05 December, 2008

I'm glad it was a music video

In the past 24 hours, my blog traffic has spiked dramatically. Of the 69 people who've visited my blog in the past 24 hours (and I've had a total of 90 visits this week, so that's a huge proportion), about 95% of them have been looking for a rap song called "One Man One Cup," and landed on my post about Till Eulenspiegl.

If you are one of those people, and you were just looking for an innocent youtube clip of this song, I'm sorry about what you found. On the one hand, it's pretty obvious from the google search page that I'm not talking about rap music. On the other hand, it's pretty cool that my blog is the first or second thing your search turned up.

Now if only someone would write a song titled "Madologist."

28 November, 2008

An answer to that nagging question

"Medieval disability scholar" is a mouthful, and ambiguous to boot. "Scholar of medieval disability" is less ambiguous, but even longer. So what is a self-respecting scholar of disability in the Middle Ages to call herself? Simple.

I'm a madologist.

20 November, 2008

Calling off the stabby rampage

The wonderful, wonderful secretary of the CMS managed to get through to SSHRC and explain the situation, and they will not penalise me.

I have to find some way to thank her for everything she's done for me.

Accommodation, Medieval Style

I got a question in response to my recent post on the visibility of impairment. I didn't forget about it; I wanted to give it more thorough discussion than a comment usually warrants.

The question was for an example of the accommodation of a medieval impaired person. The situation I was referring to actually seems fairly common, so I've picked a representative case from the calendar of the Patent Rolls.

Nov. 19, 1412. Westminster.
Commission, by mainprise of Peter de Pole of the county of Derby and Robert Suthwell of the country of Hertford, to John Leventhorpe, esquire, of the keeping of the body of John son and heir of John Petbrigge, knight, an idiot, and all his lands in the counties of Essex and Huntingdon with reversions, to hold so long as the lands are in the king's hands for that cause, rendering to the king of the same John be proved an idiot before the council by due examination 20l. and finding competent maintenance for the heir, maintaining the houses and buildings and supporting all other charges.*

John Jr. here is an idiot (or whatever the editors decided was an idiot). I said in the previous post that I did not mean "accommodation" the way we use it in modern discussions. There's no ADA here. But John Jr. is an unusual situation, and because of the possibility that he would "waste" his lands (squander them away or alienate them from the family inheritance), his abnormality demanded that he be treated abnormally.

Briefly, John Jr. was given into the care of Leventhorpe, along with all of his lands and property - things that he had a responsibility for according to the laws of inheritance. It sounds cold and cruel and far from "accommodation," but I find it sensible, in theory. (How do we treat our idiots today? Often they are put into homes before their parents die, and rarely do they inherit, and almost never do they retain control of any inheritance they come into.) In this case, John Jr. retains titular rights to his inheritance: it's still his, he just can't control it. He isn't cast into the streets, as the common myth would suggest. He is given a guardian and his care is ordered and he is to live comfortably.

Sadly, we have few records, if any, that discuss what happens after an idiot is taken into guardianship. We don't know how common it was for guardians to ignore care instructions or act abusively. Very rarely, an idiot or an idiot's family and friends will bring a case forward that the guardian is acting outside his jurisdiction, but it's always he-said-she-said and politics inevitably clouds the reality.

However, it remains that an idiot's social group had to find a way to deal with his presence. That is what I meant by accommodation. They didn't ignore him, kill him, or cast him out of town. They created rules governing the care of such idiots and legal mechanisms to enact the rules. There are occasionally cases where people tried to act outside the standard rules, but once found out, the investigation starts right from the beginning.

Instances of physical impairment being accommodated are somewhat different, because the situations are more varied. Hopefully this will explain the general gist of my point, though. When we speak of accommodation in the modern sense, we often conflate it with "accessibility." We have to be careful: accommodation, especially in reference to the Middle Ages, is simply the process whereby a society deals with the presence of abnormality in its midst.

And that's what's the most important thing, I feel, when we speak of medieval accommodations. Impaired people still existed in society. They had a midst to be in.

* Calendar of the Patent Rolls. Henry IV, Vol. 4, pg. 453.

19 November, 2008

"It's because they're English"

Fun times today. You can file this post under important things to know about British universities or screaming rage at red tape, take your pick.

The University of York just now got around to posting something to SSHRC. Something not a transcript. A week past the deadline.

Apparently, a single database where all grades are entered and stored for easy retrieval (at the registrar's leisure, natch) is way, way too easy for British unis. Too sensible. Too efficient. Real British unis don't go in for that namby-pamby efficiency nonsense!

It's far better to have inconsistent grading standards in different departments, all stored in the departments. So if a student asks for a transcript, instead of just printing a copy from the student database, the registrar has to submit requests to all the separate departments, who have to look the student up, send the info back to the registrar, who then organises it and tries to harmonise all the grading standards, and THEN prints it out. And if you're a research student, they get really confused, because you have no classes to grade, and thus no transcript.

And apparently they just sit on your request for a while scratching their heads, and finally mail of something that's not a transcript but confirms that you do, in fact, exist and attend their institution. Or something of that sort. But they won't just dash that off, no. First they have to spend three to four weeks considering it. Because apparently research students never ask for transcripts or something?

Colour me unimpressed, and very, very upset.

The CMS secretary, however, is a wonderful woman. She is going to write to SSHRC and explain that my request was submitted with plenty of time (it was, according to everything they say on the registrar's website and in the office in person), but plain old British inefficiency stupidity thoroughness delayed it beyond reasonable expectation. It's a good thing we have such a wonderful secretary here because I would otherwise be writing this post after consuming several alcoholic beverages, or from a cabin in the woods were I was hiding from the police after my mad stabbing rampage. Possibly both.

17 November, 2008

What we see and what we don't see

An offhand comment from one of my supervisors a few weeks ago has really stuck with me. At first it seemed rather trivial, but the more I contemplate it, the more I think it is important.

How much do we see of impairment in the Middle Ages? Equally important, how much do we not see?

If you ask almost any medievalist about mental impairment (aside from the Enlightened Ones like yourselves, who read this high quality blog, or Greg's), you're likely to get a response along the lines of "I'm not sure there's enough source material to even study that." That's the first response I got, at least, and I've heard it many time since. If you ask a non-medievalist, you will almost certainly be regaled with horror stories of Bedlam, chains, abandonment, changelings*, sin, and violence. You might, as well, hear stories of court fools or especial holiness attributed to fools.

These two responses embody the questions I posed above. In many ways, mental impairment and abnormality in the Middle Ages is invisible. Lunatics and idiots do not tend to be powerful or noteworthy. There are exceptions, but on the whole, madness tends to preclude importance. It is also, simply, hard to see. Mental impairment isn't visual the way the loss of a limb is, or leprosy, or palsy. It exists in the brain and its only external signs are secondary characteristics.

It's these secondary characteristics that have caught the attention of so many previous historians. By "secondary characteristics," I mean the motley of a court fool or the travelling circus of the ship of fools. In the popular imagination, we also see the raving, chained, whipped madman in Bedlam Hospital. These are highly visual portraits: we can easily conjure the image in our mind's eye.** They are the portrayals that have dominated the histories, but they are severely limited.

It's not possible that every mentally abnormal person could have lived such a life. Kings are not that plentiful, and the ship of fools and Bedlam Hospital are extremely late phenomena, and highly local. (In the case of the ship of fools, it's not even certain that it's a historical phenomenon at all.)

It is to the detriment of disability historians that they never looked beyond these manifestations. There are so many references to everyday men and women in various legal, ecclesiastical, medical, and literary sources that it would stun you. They are not particularly special men and women. They're not remarkable. Their impairments only warrant mention because they need accommodating.*** They are very difficult to visualise, and thus more difficult to empathise with. Less dramatic. More difficult to write about.

And yet, they are arguably the most valuable references we have. They represent an invisible majority. They are what is important if one wants to write about madmen and idiots. And the silence of the records is actually quite loud**** - they tell us that abnormality was not as abnormal as most assume. If idiocy was truly exceptional, it would be described in far more detail. What is unusual warrants discussion. What is commonplace needs only be mentioned in passing.

It is the commonplace, undramatic, everyday fool that I am concerned with. I want to know their history. Highly visual representations may have been easier for historians (and pseudo-historians) to write about, but the invisible needs a chance, now.

* The blame for this one belongs almost exclusively to Martin Luther. See: Goodey, C.F. and Tim Stainton. "Intellectual Disability and the Myth of the Changeling Myth." Journal of the History of the Behavioural Sciences. Vol. 37, 2001.
** I'm trying to vary the metaphors here, but I fear we are all going to be sick of them before the end.
*** Not in the modern sense, but simply that any abnormality requires special attention to ensure the smooth operation of a community.
**** I got tired of the visual metaphors and switched to aural.

08 November, 2008

Will our brave blogger commit to a series of posts?

Important matters first. I see that I have actually accumulated a small number of followers. Two of you I don't even know in real life! Hi! Thanks for tagging along on this intermittently-updated adventure!

There are two reasons I haven't been posting a lot of late. One, I've been kept quite busy with research and grant application writing (wish me luck). Two, I'm finding it hard to come up with witty and/or insightful things to say here that don't run me the risk of getting scooped. I can't afford that right now.

However, I still want to keep updating this thing, and I'm trying to work out a balance. So let's talk medieval disability.

Here I make the case for knowing Latin. If you want to study the Middle Ages, regardless of subject, I suggest you know Latin. I have been sufficiently indoctrinated by my time at Toronto that I believe this with my whole heart. And I would insist on it even more strongly for those studying disability.

