Bob . . . !

Yesterday’s stage was probably the best I’ve ever watched. Chapeau, tout le monde.

But Bob, listen, the Pic du Midi is not nor ever was an “astrological station.” I suppose a portmanteau of “meteorological” and “astronomical” is what popped out, but might I suggest “meteoronomical,” instead? Astrological gives the wrong impression.

Bob Roll does it again

Along yesterday’s route is the Chateau de Saissac (see also here, at km 163.8, if you don’t get distracted by some of the earlier sites), which Bob described as “elegant shambolic architecture.” The Shambolic is an architectural period I never heard of before. Is it before or after Romanesque?

(I do know the word. It’s the oxymoronic phrase that gave me pause. For more Bob Roll-isms, you can search his name on my blog or the internet at large.)

Sad sad six on Saturday

Let’s just be clear; I’m not sad, I’m buzzed on Prosecco and pretending that I’m watching today’s Tour stage from somewhere in France instead of from our basement. But the garden needs a lot more time than I have.

#1, the heaps of weeds to prove that I wasn’t just sitting on my butt in the damp grass for the hour and a half I was out this afternoon:

#2: I’m planning to rip out these poor sunburned hostas and replace them with something native that likes sun. Some year. As for the weeds between the pavers, I’ve been spraying them with homemade weedkiller (vinegar, salt, drop of dish detergent) but it seems this is just giving the rabbits some salad dressing on their greens.

#3, the wild bit. I need to figure out how much of this is welcome natives and how much is non-natives I should try to get rid of. My husband gets a little antsy about what he perceives as weeds. I know the day lilies aren’t natives but I do love them.

#4. Speaking of wild bits, what the heck is this growing through the lilacs? There’s another one in the back under the magnolia tree.

#5. I can’t stand the sadness any more, so here is my thriving vegetable patch.

And #6, here are those deck tomatoes. I’m not so sure these are cherry tomatoes, though that’s what I thought I was getting.

Six on Saturday is hosted by the Propagator. He has some very nice flowers, and reminds me that I keep forgetting to go round the other side of the house and photograph the clematis there. It’s probably finished blooming by now. Sad, sad gardener here, greatly distracted by cycling and my only gradually improving insomnia.

What was I going to say?

I logged in awhile ago, and opened up the New Post page, and then got distracted. Possibly I had some really brilliant idea, but on the other hand, maybe I was just going to whine.

It’s mid-July, and past the middle of the year, and more than past the middle of the summer. Boo. I have not done those things I ought to have done. We are contemplating a road trip before the summer is truly over, and I feel (a) that I’m not sure I want all the hassle of driving and sleeping in strange beds and figuring out how to feed both of us with our different finicky diets in unfamiliar places, not to mention the struggle to find a suitable cat-sitter* and also (b) that I really want to do this because it will be a very Summer Thing To Do, nice to look back on, and great to see friends we haven’t seen in years (and years, in one case, due not only to The Covids but also to these friends’ normally very international lifestyle, as in, it’s difficult to be in the same country as them without going to another hemisphere).

Things I have done this summer: visited family, painted the guest room, cleaned my closet, planted a vegetable garden**, wrote a conference paper, drove to conference and delivered it (and stayed in swanky hotel and saw Real! Live! People!), accepted an invitation to expand it for publication, did at least a few hours’ worth of planning for all of the classes I will teach next year***, recycled literally years’ worth of Brita filters, made a date with a retired colleague, watched a lot of cycling and read a lot of trash. I’m negotiating with Queen Joan about a January trip to somewhere sunny, and hope to get reservations nailed down before I settle into the winter gloom in which I just endure circumstances rather than finding the wherewithal to do anything about them (aside from SAD light and pretending to be an iguana).

Things I have not (yet) done: nope, not going there, too depressing! The list is long. Let’s just say it contains various items that should have happened a year ago, and that really all my electronic items need updating.

If we go on this trip, I have about two weeks left (give or take depending on friends’ schedules) in which to do any work, and then another week (or so) after it, and then I’ll be on contract again, though classes don’t actually start till a little later in August. Ack. Ack! Will this realization make me buckle down and do some of the things I ought to have done? Or will I stick my head firmly in the sand and pretend that summer really is endless****?

