Who knows where the time goes?

July. Huh. Let’s say I’ve been busy actually doing things rather than blogging. Or enjoying the summer; that works, too.

What have I been doing, though? I painted the bathroom, though not all the books are back into my study yet. I created a flowerbed in the spot in the front yard where the grass doesn’t grow well, anyway, mainly by dividing clumps of plants from elsewhere in the garden, and am crossing fingers that the transplants survive. The new veg got planted out.

I finished revising the R&R that had become an albatross around my neck (part of the MMP, a part I thought I’d got squared away awhile ago, and then it came un-squared*), and sent it back to the journal. I returned to my book-in-progress and have written about 1600 words.

*I guess I never reported on developments related to this piece. The original journal rejected it, in the end, last year, about 10 days before our move. I muttered, “I don’t have time for this,” and within ten minutes had sent the revised essay to another journal that used the same citation style, before I went back to packing. Journal #2 accepted with revisions. As usual, revising led me to expand the essay by 25-30%, so we’ll see what happens now. I may yet be re-re-re-revising here. I am so tired of the MMP, which began as an offshoot of a book-in-progress that has been sidelined for longer than I want to think about. That is, not the current BIP. Another one.

We went to the wedding alluded to in my last, and everyone, including me, behaved properly and engaged in polite chit-chat as required. My dress was so appropriate that three of the bride’s four aunts were wearing some version of the same outfit. If Beau Brummel’s dictum about dress is correct, that is, that one is properly dressed when completely unremarkable, I was perfect. Fans were handed out as party favors, although the weather was more pleasant than expected. The fan was useful to hide behind when I needed to make sotto voce comments to Sir John.

I donated a large box of stuff to Goodwill and did some second-hand shopping while I was at it, netting two cotton cardigans and a linen sundress I intend to wear as a slip.

I found that M. C. Beaton wrote a series of Regency romances in which an elderly impoverished aristocrat starts running a hotel; high jinks ensue. Exceedingly fluffy and delightful as summer reading. For work, I read excruciatingly long medieval romances in their original languages, literary criticism dealing with same, copious amounts of historiography, and as little theory as I think I can get away with. I’ll leave the serious novels to people who don’t need a palate-cleanser at the end of the day.

Finding 4-5 hours a day to watch coverage of the Tour de France is actually kind of useful in terms of giving me some structure and forcing me to prioritize. Certainly one of the benefits of the pandemic and associated lack of travel is being home to immerse myself in the Tour, which, honestly, I watch partly for the pretty pictures of France. And what a weird Tour it’s being, this year. Yesterday there was a stretch where Sonny Colbrelli, a sprinter, was keeping up with Nairo Quintana, a climber, and Sir John and I were just looking at each other wondering WTF**. Eventually Colbrelli got dropped, but that was a very strange stage.

We’ll see if I check in again before August. Have a good July, anyone who reads this!

**Updated to add: and on today’s brutal and miserably cold stage (9, in the Alps), Colbrelli finished third, ahead of Quintana by over a minute. WT actual F?

Another exciting day

Exciting because it was so almost-normal.

I woke up before my alarm went off, and would have been able to see the sunrise had there been one. But it was a grey day that just got gradually lighter, no color to speak of. Around 7:15 I started stretching, finishing half an hour later. I fed the cats, put in a load of laundry, ate breakfast, answered e-mail, wrapped a present for a friend’s birthday. Then I put up a discussion board question for a class, and hung the laundry on a rack to dry.

Around 10:30, I drove to campus, where I returned ten books and checked out three. I scanned four selections from various books for my grad class, and collected my mail, which consisted of issues of three different journals. Then I drove home again, thinking about passages to discuss in my afternoon class. I arrived in time for a half-hour lunch break before a half-hour language group meeting, then had about twenty minutes before my undergrad class.

Class was okay, but students weren’t very willing to talk. Discussion worked better last semester than at present. This might be because in the fall, more students knew each other from in-person classes. I know I have a few this term who are new to LRU. Or it might just be that it’s February and every day feels like a snowy Monday.