Most of the published histories of mental abnormality have failed to accurately or even adequately represent the Middle Ages, and in no small part is this due to linguistic ignorance. (Another contributing factor is a complete unfamiliarity with the era in question, but that is a matter for another post.) These medical pseudo-historians and philosophical theorists simply did not have the skills to examine primary sources.

Part of what I've been exploring recently are the Close and Patent Rolls (private and public royal correspondence on various matters the king was interested in). I am hampered by the fact that the only published versions of these fascinating historical documents are calendars. Not the day/month/year sort: these calendars are edited translations of the original rolls. First (and this is something I will discuss in more detail), it forces scholars to rely on an interpretation. What any given word actually meant to the author of a medieval document is still a matter of some confusion. Second, they are edited versions - the editors only included what they thought was of import or interest. Both of these issues are compounded by the date the calendars were edited: the Victorian period.

The Victorian understanding of mental impairment was, to be blunt, childish. It was paternalistic and lacked nuance. There are scores of references in the calendars to "idiots." Which is helpful for identifying relevant cases, but tells us nothing of the medieval wording. All it tells a reader is that this case dealt with a person some Victorian editor thought fit his contemporary definition of "idiot." And it could mean anything. The other issue is that Victorian editors didn't blush at bowdlerising the text. Since I have not yet been able to visit the original manuscripts, I have no idea of knowing what scandalous, shameful, fascinating details were omitted from the calendars.

Now, I do not know of any text which discusses mental impairment and the Close and Patent Rolls (if you do, please tell me!), but the issue remains the same for nearly all histories of disability: reliance on translations. Previous attempts display only a rudimentary understanding of Latin, and to someone who is more capable, it is glaring and it can throw an entire book's scholarship into doubt.

Latin is important for this work. You can't assume that medievals used different words for different etiologies: they didn't medicalise disability in the modern way. Equally important, you can't assume that they used different signifiers indiscriminately, with no sense of differentiation between signifieds.* The only way to tease out some sense of meaning is to read it in its original language. There's simply no substitute.

And while we're at it, my life would be easier and my papers neater if I didn't have to translate every small passage.

I hope this short post has been informative, or at least thought-provoking. I have further issues with the state of disability scholarship in the twentieth century that I'd like to discuss, and perhaps I will. So if you don't see a post in the next week or so on seen and unseen disabilities and the primary sources employed, please do give me a poke and leave a comment to remind me.

* I better watch it, that is sounding dangerously deconstructionist. Kids, if someone offers you some Derrida, JUST SAY NO.

23 October, 2008

  • SSHRC is on the move.
  • The article Greg and I were writing on deafness has been pushed back because the scope of it got too big for us to give it an adequate treatment in the time allotted. But we're going to keep at it.
  • I have to remember my other funding options.

I'm going to post a "Latin Tutor Available" sign in my house. There's a lot of beginners here this year, and I may as well see if I can come to an arrangement. Money is acceptable, but so is food or even trade in kind (any Anglo-Normanists out there?). I also really need to remember to submit my application to teach in the winter term.

As for research, I'm working with chronicles right now, and while I find them interesting, they're not particularly rich in the material I need. One reference here or there. Mostly they're more interested in calling opponents sinners and heretics rather than fools. But I do have two references so far, so maybe I will find more.

I'm not sure how I'm going to pull all this together. I've got my pastoral manuals and a heck of a lot of court cases, a couple chronical refs now, Margery, and Piers Plowman. Somehow this will all pull together into a single coherent thesis? I guess SSHRC is good practice for this.

Meanwhile, I really wish I had time to stop and do some secondary reading. There's a lot going around in the background that I need to sort out. I need to revisit my conceptual books. Time is such a fleeting thing. Perhaps I will beg an indulgence of my supervisors next meeting.

12 October, 2008

Some days you win

Today has been one of those days. The mountain of work aside, I have made three big discoveries today. Two of them basically prove that the high medieval summae confessorum I've been wanting to examine were, in fact, circulating in late medieval England. They were being traded/donated/sold, and William Langland quoted them in his famous Piers Ploughman. Proof enough? Literary enough?

And the other I can't share yet but I saw my first book (someday...) take shape in front of me.

It's been a good day.

I even got a paragraph of SSHRC written.

13 September, 2008

Work, Money, Stuff

The bosses have heard my cry and are thinking they can max out my allowed work hours for me. It's not going to fund me what I need, but the extra £55/week will go a long way toward making life generally livable.

Doing the math, if I can stick to my budget for personal things, even if I increase it 5 pounds from the extra shift (not always easy, but mostly possible), I can put aside a fair amount of money each week. Some of it can be tagged for school expenses, like paper, research fees, photocopying, etc.

You know, it could be worse. I'm not on a ramen diet, although I do take advantage of any free food to be had. It's kind of eerie how I feel like I'm living a PhD Comic. A small amount of money can buy a lot of fresh fruit and vegetables, and as long as I keep the staples on hand (flour, noodles, rice, potatoes, oils) I can make a lot of great stuff. (The free stuff I get from work occasionally is awesome, too.) I do kind of miss orange juice, though, so I'm-a get some concentrate this week.

Aaaand, this post has turned into a ramble. Enough of that. I am going to go write some letters and relax for a bit, because my brain is fried after a full Saturday shift.


10 September, 2008

Grad School Defined

From the lovely Mel:

"The change from undergraduate course work to graduate course work is somewhat of a shock to the system, like someone's doused me with a bucket of cold water. Cold water filled with BOOKS and FISTS."

One Man, One Cup: the transgressive comedy of Till Eulenspiegel

This is just to show that there is nothing new under the sun.

In the early sixteenth century, the tales of Till Eulenspiegel were published. Till, a jester of anarchic and trickster bent, delighted in transgressive comedy and basically anything that would tweak powerful people's noses. Rather like Heath Ledger's joker, minus the malice.

In one of the tales, Eulenspiegel is in a jest-off competition with another jester. Desperate to win, and having been matched on every joke and trick thus far, he squats on the floor, defecates, and eats half with a spoon. He invites his rival to enjoy the other half, and then to do the same. His rival declines and Till wins.

That such a motif is present in literature from so long ago and is still so morbidly fascinating today*... well, I leave you to draw your own conclusions as to what that says about humanity in general.

* No, I have not seen it, nor do I want to. I don't know anyone who HAS, yet everyone has heard of the meme somewhere. I cannot explain its apparent "popularity."

08 September, 2008

Fun Mit Acronyms!

Well, I am now set to participate in the SSDMA* roundtable session and in the session "God's Cripples, Crazies, and Imbeciles" at the ICMS** It's good to have that very tiny chunk of org done.

Meanwhile, head for the hills, it's SSHRC*** time again! My supervisors will be writing me references, and it's nice that I will be able to draft my proposal based on some solid research and specific primary sources.


* The Society for the Study of Disability in the Middle Ages, for those who are just tuning in.
** International Congress on Medieval Studies, more commonly referred to as "K'zoo."
*** The Social Sciences and the Humanities Research Council, a major funding body for Canadian academics.

03 September, 2008

Taking off at a run

Have you ever looked at the CV of an established professor and wondered how the heck they manage to accumulate so many speaking and publishing credits?

I'm learning. It's not about being particularly competent. It's about the nature of deadlines and the human condition.

May seems awfully far away right now. It's months and months away! So I fool myself into thinking that's loads of time to prepare a full 20 minute paper and a 10 minute roundtable talk. If by this point you are laughing hysterically, then you know what I mean.

Likewise with the book review I agreed to do in May. And the article I committed to in July. And now it's September, and the reason you don't hear from me much is my frantic scramble to make good on all my promises. It'll happen again in May, I'm sure.

And now, I'm off to see the wizard, the wonderful wizard of... well, he's not a wizard and he's not particularly special and he's been dead centuries but he wrote some cool stuff about deafness that I'll get back to you on.

23 August, 2008

Language, Deafness, and Humanity

When we read medieval discussions on deafness, it's easy to judge. We are so used to knowing that deaf people are intelligent, rational human beings. We ask How could they have been so prejudiced?! How could they not realise people who can't hear are still people?!

Now imagine you're in a shop. In walks a tiny little Chinese woman (or a Filipino man, or a pair of Argentinian teenagers) and in broken English she asks you how much an item costs. You have a difficult time getting the answer through to her, and then she asks if you can hold it for her - but all you hear is accent and mumble. Your routine of ringing up items and moving the line along is broken. Be honest - what goes through your head?

If you're normal, you probably get kind of frustrated. And you wonder why she doesn't learn better English. You wish she'd just go away so you can handle the next customer. This person clearly wants something, but you have no idea what. You forget that back home, she was a trauma surgeon. How could she be, when she can't even make herself clear in a shop?

We all do it. All of us. It's a rare person who can endure a frustrating five minutes of garbled non-communication and at the end still have no pre-conceptions of the other person at all. Intellectually you know that the other person is a normal human being,* but the failure to communicate is so limiting that you forget.

Now imagine someone who cannot speak at all. Someone who has never spoken, and cannot hear you. Communication is made by awkward, goofy body language. To the best of your knowledge, no such person has ever learned language of any kind.

We take communication for granted these days. We have so many gadgets and resources, and we're used to the concept of sign language, at the least. Everyone can read and write, in a pinch. It's easy to forget the time when we had none of these modes of communication.

* And that if the situation was reversed, you'd look a right doofus, too. Probably worse.

22 August, 2008

The Move

Well, that was easy. Welcome to the new version, folks. I'm going to be updating some of the other stuff in the next little while, too.


