Who should that be but our cousin Scotland?

I don’t think it’s so much that I’m especially interested in the royal family as that I have a hangover from my mother’s interest, which permeated my childhood. She was a few years younger than Elizabeth II, and thanks to her collection of magazine clippings and a few books, such as The Little Princesses, I grew up with the topic. That book combined with James Kenward‘s Prep School (a battered Penguin copy kicked around our bookshelves, surrounded by Scholastic kids’ books; I have no idea who acquired it, or when) to fuel many happy hours of playing school with my dolls and dollhouse when I was small.

So although I can’t say I feel particularly bereft by the death of Elizabeth II, it does feel a smidge like some distant friend of my mother’s finally passed on, someone I used to hear about; and it does feel like the end of an era. Being what I am, I immediately tried to link this to what people might have felt when Elizabeth I died, people like the chap I once spent years researching. In both cases, for many people the queen was The queen, the person who had always been on the throne. Only when the first one died, there was also the question of who would inherit, which worried a lot of people. Now that’s not an issue. I have to admit that I would have advised against taking on the name Charles (not particularly well-omened), but I guess it’s a good thing for a monarch not to be superstitious.

Some inner child in me would like to get out the dolls’ house and sew little black costumes for the dolls who were sometimes little princesses (and sometimes children from Swallows and Amazons), then find the old plastic horses (where in the world did those go?) and make them suitably funereal draperies for the cortege.

But I’ll probably mark the occasion only by checking out a few M. C. Beaton books for a re-read, even though historical fiction (or biography) might seem like a more appropriate choice.

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.

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.

Also yellow

I don’t know how I came to leave out the yellow rhododenrons, which might have been my favorites. I suppose it might have something to do with having a rhubarb soufflĂ© in the oven, and the timer going off while I was working on the post. My oven seems to run a bit hot; the soufflĂ© was a little undercooked although the top was too brown. It tasted good, though. Anyway, here are the missing flowers:

Wearing my grumpy boots

Lately I never seem to take them off.

Unfortunately, in the week since I got back from a trip, I haven’t been able to re-set to this time zone. I’ve gone in the wrong direction and seem to be living (well, sleeping, anyway) in Hawaii. This disrupts all my routines, and probably has a lot to do with the grumpy miasma around here.

Fortunately classes are over and I don’t have to be anywhere at any particular time, these days.

People who don’t accelerate quickly when they get on a highway on-ramp infuriate me. Yesterday I was behind a mini-van moseying along at 30 . . . 35 . . . 40 . . . while I was hollering “There are TWO TRUCKS BEARING DOWN ON US AT 65 MPH!!!! DO YOU EVEN KNOW WHERE TO FIND YOUR ACCELERATOR???

Fortunately the trucks were able to shift left so this all ended happily. The mini-van ended up going much faster than I did. All I want is to get to the speed limit and stay there.

Filling out LRU’s travel-reimbursement forms is a task I dread with approximately the force of tax-filing misery. All the efforts to get the right info in the right spot, to find the correct receipts, to check on exchange rates if I was out of the country, the worry that I’ll do something wrong and the form will come back to me with incomprehensible requests to fix errors that I wouldn’t have made in the first place if I knew what the hell the request meant . . . It’s almost enough to make me decide just to pay for conference travel myself.

Fortunately, Sir John understands this feeling (after years of similar filing for corporate travel). I would be even grumpier if I lived with someone who cared about such minutiae (unless said person were willing to do the forms for me).

Something something grumble grumble

Once again, logged in to post a comment to someone else’s blog, and thought I might as well stop by my own.

I don’t like this new(ish) WordPress new-post page. I know it’s been around for awhile, and I’ve used it, even at one time used it regularly (or more regularly than I have in 2022), but it just doesn’t feel friendly or helpful. I don’t like the marginal clutter or the way it tries to lecture you: “Paragraph: start with the basic building block of all narrative.” Oh piss off. Are you also going to tell me to start with a topic sentence? I especially don’t like the little bar of options (bold, italic, link, etc) that pops up at random intervals.

Now that we mention it, the things I don’t like about WordPress have a lot in common with things I don’t like about Microsoft Word, including the sans-serif font that is the default in the composer. There is a reason that the font you see on the blog has serifs! I hate sans-serif! For me, sans-serif fonts are harder to read, though I have been subjected to Accessibility Training that indicates sans-serif is easier for certain kinds of disabilities. My response to that is fine, download the syllabus as a Word file and change the font to whatever works for you.

Things I’ve done so far today: washed two loads of laundry, prepped for and ran a meeting, fed cats and me (twice all around), answered a student who needed advice on a paper, thought about a technological problem that may make teaching next fall difficult, admired the magnolia blooming outside my window, and worried about which Terribly Urgent task (some of which are also Important) I should spend the afternoon on. The meeting went well but it has sapped my strength.

Or maybe I just wasn’t very strong today to start with. I stayed up much too late re-reading a book I was considering teaching next fall, but which I think has dated in ways I don’t really want to deal with. So now I still have the problem of what to put in its place (I already rejected a lot of other things I’ve done before, because I’m bored with them or they didn’t go well the last time), and my book orders are late already.

O hai

It’s been awhile, hasn’t it?

Nothing awful has happened in my life, though it does seem like the world is trying hard to go faster and more steeply than usual to hell in a handbasket, and in the circumstances I’ve not made blogging a priority. But today I logged in to leave a comment on Jon Jarrett’s cat pictures, which appeared in my honor, so while I’m here, hello and happy Western Easter if you celebrate it.

Garden update: It looks like spring here, with daffodils in bloom and the magnolia just breaking into flower, but it’s pretty cold still. For now. We might hit 80 at the end of the week, which would probably be the end of the bulb flowers.

Cat update: Basement Cat and Reina have mostly settled down again, except for a bad week after she got out and hid under the deck for 36 hours and didn’t smell right when we got her back inside. We still miss Glendower, especially every time we open a door and there’s no need to keep him from getting out, or to admire his perseverance in fitting himself into the linen closet.

Work update: the end of the semester is in sight. Or else it’s an oncoming train. I traveled to give a conference paper. Discussions at the conference prompted the sabbatical proposal I’m about to turn in. Must.finish.book. (how many years have I been saying that?)

Family update: everyone still present and accounted for.

We’ll see if I can make a blogging comeback, even if it’s all pictures of the garden and cats.