In the big city

I’ve been writing and thinking lots. Haven’t felt like blogging. In other news… We went to a grand reception in Oslo last night, for the sixtieth birthday of the institute M works for. There were four different kinds of wine. You’ve got to take the free alcohol when you can get it in this country. We bought a couple of drinks before it all started (a g&t and a glass of beer), and they cost 160 kroner. That’s 16 pounds. I don’t even want to know what that is in Aussie dollars. They also served us one of the strangest vegetarian meals I’ve ever eaten. There was a spring roll, roasted chestnuts, pickled onions, roasted cherry tomatoes, a zucchini and red pepper stack, warm pineapple and a baby carrot. Still, it was a good night. Hundreds of people were there, in a room painted to look like a circus tent with huge chandeliers. There were some inspiring speeches, of which we understood very little. There was a famous Norwegian comedian. And I got to wear the best dress ever.

More chimneys, and a happy song

I took this photo on Tuesday, from the same bridge as the last one, but looking the other way. Below is the chimney of our very own paper factory in Halden, glowing in the weird evening light. I got here on Wednesday, and am puffing away at the chapters… If by any chance you need cheering up, you might like to take a look at this gem, discovered by M. It is by an alternative German musician whose name was channeled to him by an angel. M says it is to be enjoyed in an ironic manner. Which does not preclude dancing and singing. A rough translation: ‘every cell in my body is happy’, followed by variations of the same.

Of whales and caterpillars

I’m having recurring dreams of whales. They bob around happily, with faces like hippos. Frolicking on the cote d’azur. Nosing up to me as I swim beside a cliff at Victor Harbour. And, most excitingly, snuffling around while I am a superhero who flies through the air and zooms through the water, friend of whales and foe to sharks who hunt in packs. Ahem.

I think it must have something to do with the thesis. Great lump of a thing that can nevertheless swim gracefully through the water. That’s the goal, anyway. I had a facebook conversation with a phd friend about this, and she said that whenever she’s gestating an idea, she puts up a profile picture of a foetal elephant. That sounds a bit funny I know, but it’s quite a lovely photograph. Here it is, in lieu of my dream-whale-hippo:


They have something in common, no? Heavy and awkward and light and beautiful all at once.

Tomorrow is my last day in the library before I go back to Norway for two and a half weeks. I’m looking forward to the uninterrupted writing time – there are so many ideas zipping around! I’ll have to be very focussed collecting the last essential books and articles. It’s strange, because each chapter needs something doing to it (some more than others) and somehow I’m holding it all in my head, all at once. I used to have trouble holding a whole chapter in my head, and now I’m holding a whole thesis! My brain has turned into a phd machine. All this focus means that it never switches off – if I have a shower, or walk along, or wash the dishes, or lie in bed, the ideas keep bouncing back and forth, crashing into each other, reflecting each other, building on each other. If I notice a significant theme for one of my writers, my mind immediately says: does it work for any of the others? And it tries different angles and pathways, to see if it fits. Or, to use a creaturely metaphor (which I am fond of doing, as you well know), my brain feels like a caterpillar who won’t stop munching. Munch munch munch on the ideas and the images and the connections.

I spent the day tracking down references. There is so much left to do and I am trying to do it all at once. So tomorrow is the last day of gathering, and then there will be many days to write and to think.

Christmas lights

They lit the Christmas lights in Leeds last week. There was a party on the street. On every corner you could buy plastic lazer lights or sparkly butterflies. The lights are great. There are giant champaign bottles, and glasses filled with fizzy gold. I overheard some people complaining that this was too early for Christmas. No, no, no! Christmas means so much more up here where it is dark and cold. We know winter’s not going away for six whole months (sad but true) but the sparkly lights say – we don’t care! We will dance and shine and glitter anyway.

The German Christmas market opened today. On the way the way back from the library tonight, I was drawn like a moth to a flame. I managed to resist the gluwein and just stayed long enough to purchase some horribly overpriced domino stones. Ah, domino stones. I must have been grinning like an idiot, because the man who sold them to me said: ‘You are smiling!’ And I was. And I am.