*We no longer live near the vet-assistant person to whom Basement Cat objected here. I’m sure he’d rather have her than someone completely new. The cats think their normal human servants should never even have days off, let alone extended holidays.

**Have not yet re-planted lettuce and spinach seedlings after the wretched squirrels destroyed the last batch. Must do that.

***Any time now I’m going to have to concentrate on those for the fall, but I hope that January Self will be grateful to Summer Self for doing some advance work on next spring’s classes. I fear she will just wonder what the hell Summer Self was thinking.

****People who have retired (see my last post) might suggest that it is like having endless summer, but unless I can move somewhere with a decent climate, it’s no such thing. If I have to live with snow, I’d rather be working, because it’s a distraction and give me something to do that isn’t sulking at home in my iguana-cage, and Sir John actually likes it Here and does not want to move to Mexico or the Southwest, let alone Morocco, so here we are. My husband may be a winter-loving nut-job but I’m quite fond of him and would rather be with him than alone in a warm dry climate, even if I have to remind myself of that frequently from November to March.

On blogs, research, and not-retiring

Once again, blogging because I logged in to leave a comment elsewhere. JLiedl is back! Yay!

I read people’s archives not only because I miss their voices but because old blogs are so hopeful. Most of the academic bloggers who blogged back in the golden age of academic blogs were young, newly minted assistant profs or grad students, who wrote about turning their dissertations into books, about finding and decorating new apartments or houses, about relationships and babies: building their lives. Of course there were the cases of people who couldn’t find jobs, like Sisyphus, or didn’t get tenure, like New Kid, or, in a few cases, tragically early deaths of spouses. But mostly people were on the upswing, and it’s pleasurable to read the stories of how they got to be tenured, married, happily settled.

I wonder if one reason for the death of blogging (in addition to the Book of Face, the Realm of Twits, etc) is that there’s no more plot after that point. Getting to Full is often a bit of an anti-climax, after the tenure drama. People who become administrators generally have to stop blogging from a combination of lack of time and real confidentiality issues. I doubt anyone wants to read about the late-career person who could retire but doesn’t want to, who fears becoming irrelevant, bored and boring, out of touch.

I ask recently-retired friends what they spend time on (when they’re healthy, though in some cases there are a lot of medical appointments). The answers: look after grandchildren, take music lessons, art lessons, language lessons, wood-working, spend more time exercising and gardening, volunteer, run for local office. My (usually unspoken) reaction: shoot me now, don’t wait till you get home. The things from that list that I enjoy are things I already do, and which I do not want to do full-time. I like my job. I have a good teaching schedule, a nice office, and mostly nice students. If I retired, I would need to find something else that gave me contact with people while not requiring that I be really friendly with them (I am very introverted but need some interaction with other humans). People suggest volunteer tutoring, but why teach subjects I don’t care about for free when I can get paid to teach things that really interest me? I have one friend who wants to retire so she can ramp up a second career that combines sales and scholarship. I understand that. That’s retiring-to, not retiring-from.

I’ve been asked to prepare for publication the conference paper I gave last month, on a fairly tight turn-around. I said yes. I intended that paper to be part of the book, and it still will be. I haven’t published any other pieces of the book in progress, just given conference papers, so I’m not saturating the market; given the venue and editor, I don’t anticipate any problem with permissions when the time comes. I’m glad to be asked, and even for the timeline: it gives a clear shape to research for the next few months, a bit of local plot, so to speak. Can our heroine clear the hurdle? Even if the answer appears obvious, a goal with an outside arbiter helps to create narrative tension.

So this site will not turn into all garden-blogging all the time, not yet. I should do more cat-blogging, I suppose. After all, the internet is all about cats, right?

RBO end of June

Squirrels dug in the pots where I’d planted my grown-from-seed lettuce seedlings and destroyed them all, even though I’d put the pots up on a table to make it harder for critters to get to them.

I wrote and delivered a conference paper that helps to expand what I have for the final chapter of the Putative Book, and have just had an interesting e-mail exchange with a friend working on something related.

Sir John and I went on a road trip and had a great time. The cats obviously missed us terribly, though we had a friend visit them twice a day to tend them. Basement Cat met us at the door, yowling until we were actually inside, and Reina, who had been confined to my study, yowled until we released her. She hasn’t deigned to sit on either of us, but does do more rubbing against us and talking, while Basement Cat demands lap time and reclining snuggles with Sir John. They were separated while we were gone to keep them from fighting, and I was afraid we’d have to do some elaborate re-introduction routine when we came back, but it went fine, which is to say there’s only the usual staring and hissing.