20 August, 2008


The most recent written work I've done (for a supervision) has left me with some odd thoughts.

I feel that in some way, we're re-writing the dictionary here. First, in the most simplistic way, those of us working on medieval disability are discovering nuances and usages that the dictionaries of medieval Latin never bothered specifying.*

Secondly, one of the more important mental adjustments we have to make is moving away from modern preconceptions and definitions. That means leaving behind all speculations that Leonardo da Vinci was autistic, and similar speculation, because it is simply not relevant, and makes it difficult to explore the actual medieval issues. When we label Leonardo as "autistic," we put him in a box alongside all the baggage that we carry with the diagnosis today. We automatically begin seeing his life in that lens, nevermind how he experienced his life, or how his contemporaries viewed him.

But that leaves a vacuum of terminology. What do we call people who displayed an abnormal mentality to their contemporaries? I have moved away from "fools," because that seems to be more of a literary/artistic term. More commonly, I come across "idiot" or "imbecile," idiota or imbecillens, but the problem is that those words carry modern-day baggage as well. A hundred years ago (even 50 years ago) they carried clinical connotations before moving into the common speech of pejorative. I have begun using them, generally as a strict translation of what's on my page.

These words have become so taboo in scholarship of disability, though. They have become the disability studies equivalent of "the N-word." (Fortunately I do not have to use the word "retard," because that might get too awkward, even for me.) It is a strange feeling, transgressing these lines we've drawn. Yet I see no other way to allow the texts to speak for themselves. It is easier among fellow medieval scholars, who understand the methodology we are stuck with, but quite tricky when facing modern disability scholars.

Sometimes there is a thrill in the transgression, in throwing a taboo word at someone, but sometimes it just feels weird.

* There is a LOT more to the word lunaticus than simply "madman," for example. Note the luna stem...

17 August, 2008


In roughly a week, on Friday, this blog will be moving to http://debilitasmentis.blogspot.com

I'll leave the link up here for a while, but I suggest updating your links.

08 August, 2008

News of Import

This is just to let all my readers know that this blog will be moving sometime in the near future. I.e., as soon as I get around to figuring out the process. I'll give you a bit of warning about the shift, and then I'm going to wipe this URL of the content and move it entirely to the new one. This is for some personal privacy/security reasons, and I'm sorry for the hassle but I feel it's necessary.

Updates to follow.

01 August, 2008

An Assortment of Odds and Ends

I think there's something of a shit-disturber in me. It's just a polite shit-disturber. I love the thought of publishing something that could get people all in a tizzy. I simply adore the fact that people have built a tenuous house of cards to house the history of disability in the Middle Ages, and we are taking it gingerly apart, card by card. Eventually someone will give a lecture or publish a paper and the whole thing will come tumbling down. And people will be aghast at what we've done.

Then - then - we can start building a new house in earnest. Those of us in the little niche understand each other, but until we can definitively enact a paradigm shift we will just be that group of weirdos in the corner.

We'll know the house is tumbling when people outside the community start getting disturbed by what we write. We'll know the cards are all on the floor when people stop asking us "Why bother?"

But I think that's enough of that particular metaphor. I just love the challenge. I love seeing it happen, helping make it happen.

The library at York has been helpful with this, especially the Minster Old Library (pre-1800 books). I'm surprised anew each time I go looking for an obscure fifteenth century text and it pops up in the catalogue system. I just wish I could get some photocopies or even digital pics. But the spines are sometimes delicate and the photos mean licencing issues, so I look forward to many days of transcribing. (One of my current projects has 11 folios dedicated to the topic! ELEVEN!)

In unrelated news, I booked my Christmas flights today. I found a very good price and good dates, and you just can't beat that!

31 July, 2008

I really am lucky

You know how people are always telling you to make sure you get a job you love? "Find something you love and then find someone to pay you to do it" is the best elucidation of the concept I've ever heard.

Well you know what? I do. I am head-over-heels in love with what I do. I can barely think of anything that excites me more. Here I am, making discoveries, thinking things no one ever has before, seeing texts history has just passed over... By pure chance (or perhaps divine providence, I am in the incredible position of being on the front edge of a whole new field of medieval studies. It's wide open spaces, baby.

On the professional activities front, I am in-process for actually publishing some stuff. Nothing is certain yet (except for the book review which I really ought to get my rear in gear about), but it's a good feeling. The pressure to publish, even when you're still a student, is intense. One item is a revision of the Margery Kempe paper I gave at the York-Norwich conference, and the other is shaping up to be a killer article for the Journal of Fifteenth Century Studies. I can't say more about it right now, so you will just have to take my word for it. But really, it's awesome. Greg and I have been geeking out about it for the past couple days, which is what spurred this post initially.

And while we're at it, I've gotten my first submission for my k'zoo 2009 session, which is cool. I should write something brief up as well, for form's sake. And also so that I know what I plan to do.

And that's about the state of the nation at the moment.

21 July, 2008


Today: good supervision! Very good!

I made good points, I had LOTS of material. More than they expected, it seems (thank you!).

Also, I had a brainwave regarding the records, hospitals, care, and silence. I'm going to London today for a couple days, so remind me to share when I get back, Greg. Also, I was informed that there's an MA student here doing a thesis on idiots in the Patent Rolls. It's like pulling teeth, sometimes.

Have a good couple days!

18 July, 2008

It's Occurs to Me...

... that it's been a while since I did a "crazy britons" post.

Dill pickles, aka "gherkins."

Under no circumstances should there be sugar added to them. Ever. It is an offence against picklekind.

Ahem. These Britons are crazy.

K'zoo 2009

It seems that I'll be going, since I'm co-organising a session. It's titled "God's Cripples, Crazies, and Imbeciles: New Dimensions of Religious Disability." Tell your friends.

Actually, if your friends study medieval disability and religion comes into it somewhere at all, please DO tell them. I'm still a-lookin' for abstracts.

What's Been Happening

In short form, "artistic differences" with my advisors. A large part of this is due to my own stubbornness, I admit. I have such a disinterest in the literary facet of things that is York's speciality (if you like Chaucer, this is a good place for you) that the dual-discipline gig here is rough on me. And yet, I don't really have the training for archaeology or art history, either. And I'm not "trained as a historian," so single-discipline is out.

However, it does appear that we have reached a compromise. I have been digging through a mountain of legal records for the past while (a workload drastically reduced by the kindness of my Colleague). I've also been doing a bit of reading into jurisdiction disputes - the Church and the State were constantly squabbling over who had jurisdiction.* The question of wills and testamentaries is an odd one - they appear in both sets of records. But I digress.

My attendance at the Leeds IMC was not unprofitable, as I scored a copy of The Sign Languages of Poverty and a CD-ROM version of The Parliament Rolls of England (fully searchable in BOTH official languages**), as well as attending a certain reception, wherein I found a reference to senile priests in a display volume and got to chat with a some very nice and informative people. Also, the coffee service is better at Leeds than Kalamazoo.

My digital camera has become my new research tool in the world of non-lending libraries. Naturally, I do not subject rare and delicate books to the camera, but for hardy year-2000 hardcovers? No guilt. It's cheaper than photocopying, if you have a decent hand.

I look up at my bookshelf, and I begin to understand where the professors get the huge shelves and shelves of books that fill their offices. Slow, gradual accumulation. It's neat, too. I am developing a rather good library of the history of foolishness and insanity.*** It's neat. I'm becoming my own library.

Oh, other good news! The Disease, Disability, and Medicine in the Middle Ages conference was a winner! It was simply fantastic. There were so many perspectives and subjects! I can't believe that anyone could ever say "Oh, there's nothing to say there." There is SUCH a glut of things to talk about in the field. The paper that was the most valuable in terms of my own research was "Bones of Contention: Some issues surrounding the use of human remains in the study of disease and disability," presented by postgrads L. Craig and K. Hemer. It reminded me (Oh how did I manage to forget??) that burial is a religious practice. Also, it was an excellent example of palaeopathology put to good use. P. Mitchell's paper, "Gastrointestinal Disease in the Crusades," made me glad all over again that I've gone vegetarian. Nothing spoils my appetite for meat like the thought of intestinal parasites. T. Jones' paper on distant-travel warefare and the limitations unfamiliar water and climate would have imposed on armies was extremely interesting. Really, all the papers that were presented were great.

I also connected with some great people. I got to meet Irina Metzler, who is GREAT conversation, and fun as well as brilliant. The grad student population was well represented, and it seems there may be another medieval disability PhD at York in the relatively near future (WOOT). I had coffee with a fascinating scholar from Oxford (he also taught in Canada!) after the conference officially ended. All in all, it could scarcely have been a cooler conference.

Plus, I had Turkish Delight ice cream. It's exactly as awesome as it sounds. (I had lavendar ice cream yesterday, and it was equally divine.)

And now, if you'll excuse me, I have a date with the Parliament Rolls of Medieval England and a glass of sloe gin and tonic.

* CSI: Canterbury, anyone?
** You know you're Canadian when...
*** Except I don't have a copy of Foucault. So sue me.

10 July, 2008



The past little while has been extremely busy and extremely confusing and worrisome, and I haven't felt like posting. Limbo-posting always feels like a bad idea.

Fortunately, I think I've got things sorted out. Good things are happening, good books are being read, good people are being met, and good conferences are being attended.

I promise I will update soon.

10 June, 2008

De amicitia

One of the papers at the York-Norwich conference was on Friendship. Now, that person would have to be the one to tell you all the theory and texts behind it, but I just need to say that a friend is someone who will go dig through their academic library to find you some obscure article or resource you don't yourself have. And then will take pictures of it or scan it, and send it to you.

