on conferencing

a couple of months ago, my best friend Ed told me that the cure to work block was to read something you were interested in, but that wasn’t directly related to what you’re working on. that’s mildly difficult for me, given that my thesis seems to go in about five different directions at once (catch me applying for conference panels not limited to: embodied emotion, the state, law, bureaucracy, early modern performance styles, spectatorship…).

of course, my research methodology has sprung out of what seems to me to be obvious and default, by dint of what I’ve been interested in over the last five-ish years. but as a result, it’s a bizarre hodgepodge of most of the things I like the most. and while it works (just about) as a methodology, it’s neither fish nor fowl and it’s sometimes a bit confusing to know where to start.

the last fortnight I’ve been scraping away at domestic tragedies with a distinct sense that there’s something I was missing, but no idea what it was.

the last two days, however, dear old Ed was proved right. I love conferences because you get to hear about a load of things you’d never have even thought about. I’ve now suddenly discovered a desire to see town plans from early modern London, Faversham and York in my period, on the one hand because it’ll be incredibly helpful for thinking about private and public space on the stage and in local government, but also because I weirdly love town planning, and because Vanessa Harding gave a truly fabulous keynote on early modern housing. Thanks to another PhD candidate, I want to go look at all the gates in the walled cities of Europe and all the instances of blushing ever in early modern drama. and I want to think a lot more about all the dead bodies in my plays, and that has nothing to do with all the murders I’ve just staged in The White Devil.

it’s also really good to have a bunch of people your age, and some supportive established academics in a room together, to ask you questions after a paper that you’re not so sure of. I’d tested my paper once before, at a research seminar in Oxford, but doing it to a room of strangers who asked completely different questions to anything I’d been asked before – invaluable. I was more nervous about this paper than any other I’ve previously given, because this is an actual chunk of my DPhil, and it’s terrifying to think that people might not like it.

the other thing is to see so many top-notch PhDs and think to yourself: yes, it’s time to gear up again. I’m happy with my progress so far this year – I passed transfer!!!!! –  but I want to be even happier with it. so now that the White Devil is over – a post to come about that particular odyssey of candlelight and murder – it’s time to oil up, as Ainsley would say, and get cracking at an even higher level. and I’m excited about that.

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a small addendum

to compound my earlier arguments that I never know how well I’m actually doing, my draft transfer essay has been declared ‘terrific’, I absolutely killed it at a conference (where I met loads of new people!!) and my supervisor told me that I write really well, even if it feels like pulling teeth.

a reminder, then: you are never as terrible as you think you are. indeed, a lot of the time you’re a hell of a lot better.

I am going to boss this dphil, and I’m going to enjoy doing so.

seventh week, sunday, and the charge of self-regulation

it’s sunday of seventh week. hilary term has disappeared, somehow even faster than it did when I was an undergrad. it’s cold in oxford, cold enough to bite, as cold as it was in the dark of early january, but the sun shines brighter every day to remind me of the passage of time, splintering my vision when i turn my head to the side as i cycle through town.

i’m not at my most well. i’m trying to make this non-medicated thing work. the benefits are notable, my motivation surging, my focus much better. my brain fires quicker than it did before. the negatives are profound. as if in some grim parody of my time as an unmedicated undergrad, i’ve dropped myself into the way i used to survive: working hard enough to obliterate all other thought. most disturbing of all, it took me the best part of five weeks to notice that wasn’t healthy.

but it’s seventh week, just starting, and i’m waiting for my supervisor meeting tomorrow. the main improvement on last term is that I can recognise I’ve got a lot of work done without my supervisors needing to tell me that. can’t yet tell if anything i’m writing is any good. my instincts tell me it’s all bollocks, but those are the same instincts that told me i had a brain tumour on and off for ten years, so i probably shouldn’t try living on my wits any time soon.

that’s the strange problem with this dphil lark. I go two or three weeks between seeing my supervisors, and in those spaces it’s up to me to work out if i’m doing enough work, if i’m doing the right work, if i’m guiding the project in the right direction. if anything i’m doing – the track i’m taking, guided by whatever interpretive impulse i seized upon that week – is right. it’s mildly soul-sucking, this interstitial existence.

the thing about this dphil nonsense is that it feels like an aleatory existence, where my mood depends on everything around me going well. a week with a good meeting, a good conference, a positive interaction is a good week. a week without these? less so

but it’s almost scarier to admit that what it really comes down to is me forcing the issue and making things good or bad. sometimes that means making sure i talk to someone that i care about that isn’t peter every day. sometimes it means giving a really good presentation at a conference. and sometimes it means accepting that i did a good day’s work and that’s all i can really do until i hear back from my supervisors about it.

the thing about the dphil is that it is mostly in my control. i can’t tell what’s good work yet. but all i can do is work as hard as is possible without harming myself.

bleh.

even if there is no purpose to the things you have gone through

I went back to my alma mater this evening to give a seminar on ‘how to get a first’. Around this time two years ago – although a little later, because for me it was the day before the Shakespeare deadline, which means it was fourth week – I say in the same seminar, in bits.