I’ve taken everything out of my closet and washed it or run it through the dryer on hot, after I saw a moth near the beginning of the month. Now for cleaning the walls and then putting things back. Last night there was another moth in the bathroom, which I didn’t manage to kill before it disappeared against a patterned background. Reina couldn’t find it, either.

I’ve done at least a little bit of work on all four of the classes I will teach next year. Anything I can do now will help out my future self. There’s never enough time in the winter break to prep spring classes, so I’m trying to do some revision on them this summer.

I’ve also done a lot of fun reading, mostly fantasy, romance, and mid-century novels by British women, the sort of thing published by Furrowed Middlebrow. Sometimes the FM blog gives brief descriptions of now-unattainable books that make me want to head straight to one of the UK depository libraries and spend the summer reading through everything they have of this kind. If I worked on twentieth-century literature, that might even be a respectable research project. I suppose I could go work on a respectable medieval project and then spend evenings reading old novels in the not-medieval reading rooms, after the manuscripts room closed.

Another late Saturday Six

Most of the day went on minor tasks like laundry, cooking, errands, the sort of thing that expands to fill the time available. I pulled some duchesnea indica out of the lawn, though it’s not rushing to come back into the veg patch, at least. There were a couple of glasses of wine in there, too, and a comfort re-read of D. E. Stevenson’s Spring Magic. At some point I took a few photos, and since there are a couple of hours remaining to Saturday, here they are.

One is my one remaining coreopsis. There used to be two varieties of it in this bed, but one didn’t come back this spring.

Two, this pale pink geranium has appeared among the ferns in the shade garden. I don’t recall seeing it before.

Three, a much bigger flower, the hydrangea Annabelle (you can see I never got around to dead-heading last year’s flowers).

Four, the wild side, with red clover and crown vetch:

Now we’ll move on to the deck plants. Here are the two pots of cherry tomatoes plus herbs. One of the tomato plants nearly doubled in size during the past week; the other is growing more slowly.

Six, pots of seedlings. I was away for a few days last week and didn’t think the seedling were ready to go in the ground, but also didn’t want to leave them in shallow pots that would dry out in the heat, so took interim measures. The chard and lettuce seedlings that I bought are doing very well. Of the three strawberry plants I bought at a sale, two survived the wretched weather. It’s a little hard to see how the lettuce and spinach I grew from seed are doing, but at least a few of them are still there around the edges of the chard. I’ll try to get a lot of this stuff in the ground this week, and start more spinach and lettuce seeds. I may pull out the collard greens (shown in the first picture last week), which are already getting chewed on by cabbage white caterpillars, and just grow other greens this year, unless my organic anti-bug spray (mostly garlic and clove oils, I think) puts the little buggers off. It seemed to be doing some good before I went away, but only when I sprayed every day.

Six on Saturday is hosted by the Propagator. I managed to get over there to see some other people’s posts this morning.

Six on Saturday, mainly veg

I don’t know how the week goes by so fast! I always think I’ll do some other blog posts, and then it’s Saturday again already. In the past week, I did a lot of work in the vegetable patch, and related planting on the deck.

#1, the veg patch with collards, marigolds in hopes of warding off bugs, two tomatoes, and some herbs. The oregano, sage, and chives came back from last year; the basil and rosemary are new.

#2, close-up of the sage, around whose roots fungi sprouted after a lot of recent rain:

#3 looks like a big patch of bare dirt, but this is my (probably temporary) victory over duchesnea indica (mock strawberry), this year’s invasive species to battle. I’m sure I’ll have to keep digging as bits of the roots regenerate. It’s imported from Asia and often used as a ground cover, but has the potential to spread into wild areas and replace native plants, so I don’t want to give it space.

#4 moves us down to the deck, where some of my seeds have sprouted. Since the six-packs have been moved in and out of rain and sun a few times, I’ve lost track of whether this is a lettuce or a spinach, but at any rate, I’m pleased to see these. When they get a bit bigger, they can go into the vegetable patch.

#5 is one of the deck pots with a cherry tomato and oregano, with a home-made support cum squirrel shield. There’s a second pot much the same, but with thyme. I’ve forgotten which has the red tomatoes and which the yellow, but time will tell.

