So many things going on!!

So I totally planned to put up a tutorial video last week, did my make up, got my camera out and everything, then I never got a chance to film it. This past week and a half, I’ve been swept up in the current of events again and haven’t had any time to think about filming/editing a video, or doing much else, either. Here’s why:
1. My dissertation: The big thesis project thing that I have to write at the end of my Master’s degree. Guess what? That is now. And it needs my full attention. But it’s not getting it, because I am lazy and/or ADHD, so decided it was more important to do the rest of this list…
2. I wrote a #1 bestselling lesbian erotica story last week, edited it, got a friend to proofread, designed the cover myself and threw it at the Internet in the hope that it would land somewhere half decent. It did. I have shifted 500 copies in the last 8 hours alone. Why did I do it? To see what happened if I did. Wish Ulla was here to see this day.
3. I’m going on an away weekend with the sailing cru this weekend. It’s gonna be hella awesome (always is) and probably exhausting (always is) and hopefully nothing will capsize this time, but obviously there’s this tiny voice in the back of my mind, telling me to get on with my research.
4. My husband has accepted (like, on Wednesday) a fantastic job half-way around the world, and we have 4 months to empty the house, rent it out or sell it, and emigrate abroad. Emigration is the week before my MSc dissertation is due, so… no pressure to get THAT done early.
5. I have been researching glitter eyeshadows. I really want to buy some glitter eyeshadows and didn’t know where to look (there’s a difference between shimmer and glitter… shimmer is bad as you age, but glitter is good. And we’re talking grown-up glitter here). The options I’ve found are Make-Up For Ever Glitter, Make-Up For Ever Diamond Dust, Stila Magnificent Metals Glitter and Glow Liquid Eye Shadow, Sephora’s own brand glitter eyeshadows and Urban Decay’s Moon Dust Powder. Has anyone tried these? If I can’t find any info on which ones will give me the look I want, I’ll buy a selection (expensive though!!) and report back to y’all on what’s good. It’s sorta ridiculous that this is THE MOST IMPORTANT THING IN MY LIFE right now, given the points listed above.

So I will definitely get a half-decent article out at some point this week (it’s a shame because I’d just started posting more often than once a week or fortnight then life happened again). It will probably involve glitter eye makeup or a review of the exciting Korean sheet masks I bought today.

Review: Dracula and Frankenstein: Penguin Clothbound Classics

I spotted these Penguin Clothbound classics on Amazon, and I decided to take a look at them.

penguin clothbound classics review frankenstein and dracula

I’m a voracious reader. I always thought I would be the last person to embrace the new trend of eBooks. I still write some of my books on paper before I type them up, and I do all my planning on paper, too, and type that up. There’s something reassuringly solid about a nice book, with pages that can be turned. However, there’s distinct advantages to ebooks when you read in the quantity that I do. If you only have 1 chapter left, you don’t have the dilemma about whether to cram 2 books into your handbag for the day, or whether to risk having nothing to read at lunchtime. Physical books take up far too much room if you can’t afford a large house. Before I moved in with my husband, I moved around a lot, because I didn’t really have anywhere permanent to live, which meant that about once every three months, I would have to fill up a stacking crate or two with books, and carry them (I didn’t own a car) to a charity shop. I feel sad when I think of all the books I no longer have, books I liked, and would like to read again, because I simply didn’t have the space to keep them all. I still remember dragging those heavy boxes of books, my arms nearly falling off under the weight, to make sure they found a new home.

I had a very strict rule, though; if I couldn’t carry it, I couldn’t keep it. That was borne from being homeless and destitute a few too many times, because when you get somewhere to live after being homeless, especially if some charitable agency donates clothes or books to you, it’s easy to accumulate a lot of things again in a short space of time, but not necessarily the most useful or appropriate things. You feel bad about getting rid of them, though, and so I wouldn’t. Then, every time I ended up homeless again, usually because my mother hadn’t paid our rent, or she’d threatened to stab the landlord/lady who owned the place we were living in, or she’d been offensive or violent toward another resident in wherever we lived, we’d end up homeless again. And when there were so many objects, it was hard to know what to take when we had limited space and only very short amounts of time.

As an adult, then, I held fast to that rule, and because I had to move so frequently for work, I found it difficult to let the books go, but sometimes you have to make hard decisions when you haven’t quite found a place where you and things go together (shameless Breakfast at Tiffany’s reference… another book I no longer have).