I was in bits a lot during my penultimate term as an Oxford undergrad. I’ve thought about that term a lot, and I’m not sure there’s much I really still regret. I said to the kids, jokingly, don’t direct a play in your final term at Oxford. I actually don’t regret that at all. (I do regret leaving my redrafts of my second thesis chapter to the night before, as I told those kids in the room, to the abject horror of my undergrad director of studies.)

No, I don’t think it’s constructive to regret that term. I got too much good out of it in the end. But what came after is something I don’t speak about as much.

In March 2016 my dad had an aortic dissection and nearly died. He had several mini strokes on the operating table. He was in hospital for weeks. At first he didn’t wake. He didn’t speak for a long time. It was the beginning of the finals revision period – a period where I thought I was going to get a new start at last – and I spent it in a hospital, trying to make my brain work.

I’ve said many times that my final term at Oxford was hell on Earth. That I didn’t sleep. That I had an exam discounted. But until tonight I don’t think I’ve necessarily relived it like that.

I have so few memories of my finals. I remember the haze of not sleeping and not working properly and just generally sitting there in the library feeling like the world was crashing around my ears and not really believing I had any right to feel like that. I’ve since realised I was traumatised by my father nearly dying and probably didn’t need to feel quite so bad about not getting enough work done.

In hindsight, I wonder if I should have rusticated. Not for my grades, because I did end up with the First I so desired. But for my well-being.

My finals have sat on my shoulders as an albatross since I took them. I have always been disappointed in them. And it’s because of something a beloved tutor said to me in a well-meaning attempt to encourage me.

“You could be getting 80s in these exams, Lucy.”

The tutor that said it did so in the purest spirit. But in so doing he set a ghost on the track ahead of me, a ghost I’ve never been able to reach. A ghost who wears an incorporeal copy of my face, recognisably me but unquestionably not. I’ve been chasing that ghost for the last year and a half of my life.

I’ve spent so long in thrall to a version of me that never existed, and I wish I hadn’t ever heard that encouraging statement. Or that I’d had the brains to recognise that such a statement isn’t a noose around your neck.

Instead, I laid myself, neck bared, on the altar of my own potential.

I’ve learnt a lot since then. But I still regret my finals. Even as I recognise the state I was in, somehow I blame myself for it. Somehow I still think of all I could have done.

And that’s heartbreaking. Because when I remember my finals preparation, I remember three things. I remember my seat in the Regent’s library, surrounded by paper and still there at 10pm trying to make up for a lost day. I remember sitting with my back against the kitchen sink cupboard in my third year flat, sobbing into a tub of houmous.

And I remember sitting in the cafe at St George’s Hospital, Tooting, waiting for visiting hours, with a sheet of paper in front of me where I tried to think about John Donne.

So maybe it’s time I forgive myself for my finals, and stop crucifying myself on a cross made of a mythologised version of myself. Because even if she were possible before, she’s dead now. She’s a myth created in a time now gone. And it’s time to move forward.

facing the fear

it’s first week. the beginning of hilary term is upon us. (typically for this first year of the dphil, i’m sick.) and i’m feeling… hopeful?

(the question mark has to be there, because i’ve lived this term before and it’s not always been so good. in fact, there’s something about this time of year that’s never worked too well for me as a university student. but we have to hope for change, right?)

the first term of the dphil was what i’d call a mess. i didn’t get half the reading done i wanted to and i didn’t get the lit review i had to do written before the end of term. hell, i didn’t even get it done til 0th week (i.e. three damn days ago). i had extension after extension, because last term was rough. migraines, flu three times, mental health issues, and adjusting to a new antidepressant that gave me chronic nightmares. it was hell.

so i didn’t work as well as i, in all my infinite self-loathing and ridiculous standards, wished to. honestly, i felt like i didn’t know shit about the state or magistracy in early modern england. i started to wonder if the whole performance angle on it was even worth pursuing. i got into a rut where every time i opened the document on my computer with my survey in it, i’d just have to look away, or start reading something new, in the hope it might make the survey better, might finally make something click together in my head.