I had a little over an hour between the afternoon class and my night class. I ate dinner and tried to do some last-minute prep. I discovered that two of the pieces I scanned in the morning failed to send properly: I had two copies each of two selections, instead of one each of four. I think I know what happened, but I will need to make another campus run to scan the lost pieces. One of the grad students said, before we started class, that she was enjoying my teaching style and appreciated my approach to the class. This really threw me off! I’ve been feeling so barely-prepared for this class, and am constantly thanking my students for their patience with me as I make adjustments to the syllabus. The only thing I think I’m doing right is extending the same generosity to them when it comes to deadlines. We’re all doing the best we can, and it’s February, and we’ve had nearly a year of pandemic life.

After class I spent a few minutes reading through a conference paper I wrote nearly eight years ago. It’s supposed to be part of the book I’ve been working on at least that long. I’m wondering about expanding it into an article. I think this would just be procrastinating on the revisions I need to finish on another article.

On a normal day (old-normal) I would have stayed on campus for my classes, and then driven home at night. I might have managed to do some research in the afternoon slot when in this reality I was driving home.

Campus was eerily empty. While I was in the library, I saw six people, four of whom were staff. While I was in my office building, I saw one other person, a staff member who seemed to be roaming the halls for exercise, as I used to do on long on-campus days in cold weather. I had no trouble finding a parking place.

I used to get so tired of spending my life driving back and forth to LRU. I found my office building dreary, and had to remember that any library excursion would take twice as long as I thought it should. On this day, it was exciting to drive even such a familiar route (it’s been at least a couple of months since I last did so), and felt that I had never properly appreciated having an office to go to. The library errands took almost exactly the time I expected, since I didn’t have to search for books that weren’t shelved where they ought to be, nor did random books hurl themselves into my arms as I wandered the stacks, as the stacks are closed to patrons. Flirting with random books is one of the main things that used to eat up library time, but I miss those serendipitous discoveries.

Some random bullets

Mostly of Very Local News.

The semester has started. I spent too much time resting up over winter break: that is, too much to prep my spring courses, but about the right amount to feel like I recovered from the fall and could face starting up again.

It’s not too hard adapting my undergrad course to online delivery, since I’ve taught it before and have assignments and notes I can use, and since basically I’m trying to treat it like a regular course (with synchronous meetings), just a little more scripted, with some discussion board work and posted notes for classes.

But the grad class. Yikes. The syllabus is still not complete, though I’ve made a lot of progress on it. That’s a new course, and when it originally landed on my plate, about 14 months ago, I thought I’d prep it in summer 2020. Well, summer 2020 went to moving and getting ready to teach fall courses online. So . . . it’s nice to have a batch of very understanding grads who are cutting me some slack.

Speaking of slack, I need to see if some people who took incompletes in the fall would like to meet with me.

Speaking of moving, the new house’s roof is leaking, of course in my study where the highest concentration of books is; I’ve moved lots of books out to the living room, so now when I reach for something it is not to hand, and I have to get up and go search for it among the disarranged shelves. Grevisse is in with the English history, and (since the living room was supposed to be for fiction) Godefroy’s Dictionnaire de l’ancien français is snuggled up to A Billion for Boris. It took awhile to find my Latin dictionary this morning, because the classics are all over the place. Some books had to be shelved by size; others just would up mixed as Sir John and I carried books in bunches from my shelves to the living room. So far, two roofers have come and told us that we would be better off replacing the roof. One estimate is literally double the other. I think we need a couple more estimates.

Basement Cat seems to be feeling very anti-Reina again. I don’t know what his problem is. Sometimes he can co-exist perfectly happily with her, and then he’ll wake up, walk across the room to where she’s sleeping peacefully, and provoke her to growl at him.

In many ways, I like this strange new life. I can do things on my computer while I’m in a faculty meeting, I don’t have to drive long distances, I don’t have to drive in bad weather, when a night class is over I’m already home and don’t have to drive at night when I’m tired, and I’m a little less keyed-up from teaching because online interaction affects me differently from being in the physical classroom. I miss in-person teaching, but as the introvert’s introvert, this life is not bad, for me. I miss travel, and friends, and . . . that pretty much sums it up. Bookstores.