Bunking down in Bingley

Here’s the chinmey. Pretty cool, huh? There’s lots of them, all along the canal. I walk past this one to get to the train station. I love this part of the world.

The days I don’t need to go to the library I write here, watching the rain and swirling autumn leaves. It’s nice. I’m here till Wednesday next week, so I’ll see how much I can get done.

My brain has very little to spare. I’m meeting supervisor one tomorrow. Things are coming together. Better get back to it…

A post in which the beleaguered PhD student shamelessly begs for words of encouragement

Otherwise what’s this blog for, right? (Not that I don’t appreciate those words of encouragement already given.)

Had been feeling stunningly optomistic for the past few days, and made good progress editing my introduction and chapter five. Was combing through chapter five this morning, thinking yes, this is actually going to be quite good.

Then I got some more feedback on chapter four, which deflated my happy balloon. Agh. I’ve been trying to write this particular chapter for almost three years now. Boo.

And I need to have another good go at chapter one, which is sort of an extension of my introduction, and also hasn’t been touched for nearly two years.

Anyway. Can I do it? Yes I can.

(If you are all very nice to me I will post a picture of one of the very cool chimneys from the old mills on the canal.)

Rare Sunshine

It’s mostly been low clouds and rain you can walk in.

Meeting went well today. They liked my introduction. We went through it together, in detail, and they had lots of minor suggestions to make it better. But they are small things. Stylistic things. (I need to keep an eye on the ends of some paragraphs and where I pick up again after block quotes.) But they said it is good. It is all there. And they really loved the first three pages, which I had revised over and over every time I read through it. Eek! Eek! Eek! (Very pleased with myself. My thesis-zone last time I was in Norway paid off.)

And they think I can make December. I told supervisor two that I didn’t want to hand it in if it isn’t ready. She said it’s never ready. Just do it.

They are very pleased I am staying in the UK next week too and have offered to meet with me again, individually.

Everyone is being very nice to me. Offering me beds to sleep in. Lending me money when the bank refused to give me any without my passport (long story – will bring passport tomorrow). Supervisor two even offered me money (which I refused) and told me I can stay with her if I need. Can I say again, she is one of the nicest, best, cleverest people on earth. (I’m pretty sure they don’t read this, but it’s still true, even if they do.)

I have been thinking about distant friends. Including one who is not well. She had better be ok.

Been thinking about my Mum too. Would be nice to drink tea together. Next year will do, I guess.

And my brother’s art exhibition.

And Michael, teaching in Stavanger.

It was my Grandma’s birthday yesterday. Happy birthday! There were lots of fireworks here, just for you.

I am happy-gleeful-joyful about the election. But not about prop 8.

And now I am calming my buzzing mind and beating heart and preparing to look again at the intro, and thread in all their suggested changes, and look again at my weakest chapters before I meet with them next week. Pity I can’t just smile at the thesis and watch it grow wings. But it will get there. It will.

Planes good, trains bad

I’m back in blighty for a last sustained assault on the library and meetings with my supervisors. My flight got in early yesterday but the utter horribleness of the British train system on Sundays (delayed trains, replacement buses, misleading information) meant it took forever to get back to Bingley. I’m staying here again with my delightful friend Vic, which makes it all better. The trains into Leeds (it’s about twenty minutes) are cheaper after ten though, so I’m going to arrange my working days around that. Or if I decided I need the library in the mornings, I’ll just bite the bullet and pay an extra two quid.

I’ve been reading over the notes my supervisors have made on my various chapters, and can I just say, my supervisors are brilliant. One of them disappeared to New York for a year, but now she’s back and my thesis will be stronger because of it. (The person who replaced her during that time was also great, but C has more to offer my particular topic.) My supervisors are intuitive, thorough, extremely interested in what I’m doing, and push me to be the best I can. I’m meeting with them on Thursday to discuss the latest draft of my introduction.

So. A grey English morning and a library full of books await me. Here goes…