Then, one day, about six and a half years ago, I found a place where I and things might go together, only my husband had already filled it all with his things and there wasn’t really any room for me and I didn’t feel it was my place to say anything. So about eighteen months later, when we had to move to a different city for teacher training, we upsized and rented an enormous house, many times the size of the one we have now. That house had about 4800 feet of floor space excluding the garages which the landlord retained. It had two kitchens, a laundry, servants’ quarters (we kept the bunny down there), and the sort of staircase with a huge sweep to it. We accumulated a lot of stuff but I was still reluctant to indiscriminately bring things into the house. I will never forget the time I came home from a long day and found that my husband had ordered eight enormous bookcases to turn one of the huge rooms of the house into a library for his 2000 books. To match, he added a handmade wooden dining table which seated twelve. I was initially apoplectic at all this unexpected furniture, but I got used to it.

This was when we had money, and prospects, and all sorts of other wonderful things (like a future). Those things have all been in extremely short supply for the last few years.

We moved to this (much smaller, but still fine for 2 people, at 600 feet square) house in late 2013 and because we were both working 14 hours a day, five days a week, we had to move overnight (we did it ourselves as we had no money for a removal van) and we literally just moved everything with no thought as to what to keep. I put in a lot of hard work clearing out our house over the last couple of years to declutter it of all the things we had accumulated when we lived in that proper house. One of my hardest tasks was to read the first three chapters of every single book in my husband’s 2000-book library to decide which ones were worth keeping. I pared it down by about 60% (and ended up reading most of the books we kept). The thing is, those 2000 books (now about 800) were all sci-fi and fantasy novels, of varying quality and noteworthiness, so we didn’t have copies of quite a few very common books, but we did have duplicates of Terry Pratchett and Douglas Adams, amongst other things. Since my husband came with such an enormous library, I haven’t felt able to buy books for myself. Ebooks came to the rescue, on that score, and before I got Kindle for PC/iPhone, I missed so many new book releases because I felt bad for adding to the unmanageable collection of books we already had.

So with all that in mind, it feels a little bit ridiculous that I recently realized the value in having a nice set of decorative novels around the house. So when I learned about the Penguin Clothbound Classics, I was very taken by the design. I took a look through the list to see which books had been clothbound, and imagine my surprise when I found they’d picked Dracula and Frankenstein.

penguin clothbound classics review frankenstein and dracula

Frankenstein is a book that made a big impression on me when I first read it at fourteen (ditch the popular version retold a thousand times in film). It’s about a construct whose story reflects the otherness and isolation of trying to live in a world which often seems as though it’s made for a different type of person.

penguin clothbound classics review frankenstein and dracula

What I really love about this version is it has anatomical drawings on the cover, of hearts, but they’re not pretty puffy hearts, they’re biology diagrams of hearts. I thought that was especially appropriate for the subject matter.

penguin clothbound classics review frankenstein and dracula

Bram Stoker’s Dracula is a story I started reading on my Kindle for iPhone about a year ago. I love that you can get free ebooks of all the great classics, but the Kindle version of Dracula that I got was really badly formatted and I gave up after about 30 pages. I think some books are better suited to being in paper form, so I’ve bought this version. The cover is all black, and while the design is not as inspired as that on the Frankenstein, I still rather liked it:

penguin clothbound classics review frankenstein and dracula

penguin clothbound classics review frankenstein and dracula

Here’s the title page inside each book:

penguin clothbound classics review frankenstein and dracula bram stoker

penguin clothbound classics review frankenstein and dracula mary shelley

Here’s a page at random from Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein, to show the text size and layout quality:

penguin clothbound classics review frankenstein and dracula mary shelley

I’m really looking forward to reading Dracula next!

I’ve got a bunch more of these on my mental wishlist, but at £11.99-£14.99 I could only let myself have 2 this time. Perhaps I’ll have the whole set before we emigrate, which is very likely to be August now, but probably not. There’s about 40 of them all told, which is £800-£1000, and there’s no way I can spend that much money on books!! I can’t talk about where we’re emigrating at the moment because it’s all working out, for the second time in my life something is actually working the way it ought to, and I don’t want to jinx it all, but I promise I’ll tell you all before we depart.

Here’s Dracula on Amazon.com. Apparently Frankenstein is out of print in the US but it’s here on Amazon.co.uk.

The holidays have officially begun!