I wish I had more to blog about. Day to day life is peaceful, which is to say boring. Maybe I should keep in mind that quotation from O. Douglas that I posted in September, and try posting every day, or every other day, and see if there’s more to tell that way.

Winter break, day 3

Or is that “break”? I have no classes or meetings to show up for (oh, thank Cat, no meetings), but I have two classes to prepare for online delivery in the “spring” semester. In this climate and since spring break has been omitted from the calendar (to prevent students going away and spreading The Virus), that will be the “winter” semester for most of its length, I expect.

But I digress. One of these classes I have taught before, and preparing it is just (“just”!) a matter of revising for online delivery. And now I know how much is involved in that revision. Last summer I did a whole lot more planning and writing of assignments than I normally do in summer, and vastly more to build an online site for the class, and still I was scrambling nearly every week of the semester to finish putting up the necessary online stuff in time.

The other class, well, technically I’ve taught it before. Once. Over a decade ago. And I will not be teaching it in anything like the way I did then. Different books, different approach, different assignments, different everything. So effectively starting from scratch. I kept trying to find time to work on it, this fall, but all I really did was order books and start assembling a reading list.

So I’d have my work cut out for me, if class prep were all I had to do in the next four weeks.

There are also the dread Annual Documents to prepare, an accepted essay to revise (I kept trying to work on it all through the fall, and could not keep momentum going), a new essay that has been nagging at me and which I’d like to have a bash at, a whole lot of reading that I want to do, starting with a book on medieval Spanish art that Jon Jarret kindly recommended, continuing with various books that I have more or less impulsively bought or requested from the library, and assorted PDF essays that I ran across while helping students with their projects and more or less impulsively downloaded for research purposes of my own. Also I must take notes on a big fat ILL book, now overdue, which I have finally finished reading but only by dint of putting in a sticky note wherever something caught my eye and plowing on, so now I must return and see if I can work out what was important on the marked pages. There are only a few copies of this volume in the US, and none in my state, so I have it from Far Away, thus the need for good notes and perhaps some scanning.

I’d also like to do some more settling-in to the new house. Some repairs need seeing to, and I really want to get books and other items out of the storage unit and unpack them. Then there will be a whole lot more reading I’d like to do, when I have my favorite fiction available again! Also pictures to hang, and china . . . well, I probably shouldn’t unpack the china until we acquire a suitable sideboard or china cabinet for it. But I can gloat over the boxes, at least.

I came here planning on reporting on the first two days of break. So far, I’ve done yoga before breakfast three days in a row (yay), written nearly 1000 words of notes on the big fat ILL volume, cut my own hair, gone for a six-mile walk (and a shorter one the second day), baked cookies, read a very frothy novel published in 1910, loaded a bunch of teaching files into a shared folder on Dropbox for a colleague at another institution, and drilled a lot of Greek vocabulary, principle parts, and noun endings.

Do I know how to have fun, or what?

How I wish it were true that university faculty don’t work more than six hours a week and swan off to the Caribbean the minute classes are over (or maybe before) to guzzle brightly-colored drinks with little umbrellas.

At any rate, it’s time to get down to work on the writing and planning, so here we go.

Re-set

Now that the Tour de France has finally finished, summer (in my mind) is nearly over, and it’s time to concentrate on classes and getting ready for the fall.

How did it get to be week 5 of the semester?

Covid-time is a strange, strange thing in so many ways.

It’s starting to look a bit like fall, with some trees blushing a bit at the tips of branches, and shade falling very differently across the garden. There are plenty of green tomatoes still in my mostly-neglected vegetable patch, and I don’t know if they’ll ever ripen, because they aren’t getting any sun anymore. When we moved, I was delighted to find that the garden included an area safely fenced against rabbits where I could try my hand at vegetables. There’s also a patch of lawn, near the house, that gets sun nearly all day in summer, and still gets a good bit of sun even now, that I had my eye on for a cottage-style flower garden. But now I’m thinking that if I want vegetables, that patch should be where they go, and I’ll have to move the anti-rabbit fencing, and then what do I do with the erstwhile vegetable patch? Decisions, decisions, plus a lot of digging at some point.