There's lots of other ways to define friendship, all totally valid. But once someone has done that for you, there's no denying.

A friend also encourages you when you're down, helps you clarify your thoughts, critiques drafts, suggests books, and tells you not to give up.

I have fabulous friends. Thanks, guys.

05 June, 2008

York-Norwich 2008

Well, as of tonight, I have finished with my conference paper for the York-Norwich Postgraduate conference. I've been wrestling with it for two weeks, but I think it has been whipped into a credible paper (with the help of certain editors).

I'm actually quite pleased with it, and I think it has the potential for wider dissemination than simply this minor conference. We will see what comes of it.

I feel like I have managed to find a place for Margery Kempe in all this. Things could be worse.

04 June, 2008

Happy Birthday, Dear Carol

I just found out that Carol, who I mentioned just a couple days ago, passed away in April.

I'm kind of choked up, so I'll say a better goodbye later.

You are my sunshine, my only sunshine
You make me happy when skies are grey
You'll never know, dear, how much I love you
Please don't take my sunshine away

Ho ho hooooooooooo.

You are loved, Carol, and I miss you.

03 June, 2008

No one's kicked me out yet!

I've discovered a wonderful new place to study. I take my handy-dandy membership card and my book, and I go sit in the Chapter House in York Minster. It's calm and quiet,* and there's really something to be said for reading medieval theology in a room constructed 700 years ago.

I sat there for two hours today, until the cold stone got to be a bit much for my keister to handle, and an hour and a half yesterday. I expect I will be making a regular pest of myself.

* Except for the occasional school group, but they don't generally stay long, and often I learn something from the tour guide.

29 May, 2008

"The doctors told us you'd never amount to anything, Jane. But look around..."

I have realised some of the reason I am so intent on the specific project I want to do. Not just that it naturally combines all my nerdy interests. Not just that I'm happy to have a clear picture and am reluctant to go back to the drawing board.

Those who've been reading my blog for a while might remember the post I wrote for a friend who recently died, a woman named Alia. l'Arche, for those unfamiliar with it, is a network of intentional communities centred around men and women with developmental disabilities. You don't go to work at l'Arche. You go to live at l'Arche. Not just "live" in the sense of sleeping and eating there - you go to live life in all its complexities, joys, and sorrows. The point of l'Arche is to be a friend, to learn from the disabled core members, to allow yourself to simply be human. It is not a "job" you can leave unchanged.

I was only there at l'Arche Daybreak for two four-month terms, hardly any time at all in l'Arche terms. But those eight months sparked an interest in disability as a concept, a social force, an academic study. Some of the earliest books on disability I read, in the community's library, opened my eyes to the reality that people with intellectual impairments were (are) often treated differently, even prejudicially. I realised that it was (is) common practice (especially in certain protestant denominations) to deny baptism to mentally disabled children and adults.

I read A Place to Hold My Shaky Heart, a small book of mini-biographies of some of the core members in the community. In it was the story of Carol, a woman who I was living with at the time. When Carol was born, she wasn't baptised. She was placed in a large government institution instead. No one bothered to teach her to talk. When she came to Daybreak (in her 40s, I believe), she still could not talk. One of the other core members in her new house taught her to sing "Happy Birthday" (an excellent song for any occasion), and she learned a few other words. Eventually, the people living with Carol decided she should be given the opportunity to be baptised. I honestly do not remember how they discerned the answer, but I can tell you from experience that "non-verbal" people are perfectly capable of expressing themselves, if you know how to listen. Carol was baptised, and she was radiant. She had finally been welcomed into the community that should have been her birthright. She knew that she was no longer on the outside. Now, I've just paraphrased an entire chapter of a book, and if anyone was moved by my clumsy retelling, I highly recommend the whole book.

Mike and Francis are two men I lived with as well. They, and other members of the Daybreak community, are the altar serves and Eucharistic ministers at the community chapel, the Dayspring. Services at the Dayspring are unlike any other. In a world where an autistic child can be barred from his church, people at the Dayspring are welcome to wander, to cry, to wail, to laugh, to dance, and to pray aloud as they see fit. They occupy places of respect and honour.

One final story. During my first term at Daybreak, I lived with a woman named Jane. She was stubborn, loud, opinionated, and she was my sunshine. She drove me nuts, many times, but I still consider her one of my dearest friends. There is not time or space here for me to describe how she changed my life. I remember her 59th birthday, though. In this house, it was customary that the food part of a birthday celebration be followed by an exodus to the living room, where everyone gathered would have a chance to celebrate the birthday person. A memory, a prayer, a story of how a person had been changed, anything was welcome. The room was packed, with people sitting on the arms of the couch, standing in the doorway, sitting on the floor, and after we'd been around the room, it was her father's turn to speak. He told us how when Jane was 4, the doctors had told him she would never amount to anything or be anything, and he would be best off sending her to an institution. Not knowing any better, and trusting the doctors, he did so. "But look around," he said. "Look at all the people whose lives you've touched, Jane. Look how important you've become."

These people made me who I am. Their lives and stories have been the inspiration for my academic ideas. It is their exclusion and marginalisation, followed by their inclusion and centring, that prompted me to ask "What happened in the medieval period? Carol, would you have been baptised, then? Would the Daybreak core members be offered the Eucharist, as they are now?"

This project isn't just academic curiosity, for me. It is answering a deeply personal, and even spiritual question. The story is important.

My dear Daybreak friends, this is just one more small part of your legacy.

Look, Ma, I'm famous!

Round Two in the exciting news of Alison's academic life: my own guest post at In The Middle.

26 May, 2008

SSDMS Blog-Launch!

That's right, folks! Item number one in the exciting news of Alison's academic career is the launch of the Society for the Study of Disability in the Middle Ages blog!

Being in the right place at the right time, I am one of the "gvbernatores" of the new blog. Not much is happening yet, but I'm sure things will pick up in the near future!

22 May, 2008

Limbo - I can't go any lower!

More like, I refuse to go any lower. Raise that stupid bamboo pole higher, please!

Okay, enough with the metaphors. I've been having advisory issues. J and N are both wonderful people, but our interests, we have found, are just a tad too far apart.

My interests have always been in religion, and I've always found Church Law interesting, as much as I knew about it. Teenage exposure to catechetical debate matured with my interactions with David and our Berthold/Hermes/Thomas of York* project. Even the incomprehensible Philosophy of the Mind course added to it.

So to me it is rather natural that I be drawn to philosophy, Church law, and pastoral manuals. When I applied to York, I did not realise that the department had very little theological focus. That part is my fault - every grad student should be very aware of the strengths and weaknesses of the schools they apply to. I was drawn to the interdisciplinary nature of York - and medieval disability studies practically defines "interdisciplinary."

So today I met with P, who is both a wonderful fellow and quite knowledgeable about the things I need to learn. We need to have another meeting - one with J and N, most likely - and try and sort this out. In the meantime, I will be busily proving myself as a worthy student for P to supervise, as he is understandably leery about just accepting someone "off the street," so to speak.

So I'm still in limbo, which is not exactly a fun place to be. Hopefully we can sort this out. I hope that as we branch out into into a widely-accepted (or at least widely-known) discipline, fewer students of medieval disability will feel this misfit syndrome.

I hazard the guess that students of medieval disability have an extra struggle for acceptability. Those who come to the field later on, as established (or at least accredited) scholars only have to worry about publishers and peer-reviews. Negativity on those fronts can be damaging, but it likely won't derail an entire career. As students, our advisors aren't familiar with our background, goals, or methods, because they aren't disability scholars themselves, and they really haven't even encountered much in the way of literature. And that's nobody's fault - it's just a factor of an emerging discipline. But they are responsible for our degrees, and we need to struggle extra to make ourselves comprehensible. As more of us fight our ways through and become available to mentor or supervise our own students, I hope it will change. If there are any professors in the field reading this, I tip my hat to you. It's because of you that this isn't harder still - keep up the good work.

* Hey, guess what? I'm in York! It really doesn't lose its thrill.

It figures.

I'm off to return some library books today, but due to some post-travel confusion I found myself hungry and having a free hour on my hands. So I went down to Subway (very nice staff, and the best breakfast value hands down), and I decided while I was sitting there with my free tea I would look at the library books I was about to return.

Barbara Swain's Fools and Folly was about what I would expect for a book published in 1932, and does have a number of interesting sources in the endnotes. I especially appreciate the citations from the Patrologia Latina, because that is not a beast I want to just start wading through. Nevertheless, the book suffers from the classic "disability = sin" problem, and it seems to me that Swain got the causal relationship backwards: one is not declared a heretic or sinner because one is seen to be a fool, one is a fool because one is a sinner. I.e., only an idiot (in our modern figurative sense) would act contrary to God's Law. I think this usage of the word "fool" is indeed highly figurative. She also discusses the Ship of Fools and the Feast of Fools, generalising quite a lot from a small handful of sources.

The other book, Ronald Finucane's Miracles and Pilgrims is quite excellent, and I sincerely wish I didn't have to give it back to the library today. He addresses the issue of the plurality of the medieval church, and that the small little parish of St. Margaret in Little Tiny Village is not the same Church as the Vatican. Catholicism has never been completely "top down", despite the importance of the hierarchy. There is an element of "bottom up" as well, and a great many people somewhere in the middle. This "middle Church" is where I find myself the most intrigued when it comes to disability.

