Soaring with seaguls at Seaford

has been one of the highlights of our time in Adelaide. There have also been some minor disasters, including gliders tangled in trees and drenched with sea water (not as bad as it sounds, but time-consuming). Oh, and bad storms hitting Queensland which meant we decided not to go there…

It’s always slightly strange coming home, knowing that I’m not the same person who left. Christmas was overwhelming but lovely. It’s been great catching up with some old friends but I no longer have the stamina to catch up with all of them. Every meeting is also a goodbye. In the past I have identified strongly with the place in which I live, so having homes in three different countries is confusing. But it’s been wonderful revisiting the South Australian landscape – we’ve spent a lot of time on the coast south of Adelaide – acres of sunlight, red cliffs beside a dazzling ocean. And sometimes we’ve seen it from the air.

Photos soon.

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Queenstown paragliding

A lot has happened in a week. A lot of miles covered. A lot of time spent in the air. But here is the best bit.

Sorting the lines.

Ready to launch.

A few steps, the glider surges above me, and I’m off.

I find a thermal, and soon I’m above the launch, soaring next to the rocky, intricate peaks of the mountains. All by myself. I’m up for an hour. The glider turns beautifully. I love it up there. I remain inordinately pleased with myself for days.

Lots of good stuff

Pink clouds above the red terrace.

I am very excited. On Monday it finally started to sink in that I’m going to Australia. I’m heading down to London tomorrow night, and we fly out on Sunday. We have a day and a night in LA, and six days in New Zealand with my parents, before heading to Adelaide for Christmas. After Christmas, we’re going up to Queensland to hopefully get some paragliding in. Not only do I get a slice of summer and Christmas with my family, but I’ll be will the lovie for a whole month. Hurrah!

I taught my last writing workshop today and it was great fun. We discussed the students’ essay plans. Actually the disparate topics had some interesting connections: one was on ‘ancestry’ in slavery narratives, and one was on ‘modern heroism’ in Lord of the Rings. Both to do with interactions between the past and the present – my specialty. Fun fun fun. Tolkien taught at Leeds for a while. Apparently he hated it, and jumped on the train to Oxford at every opportunity. In its ‘dark satanic mills’ he saw an image of Mordor. Bah, I say, bah. Studying and teaching at Leeds has made me realise how completely brilliant it would be to do an undergraduate degree in English here – so much choice!

Anyway, if I teach essay writing workshops again, I’ll do more of this kind of hands-on approach to the students’ own work, and getting them to help each other. It’s often easier to see how to improve someone else’s essay than your own. I’d quite like to teach this again, because helping people to write is exciting. Such a nice change from staring at my own words.

A good work day. The trinity of computer, note-book, and printed draft seemed to go together well – three different places to write.

The other completely brilliant piece of news is that my supervisors loved my Stow chapter redraft. It’s too long now, and needs to lose about 5000 words, but when I’ve done that next year, it will be a pretty spiffy chapter. I’m exorbitantly pleased with it, and just so happy that all my hard work paid off. Reworking it took longer than I thought it would, but now every bit of it is interesting, and it hangs together, and I was able to refine my ideas and develop some new ones. Three cheers for clarity. That’s what I told my students today – keep an eye out for hazy statements and generalizations – it’s when you think carefully about what you really mean that you come up with the best ideas.

With that in mind, my Francis Webb chapter (the first one I wrote) will be in for a pretty hefty rewrite next year. I had a brief look at it yesterday, and it’s full of hazy metaphors likening time to chiming bells. Hmmmm. I’m glad it was enough to get me through my upgrade procedure, and supervisor one says he’s impressed with the way I read Webb’s poems (admittedly pretty complex stuff), but I can see why every time I showed it to them they told me it wasn’t quite there. Bring it on, I say (after my holiday, that is).

Now I just have to concentrate my mind enough to shave some rough edges off my Kevin Hart chapter, and send it to my supervisors before I leave. It’s not a whole chapter draft – more like two thirds – but I’ve worked through some of the difficult bits, and at least I’ll come back to a solid piece of work to build on. That’s 50,000 words I’ve written this year, including two chapters which are pretty much done apart from some minor tuning and pruning. And I’ve worked out what a chapter is really supposed to be – something I didn’t know nine months ago. I’ve almost got the whole thing in draft form. Next year will be a lot of work, but all going well, I will definitely be finished by this time next year. Hurrah!

Okay, enough gloating. Back to work…