“It is wonderful how much news there is when people write every other day; if they wait for a month there is nothing that seems worth telling.” O. Douglas, Penny Plain, start of chapter VI (reading on Kindle, so no page reference). I’ve been reading a lot of O. Douglas lately. Some of her books are available free on Project Gutenberg, others are cheap in the Kindle store. They are set mainly in Scotland, with a few scenes in London or elsewhere, and are lovely for scenery and the interaction of happy families. Romances often don’t quite work out; there’s a recurrent trope of the woman who remains faithful to a dead husband or fiancé (well, they’re written and mainly set during or after WWI, so this is probably catering to readers who suffered a bereavement in the war and like to see it glamorised a bit). Sometimes they’re a little preachy, but although many of the characters are related to Presbyterian ministers, for the most part the religion isn’t heavy-duty, and at least, being Presbyterians, no one goes into a convent, as sometimes happens in novels of this era (looking at you, E. M. Delafield). There’s not enough about clothes, sadly, given the wonderful material available to someone whose characters wear country tweeds for day and dress for dinner, but descriptions of meals, especially tea, make them sound like children’s literature. There is a rather wonderful evening dress of parchment lace over cloth of gold, long-sleeved and high-necked, worn by Nicole Rutherfurd in Jane’s Parlour. Or was it The Day of Small Things? The books blur a bit, but they are excellent comforting reading if you like light fiction by British women from between the wars. They’re rather like Thirkell-of-the-north, but with great sympathy towards the New Rich of Glasgow, less mocking than Thirkell is about Sam Adams.

At any rate, I’ve nothing much to tell you besides that I’ve been busy with teaching, grading, committee work conducted via Microsoft Teams (ugh), and the usual routines of feeding cats, cooking, and so on, all sandwiched around coverage of cycling. It was a great  race this year but I’m glad it’s now over so I can believe that July is truly gone and fall is here. I’ve put together more bookshelves, and hope that before Halloween we’ll have retrieved and shelved the books I’ve been missing and want to have back.

I shall wear the bottoms of my trousers rolled

Five decades ago:

I lived in my parents’ house. I had the little room that was once a sleeping porch. I slept with the big Teddy bear I got for my fifth (fourth? sixth?) birthday. At the end of July 1970, I was just over a month out from meeting a girl I shall call A, who was my best friend for the rest of grade school. I wanted to be a writer when I grew up. I liked climbing trees.

Four decades ago:

I lived in my parents’ house. I had a larger room at the back of the house. I slept with my cat, a grumpy orange tabby. Lady Maud was among my best friends, though I probably spent more time talking to another girl in our group, B. I was getting into cycling because my boyfriend was an avid cyclist. I was about a month out from starting college. I wanted to be an archeologist, and was planning a special major that I thought would prepare me for that career.

Three decades ago:
I lived in a studio apartment in Grad School Town, probably the nicest place I’d lived in my life up to that point: it was in the basement of a split-level house, so somewhat dark, but everything was in good repair, and there were nice built-in bookcases and desk that the landlord had built. I had great landlords. I slept with my tabby cat, who had been my boyfriend’s cat until I fed her for long enough, and sometimes with my boyfriend. I liked living alone, and had been doing it for a year, after the boyfriend and I decided not to live together any longer. In a month or so, I would meet two women, C and D, who would become close friends; for the moment, however, my best friends were still Lady Maud, Queen Joan, and Sir David (no point in disguising that name: 80% of the men of my generation are named David, Michael, or Eric/k). I wanted to be an English professor when I finished my graduate work. I hadn’t seen my parents for three years. I swam two or three miles a week in a campus pool, besides walking up and down hills a lot.