There are important "top down" texts which treat with disability (Gratian's Decretals, for example, or the Fourth Lateran Council); and there are the "bottom up" parish rolls which recorded the active life of a particular religious community; and then there are the "middle" texts of the penitentials, which draw on Church Law, academic philosophy influenced by Plato, Aristotle, and Muslim philosophers, and the practical concerns of pastoral work. Perhaps that is why I am so interested in them. They're the middle ground of the discussion. I think I am going to cut this off here, because I want to develop these ideas further before committing them to the public space.

It figures (to go back to the title) that I would have these awesome thoughts the day I go to return the book. Hello, photocopier!

Meanwhile, I am now actually employed, and I have my first real shift on Saturday! Go me!

Also, watch this space for exciting news* in the world of Alison's academic career!


21 May, 2008

Kalamazoo Round-up, Day 1!

I slept in.

The book sales start at 8am Thursday morning, and since I did not intend to buy much this year (AHAHAhahaha...) I decided not to get up and fight my may through the crowds of people angling for the display-copy discounts. At 10am, though, I headed off to my first session, (Ab)normal Societies, which was pretty good. Before this, I had never seen a lecture delivered via sign language, and watching how that worked was pretty cool (though I felt bad for the interpreters who didn't know the Latin terms we were throwing around). I'm glad I was actually paying attention to the presider when she introduced the first speaker, because I heard her say he was going to be attending the University of York soon. Hey, that's my school! I am usually very quiet during Q&A, because I am shy, but afterwards I introduced myself to the speaker, Greg (who I have already introduced to you), and to another scholar in the audience. (We had a nice discussion of insanity and Judaism, and I'm eagerly awaiting translation of his book, because it sounds fascinating.)

Lunch was all kinds of fail. The vegetarian entree was half of a strawberry-nut-maple wrap, and even though I was annoyed that they were serving me dessert and not a proper meal, I made sad eyes at the serving lady and she snuck me another half. The soup was good, though. Somewhere around lunch time, I was making my way around the book rooms, when David came running up to me with a copy of Sandra Billington's A Social History of the Fool: "Alison, look what I found! There was only one, and I grabbed it right away! Here! I'm not telling you how much it cost, and anyway I get reimbursed by the university."* This is why he is called Excellent David.

After lunch we went to an awesome presentation on catapults, put on by three high school students and their teacher. They had spent the past two years researching and constructing a miniature medieval catapult. I have to say, those kids had guts. They were presenting to a roomful of the people whose books they'd used as research. And even though it was obvious they didn't know how to pronounce all the words they used (tree-tises and tray-buckets), they used them correctly. I was already feeling pretty exhausted, so partway through, I left and had a nap. I'm told that the rest of the presentation was just as good, and by the end everyone was trading tips and problem-solving back and forth.

I slept through the next session, too. It had been a busy week, I guess.

I made it back downstairs in time for the inaugural meeting of the Society for the Study of Disability in the Middle Ages. We are reaching critical mass, people. Medieval disability studies is beginning to organise itself and by next year's k'zoo, we will be out there kicking down doors and demanding to be considered a legitimate field of our own. It was very refreshing, being in a room full of scholars who cared about the same thing. Validation is a marvellous thing.

Dinner was better than lunch, I think.

After dinner, I am sure I went to a session, but it slips my mind. Then it was time for the open bars - and the Congress specialises in open bars. If you want to, you can drink for free from about 5pm until the booze runs out at 10 or 11. The University of Toronto's reception is especially popular, and it was there that I ran into Greg again - and this time, we had a long and hilarious discussion. Rachel, the scholar who had organised the session that morning, helped to translate for us, but it got difficult as we got drunker and more voices joined in. Still, she did an admirable job, and I think the highlight for me was trying to explain Screech and its customs.

At some point I wandered off to ask David if we were going to be playing Latin Scrabble that night (so I could invite Greg and Rachel, if they wished), but I got waylaid by an interesting discussion with a scholar from Saskatchewan and by the time I made it to David, almost everyone else had gone to bed.

We still played Latin Scrabble, though, and I kicked everyone's butts. We discovered the next morning that I had actually won the Wednesday night game as well, on a technicality because I went out first. But then I went to bed.

* Why won't someone reimburse me for my book purchases? Sigh. I suppose I have to get a degree and a job, first.

Kalamazoo Round-up, Day 0!

See? I didn't forget.

Kalamazoo started (for me) on Tuesday night when I found myself rolling on the ground and laughing so hard I cried - at a discussion of grammatical gender. The inestimable Melissa was at my house with Brent and I, because it really is too much to take eaaarrly morning transit from Toronto to my place and then get in a car and drive for 6 or 7 hours. We were not sleepy, so we went down to the basement to talk without bothering people. Somehow* Brent brought up this crazy language that has 16 genders of nouns. Well, this concept was quite comical to me at the time, so I laughed "What, male, female, neuter, and chair?" Now, I will say this about Mel: she is golden when it comes to taking the Funny and running with it. "Chair with four legs. Chair with three legs. Wooden chair. Chair that's placed upside down on the table at the end of the day." All three of us could barely breathe, and that is what Kalamazoo is all about: good friends, geeky jokes, and staying up late laughing till you cry.

The following morning, we got out the door only 20 minutes late (yes, laugh away), and were doing pretty good with the breakfast-getting and on-the-roading, until I realised I'd left my cell at home, so back we went. THEN we got on the road, and Mel and I teased Brent about the Hamilton Escarpment (affectionately known to locals as "the Mountain"). We got to Sarnia at about noon, and I am really proud of myself - mapless, I found my way back to a restaurant called Stokes on the Bay, where we have stopped on the way to k'zoo the past two years. I've been there twice in the past two years, and I wasn't driving or navigating either time - and I found my way back. I was a bit disappointed at the lack of meatless menu items, but all of us wanted a lighter lunch anyway, so we had caesar salads and nachos. The nachos were good, but I forgot to ask for jalapeños. The salsa was also kind mild (Mel: "I actually thought it had a nice kick to it."), so I wanted to add a bit of hot sauce. I accidentally poured the entire neck of the bottle into my salsa - whoops - then shrugged and gave it a try. "Oh, it's kinda hot now." Ramona, I'm lookin' at you.

We had no trouble at the border, and the guard was quite pleasant. Brent drove that leg, and I tried to not fall asleep, since I was navigating. By the time we got to Kalamazoo, it had stopped raining and was quite warm. Standing around in the reception area, we ran into a friend from Waterloo, Sarah, who let us know that their crew was heading off to Bilbo's for dinner and we were welcome to tag along. So we dropped our bags in our rooms (after sorting out Mel's lost registration package), and off to Bilbo's we went. It was nice to see David again, and we had a great time catching up and drinking Bilbo-brewed ale (Warhammer, I think?). Then we went and found limes and overpriced tonic water, and went back to the dorms for some Latin Scrabble and other gaming. Much fun was had.

Eventually, we went to bed.

* We're all language geeks, so this was not really that unusual.

20 May, 2008

Parents Face Restraining Order for Austistic Son

This is just ludicrous. I hope the parents win. Jesus didn't say "Let the well-behaved little children come to me."

Apparently their son "fights when he's being restrained." Well, wouldn't you, if you were just going about your business and someone just threw you to the ground and held you there? Sometimes it's necessary when there's an imminent danger, but only a heartless jerk would expect him to be happy about being restrained. And the parents' response to the "sitting on him to keep him quiet" accusation is 100% normal for autistic kids. Some people just like the security of it. Just like I like my shoes tightly laced.

Why do I love l'Arche again? Oh yeah, that's why.

Good news, everybody!*

I promise I will put a Kalamazoo Roundup post up soon. I just got back to England yesterday, though, and I already had my first orientation shift at my new job and I have an advisor meeting tonight - cross your fingers and hope we can work things out, people! I really like it here and I don't want to either leave or give up on the dissertation I want to do.

But, on to the good news! I got back and in my mailbox was the results from the University of Toronto's PhD-level medieval Latin exam. And I passed!


And now, back to the Plan of Study, and I really will fill you all in on the exciting things happening in the world of Medieval Disability Studies soon.

* It's a funny title if you imagine it said with Professor Farnsworth's voice.

16 May, 2008

A new and emerging field!

While I have a TON of things to write, seeing as Kalamazoo and pre- and post-Kalamazoo have been just wild, I don't have time at the moment because I am still at home. Frankly, seeing my family, friends, and fiancé is far more important to me than the Internets.

However, I will use this opportunity to introduce you all to Greg, who is an excellent fellow I met at Kalamazoo. Greg is also studying medieval disability, and has just started a blog of his own. He's a cool guy, go check it out!

24 April, 2008

End/Beginning of Term

Tomorrow marks the end of Week 1 of the summer term here at York. This week and next week feature no classes, but all the exams from the previous term. I'm not sure why they don't do them right after term, when it's all fresh. Either way, I wrote my palaeography exam today (because I promised I would), and I think that's the last exam for me. I have more fun studying to research than to take an exam.

However, this means I can now set up another advisory meeting, and I'm not feeling too bad about it. I should have ~4,000 words to say about St. Katherine of Alexandria, ~3,000 words to say about the vocabulary of foolishness in the Dictionary of Medieval Latin, a lecture abstract about Margery Kempe submitted to an upcoming conference, and newly-revised arguments about why I want to move away from literary studies. I'd like to think that's not too shabby.

I will probably make a visit to the library in Toronto one day while I'm home, since it's orders of magnitude bigger than the library at York. I may be on vacation, but I owe it to myself not to pass up the opportunity.