For #6, flowers! Geranium and salvia, with a bit of wild carrot (or something like that) from the shady side border.

Six on Saturday is hosted by the Propagator. This week his roses and clematis are a lovely range of pinks and purples; check them out!

Five flowers and a squirrel

Six photos, but one of these things is not like the others! Or maybe two, since #1 has a rabbit in it along with the peonies:

#2 is a peony close-up
#3 is dianthus and spiderwort, just off the deck
Speaking of the deck, here’s the squirrel we call Blackie
#5, Alpine columbine
#6, Nora Barlow columbine

As so often, I’m squeaking in under the wire with my Six on Saturday, but it is still Saturday in my time zone, and it has been a busy day. After doing a load of laundry, I went to the farmer’s market, then drove to visit a friend at a cafe by the river, and in the evening I did some planting. The two blue pots on the deck each got a cherry tomato plant (one red, one yellow) and an herb for company (one thyme, one Greek oregano). I also sowed some spinach and lettuce seeds in re-used plastic six-packs. We’ll see if any sprout. I had no luck last year. And I made a batch of shortbread.

Six on Saturday is hosted by the Propagator.

Summer of real life

Some time ago, I wrote this in a draft post: “I miss real life. So much of what I do already involves staring at a screen: writing, grading, even quite a bit of reading, as more books get published electronically, and as it’s really not worth printing out every article I need to read. I’m going to have to start writing on paper and figuring out what other activities I can move off-screen, because I need more reality, not more screen time.”

I think I’m going to have to have at least one more Zoom meeting (but not more than two) in order to wrap up something for a professional organization, and then I can ditch online meetings for nearly three months. In order to do this, I’m taking the summer off from my writing group. Instead, I’ll be meeting with grad students for writing dates.

The garden is going to get a lot of attention this summer. I want to move the iris into a sunnier bed, thin out the hostas, clear the vegetable patch of weeds and plant veg and herbs, and plan a native-plant bed, possibly on a fairly grand scale. (I may not do the planting of that one this year.) I need to mulch a lot, and put weeding on my list of “habits,” things I do 3-4 times a week if not daily.

I have two road trips planned. Both will involve seeing Actual Live People as well as places that are either new to me, or which I have not seen in twenty or thirty years. We also have plans to have monthly dinners with another couple, and some other get-togethers with friends are already scheduled.

Writing on paper hasn’t been going particularly well for me, partly because so many of my notes (and spreadsheets) are already on the computer. I don’t know how people used to write as Derek Pearsall (for instance) is said to have done: longhand, page after page straight on from beginning to end of article or book. Maybe that worked because he was Derek Pearsall: I mean, once you get invited to contribute to things because you are a Name, perhaps editors don’t ask you to do a lot of revision. I still suspect that decades ago Oxbridge, or the schools that prepared people for Oxbridge, taught their students in ways that made thinking, organizing, and writing more straightforward, especially on purely literary subjects. Varying topics and approaches can make things simpler or more complex. Jon Jarrett’s recent post on the long and winding road to one publication made me feel much better about my own such quests. But I digress. Working out organization, and revising tricky paragraphs, are both things I can do on paper, even if I continue to do a lot of writing on the computer.

I want to go swimming, even if that means getting up at dawn to hit the local pool during their hideously early lap swim hours. Submersion in water feels very real.

There is a lot of unpacking and settling in to our “new” house remaining to be done. This is definitely a real-life project. I have finally painted the guest room, which means that room can now get properly organized. We may need to put some more bookshelves in there! I’d like to open all the boxes in the garage: some can be unpacked, some may be things we want to purge, some might be re-packed for storage. Speaking of storage, I want to do some house-related shopping, in real-life antique stores and junk shops. Another wish is some sewing: the guest room will also be where I set up the sewing machine.

It’s hard to get completely away from screens, even for an old-school curmudgeon like me who has no social media accounts apart from this blog. Apart from the writing and reading previously mentioned, I need to prepare the online sites for my classes, and there are some games I play online. Sir John and I like to watch TV/movies, and you better believe I’ll be watching the Tour de France starting on 1 July. But I’m definitely going to try limiting screen time to the extent possible. I crave experience and sensation. I used to think I lived more in my head than most people. That may even be true. But I’ve hit my limit.