What’s (Been) Going On

I stubbed this post in April last year, meaning then to tell you at least in outline what was happening in my life and with this blog. As the fact that it’s now most of a year on from that and that this post is being written in Turkey, you will guess that actually things are not much quieter, but they are better than they have been and I do have hopes that some kind of blogging can resume here. So this post is about what that might look like, and says something about how things got this way.

The path to this point (has not all been easy)

So. Obviously we all know that in October 2015 I got a job as Lecturer in Early Medieval History at Leeds, and at that point the blog was a little bit more than a year behind. Now, because I had not been around to advertise my new modules because I was then still working somewhere else, two of them did not recruit enough students to run, so in my first year in post I was teaching less than I expected. That said, I was still teaching on, er, two large-scale first-year courses, one second-year one I’d built myself and two graduate skills courses, plus a couple of guest appearances, all of which was new prep, and I put, um, 4 grant applications in in that time as well (of which I got 2, one of which is why I am right now in Turkey and the other of which saw me co-curating a numismatic exhibition at the end of the next year—plus ça change…). For a while I was also, of all things, enrolled on a MOOC by way of learning my way round an admin role which I subsequently demitted, so I was busy enough. But I was still blogging and still reading a bit. Nonetheless, I am told by my partner that in the second semester all this plus marking turned me into a grey joyless sink of exhaustion, in part presumably because I’d had minor surgery just before Christmas 2015 and was still recovering; one of our cats getting run over also didn’t help.

The Parkinson Building, University of Leeds

The office building where this story mainly takes place, the Parkinson Building, University of Leeds, its grandeur equalled only by the unpredictability of its upstairs water supply. By Tim Green from Bradford [CC BY 2.0], via Wikimedia Commons.

Now, come October 2016, I had been able to advertise my own courses, so the two that were dormant had recruited and now had to run for the first time. In addition to that, I co-led an overhaul of our medieval survey course, which is taught to the whole cohort, and I also co-convened our intensive palæography course. What this all meant was that, more or less by accident, I was now teaching across 10 modules and running 6, only 2 of which were repeating in the same form as the previous year and 2 of which were entirely new, one involving collaboration with our Library’s (brilliant) Special Collections team and the other, a full-year module, involving lots of translation of primary material on what quickly became a week-to-week basis. I also put in 3 more grant applications and got 2, and was of course now also dealing with the work coming from the previous ones… I was also now studying for and putting in for Fellowship of the Higher Education Academy, which I got, and Fellowship of the Royal Historical Society, which I also got. I mentioned the numismatic exhibition already. Oh yeah, and I bought a new house and moved halfway through all of this! The new house is much much better and a great delight, but the commute is longer and of course moving is never easy, especially when you’re buying in a chain.

Study right at Exley Hall

The other place this was all (by now) happening, my half of our study at home, complete with me at work in it and the (new) junior cat trying to work out why

In the classroom, again, the second semester was heavier than the first. By the middle of it, unable to progress anything outside teaching and working more hours than I ever have to keep that going, I had to tell my press that I could no longer deliver my next book in the foreseeable future, and shortly after that I hit a crisis point that meant that something had to be done. My bosses were personally sympathetic and quick to act, and I also owe thanks to my union representative and Chris Wickham, who were both vital support. Anyway, the main positive result of all this (apart from the successful funding bids) was that an application I’d made for a semester of study leave was approved; the secondary positive result was that despite everything I got a teaching commendation, for which I must mainly thank my students, and I suppose the third one was the HEA Fellowship. For the study leave I had targets that amounted to finishing an article-length piece of work every month—which I did do—so blogging time was still hard to find. And now study leave is over, I’m still on probation and I’m back to teaching, with what is for now a lighter teaching load, but still enough to mean that a short-lived attempt at weekly blogging has stumbled. Obviously (obviously!) the blog is not my first priority, but it is a priority, so what can happen with it?

The state of the blog, present and future

Well, if we take a look at the blog as it currently sits, it is upwards of 700 posts going back more than a decade, and its sheer mass on the web means that it continues to draw at least some traffic even if I do nothing with it, which is quite gratifying. I have at least been able to keep up with comments and I think some kind of community remains aware when I post, and to you folks also I am very grateful. But we have this silly double structure of ‘sticky’ front-page posts that I wanted you to know about straight away, as opposed to the regular posts emerging blinking from the backlog, and I have literally sixty more stubbed, and in some cases part- or all-written, from up to three years ago, which I was determined to post in order between my normal seminar reporting. Even with as little detachment as I can manage, this has become a structure of lunacy that can’t be maintained. On the other hand, I really miss the interaction and sense of having a public, and the constructive and amusing response to half-formed ideas I could get here; as a sandbox, as well as a public face, blogging has seemed a worthwhile exercise to me ever since I worked out what I really thought it was for, and I want to get it going again and keep it there. I have also, I admit, used the fact that I have a blog on which to publicise my endeavours in a couple of my funding bids, and it’s probably not wholly honest if I can’t shout about my successes here as well as via Leeds press releases.