Two decades ago:
I lived in my third-floor walk-up condo, with windows on east, south and west giving floods of light, though it got very hot in summer. I slept with the same tabby cat, and sometimes with Sir John. In the summer we more often slept at his place, which had central air conditioning (and a different tabby cat). I spent a lot of time on the phone with C and D, junior professors at schools where they were not very happy. Both of them were ultimately to leave “the profession,” one pre- and one post-tenure. I liked living alone, but hoped to move in with Sir John full-time before too much longer. I was a recently-tenured English professor. Some health problems were interfering with research. I probably visited my parents (both of them) that summer, though I don’t recall exactly when. I swam a couple of miles a week at the YMCA, and also worked out on machines there.

A decade ago:

Sir John and I, now married, lived in our townhouse with five cats (the Shakespearean Heroine, the Scot, the Grammarian, the Tiny Cat [all now deceased], and a very young Basement Cat). I slept with Sir John and whatever cats wanted to join us; sometimes I woke up pinned between the Scot and the Shakespearean Heroine. D had just become an American citizen; the ceremony was one of the last times I would see her, and may be the last time I saw her on her (new) home ground. I had met E a couple of years previously, but we hadn’t yet embarked on the Huge Honking Translation project. I was still an associate professor, at the same school. I was getting back to research, feeling a bit anxious about my position in the field and my ability to work, but I had recently returned from a productive research trip to the UK. I’d also traveled to see my father that summer, my mother having died in the intervening decade. I swam and worked out at a fairly swanky gym.

Now:

I live in a split-level house in the suburbs, with three cats (it does remind me, pleasantly, of the house where my grad school apartment was). I sleep with Sir John and Basement Cat, who comes to bed with us so that Glendower can pick at his food overnight. A and I are intermittently back in touch; she teaches third grade in the town where we grew up. Occasionally I hear from C, who is working on yet another master’s degree. I long ago lost touch with B, while D and I deliberately parted company when we ceased to have many shared interests. I am a full professor. Some days, research still seems like a struggle, but I am considerably more confident in my ability to get back to it, and I have published a respectable amount in the past decade. At present a lot of my work time goes into preparing to teach online in the fall. I walk 2-3 miles every morning, and work out with light dumbbells at home; the local pools are closed because of COVID-19.

Looking back in these big swoops of time, it’s curious what shows up and what drops out. I can suppress the six years we spent in the house that was too big, too old, too much work. My entire undergraduate career drops out of the picture, as does my first rented apartment in TT-ville, perhaps appropriately as I tend to forget that I lived there. But all the cats of my life pop up. Day to day, and even year to year, I feel like my life doesn’t change much. I’ve had the same job for going on 30 years. I’ve been with Sir John for more than two decades. I’m something of an exercise addict.

In ten years’ time, though, things do change. At no point did I foresee a pandemic (so I think now: but C says I used to claim we were overdue for one), but twenty years ago I wouldn’t have predicted my 2010 life, either. I haven’t mentioned the people I work(ed) with; colleagues and office staff have changed, though I wouldn’t be able to pinpoint the year for most of them, without the diaries that are still in storage. But they do make a difference. Twenty years ago, my department was much heavier on older men than it is now, and I looked young enough that I had to put a lot of energy into establishing and maintaining my authority in the classroom. Now I can let my grey hair do a lot of the work for me.

Maybe I’ll do another look-back-the-decades in two or three or five years, and see whether looking at different points (college; a sabbatical year; living in the Too Old House) changes my perspective.

What was your life like, ten and twenty years ago? (Or more: I make no assumptions about my readers’ ages.)

An Academic Lady house-hunts, 8

Finding our range:

Agent sends us new set of links. Sir John and I both like the look of the first one. We make appointment to view it, and three others in same town.

Option one: split-level (not one of the standard models we’ve seen before), medium size, good layout, well-maintained. Nice tiled foyer, with closet. Attached garage. Neighborhood feels very rural: enormous yard, no sidewalk in front of house, mailbox across street. My urban soul quails.

Option two: split-level, quiet street very close to major highway (can hear traffic noise), strange fireplace open to three rooms on lower level—would have to fence it off to keep cats out of chimney. Skylights in dining room and kitchen. Am suspicious of skylights: nice idea, but potential for major problems there. Attached garage. Feel very iffy about this one.

