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Archive for the ‘Academia and Research’ Category

Today, the schools in Glasgow broke up for the Christmas holidays. The screams you can hear resounding through the city tonight are a combination of teachers, librarians, technicians, and so on screaming in joy, and parents screaming in horror. It’s been a very busy term, even without the extra problems created by broken bones, and a mostly enjoyable one. I’m very happy to be having two weeks off. The next few days will be dedicated to Christmas preparations – cake decorating, present wrapping (actually, present buying, given I didn’t get everything this evening on the way home, then present wrapping), sending the Christmas cards which will inevitably arrive late (just to let you know, so that you can sit on tenterhooks wondering if you will or will not get one), and a million more tasks which await, but mostly, just trying to keep my ankle rested and not in pain.  But first, an early night tonight, and a lie-in tomorrow morning. I intend to marinade myself in a thick, warm duvet, and heaps of pillows, with books, and chocolate.

Or, as John Keats puts it:

O soft embalmer of the still midnight,
      Shutting, with careful fingers and benign,
Our gloom-pleas’d eyes, embower’d from the light,
      Enshaded in forgetfulness divine:
O soothest Sleep! if so it please thee, close
      In midst of this thine hymn my willing eyes,
Or wait the “Amen,” ere thy poppy throws
      Around my bed its lulling charities.
Then save me, or the passed day will shine
Upon my pillow, breeding many woes,—
      Save me from curious Conscience, that still lords
Its strength for darkness, burrowing like a mole;
      Turn the key deftly in the oiled wards,
And seal the hushed Casket of my Soul.

Today’s feast then, is a feast of sleep. Just call me Sleeping Beauty, without the thorny hedge around the old abode.

The_Rose_Bower_Buscot_Park

Edward Burne-Jones, The Rose Bower, the 4th painting in the Briar Rose series, located at Buscot Park, Oxfordshire. Source: Wikimedia Commons.

Good night, sweet [readers],
And flights of angels sing thee to thy rest!

William Shakespeare, Hamlet, Act 5, Scene 2,  lines 358-9

Until tomorrow.

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Hetty Feather

Hetty Feather, by Nick Sharratt. Source: Jacqueline Wilson Wiki.

This is the blog post that I would have written yesterday had I not been out seeing The Last Jedi until rather late. Do not fear, you can keep reading; there are no spoilers here. I really ought to write another post about said film, but probably won’t be able to get to it until after Christmas, as tomorrow is our last day at school, and then there’s a lot to do before Monday. 6 more sleeps! Eeep. For now, I will say that the film is great, and you should all go and see it. Right now. I will definitely be going to see it again, both because it’s great and because I want to take a closer look at some scenes and characters in particular.

Yesterday was children’s author Jacqueline Wilson‘s 72nd birthday.  Until I began working as a school librarian, I had never read any of her books, but made a particular effort to do so following a campaign by two first years, who couldn’t stop recommending her books, in particular those following the life and times of one Hetty Feather. (more…)

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I am heading out to see Star Wars: the Last Jedi very soon, so there is no time for a wordy blog post today. Instead I leave you to contemplate a painting by Sir John Everett Millais, Lorenzo and Isabella.

John Everett Millais, “Lorenzo and Isabella”, 1848-49. Oil on canvas, Walker Art Gallery, Liverpool. Source: Wikimedia Commons.

The painting illustrates a moment from the story of the secret love affair between Lorenzo and Isabella, as told by the 14th century author Giovanni Boccaccio in his collection of stories Il Decamerone. I do plan to flesh out this post at a later date, but in the meantime, enjoy the painting.

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Today’s post is inspired by a trip to the supermarket to replenish the cereals cupboard. Mr Kellogg must be feeling festive, as the normal Cornflakes packet design now features one of Norman Rockwell’s illustrations of the Christmas carol Deck the Halls, brought together in a book in 1997. The packet also features Clement Clarke Moore’s ‘A Visit from St. Nicholas’ (1844), which begins

‘Twas the night before Christmas, when all through the house       
Not a creature was stirring, not even a mouse;                                  The stockings were hung by the chimney with care,                                In hopes that St. Nicholas soon would be there;                                  The children were nestled all snug in their beds;

Today’s feast is in the next line:

FInal sugarplums
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Yesterday’s blog post was, quite literally, sugar sweet, so today seems like a good day as any to spice the dish with something rather more sinister.

When I was still in primary school, I occasionally went to the secondary school in which they worked, where, to my delight, there was a school library, run by one of my earliest real life childhood heroes, Mrs MacKay. I spent a lot of time in there, and while I had already read The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe, I was, at age 7, yet to encounter the rest of the Chronicles of Narnia. Mrs MacKay lent me the rest, and, when there was a fire in the school – don’t panic: the library survived intact, and replaced the small amount of smoke-damaged stock. For me, despite the initial horror, there was a silver lining to this dark cloud of smoke, as she sent home with my parents a full set of the Chronicles which smelt only slightly smoky. They were wrapped in strong plastic covers, and still have the typed library cards inside them. They are some of my most treasured possessions.  The Magician’s Nephew and The Silver Chair are my two favourites, and to my mind definitely the strangest.  As a lifelong medievalist (albeit unconsciously, at first), I suspect that part of the attraction are the mysterious women to be found loitering in woods and by lakes; for an authentic medieval example of such a woman, may I direct you to my post about Marie de France’s Lanval, also part of this Christmas Feast blog sequence? Given that C. S. Lewis was a real medieval scholar, not a dabbler like me, I’m pretty sure that such stories were, at least partly, his inspiration for Jadis and the Lady of the Green Kirtle, but that’s a discussion for another day. Now on to the feast! (more…)

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Yesterday’s post (now with English translation!) looked at the surroundings in which a feast is set, in a medieval setting. Today, I move considerably closer in time and in space to home.
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A true feast must look beautiful as well as taste beautiful. It must take place in rich surroundings, and those attending should wear their finest raiment. While yesterday’s post focused on the hard work of kitchen staff creating the feast, today’s is all about the setting of the stage.
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