i was so scared of being found out as a fraud, or finding out for myself that my project was absolute wank – which, in fairness, it could still turn out to be – that i couldn’t write to find out what i’m actually doing! i couldn’t look at my notes for fear of finding something that destroyed my argument. it took me ’til last week in the rad cam to look at the bookful of notes that i took last term – and to actually find more stuff that backed up what turned out to have been a good argument.

i was sitting on about 3000 words at the beginning of this week, and losing my shit over it. my supervisors had checked on me twice (i realise now a lot of it came from concern for my welfare). i had until the end of this week. so somehow, i buckled down…

and wrote nearly 7000 words.

what?

turns out i did have something to say. and it felt like the worst piece of work i’ve turned in since i wrote an essay on beckett in my first year in four hours that was based mostly on his works for radio and short plays. i couldn’t phrase myself for shit. (i think that has something to do with the fact that i’ve come off antidepressants for the first time in well over a year, and i struggle a bit with something that feels like aphasia but is mainly just nerves when anxious. i’m trying, man.)

Screen Shot 2018-01-12 at 01.01.34
this is how the survey finally left my possession. i should have been disabused of the notion that i was funny at an earlier age.

and somehow, one of my supervisors read it within twenty-four hours of submission and liked it. (coincidentally, that essay I wrote about beckett somehow got a first. turns out i can’t judge my performance for shit.)

she thought it was lucid (??????) and most importantly promising. (she didn’t take issue with me ranting about critics i hated nor my birthi she even made reference to my emerging interdisciplinary paradigm, which i wasn’t really sure i had come up with, but it turns out supervisors pay close attention to things you say in meetings. (who’d have thought?) my other supervisor said something similar in my report for last term too. they both think i’ve got something to go on.

so when i found this out – at a bus stop, in kidlington, at 6pm on a friday – i predictably armie hammered it down the pavement. (if you haven’t noticed my current obsession with call me by your name, where have you been.) i was over the moon. i’d spent weeks being convinced my supervisors would tell me i wasn’t ready for transfer of status and that i should rusticate. (in hindsight, i’m an idiot.) my project actually feels possible! i’m not a total failure like i thought!

giphy
actual footage of me on friday night. several people stared; pharoah remained unmoved.

so i’m hoping to harness this energy – not just for dancing like a 6’5″ father of two in white short shorts – to keep pushing forward. i’m excited again about what i can do with this dphil, and the next two and two third years.

and to do that i need to get over my fear of writing, and my fear of finding out i’m wrong. because i know there will be moments when i’m wrong. very wrong. (this is coming from the woman who thought she wanted to be a physicist between the ages of fourteen and seventeen. oh, the folly of youth.)

but i also need to trust my own ability to read things. because i did read the books right. i did make progress last term, even though it really didn’t feel like it. and i have to trust that sometimes the work won’t feel right but it still needs to be sent. and that noone’s going to throw me out for something ungraded. (really, i’m a bloody idiot sometimes.)

so this is my commitment to facing my fears, and to writing when i’m afraid i’ll be wrong. to reading the things that i fear will disprove me.

to facing up to the fact that i could be wrong, but also the fact that i might be okay at this.

i refuse to simply survive.

this is the second time that i’ve said one of my greatest achievements of the year is not killing myself. the second time in two years, actually. isn’t that fucking sad?

i always considered myself to be a pretty strong person. i came through 2016, and it changed somewhere around moving to london, somewhere around the dissociative fits and the abandoning myself to poor habits in every lonely evening in my glass-walled bedroom. and somewhere between then and now i became a grey cloud. a weak thing.

i wrote three and three quarter years ago that I didn’t know what shape I am with an exit wound. over a year ahead of a diagnosis of depression I already felt myself defined in some way by my mental health, by the periodic bursts of misery, by the racing thoughts and the urge to fizz out of my skin i called anxiety. i am still anxious, but i don’t think it controls me in the same way. not like depression has done.

but i will not accept it any more. i am more than misery. i am not going to die a martyr to my mental health. i came off antidepressants two weeks ago and i am starting to feel… something. like i want to write. like i want to write songs like i did prolifically during secondary school. like i want to put everything down on paper and turn music up so i can have a cry and then write something out of it. i want to feel and to express.

