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.

Six on Saturday: frosty morning

Hello, blog and blog-world! I’m not dead, though buried in grading and admin tasks. This morning I put on wellies to go fetch the paper and take a few pictures while I was outside. The air temperature was 33F, so there was light frost on the grass, too light to get a good picture of it. Here are my six:

The sedum has lost its color, the marigolds are a little bedraggled but still bright, and the lantana is bravely hanging on though frost-bitten (I read about someone over-wintering it inside, and considered trying, but first looked up whether it is poisonous to cats: it is, so I’m not going to chance it).

Honorine Jobert is still looking beautiful, as is this pink flower (no idea what it is, please let me know if you do), and the little bulbs that I un- and re-covered back in August (#6 in this post).

Two asters continue the purple/pink theme. Ferns are dying back.

When I went round the back, I found a thin skim of ice on the birdbath.

In the vegetable garden, the marigolds are still blooming wildly. The tall stalk in their middle is a red-leaf lettuce bolted and gone to seed.

And somehow, a last outdoor tomato ripened, though it’s been nibbled by squirrels. I picked most of the others a few weeks ago (thanks to readers who advised that!), and they’ve mostly been ripening inside. I may try to make green tomato chutney of the ones that just won’t change color.

Six on Saturday is hosted by the Propagator. I haven’t even made it over there lately. Too much time in front of screens for work. You know I’m old-school. In my off time, I read actual paper books, or do the mending, or cook. Except that now we’re getting coverage of the Vuelta à España (fortunately for my insane list of tasks, our cable package did not include any channel covering the Giro d’Italia), so I will be watching some TV for the next few weeks.


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.

Did Adam Blythe just say that?

We’re watching today’s Tour stage, a bit delayed (I do have a job), and the main commentators just checked in with the Man on the Moto to see what his views were. Adam Blythe said he was riding alongside Richard Carapaz, who “just stopped for a nature break, and woo-hoo! He’s looking good today!”

Um, what exactly were you referring to?

Maybe I’d rather not know which bit of Carapaz is looking good.

Maybe there are other viewers who do want to know.

Mr Hub Cap Diamond Star Halo has competition in the what-did-he-just-say category.

updated to add: Sir John suggested that nature breaks might be Blythe’s beat (so to speak) and now it seems he’s right, as on Blythe’s next report we heard about Hirschi’s break. Oh-kay.

Tour de Pologne

I expect any of my readers who are also cycling fans have their own sources, but just in case you’re jonesing for some cycling, here’s the Tour of Poland’s live-text site: https://www.tourdepologne.pl/en/live-text/

It reads the texts aloud, so you can work on something else and get audio updates, which I find very cool. There are also some photographs. Today’s stage seems to have been mercifully uneventful, a good thing after yesterday’s spectacular and tragic crash near the finish. Fingers crossed for Fabio Jakobsen’s full recovery.


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.


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.)