Kalamazoo is fast approaching, and I'm as excited as ever. I do hope Irina Metzler's book on medieval disability can be ordered from Routledge at the conference discount, but we'll just have to see.

21 April, 2008

Being in Britain

I am now gainfully employed! I have a job at the local spice shop/Indian grocery, working part time. I won't start till I get back from my trip home, but they said they definitely want me and they're cool with waiting. That also gives me time to pick a schedule and apply for an NIS number so I can actually get paid.

I'm so excited!! It's kind of fun to be excited about going to work again. This isn't just a source of funds - I'm genuinely happy to be working at this place.

In other news, today is the Queen's birthday. There was a 21-gun salute in the park. Now, I expected something like, say, shoulder rifles. Not cannons. Cannons are loud, by the way. Very loud.

In other news, I got an email today saying I've been offered a space in my res for next year. I don't have to move! Woo!

On the whole, it's been a good day. :D This calls for country music, possibly with dancing around in my room.

19 April, 2008

Laugh-inducing Linguafunnies

"Hoo-hah" here means something a lot like the North American "hoopla" or "hooferah." And when someone says they'll "come knock you up," they just mean knock on your door.

And they make fun of us over "pants." Tsk.

14 April, 2008

Philosophia siue sapientia?

Today I'm sitting down to write my abstract for my Margery Kempe paper. All I have to do is bang out 200 words of what I plan to write, and then I can forget her for a month or two. Longer, if I decide to go with the long-established custom of writing a paper the week before it's due to be presented.

I'm also starting to assemble my thoughts on St Katherine of Alexandria, of whom a half-dozen vitae were written in late Medieval England. She was pretty popular, and remarkable for passages where she asserts her right to rule in her own right. Relevant to me, she gets into an argument with Emperor Maxentius, who waxes "wroth and wod" several times. The language used to describe Katherine's wisdom and the emperor's great anger is very interesting.

In the Legenda Aurea version, there is a fascinating digression on the types of wisdom and how they all apply to Katherine. It's almost Scholastic in tone and the way is neatly divides and categorises the species. All of a sudden, I feel the need to consult with David, and I'm blessing the times in the past we've talked about Scholastic philosophy, and also the Book of Twenty-Four Philosophers, which this passage also reminds me of.

It's strange. As much as I despise doing philosophy, I'm absolutely drawn to it in contexts like this. I'm far more interested in what this passage is doing here than I am by the rest of the story. Given the context of 13th century English hagiography, what the heck is "Philosophia enim siue sapientia diuiduntur in theoricam, praticam et logicam" doing in a life of an early-Church martyr? Why? Now I'm actually excited to have read these stupid vitae.

And finally, I'm a couple days late on this one, but check out this strip from the awesome comic Get Medieval. It's totally about my research! Woo!

01 April, 2008

Warm water, I tell ya!

Today I had to use a public washroom. Joy! The sinks only had one spout!


It only ran hot. I burned my hand. Actually burnt.

31 March, 2008

Another crazy thing about this country, and Researchy Stuff

Britain has yet to discover warm water. They've got "hot" down pat, and they've mastered "cold" as well. The revolutionary idea of combining the two is still undeveloped. Sinks (and tubs) have a hot spout and a cold spout. Rare is the sink that has but a single spout, from which pours forth wonderful warm water.

In regards to school, I am still working with Margery, and I'm rather annoyed that I will need to read such a wide range of material on her in order to effectively make a point. Everything from the political situation in Lynn in the early fifteenth century to gender relations and the larger milieu of female mysticism.

Today I hearkened way, way back to 4th grade or so, and started making a tally sheet. I am tallying the references to individual works and authors in the mentally-related entries in the Dictionary of Medieval Latin. A chart! David would be pleased. I can even make it fancier and combine it with my Middle English references. (Some of the entries are from Anglo-Saxon/Latin glossaries and point me to further, older, vocabulary!) And then, I can arrange them according to genre.

Charts make me feel like I'm doing something more concrete than just theory-work.

Maybe that's why David likes them so much. You can't argue with a good chart.

Another thing I really like about the Dictionary of Medieval Latin is that it draws on a wider range of genres: the literary sources are balanced by historical and theological sources.

However, I'm finding the actual definitions kind of irritating. Most of the entries gloss a morphological variant of "fool" - but the whole point of what I am doing is to try to figure out what that actually means. And I got a kick out of the glossing of fatuosus and fatuus with "lunatic." "Mad" would be a decent translation for some of the listed sources, but "lunatic" is just plain silly. "Lunatic" refers to a cyclical (generally monthly) madness, not just any madness at all. Sloppy. Tsk.

Life goes well, and now I go back to practicing Latin for the exam in April. :) Cheers!

20 March, 2008

Arrogant Frog

I fear becoming a theorist. At this stage in the game, anyone involved in medieval disability studies is working on developing theory, but I really don't want to turn into Michel Foucault. Or anyone like him.

Maybe that's why I don't want to study Margery overmuch. She wrote a book, and that's about all we know. Any theory done based on Margery will always only ever remain theory. And I'm not enthralled about that.

I want to do more than that, be more than that. Critical theory is essential but if all it remains is theory, we all end up like Foucault.

And no one wants to end up like Foucault.

13 March, 2008


I'm beginning to wrest some sense out of this lexicology work I've been doing. This is good, because I was beginning to dread it. Now the cogs in my mind are working and I am beginning to listen to the words and what they are conveying. I am finding things that interest me, and I'm excited to wake up tomorrow and get back at it.

Words are fun. Reading the dictionary can be a stimulating and profitable enterprise, if you approach it right.

11 March, 2008

I need to make the time

Each summer, the University of York and the University of Norwich hold a graduate student conference for medievalists. We present papers to each other; it's supposedly a low-pressure way to get used to delivering lectures in public. I can get behind that! I have something I might like to present about Margery Kempe, couched in disability studies terms, and I might give that a shot. I don't want to go presenting stuff about dear Margery in a larger setting, such as Kalamazoo, where there are dozens of people present who've been studying her since before I was born. I'm not ready for that level of scrutiny, especially on something I don't really care to devote my life to. But who knows, it might bear fruit!

Also upcoming is the International Medieval Congress in Leeds. This is the European version of the International Congress on Medieval Studies in Kalamazoo (or at least they're trying to make it so). This year's them is the environment and natural world, which doesn't have much to do with me and anyway it's far too late to submit anything. But next year's theme is heresy and orthodoxy, and given the widespread use of the word "fool" to denote a person who acts contrary to the Natural Law by sinning, I'm sure I can work something in.

It's interesting, this use of the vocabulary of foolishness. On the one hand, it makes clear use of the "natural fool" referent, but on the other, it's such a cursedly popular usage. It's not just that someone who sins acts like a fool to medieval writers. On the contrary, sinning is foolishness. One who sins is a fool, for how else can the egregious breach of the Natural Law be accounted for? It is like we define autism: according to our understanding of human nature, an inability to comprehend the actions of others means a mind that is missing a crucial piece of functioning.* In the Middle Ages, it seems, an ability to act contrary to the self-evident Natural Law that was divinely ordained for humanity's own good signalled a mind which was missing a crucial piece of functioning.

And all of a sudden, my irritation with this "troublesome" usage of the word fool has changed to intrigue and fascination. I must also pursue this. Thank you, O Blog of mine!

* This is a gross oversimplification of autism spectrum disorder, but I am just searching for a modern "disorder" comparable in its heavy emphasis on social interaction.

06 March, 2008

Dear Mr S.

Why did you have to go and spoil our wonderful relationship? I had placed you into the mental category of "People Who Might Have a Clue" but today you had to go and ruin things. Don't you care? I am willing to make this relationship work, but it's not going to be easy. You could help by taking a couple of medieval history classes before you start calling the Renaissance the "re-emergence of Reason."

Don't you know that the Scholastic theologians of the high Middle Ages displayed a respect and reverence for Reason that made it almost a god? Don't you know that never before and rarely since have scholars given such weight to Reason? You've fallen for the Renaissance propaganda, and until you realise the error of your ways, I can no longer trust anything you say about the Medieval period.

And that saddens me. It hurts real deep. I thought I could trust you, and you go and betray me with Erasmus and Foucault. Maybe we can rebuild our relationship, but it will never be quite the same again.

I thought you were different.

- Hurt

04 March, 2008


Oh, and I booked my attendance at the Medieval Congress in Kalamazoo last night. Very exciting. I can't wait for this year and I wish it were May already!


I had my lass class of the term today. What's up with that?

I did a decent job of Latin class today, I think. It was my day to teach and because I never feel like I get enough nice easy Aquinas, I inflicted him on everyone else. Well, I like doing it! We managed to whizz through it pretty quickly, and thanks to both That Horrible Philosophy Class and Excellent David, I think I sounded like I knew something.

I am going to take another stab at the UofT Latin exam again this April. Every chance I get till I pass it, honestly, since York is footing the bill. But with no formal Latin classes between now and the exam, those of us facing it have decided to meet informally to go over old exams and play scrabble. I'm seriously rusty. And hopefully I will get a chance to know my classmates better.

In other news, the absinthe party was a success, and I found a corner where I could chat with people and avoid the dancing. Absinthe is not really that tasty, unless you like licorice a lot.

And in funding news, I have not yet gotten a job, but I called a place yesterday and they said they'd get back to me this evening. Maybe I mistook what "evening" means, but I haven't heard from them yet. I will call again tomorrow. It would be nice to have a certain amount of income that I don't have to pay interest on.