i’d been on antidepressants for the best part of two years, and during that time i think i’d forgotten what being me feels like. i’ve tried enough drugs now that i couldn’t tell you what was side effect, what was depression and what was me. i have no desire to continue that any more. i’ve felt like a blank page for the best part of two years, and i’m done with it.

i realised today that what i’m always questing after is life being beautiful. i’m a romantic. i take photographs of the light’s patterns on my best friend’s kitchen ceiling, i stare up at the sky and sigh noisily, i look for the moments that i can take a breath and sink into. i’ve always been able to find beauty, beauty so great it stops me in my tracks and punches the air out of my lungs. i quest for the thing i am inclined to see, if i’ll let myself.

depression hasn’t let me have that in a long while. or maybe i’ve let depression take that from me. it’s gone past the point where it’s worth examining that. but i haven’t been able to write properly for the best part of two years, and that isn’t what i want. i used to be able to write about my feelings and for the last two years it has been nigh on impossible to write about anything except love. perhaps because love was the most real sensation i felt for those two years. but i used to be able to write my feelings out and it would help.

and writing was always intrinsic to me. i have been depressed now for long enough that i’ve forgotten what some of the experiences that are inherently, undeniably me are like.

because i’ve become more stable in the eyes of many, but i’ve lost so much of my ability to be a fizzing rocket of energy. it doesn’t matter so much to me that i recover my old identity as ‘powerhouse’ that i so clung to during undergrad, valorising the ability to push myself to my limits all the time. i know that i can’t live the same way as i did then.

but i want to be enthusiastic about things again. i’m trying to cultivate contentment, reading novels again and enjoying time off, trying to write creatively on this short break from work so i can recalibrate my brain to accepting time off when term starts again. i’m trying to cultivate the depth of feelings music and nature have always sparked in me. i’m going to start going on walks with my headphones, and to museums alone again. i’m determined to enjoy things with the depth of passions i was always capable of before. i want to feel the bursting fizz of energy when i take on yet another new project (ENFP for life, baby) and i want to know that even though it will stress me out it will give me something to live for.

because i used to have so much to live for, and somewhere in the haze of the last two years i have become estranged from everything except the love i bear my partner. i think having him in my life has kept me becoming a husk because that’s the grip i have on my self, my inherent core of feeling because i have always felt more than a lot of people. and i’m going to provoke those feelings that are who i am because in the end it is passion that has got me this far in life.

and i know that if i’m to make it through this dphil, i need to have some happiness as well as motivation. so i’m going to work to restart this messy brain of mine, shooting electricity back through it to make me care in the way i have always cared too much about literally everything that’s ever made an impression upon me. i want to be impressionable and crying about movies for days again. that’s the me i recognise. the me that would yell about the early modern commonwealth at anyone who’d listen and laugh their head off doing it.

i have gone through more in the last fifteen years of my life than probably i could have done with in a lifetime. but i am done with being broken. i am done with being a grey fog of a person lying in bed and letting the misery have me. i am choosing to live and to feel again. i am choosing to be the strong girl again, because i don’t just want to survive.

i want to live.

so my goal is not to come out of 2018 feeling glad that i just didn’t kill myself. i want to come out of it feeling like i did shit that made me feel something. shit that made me feel deep in my guts and my heart and stirred me up to do something because that is who i am. not some over-achiever defined by grades, and not a pit of misery: someone who gives way too much of a fuck and does something with it. i will not always be happy, i know that much, but i refuse to accept that i cannot ever be. i refuse to accept that i will get worse. i refuse to accept that i will feel like a blank piece of paper for the rest of my days.

because i’ve just cried my fucking eyes out at call me by your name and it felt like coming home to myself.

a heathen’s peace

I’ve always had a bit of a thing for churches. basilicas. cathedrals. all of these edifices to faith really do something to me. which is potentially a bit strange, given that I’m avowedly non-religious.

but here we are, and I’m sitting in the beautiful Catedral de Murcia, gazing up at the stained glass, not really thinking about anything except the similarities between this cathedral’s architecture and that of the cathedral in Girona.

on one level, I’m deeply sceptical about state religion, and as an early modern historian I’m only too aware of what monstrosities people are capable of in the name of religion. but there’s something about building these paeans to faith that appeals to me on a very basic level.

my boyfriend is from the Outer Hebrides, where he describes death as a constant presence in the community. death on a small island is visible in the graveyards at the sea’s edge. but faith also resides in these windswept cemeteries, in the belief that these souls go with the sea’s eternal waves to some other infinity. faith is everywhere in a small island battered by sea and wind and history but still living, vivid and present.