My projects are all finished, the tree is up, there are fairy lights adorning the walls, and while I was researching something unrelated, I found this really profound quote from the eminent phenomenologist J.D. Lewis-Williams:

“All communities are obliged to formulate definitions of consciousness, various kinds of altered consciousness and madness, whether explicitly or implicitly, for these mental conditions are inescapably part of being human. At the same time, those definitions are always a site of contestation. The resources on which Upper Palaeolithic individuals drew in the construction and transformation of acceptable and powerful social identities therefore doubtless included definitions of various kinds of consciousness. As in many societies and subcultures today, altered, or ecstatic, states of consciousness were a manipulatable resource. Indeed, any account of the past that omits consideration of altered states of consciousness is likely to be incomplete (cf. Sherratt 1991: 52). The hostility of some researchers to discussion of altered states is obscurantist.”

— J.D. Lewis-Williams, 1997, page 812.

I had the distinction of meeting Professor Lewis-Williams in a pub back in 2008 or possibly 2009, and I am sorry to say that I did not understand phenomenology in the slightest, although he explained it very patiently. Maybe that was the point of the conversation, since I started out thinking I understood phenomenology and finished the first pint of beer whilst realizing I had less comprehension than John Snow. Revisiting the whole concept this week has been enlightening, though I’m sure if I met him again I’d discover that I still don’t understand it.*

Happy beginning of December, everyone!

 

*Due to the Spiral Curriculum.

Full reference:

Lewis-Williams, J.D. (1997) “Agency, art and altered consciousness: a motif in A7 (Quercy) Upper palaeolithic parietal art”, Antiquity 71. 812.

 

To PhD, or not to PhD? That is the question.

Dear The Internet,

My birthday was a lovely day, but I had to still work over some of it, as well as the day before/after, so my actual birthday time didn’t last as long as I wanted it to. I am now officially a grown-up. Mostly.

Wow so it turns out I’m doing pretty good on my essay marks. Like… if I’d had these sort of grades on undergrad, I never would have worried about whether I was smart enough to do an MSc. The difference bipolar meds have made to my ability to achieve and learn things has been profound. I think the fact that my PTSD has receded a lot (compared to even last year) has made a big difference, too. There was a 21 gun salute going on for over 10 minutes beside the department, timed right in the middle of my Evolution class today, and I did not dive under a table. I wanted to… but I didn’t. I definitely got stressed and stopped concentrating, but I didn’t even need to stick my fingers in my ears or show any outward signs of how I felt. And that’s fucking progress.

I mean, I can’t not be happy with the grades I got today… I can’t actually get a higher grade at this point, so going for essay feedback was a strange experience, especially since the university is a lot more diverse now and 90% of the faculty aren’t former Oxbridge dons any more (the dons have mostly retired). So from not having gotten a poor mark, and not having the same type of staff, today (essay marks/feedback day) didn’t go as expected. I didn’t spend all afternoon sitting in various offices around the department being questioned as to why I bothered coming to university if I was going to hand in such complete shit. It was refreshing, but it also wrong-footed me, because I’m so used to getting everything wrong. Since when did the university get so touchy feely?

The thing is, the only thing that’s changed in the 7 years between undergrad and now is everything. Okay, that was a terrible hyperbole and also possibly a bit inaccurate, but y’all know how much I hate deleting sentences once I started them. I’m not sure I can quantify the changes. The university is more relaxed, that’s for sure, and there’s more friendly staff instead of grumpy ones. But their standards are inescapably higher than when I last attended. I don’t think they would let someone on to their undergraduate degree with my high school grades any more. There’s just too much competition for places (and only 1 in 30 got a place the year I applied), so it’s a bit surreal being on a course with people with 1st class degrees and high 2:1s, knowing I’m probably the very least qualified person out of the 140 master’s students in the department. And I’m still getting A-plus grades. Sorry, I’m not trying to gloat, but I know some of you were rooting for me to do this MSc and I wanted to, but I wasn’t so sure it was a great idea (and others of you were convinced it was only going to end in smoking ruins where the university used to be). So I thought it was worth an update.

I am pretty sure the reason I’m a better academic writer these days is down to having worked as a teacher, followed by my recent experiences in academic publishing. I read a lot of articles and I get to fix them and make sure they’re at their best when they get published. That makes a person better at spotting mistakes in their own work. I can’t deny that writing my romance novels definitely improved my overall quality of written work, as well. It’s easier to improve when someone points out specifically what you need to do to fix something, than when someone just yells at you for doing it wrong again, or ignores you.

