Year in review on the Feast of St Thomas Becket

We’re in the low ebb of the year, in more ways than one (see below). But can look ahead to the new.

January 2022: I wrote an abstract for a conference, wrote and submitted a book review, the first week of classes was online.

February: I did a lot of grading, the mask mandate was dropped, Russia invaded Ukraine and I started wearing a blue and yellow ribbon.

March: two cats had check-ups, one cat got out and spent two nights hunkered under the deck until we broke her out, I drafted a conference paper, Queen Joan and an attendant lady visited.

April: I went to an excellent conference in the UK, where I was also able to do some sight-seeing, and did a lot more grading.

May: I visited my father and brothers in the PNW, where there was an excursion to a very beautiful rhododendron park, and painted the guest room.

June: I wrote another conference paper and went to an excellent conference I could drive to, with Sir John.

July: We went to a local park for 4th of July fireworks (highly enjoyable), and watched the Tour de France; I cleaned my closet very thoroughly and peer-reviewed an essay; I was asked to submit a conference paper to a special issue of a journal.

August: We made a road trip to Canada, and fall classes started; I made plans for January 2023 excursion with Queen Joan and Lady Maud.

September: I did a lot of interesting local walks, a lot of grading, a certain amount of e-Bay shopping; saw a friend I met in France seven years ago, got cards for two local library systems, and made progress on the paper-to-essay project.

October: this month was a blur, but I kept writing and grading. An overturned tanker truck on a key on-ramp made me late one morning, and I re-read a couple of favorite books from my childhood, Miss Happiness and Miss Flower, and Little Plum. I went to a workshop that wasn’t that useful.

November: I voted in person for the first time in years, continued the interesting local walks, finished a draft of the special-issue essay and sent it to another contributor for comment, which was both helpful and favorable; my mother’s best friend died, as did the father of another old friend, though I didn’t learn of that till December.

December: I did a lot of grading and more e-Bay shopping, submitted the essay (suggestions for revision came back within a couple of weeks; I suspect I’m the only person who actually turned it in close to the original deadline), went to visit my father and brothers, had Covid, my father died, we had a very quiet Christmas as both of us were sick.

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.

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.

Where the day went

Before I started work, I fed the cats, did yoga, ate breakfast, watered and fertilized the tomatoes, watered the African violets, brushed the cats’ teeth.

Checked e-mail and answered a couple of messages. Declined an “opportunity” that would interfere with time I want to use either to do research or to prep my grad class, though technically I’m “free” at that time.

Wrote 567 words.

Commented on all the undergrads’ discussion board posts. Assigned points to both classes’ posts. Discovered that I have loaded to Blackboard all but one assignment for each class (I thought I was missing more than that for one class, so this made me happy). Made notes toward the two assignments I still have to write up in detail.

Attended a committee meeting online. Volunteered for a subcommittee.

When the meeting ended early, I used the “found time” to swing by the grocery store (half an hour) and move some boxes around in the garage, then started unpacking one box of books (another half hour). ILL’d a book I need, only to have the request cancelled because the book is already checked out of one of the libraries that has it; another is a non-circulating library; the third claims to have it but in fact hasn’t ordered it yet. Thppppbtt.

Dead language group meeting, online.

Talked to Sir John while completing the unpacking of that box of books. Sorted out a stack of books to give away. I’m pretty sure that box of books never got unpacked in the last house, so it was easy to distinguish between the books I was glad to see again and those that made me wonder where and why I got them in the first place.

Checked in online with my dissertating students.

Ate dinner. Went for a walk. Unpacked a new batch of masks from Etsy that arrived in today’s mail.

While watching the Vuelta, answered more e-mail and started reviewing an article I’m teaching tomorrow.


We’re following the Tour de France on NBCSports, which for some reporting uses background music that sounds like it’s quoting from “House of the Rising Sun.” The melody then turns a corner and goes somewhere else, but it’s still enough to stick the tune in my head. With different lyrics, however . . .

There is a tour round old Orleans
Bob* calls the Tour Day France,
and it’s been the ruin of many a poor boy
who doped himself like Lance.
. . . . . . . .
O mothers, tell your children
not to take drugs that enhance
their times on sprints and mountain climbs
within the Tour de France.

*If you’re not in the US, you may not be familiar with Bob Roll, who insists on pronouncing the name of the tour in a very flat American accent.

Vocabulary lessons

I learn the most interesting words from watching the Tour de France. For example:

*Pandemonious. “This is a pandemonious stage!” (Bob Roll)
*Incredulation. “Look at the incredulation on his face!” (Phil Liggett)
*Dareness. “Does he have the, the dareness to go for it?” (Phil)
*Misery loves comfort. (Christian Vande Velde)—as Sir John said, “That’s not the expression, but it’s certainly true.”

There will undoubtedly be more of these over the next ten days or so. Perhaps I will remember to share.

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?

Six on Saturday: St Martin’s Summer

I need to post more often so as to get used to the new WordPress post layout.

Don’t hold your breath.

Anyway, after our early snow and frost, the weather has warmed up to very pleasant temperatures, and the autumn colours glow in the morning light:

1, leaves on the lawn. There’s a huge golden patch like this.

2, a single leaf on the stump of a tree we had taken down recently (it was dead, having succumbed to hemlock blight).

3, the magenta sedum has gone brick-red, with yellow foliage:

4, the hydrangeas and Japanese maple have similar coloration:

5, seedheads in the “wild” garden:

6, that little pink-flowered plant whose name I don’t know (see #2 here) also glows pink and gold in the morning:

Apart from the garden . . . wake me up when November ends. I’m avoiding the news, because I can’t deal with all the ups and downs. I’m sure I won’t be able to miss it when all the counting and re-counting is over, but until then, there’s no point in tormenting myself with if-this and then-that. I have plenty of grading to keep me busy, and several stages of the Vuelta to watch (we’re running behind, as usual, so please no spoilers about the last week). If I’ve made two batches of cookies this week (snickerdoodles and chocolate-chip), that’s a harmless domestic outlet, as is crocheting a headband to wear when jogging and starting a second one with a more elaborate pattern. I’m re-reading O. Douglas . . . the novels are just as soothing the second time through, and thinking about the short winter days in Scotland makes me grateful for the less-short ones here.

Six on Saturday is hosted by the Propagator, and thank you for the outlet and distraction.