28 February, 2008

From the Wellcome

Well, I am not eligible for the Wellcome Trust funding I mentioned a few posts ago. I got a very nice letter from them, apologising that I do not meet the requirements and suggesting that I can instead apply for a Research Expenses grant. I won't apply for that right now, since I'm still in the very early stages. However, I think I will when I get a clearer plan of study and I know that I'm going to be travelling to different libraries around the country. (Hello, Bodlian!)

In more hard-working news, I've started looking for work again around York. Thanks to my years in Personal Support, I am qualified for a range of jobs outside the normal bar/retail sector. I'm not exactly keen on going right back into the field, but if the hours are reasonable (and they seem to be) and the pay is better (and it seems to be), it may be worth my while. I am not excluding the possibility of bar/retail jobs, but it's worth looking elsewhere, too. Updates to follow.

27 February, 2008

"Holy crap did you feel that?!"

So I'm sitting at my desk, happily scribbling away about the past scholarship and problematic issues surrounding healing miracles in medieval lives of saints, when all of a sudden my desk starts to shake. And my chair.

Maybe there's a truck going by. No, it's taking too long. Maybe someone's jumping up and down? Why the heck would they do that at 1am?

So it subsides and I poke my head out of my door. Most of my floormates are doing the same thing.

"Did you just feel that?"
"Was that an earthquake?"
"Did anyone else feel that?"
"It wasn't just me?"
"It woke me up!"
"I thought it was someone on the fire escape!"
"My first earthquake! Cool!"
"I haven't felt that since the Halloween party!"
"Amazing how many of us are still awake at 1 am."
"Did you feel that?"

About ten of us were clustered around our stairwell, peering up and down to confer. It was really quite comical. Tomorrow I will buy a newspaper and see if it's mentioned. I didn't realise England had perceptible earthquakes.

And now, back to the difficulties in conceptualising and identifying disability in medieval hagiography.

Someone directed me to this amazing website. It seems we had a Magnitude 4.7 quake. Pretty fun.

24 February, 2008

Who called it?

I was looking through the listings for the Congress in Kalamazoo, and right there in the pre-dinner activities was "Business Meeting: Society for the Study of Disability in the Middle Ages."

That's a brand-new society, folks. I suspected that if one wasn't already formed that it would be beaten about this year. And there is one.

I'm good.

And excited.

22 February, 2008

Checking In: It's Been a Month

Here are the goals I set myself for the first month I was here:

Ten One-Month Goals: (in no particular order)
1. Establish my kitchen. Find the staples, spices, and equipment that I will need in order to successfully feed myself.
Mostly done! Some things are very hard to track down here. Status: success!

2. Join the ju jitsu club.
I've been busy settling in. And somewhat intimidated. But I emailed the instructor and got the info on where to go and when, and I'm going to give it a try in the morning.

3. Find a church.
St. Wilfrid's, across the way from Yorkminster. Lovely old building, devilish uncomfortable pews.

4. Bike around campus and learn where the important buildings (admin, library, international students office, shops) are. Most of this has been accomplished on foot.

5. Have tea with at least two classmates or housemates.
A communal kitchen makes this extremely easy. I've gone out for dinner twice, cooked with people twice, made brownies and bread to share, and spent hours just sitting at the table with people.

6. Meet with my advisors and figure out my schedule (including Latin class).Have now met three times. Am slowly getting over terror.

7. Acquire a cheap Region 2 DVD player and Season 1 of F/X: the Series. Watch it. The house has a player, and the DVDs have been ordered but haven't arrived yet.

8. Chase some ducks. Check.

9. Make my room feel like home. I need another quilt and some proper bedsheets, but otherwise a success.

10. Spend at least one morning walking around the downtown. Have spent many mornings. And afternoons. And evenings. Gotta know where to get food, after all!

All in all: success!

The Wellcome Trust

The Wellcome Trust runs a number of grant schemes to encourage serious academic study and a career in the history of medicine. Grants are awarded for research in the UK, Republic of Ireland or The Netherlands, normally within a university department with academic expertise in medical history.

They offer studentships for both Master's and Doctoral students. The deadline for preliminary application is 15 March. Unfortunately, it looks like one must apply before studies begin, which makes it look like I'm ineligible. But hopefully someone else will find this information useful.

This is quite depressing, as I have learned today that I did not, in fact, win SSHRC funding. So if you'll excuse me, I'm going to go be depressed a while and freak out about how the heck I will pay for next year.

Oh, and I booked my flight to go home for Kalamazoo. Poor timing.

21 February, 2008

Why Am I Reading the Middle English Dictionary?

That's a good question. And I'm decompressing (a wonderful participle I picked up from a book about sailing ships in space!) from my advisory meeting, so I figure I'll write a whole post.

I'm researching the history of disability, specifically in the high to late Middle Ages. England is a good little record-keeping nation, so there's lots to read, but not everything was written in Latin (heu!). On the continent there are other resources, but those would necessitate learning, say, Old French or some other bastard Latin-wannabe language. Not that it wouldn't be cool (show of hands, everyone whose second language is technically dead?), but I have a list of more important languages I need to learn as well, and time is limited. As irritating as Middle English is, it's still closer to my mother tongue than, say, Occitan. So, Middle English it is, at least for the time being.

I'm just starting out on this whole dissertation thing, which means I'm still checking out possible sources and lines of thought. When you have a concept or a field that's still rather unstudied, it gets confusing. Feminist studies? They know what they're doing, and there are tropes and methodologies and authoritative scholars. Same for history of science folks. And magic scholars. All those little fields have had at least a few decades to mature and develop. History of disability? Well, there's a handful of us. People are starting to publish. There're a few secondary sources.

All this makes it difficult to simply pin down who and what we're talking about. One of the ways I can narrow my field is to look in the dictionary. What words were people using to describe or label the physical conditions I'm curious about? What other contexts to they appear in? If a word has 5 possible meanings, are any of them related in a conceptual way? And in which genres of literature do my words of interest appear? There's a lot of questions there, and if I knew more about lexicography I'd have a better idea how to answer them.

My advisory meeting today went okay. It was revealed that no, I do not have much familiarity with Middle English. I think my advisors realised that I'm feeling a little overwhelmed with the enormous list of things that I need to explore, and that I need to focus on just a handful of things at a time. Otherwise I'll just sit there surrounded by a mass of books looking bewildered. I've got a short list of things to do before the next meeting. I hope my search for secondary sources will be more fruitful this year than it was last year.

Oh, and there is also potential for presenting at Kalamazoo next year, through one of the groups my advisory heads. Cool beans, though it might be a bit of a stretch for me to fit under the umbrella.

(Plus, guys, it's really cool that I'm starting to see random people wander their way over to my blog. Woot.)

20 February, 2008


I have a meeting in the morning with my supervisors. My notes for this meeting are roughly four and a half single-spaced pages, and I feel that's not half enough. I wonder if I'm going to spend the next three years feeling like that. I feel like I didn't accomplish nearly enough in the two weeks since we met last. I want to be a good student. I want to make my supervisors think they made the right choice by accepting me. I hope I can manage that somehow.

I've spent the past two weeks with my head buried in a dictionary, and it was such a relief tonight to just sit down and translate some Latin. I don't like Middle English very much, for the record. It's a sloppy language.

I wish I had more of a linguistics background, specifically lexicology. It would be easier to describe what I found in the dictionaries if I knew the proper terms for different kinds of nouns or different uses of adjectives. I'm really glad I know as much as I do. Knowledge is never wasted, folks, even from those courses you take just for the heck of it.

19 February, 2008


Today someone mentioned asking for a Lewis and Short* for Christmas. That made me think to check abebooks.com and alibris.com to see if any were available and what the asking price was. abe had nothing. Alibris had a copy for $40.


This book normally sells upwards of $250. Used, you're lucky to find it at $150.

Naturally, I bought it on the spot. This sort of book is an invaluable tool, a career investment.

I own a Lewis and Short!

* The ultimate Latin dictionary, for those not familiar.

12 February, 2008

If I make a donation, do I get to plunder, loot, and pillage?

This week sees the 23rd Annual Jorvik Viking Festival in York.

There will be nutters in the streets in pointy helmets.

I'm so there.

11 February, 2008

Well, it's finally happening

Tonight we had an extended discussion regarding "puddings." I have know what a "pudding" is for some time now, but it's still very weird to hear in context. J. was looking for cream so he could pour it on a pudding. Cream is a popular condiment, it seems. People pour it on angel food and sponge (omitting the designator "cake"), on pie, on sticky toffee pudding, on ice cream (ice cream "isn't moist enough"). Unsweetened cream. Meanwhile, they have no concept of what North Americans mean by "pudding," and I ended up explaining it as "sort of a runny custard, but with chocolate or other flavours." And they were quite weirded out when I mentioned putting sharp cheddar on apple pie.

We also discussed biscuits today. Hearing cookies referred to as biscuits hasn't been a problem so far, partly because of my poor Nana's experience all those years ago. But then I tried to explain North American biscuits and came up short again. "Like scones, but not sweet, and not as good" is what I came up with.

Anyone have any better ideas?

And finally, as regards the title of this post, I am, at last, starting to pick up an accent. It's a weird little accent, since most of the people I live with speak with an RP accent, or with a North American one. There's at least one German, and there's a Dutch accent in one of my classes. (It's actually kind of comforting to hear those accents, since they remind me of l'Arche!) And there's a dizzying variety of accents on the telly. And many people in town speak with a Northern accent. And somewhere in the back of my head live Aunt Florence and Uncle Kevin and the cousins, but especially Flo's Cape Breton accent. So I'm coming out with this rather garbled strange accent, and it'll be interesting to see where it settles in the end.