here, under the vaulted arches, there is something beautiful about such faith. I am not religious, because I can’t believe in things that I don’t see proof for. but I am a credulous heathen, my anxious mind finding proofs and significances everywhere it looks for beliefs that have no basis in fact. it’s strange that I can believe my brain telling me I’m a failure, but I can’t believe in God.

perhaps it’s my inability to believe in something good without proof that puts this chiming in my soul whenever I set foot in a church. I’m somewhat of an aesthete, but the concept of building something so beautiful just for belief in something higher – that’s profound. I was baptised a Catholic, so perhaps it’s appropriate that Baroque splendour lights candles in my damned heart.

but I’ve always thought that maybe I’d be a Protestant, if I lived in the period I study all hours of the day. not because of any particular belief in predestination, but because of that beautiful sense of connection at the heart of it. the word of God in the ear and eye and mouth of every man.

sitting in this pew, it’s not hard to imagine the touching of the soul with belief. I’m not religious, but in here the peace is some sort of balm, a salve against my fearful, fiction-fretted brain. somehow, in this quiet, my credulous soul can flutter a little more freely.

before the altar, there’s no God in me, but there’s the contentment in my restored faith that things are probably going to be okay.

slipping back into it

I’m starting to realise it was probably incredibly naïve to assume I could just go straight back to Oxford and be able to work just like I used to.

In part, that’s because my work style did change over the course of my Masters. I learnt the value of locking myself in the British Library for hours at a time, and honestly, I miss that rigour shaping my day. I didn’t work ’til the wee hours like I did as an undergrad.

It’s also strange being so close to the centre of town. My room is incredibly central, so it’s hard to see the day as being so structured as it was when I lived miles away from the centre of London, and had to pack a lunch and snacks for my day. Now I can wander back to college for lunch – which, don’t get me wrong, is a great way to break up the day – but the outing to the library doesn’t feel like as much of an undertaking as it did before. Which I think I miss, really, as much as I detested commuting.

But I am getting back into it, slowly but surely. I’m sitting in the Upper Rad Cam, which I always associate with getting a lot of work done in a short amount of time, and I’m taking the time to make notes that have markers for where I should come back, what questions I should ask, and keeping a large Notes document on my laptop where I write the salient points and questions that come up for the defining of the project as a whole, which is what I’m struggling with at the moment.

I’m currently working towards writing a critical survey, something I’d never even thought of doing until I got to King’s. That’s one thing I’m very thankful for, actually: my masters taught me how to read, quickly, for argument and thus place it against other criticism to work out how the field is shaped. I was a quick, sharp reader at Oxford, but I never quite put it together that I needed to actually survey all the books I could find before writing the research piece. It’s a useful lesson.

I’m also trying to accept that I’m in a liminal space at the moment where I try to work out exactly what my research question is for my DPhil. It’s very easy to say ‘I work on the way early modern drama intervenes in political discourse about the state’, but what that actually means remains a question. For one thing, I’m starting to think I’ll move it around to ‘political authority’, which is what my proposal originally said. For another, I have so much to read. And for a third, I have about six billion ideas. Performance, reproduction of knowledge, public spheres… I’m having great moments of picking stuff out of books that probably will really help me, but I’m still at the stage (like, I hope, many DPhils) where I’m trying to refine my project. I’m really bad at doing that, in general, but I’m hoping I learned enough about how to do it last year, and doing this critical survey will really sort it out for me. So I’m trying to accept that I can’t know the answer for another couple of weeks yet. Which is hard, but I did it last year, and I’ll do it again.

So I’m sitting in the Upper Rad Cam, with good music and interesting books, and I think I’m getting back into the swing of things.

second week, sunday

I can see someone I know outside the window of the Rad Cam. this is nothing new; even after most of my contemporaries have graduated, a few remain, usually the ones I didn’t know so well, lurking as ghosts in the machine. time turns on, but some things are constant. when you went to a school like mine, you cannot move for someone who knows you.

time revolves, Fortune’s wave lapping against my feet. the touch is the same and not, remembrance catching at my soles then pulling away before I can get a grip on it. I’m somewhere at the mid point of the wave, somewhere between familiarity and change, somewhere in the rolling seas of memory and new thought.

