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.