So anyway, I went to a lecture this morning where one of the department’s more research-focused members of staff explained the procedure for applying for a PhD. And now I’m considering it. Is that such a bad thing? Yay women in science and all that jazz… Except… well… we were planning to move to Canada (or maybe New Zealand) next September, and if I’m doing a PhD for the next few years, that’s going to cause problems. Unless I do one in Canada. But their funding is idiosyncratic – some of the deadlines were in August which is probably fine if you’re on a two-year master’s degree but we cram them into one year over here. Anyway, trying to do my branch of obscure science in Canada makes finding a PhD all a bit more difficult because my subject is defined as something totally different in North America, and I don’t think the stuff I’m currently doing really exists over there, because whatever you think I do, it’s probably not what I do (except one of you. One reader knows what my research interests are, because we hang out sometimes IRL). Case in point: for my master’s thesis, I’m studying a supercomputer.

So the decision over whether to stay and get a PhD or emigrate and get a happier life is currently proving difficult. Britain is really shit right now for those of us with a foreign name, and I don’t see it maturing like a good bottle of wine any time soon, but if I want to do a funded PhD I would need to stay put a while longer. So I’m probably not going to get a PhD, which is a shame because there’s a past version of me who is yelling at me from the entire 90’s, because she’s very disappointed that I didn’t choose education/career over love. Actually, I’m pretty happy with my career and prospects at the moment, so she can shut the Hell up. My publishing placement’s going great and my writing’s mostly where I want it to be; I just wish I had more time for it but that was always the trade-off this year. I guess the PhD would have been utterly gratuitous. My husband’s probably right; I’d get bored in 6 months, and then I’d get distracted by writing again.

Good Luck America!

Just a little picture I made for all my American readers today:

Good luck America go vote!

What are you waiting for? Thanksgiving?

Is it me or was the last election way more exciting? I stayed up through the night listening to live radio broadcasts of the vote counting and I cried a bit when Obama won because I knew he was the right guy for the job, but there’s so much institutional racism in America that I honestly didn’t expect him to get anywhere.

Also if you happen to stick a sticker on Susan B Anthony’s grave* I’m pretty sure you get 1000 points to Gryffindor and a pair of odd socks.**

*Pretty sure that would be some sort of crime in my country, and that you’d find angry people yelling at Matt Le Blanc about it.

**Or double, if you get this reference.***

***Potter for President!

First frost of winter

Hello lovelies hope you are all wrapped up warm and toasty this morning. I got up and looked out of the window, only to discover that all the car windscreens are frosty! Unfortunately, the sun is low in the sky but really strong so if there was any frost on the blades of grass, it has melted and they all just look soggy/damp. Hello, world, this is not photogenic! So instead of sharing beautiful landscape photographs, I’m going to will the postman to bring my new tripod sooner, and I’m dreading that moment in twenty minutes when I have to put my tea down, cast off my blanket and venture out into the freezing cold world and cycle to my work placement (we still don’t have a car).

Frozen winter meme cold winter is coming Elsa
I don’t own these images. Top: Disney. Bottom: CNN

What’s the world looking like where you live? Is it winter there yet? Let me know in the comments (and link me to any photos you’d like to share! I love seeing people’s photos)!

His Naughty Little Friend

When I was a housewife, before I started my master’s degree (which should basically have the title, ‘Lucy wants a master’s’), I had a lot more time to pay attention to my rabbits. Now, I am still a housewife (in the sense that I take care of it, because I like how it grounds me) but I’m also doing my MSc in Obscure Science (not housewifery or even midwifery, either of which would be useful), and I have a social life now thanks to the university’s writing (Lucy starts a book club) and sports societies (Lucy goes sailing), and doing a placement at an academic publishing house (Lucy wants a career), where I code their website and copyedit bibliograhies into English from bizarre languages; then I’m also applying for grad schemes with Severn Trent (Lucy still wants a career) and writing my romance books (Lucy… writes something??). While I’m cooking his dinner or sorting out the dishwasher in the evening (Lucy’s a fifties housewife again), I tend to look out of the window and see the rabbits. It’s the only time of day I tend to notice them now, but don’t worry, they’re not being ignored. Ricky – I mean my Dearest – can spend lots of time with them because he’s getting hardly any work due to having a very foreign last name which is career-fatal in post-Brexit-vote-Britain (Lucy and Ricky still want to move to Canada).