in this state, the things that recur come in different forms, broken bottles shaved to sea glass. I fell in love with ‘commonwealth’ at the interval of Henry IV part II in 2014 and since then it has reappeared, again and again, always reflecting more light and casting more shadows each time as the waves of time shape it, carve it, sculpt it anew. still hewn from the old flesh, the first flesh, the sparks of life still shining from its heart into my new-old eyes. in the same places I frequented as a just-past-childhood undergrad, I sit reading about the same things that captured me then and feel the flowers unfurling further, faster, more fully than ever before. I didn’t know, at nineteen, how I’d chosen a word that had such resonance and potency in my period. I didn’t know I’d be unpicking the meaning of it for years to come, and still find it fascinating. I keep this bottle-green diamond in my hands, in my heart.

how strange to think that in that moment in the theatre I chanced upon the word that would start my career, opening up my future with every unravelling meaning.

oh, fuck me: transitions

It’s 4am on Sunday of second week. Somehow, in a haze of Latin and freshers’ events and probably a few too many oatcakes, I’ve passed the introductory stage of the first term of my DPhil, and hit it properly. And I still have no clue what I’m doing.

It’s weird being back in Oxford, in many ways. Last year I saw the place as kind of a holiday home, what with Peter living here and me visiting as much as I could. While I did work on my MA dissertation here, I still don’t associate it with work enough yet. I think that’s shifting, judging on my productive afternoon yesterday in the Rad Cam. I’m learning that I do need the right seat and to be listening to the right music to get in gear, so I intend to maintain that set of conditions. I enjoyed sitting in the window listening to Rome (as ever) and reading about the early modern state, really.

It’s also weird having so many commitments. I technically have more lesson time at the moment than I did at undergrad: as an interdisciplinary DPhil, I have to go to both History and English research seminars once a week. Add the palaeography and Latin classes, plus tutoring and orchestra, and my week suddenly looks a lot fuller. I’m hoping it’ll help me regulate my work in what is a very dislocating time: I still have to refine my project and I am in at the deep end. My supervisors have asked me to produce a critical survey in order to narrow my project properly. It’s vital for a DPhil to successfully prove their project is valuable; one of the best ways to do so is to examine the historiographical and critical engagement you’re making. I haven’t quite sorted out exactly what I mean by the state, so I’m currently sifting through books to sort that out. It’s honestly terrifying, especially because my brain isn’t yet in gear. But after this week is over I should have a lot fewer social commitments (how sad am I) that actively get in the way of my work, so I can return to bursts of sequestering myself away to get stuff done.

I was terrified this time last week, to be honest. Even earlier this week, which feels like years ago, I was a shivering wreck. But I feel like I know what to do now, if not where it’ll end up.

It’s also weird being back here as a graduate as opposed to an undergrad. Undergrads honestly seem so young now. I remarked to a friend that I’m now far too old to go clubbing (not that I ever did it frequently), and honestly, it’s nice playing board games with MCR friends on a Friday night instead of partying. I think it’s adding balance to my life. I’ve realised I can’t go to rowing this term, not until I’m settled and happy and productive. I am working on a bid for a play, though, so that’s how I know I’m feeling better about life than earlier this week.

Being here with Peter is also different. We don’t currently live together, but I spend a lot more time with him than I got to last year, and even the year before. We’re hitting a nice balance of co-habiting and domesticity, which is important for our well-being. It’s helpful that we’re both doing this crazy thing together: we have similar worries but also can help drag the other one down off the cliff when needed. And honestly, it’s so bloody lovely to have him around as much as I now get to. It’s a contentment I’d forgotten.

It’s also very strange to be a DPhil student who can legitimately talk about their research. The Early Modern British History research seminar was an awesome moment for me, as I got to ask a question of the speaker, Jonathan Healey, and later speak to him about the crossover between our projects. It’s still amazing to me that I now get to talk on the level of actual dialogue between my nascent research and an actual professional historian’s work-in-progress. That’s probably one of the most exciting things about it all – the chance to contribute to and further the academy with your own work, and to work with such a variety of talented scholars. It’s incredible. I mean, hell, I’m co-convening a seminar that’s been running since 1981 in Trinity. And I got to email a favourite academic of mine and she said YES to coming to the seminar!! So somehow it’s happening, slowly but surely, even as I’m mildly stunned by it all.

I feel like this odd transitional stage can be summed up in a chance meeting this afternoon. I walked into Second Quad and saw a young fresher I knew I recognised, but couldn’t place.

“Excuse me, didn’t you come to my school and talk about commonwealth?”

Realising that this girl had been in one of the classes I occasionally give at my old school about my research, I experienced the strangest sense of age and acquired learning. Amazed that the girl even remembered my lecture’s topic, I responded with characteristic grace.

“Oh, fuck me.”