And Karl, that David Wallace as anonymous blogger joke never gets old with you, does it?
  • I have made my summer UK travel plans. I will be at the NCS in Swansea — I have trains and planes arranged — then visiting a friend in Yorkshire for a few days, and perhaps catching up with a former student who will be completing her MA in Medieval Studies at York. And then I’ll be in London from the evening of July 27 just through the 30th (I leave the morning of the 31st) to look at a couple of manuscripts at the BL, and maybe out at St. George’s Chapel, Windsor, too.
  • Get this: in order to get in to the library at St. George’s Chapel, I have to pay for admission to Windsor Castle. Hm. I haven’t been there since I was a kid — maybe I’ll do the touristy stuff, too, when I’m done with my manuscript.
  • For those who want to know, you can book train tickets through TheTrainline.com only if you have a UK mailing address to post them to. They’ll tell you you can’t use a non-UK credit card, but I did. (They also claim you can’t even register with a US address any more, and I seem to have done so. But then I remembered I already had an account from back in 2004, and logged in and purchased my tickets with that account.) The AmEx has been charged and my Yorkshire friend should be getting the tickets any day now.
  • I decided to stay at The Euro Hotel in London, partly on Mike Drout’s approval of it for what it is, and partly because it seemed to be the only cheap place available of the places really close to St. Pancras and the BL. I like the fact that it’s on a little crescent street and it’s relatively cheap for London — 55 GBP for a single with shared shower and toilet (the online reviews say the showers are very close, clean, and never busy). I’ll let you know what I think after I’ve stayed there — or even *while* I’m there, as they have free wireless (another attraction).
  • So I think I may fiddle with the blog design. It’s summer — I have time. JJC finds it too soothing after my old template’s screaming orange. (Though was it really that screaming? I always thought of it as an autumnal ’70s rust, and so went with a complementary color with the new design.) He also tsk-tsk’d the flowers at the bottom. OK, so it’s a little genteel and froofy, but I love English gardens (the picture was taken in Cumbria). But he has a point. It’s not very Virago-like. Any ideas?
  • Pippi is also getting ready for summer. I took her to the groomer today. It’s the first time since we’ve had her that I’ve handed her over to strangers and walked away. It was very traumatic for *me*. But for her? Nah. Her attitude was all “ooh! new people to love me! new scents! other doggies! let’s go!” Sigh.
  • So you know what I just realized now sucks about being tenured — aside from more service work? Now I only do a dossier every five years, so I have to be super-organized and save all the proof of what I’ve been up to in research, teaching, and service for five long years. D’oh.