Poppy and Fifer are the only two rabbits living in the huge indoor-outdoor enclosure (Lucy gets a rabbit… or 4), who live in the big shed in our garden which I think the council built in the fifties so housewives got some reprieve from their husbands filling their home with tools (like mine does, since our shed is home to our rabbits). After Fifer lost Katie (Douglas Adams never had to write about these sort of problems) I thought he’d never love again, then Poppy appeared. The bunnies love each other so much it makes my heart grow three sizes just to see them grooming each other. Until Timmy goes outside. Then sparks fly because Poppy is a romantic at heart.

Poppy is a very determined rabbit (by Fifer’s standards). Fifer wants her all to himself, and she wants some sort of three-way with Timmy (our indoor rabbit). If Timmy is outside, every time Fifer hops away from the fence for a few minutes, his naughty little girlfriend is straight over to where Timmy is sitting, and she’s trying to get out of the rabbit run to be with him. I think she might be a polyamorous rabbit, but Fifer has no interest in a guy-on-guy relationship.

I think in Poppy’s mind, there’s no problem with having two boyfriend rabbits and she can live a life of luxury. I guess she’s a little bit of a bored housewife sometimes too (maybe she can be Ethel in our Lucy analogy; she’s also a housewife) and wants something more than a giant rabbit hutch, 24/7 indoor/outdoor access, an attentive (if slightly overprotective) boyfriend and a nice view of the rest of the garden. She wants the excitement of a second relationship with Timmy. She adores Timmy just as much as she loves Fifer. Fifer, however, disagrees, and he’ll chase her away and bite her if he catches her showing an interest in Timmy.

little Timmy and his bed
Timmy lounging on his bed in the living room next to a pile of his toys.

Anyway, it’s been even more fun this weekend, as we had to put Poppy and Fifer in the kitchen due to the November 5th fireworks. Guy Fawkes night is a British thing where people celebrate that something horrible happened to someone for standing up for what he believed in, because people need to know that conformity is hella important and whatnot. I was raised Catholic by my strict Irish grandma (who looked after me in fits and bursts when my mother was lounging around the house sleeping her life away and waking up to shout at us, hit us or lock us out and tell us how lucky we were to not be Chinese, where, apparently, people were starving. Long story short, my grandma stepped in whenever we started missing school, but sent us home again every time my mum promised she’d changed).

My grandma was an amazing woman (I’ve kept her last name after I got married, in the matrilineal style – when I was engaged, one of my biggest worries was how to respect my husband by taking his name while still honoring my grandma by keeping hers, so I split my double-barrel, dropped the side I had no affinity for, and replaced it with my husband’s name). So, anyway, I digress a little, but the point is, when you’re raised Catholic by a grandma who never moved on from the fifties and sees *everything* you do, you tend not to burn Guy Fawkes for being a Catholic criminal. She was more vigilant than the nuns that I knew, but like the nuns, she was lovely until you were naughty, and she was lovely again straight after. My grandma died in ’99, when I was twelve, but as far as I know, my entire extended family has never made a Guy to burn.

Maybe it’s my old-fashioned upbringing, but as an adult, I find the idea of burning an effigy of Guy Fawkes to be in very poor taste. We wouldn’t stand for people doing that to Saddam Hussein, for example, we’d say it was racist jingoism, but Guy Fawkes? Get kids to scrounge money by walking him round in a wheelbarrow then set him on fire. Because it’s British.

Poppy is his naughty little bunny
Poppy wants her picture taken.

Anyway, the rabbits are terrified of fireworks and last week the neighbors on one side decided to have huge loud expensive fireworks aimed over our garden, and I was being pelted by shells of fireworks and getting sparks inches from my face and explosions a couple of feet above my head while I was trying to get the rabbits in, so we planned ahead and got them in early this weekend, to make sure my PTSD wasn’t triggered by a giant dick with too many fireworks. Because of our brand spanking new door between the kitchen and the living room, with the see-through glass panels, the rabbits can now see one another when the door’s closed. I open their indoor hutch because I don’t agree with confining them just because the rest of the world is setting off incendiary devices for entertainment. To be honest, the heat level in the kitchen is far too hot for outdoor rabbits so I try and keep the thermostat low while these two are inside. So while Poppy is hopping around in the kitchen, she can get a glimpse of Timmy, but Fifer can’t smell him, so he doesn’t know. But his naughty little girlfriend sits by the kitchen door and watches Timmy while he sleeps (Timmy sleeps a lot). If only Fifer knew what she was doing, she would be in so much trouble!

Poppy and fifer little rabbits
Fifer decides it’s time to put his foot down