Back from the south

The past week I was in England and Wales — England for pleasure and Wales for work (which was also pleasurable). Going south has given me hope: it was beginning to look like spring there. Crocuses and daffodils were blooming, the air was warmer, the trees a bit greener. In about three weeks, it should start looking like that here. Ros says there are shoots sprouting up already in our garden, but I came home after it was dark so I haven’t seen them to be sure.

Oxford was lovely, as usual. I got to catch up with friends and eat at my favourite restaurants. Whenever I visit Oxford I breathe a sigh of the familiar. It is nice to have another city in this country that I know well enough that when I visit it can actually be a holiday: having lived there before, I am not pressured to ‘do Oxford’ when I go there. And though I am very glad I am at the university I am, I’m a bit envious of the college system — especially the chapel. If I could go to Evensong or morning prayers every day just by walking across the quad, I would.

I was in Wales for a Master Class in Medieval Palaeography at Bangor University. On the train there, I sat across the table from a mother and her six or seven-year-old daughter. The little girl had with her a chapter book in Welsh and was learning to read English. It was fascinating to listen to the girl practice reading the English book aloud, and to have her mother occasionally help her with pronunciation, saying, ‘In the English alphabet, these letters are…’ Then, at the workshops, at least half of the people there could speak Welsh (the rest of us were from universities farther afield), and they all introduced themselves and spoke first in Welsh, then translated into English. I had been to Wales before, but in Cardiff, and haven’t had an opportunity to hear Welsh spoken. Even while walking around the town and sitting in Costa there were people speaking in Welsh.

More academically: I was in the classes for Middle English, which were taught by A.S.G. Edwards.* At the conference dinner I learned that he had visited Norman, Oklahoma and afterward he, Rebecca, another one of the lecturers, and I had coffee (from which I learned that I can drink decaf coffee without ill effects! hooray!). I was most interested in the sessions on editing texts, in case I do end up spending the rest of my life working on Melusine. As a result of this weekend, I have had my faith in the Riverside Chaucer utterly shattered. Thanks Tony.

Also, I’m pretty sure that Super Amazing Cambridge Guy is actually in all probability a nice person (I’m sure I’ll meet him eventually at one of these conferences), but I’m tired of hearing about him whenever I introduce my thesis topic. This time I heard about how hardworking and dedicated he was, having finished his thesis in two and a half years, that he would wake up so early in the morning and exercise and then work straight from 6 AM to 7 PM, and what a charmed academic life he has had afterward. Well, let’s just say that I’m glad my supervisor would kill me if I tried to keep those hours.

Consequently, being in Wales this weekend meant that I missed the royal visit to our town. I saw a bit of it on television when I walked through the hotel lobby where our conference dinner was going to be. Oh well.

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* Okay, I’ll admit that whenever I see his name I think of the the financial firm A.G. Edwards.

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