So, most obviously, the seminar and conference reporting cannot continue as it once did. That may prove something of a relief to those who were covered, though I know some people liked it, but it just took so long, and in any case I’m now outside the so-called Golden Triangle so can’t report on it to those likewise outside as I used to. On the other hand, I don’t want just to jump-cut three years of my life, especially since as the narrative above tells you, they have been busy and full of things and successes on which I would ideally have reported with glee. And there are all these posts stubbed which belong in that time. So, I have a plan and it looks like this:

  1. The ‘sticky’ posts will all be unstuck when I next post, and return to their places in the stream; there should be no more of them.
  2. I will start a new series of posts called ‘Chronicle’ or something like that, in which I just record what was going on in my life academic in chunks of a month or two at a time, in as summary a form as I can manage, mainly to give chronology to the whole effort but also by way of presenting some kind of a record of what the transition into full-time long-term academia, with which I know I’m not the only one who has struggled, looked like (and looks like) from here. That will continue till I reach the present day, and I’ll adapt the size of them so that I am gaining on that goal each time I post.
  3. In between those posts I will insert shorter focused pieces on the things in each chronicle chunk that merit their own reporting, or which were stubbed at that sort of point, and so there’ll still be something here other than me trying to make my diary entertaining.

And maybe that will work! I hope that I can post most weeks, probably on Sundays, and that that ought actually to work down the backlog. I guess we’ll see how it goes? I’m very conscious that my previous promises of a return to blogging have, like prophecies of the end of the world, all so far proved false, but hopefully this is easier to bring about than Apocalypse. Assuming the horsemen don’t arrive, therefore, see you soon! And thanks for continuing to hang round A Corner of Tenth-Century Europe!

17 responses to “What’s (Been) Going On

  1. When you wake up one day and your gut-feeling is that the world just won’t turn if you don’t push it, then you know you need a break and some perspective. Been there once myself.

    About the Horsemen – well that’s just true. We’ve got about 50 years or so and the time has to be spent somehow; not oil-drilling or coal-mining are good. Very glad to see you back, Dr. Garrett.

  2. Just reading about your workload makes me feel like taking to my fainting couch (IOW, you’ve turned a sturdy medieval woman into a nineteenth-century neurasthenic, an interesting transhistorical feat). Congratulations on surviving all that along with a move. I hope you continue to enjoy the new house and will be able to continue blogging. I’d be glad to hear more about your ‘life academic’, which though in some ways familiar also has exotic aspects to American eyes. What is completely quotidian to you might be fascinatingly different to me. Whatever you have time for, of course; this is not intended as pressure, just to say it’s good to see you here on something other than a sad occasion, and good luck with everything!

  3. Glad to read you again. As life’s changes unfold is always a pleasure to know companions go on!

  4. I’m glad you are posting again. I hope things become easier (although you seem to be a person who overdoes things) and certainly wish you the best of luck. Condolences about the cat.

  5. Thanks all of you! I hope you are also all doing well. Let’s see how long this kind of presence can be maintained…

  6. Pingback: Chronicle I: July, August and September 2015 | A Corner of Tenth-Century Europe

  7. Thank goodness you have recovered. I found long ago that a good rule was “always take Saturday afternoon and evening off.” Not that you always can.

    I once had a lengthy spell when life was essentially just work and sleep – but much of the work was outdoors and physically demanding which helped no end. I don’t suppose that would be easy for a historian to arrange.

    Remember Reagan’s great line: “It’s true hard work never killed anybody, but I figure, why take the chance?”

    • Sound advice on several counts there, thankyou. I do need to factor in more outdoors activity, as I’m not really cycling as I used to now. If you saw the hill my house is on you’d understand why, though…

  8. Good to hear from you! I have written on Heavenfield in ages. My other blog Contagions is doing a little better, and I’m starting a new blog Metamorphosis on museum studies. What time I have for research is all plague now, mostly first and third pandemic.

    My advice is to just do the ones that have been all written and push the “delete” on the others. You have to find a workable balance. I delete topic ideas from by draft file all the time and I still have a lot of them left.

    Are you coming to Kzoo this year?

    • Aha, nice to see another of the old avatars back; glad to hear from you, Michelle. Alas, no Kalamazoo for me this year; it falls in the middle of our teaching term at Leeds and so it’s never easy to manage; I want to keep making it every few years bit every few years is all it can be, I fear.

  9. That should obviously be “I have not written on Heavenfield in ages”

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  11. Oh I do so miss your blogging, as much as I miss having time to read and respond to it; and not to mention keep my own going… Your load looks even heavier than mine, and I often feel as thought *that’s* only just humanly possible. I hope you find some regular time to keep it ticking over, and also to enjoy a pint and pat the cat; although I also hope that the present enforced ‘time off’ ends soon.
    PS. Yay spectrometry!

    • My load has lightened somewhat since the worst, though, whereas I bet yours has not; my sympathies anyway, I know this situation you describe very well. The cat usually puts herself where she must be patted, without waiting for me to get round to it, though, don’t worry on her account…

  12. Pingback: Chronicle II: October to December 2015 | A Corner of Tenth-Century Europe

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