Option three: ranch, a few blocks down street from option one. Yard even more enormous. Detached garage; driveway in bad shape. Sir John thinks recently added front porch looks very rural (not a plus). Nicely rehabbed and staged inside. Beautiful kitchen. Three bedrooms above ground. Entrance to living room, but with coat closet and space to use bookshelf or other furniture to create entry way. Odd bit at back, clearly once a porch, now enclosed, but in such a way that is basically enormous mud room, not really usable living space for us (might work for small children to ride tricycles in). Full basement . . . with standing water. Outside, mold or algae or something green is growing below windows of enclosed former porch. We’ll pass.

Option four: split-level, attached garage, once again with entrance to living room but with closet and could use furniture to create entry way. Sir John does not like screened front porch but I do. Yard manageable size. Three bedrooms up, family room and office down. Interior shutters, which we like. This one is rapidly moving to top of our list when I look up and see crack in ceiling, clearly already patched at least once and now re-splitting. Crack runs directly under center line of roof. Due to our past sad experience, house plummets from top of list.

 

Time to fish or cut bait: do we make offer on something we have seen, or start trying to find rental from which to continue searching?

Gentle reader, I will not keep you longer in suspense: we offer for Option One of this post.

(It reminds Sir John of house lived in by hot girl he dated in high school. Query: can I live up to associations? Answer: probably; he married me, not hot girl.)

Negotiations over dowry price not unduly protracted.

My urban soul is going to have to adapt itself to the suburbs.

More fairy gardens

I found a new one on this morning’s walk, a whole fairy village of at least half a dozen houses, complete with central square, fairy picnic, fairy farm, and a decidedly mundane model moving truck (with a Bekins label) parked outside one fairy house. I couldn’t tell if fairies were moving in or out. But why do they need a moving truck? What happened to waving a magic wand to make the hard stuff just happen?

Or are non-magical critters like Borrowers moving in?

There goes the neighborhood.

An Academic Lady House-Hunts, 7

Bats in the Belfry, Mold in the Mind:

Large, attractive split-level. Excellent location, near station and with good highway access, within walking distance of Sir John’s mother, also of groceries, library, other amenities. Perhaps larger than we need, but room for studies, guest room, and storage (keep having to remind self that split-level generally means no proper basement). Make appointment to see house a second time, inspect carefully while wearing gloves, masks, liberally using hand sanitizer. Some windows new, some will need to be replaced. Minor damage to kitchen countertop. Too much carpet. Roof will also need to be replaced.

However, we have experienced removal of carpet and replacement of windows before. Roof at least external, replacement no doubt noisy but does not require moving furniture. We make offer, low to allow for work to be done.

Sellers drop their price by 5K and give laundry list of reasons house worth much more than we offered, including location (doubt they know how close they are to Sir John’s mother) and money recently spent on GFCI outlets, carpet cleaning, and mold abatement in the attic.

Wait, you said mold abatement?

We instruct our agent that we will not negotiate further.

Sellers get roofer to inspect their roof, send us report. Roof needs to be replaced within three years, bathroom fan vents improperly into attic. Source of mold thus revealed.

Am unable to understand why sellers don’t replace roof, then raise price of large, attractive house in desirable location.

Weeks later, house still on market; sellers have dropped asking price by $2500.

An Academic Lady House-Hunts, 6

The Time Warp:

(Does it seem like this series is going on forever? Try being the people hunting down a house during a pandemic with a closing date staring you in the face.)

Ranch house, built in 1980 but feels like 1950s. Layout reminds me of my parents’ last house. (NB, this means I can have no opinion of this house but must rely on Sir John’s judgment as engineer. Any house that reminds me of any familial dwelling warps my judgment, as proved by house we are moving from.) Two bedrooms near front of house would do for studies. Cathedral ceiling in living room and master bedroom: have learned to be wary of these, but there is no sign of cracking. Lower level enormous: rec room with wet bar, Coke machine, pinball machine, other amusements, plus office and storage.

Unfortunately, house is on heavily traveled road, no doubt once quiet country lane, but now sorely in need of a speed trap. Though urban at heart, do not care to have front door open onto major highway.