And completely random, but there's another person in the house who's a Slings & Arrows fan! She has only seen Season One, so we are going to take over the telly some night, bwaha!!

10 February, 2008

Research adjustment

Being a "research student" is something of an adjustment. On the whole, I enjoy it a lot, though there's something comforting and familiar about classwork.

I am responsible to myself. I have to keep myself organised and motivated. On days when I don't feel like doing much, I still need to push myself. I also have to direct myself as to what to do. Do I look at this? Read that? What's most important? It's interesting, to be sure. Last week was a little slack and confusing, but I have a game plan for next week, which will help.

I like the general lack of pressure.

It's strange, having advisors. When I worked with David, I knew him well enough that I was comfortable just asking random questions and learning from him. I still am, and I still do. It's weird trying to form that sort of relationship now by necessity. Yes, I can ask questions when I feel in a jam, that's what they're there for.

I've got a lot I can learn from them about how to do research for this sort of massive project, where you have to be able to account for just about everything and anything marginally related. You might not write about it, but you have to know about it, in case someone asks.

Oh, and I'm not the only one to want to throw Piers Plowman against the wall in a bewildered rage. I'm comforted to know that.

I have been remiss (queck!)

I've been informed by reliable sources that my blog is checked for updates far more often than I post. This makes me feel all special and stuff, so here I am posting.

I am on tenterhooks with regards to funding. If I don't magic me up some moolah this year, I'm honestly not sure what next year is going to look like. No way can I earn enough working part-time to pay for another year, even with the pittance OSAP is willing to extend to overseas students. I'm more or less already at the max of what my credit union's willing to give me. However, I'm doing what I can. Every scholarship I am eligible for is being applied to. I spend very little these days, and most of it on food (necessary). I'm still looking for a job.

On the subject of food, it's an interesting thing to compare to back home. You'll have heard that the cost of living in the UK is high, but it's only partially true. The cost of food is actually quite reasonable. I'm consistently surprised by how cheap my grocery bill is, even when I double it into dollars. Electronics, however, are obscene. They cost roughly twice as much as in Canada. Booze? Par with home. Books? Still pricey.

Something that surprised me, but I'm really enjoying, is the preponderance of fair trade goods. They are priced almost the same as "regular" stuff, but you know your pounds are being well-spent. There's also tons and tons of second-hand shops, most of them charity. This is going to help when I need clothes, I think. I've fallen in with hippies, and it's great!

I've been spending a large amount of time in the kitchen. There's just something about kitchens that is warm and comforting and homey. I'm learning to bake with an old-school gas cooker, which is interesting. I'm getting better with it, and my baking has so far turned out okay. Tonight's Mexican Chocolate Brownies were well-received, to be sure.

And as a final note of hilarity, I present to you another contender for "Best Manuscript Illustration." Scroll down to the seventh image, and click to enlarge it. To quote the inimitable Melissa: "I don't know why I find that so funny that some guy in a scriptorium a thousand years ago decided that that particular duck needed a speaking role," but I'm glad he did.

06 February, 2008

Dear You (pl.)

Please, please let me do my thing. I'm finding stuff that really excites me, and it's exactly what I'd hoped for. I feel like I've been give a jigsaw puzzle without a picture on the box. When all the pieces got dumped out, some were face down. I'm starting to get some turned face up, so I can at least start looking for pieces to go together! Don't make me read any more tales, I'll get to them if they're relevant, I promise.

Just let me keep turning pieces over.

My background in religion is merging with my time working with Excellent David and his insights, and even that horrible philosophy class from last year. My codicology and my social history classes have added to me. And my palaeography time with Excellent David leaves me able to puzzle out a good portion of script. I'm so ready to just jump in, please let me.

Sincerely (really!),

Your supervisee

05 February, 2008

My life in my hands...

I took my bike out today. I figured it had been long enough, eh?


First I had to get it up the stairs from the cellar. Oh drat, it's raining (and slippy). Perilous. Then I had to re-attach the sensor for the bike computer. Then switch the wheel around so it would actually sense something. Then realise the rear tire was deflated. Then try to pump it up (good investment, there).

At last I set off. Didn't feel safe just riding off into traffic, so I used a crosswalk to get to the other side of the street. I was okay at first, though a little nervous. Then I noticed it was rush hour. And dusk. Oh, my headlight is out of juice. And I was nervous about all the cars which made me less steady. Didn't take long for my nerves to go, and I veered off onto a side street. Got my bearings, decided to abort mission and head for home. Except the most known route back was the way I'd just came, and no way in hell was I going back there. Took a wrong turn along the river. It was pretty, and I'd love to go back. Got going in the right direction. Got turned around again. Found the city centre. Went the wrong way. And again. (They don't always bother labelling streets around here.) Finally! I know where I am!

Tomorrow I will try again. In the light and the non-rush hours.

04 February, 2008


Today my palaeography class went to the Minster Library to look at some manuscripts. They were all circa 1500, on a variety of topics.

Outwardly the most interesting was the Wycliffite Bible with the signature of Queen Elizabeth I on a page of 1 Thessalonians.

Most amusing was the book of hours, and most entertaining, partly because I'm familiar with books of hours and had stuff to look for and compare, and party because it was a contender for "best illustration." The apostles and early saints each got illuminated miniatures and little bios, and there was one poor fellow whose head got chopped off. He's depicted with a bloody stump of a neck, holding his head in both hands. Oddly enough, the halo was still up where the head should have been.

The other rival for "best illustration" was a book of medieval healing recipes. Lotta weird stuff, and it was a heavily used book. A large number of distinct hands wrote in the margins, marking places for easy recall. Mostly they did this in words, but occasionally pictorally. In one case, there was a dead cow, flat on its back with its legs in the air, with a cloud above it raining on it. I'm not sure what exactly this was meant to mark, but it's a great picture.

And most useful was a copy of John Mirk's Instructions for Parish Priests. At least, it said John Mirk on the handout, but it was in Latin (not Middle English) and it was prose (not poetry), and the title stamped on the cover was not "John Mirk." This makes it even more interesting than Mirk, because I have a published copy of Mirk already and this is new. I'll be going back for this one.

Now, this class is a palaeography class, not a codicology class, so I know this was a first for a lot of my classmates. I, however, got my book (the Mirk) and instinctively started doing a manuscript description of it. I can tell you how many quires it has, the pricking pattern, the catchwords, etc. It was kind of nice to sit down with something and be able to look at it more deeply than just "Oooh pretty book." To know what the questions are. To know where to go for the answers. It was a good feeling.

My prof came over and asked if I'd found anything interesting, and I pointed out a couple things which she then explained to me. I kept a straight face and refrained from pointing out that I knew why they were interesting and that's why I pointed them out in the first place. It's nice to think I got some useful education at UofT, stuff that will stand me in good stead.

Thanks, Scary David.

03 February, 2008


First really bad bought of homesick today.

My boyfriend and my best friend went to the symphony orchestra last night, and today they were both on camera together, having breakfast. When there's just one person on the other end, it's not too bad, it's like a phone call.

But when it's two people, and they're interacting, I can feel how much I'm missing, how much I wished all three of us could be having breakfast together.

I love it here. I'm settling in and I'm having lots of fun. There are so many adventures to be had!

I just wish the people I love could be here too so we could share them.

This is the first time I've really felt homesick, and I need to go out and do something or I'll just sit here and cry.

01 February, 2008

The Worship of Mammon

Constantine has a house mascot. His name is Mammon. He is not, himself, a a god of lust and avarice, but he does look pretty demonic.

And we don't worship him so much as dress him up in funny costumes. Tomorrow night is Canada Night, and he is going to be dressed as a Mountie. (The charred-looking marks are from when he was decorated with firecrackers one holiday.)

There is an ongoing struggle with Mammon. Originally he was a prop for the student theatre troupe, the Lords of Misrule. But he was left in a dusty cupboard and eventually someone from Constantine brought him home. There are, however, certain parties that maintain he belongs with the Lords (even though most of our house is involved with Lords). He was hidden most of last term to prevent his abduction.

Yesterday the chief party promoting Mammon's return to the Lords was present, but made the mistake of leaving the room at one point. A fellow resident ran in, looked around, grabbed Mammon, and ran off.

Those of also in the room looked at each other and decided it was a good time to go get chips.

30 January, 2008


Mmm, delicious pub chips. No, for the zillionth time, I did not have fish. I don't like fish. I don't care if it's traditional. All I wanted were the chips. :)

And they were delicious. Simply lovely.

My tuition fees are due tomorrow and I'm not sure yet how I'm going to get those paid. Is a puzzlement.

29 January, 2008

A shared kitchen: reflections

Those of you who know me might be surprised, but I have become very, very tidy in the kitchen. There are 20 or so people who use the same kitchen, so courtesy is what makes it work.

I always, always do my dishes right away, unless they're up in my room. The only way I can avoid guilt over dirty dishes is to make sure I never, ever leave any. The sink is quite often full of dirty dishes, and I know I'd eventually start feeling guilty about them and clean the whole mess. But if I always clean up, I know for certain that nothing in the pile is mine. Saves me work in the long run.

That said, I also really like having surfaces clean, and it really bothers me when people leave crumbs or smears of sauce. So I end up doing a certain amount of cleaning up after others anyway, but only when it directly affects me, because we have a cleaner who does the counters and tables.

In other news, my house is going out to the pub on Monday. There's a local place that hosts live folk music every Monday and Thursday, so we're going as a group. I have also emailed Heather Dale about it, because she is always looking for new venues and I know she's touring the UK this year. Woot!