December 30th, 2009

Roundup 2009

"What will you do when you've finished your PhD?", people asked.
"I'll throw my computer out of the window and take up strawberry farming", I declared.

I finished.

"What will you do now?", they asked.
"I'm going to party like it's 1999!", I announced.

- o 0 o -

In June, I was staying on a farm in the Cévennes, picking strawberries for jam to be sold at the farm shop in the nearby town. Does that count?

In Sweden in August I darned every pair of trousers I'd brought, and broke three borrowed needles patching up my collapsing boots. (In Lincoln in October two guys in the market fixed them in 45 minutes for a fiver).

In 2008, I took up Scottish dancing and French conversation.
In 2009, I spoke French in France (and Syria!), and ceilidh danced in Shetland.

- o 0 o -

I started writing this on the first day of Advent - a Tuesday. Picture me sitting alone in a bunker on a hilltop on St Mary's, Isles of Scilly (nb: not Sicily), with a mug of tea beside me, a ball of wool and some scraps of material at my feet. Behind me a musical corner houses a flute, recorder, guitar and an eclectic selection of music. I'm hugging a hot water bottle as the room isn't quite warm enough, and a BBC accent is reading John le Carré on the tape player. It's not strawberry season, but I've been gorse bashing and working with beautiful cows. I've been lucky enough to be welcomed here by Wildlife Trust staff, the bellringers and the newly formed craft club.
I left there at Christmas, but I plan to go back for some weeks next year.

- o 0 o -

I began this year in Co. Durham, having impulsively hopped off an Edinburgh-bound train with an unusual desire to get some work done. From Durham I travelled to Coleby, Lincoln, Southampton, Lincoln, Southampton, Dorset (Golden Gap), Ty Mawr (Wales), Totnes, Cleobury Mortimer (Shropshire), New Quay (Wales), Brecon, Morvern Penninsula (W. Scotland, via Inverness), Lincoln, Southampton, Leigh (Surrey), Lincoln and Coleby, Birmingham, Southampton, Polgooth (Cornwall), Damascus and Seydnaya (Syria), Baalbek, Brumanna, Bcharre (all Lebanon), Damascus and Mar Musa (Syria), Southampton, Helston (Cornwall), Bradley Stoke, Lincoln, Wray (Lancs), High Wray (Lake District), Beddgelert (Snowdonia), Vauxhall, Thuir (Perpignan, France), a farm in the Cévennes, Taizé (and Ameugny), Southampton, Vauxhall, Southampton, Lincoln, Voe (Shetland), Haroldswick (Unst, Shetland), Nyköping (Sweden), Junosuando (Swedish Lapland), Norderåsen (Sweden), Lesja (Norway), Leigh, Vauxhall (Meadow Road), Lincoln and Coleby, Hereford, Bradley Stoke, Southampton (Clare's), Bradley Stoke, Lincoln, Preston, Ty Mawr, Vauxhall, Brussels, Penzance, St Mary's (Scilly), Townshend (Cornwall), Bradley Stoke, Lincoln.

- o 0 o -

It's inevitable, in reflecting on the year, that my thoughts tend towards the end of the year. Events that seemed important months ago have faded. I can no longer muster aggression to chop down acres of brambles by merely thinking of my thesis. But also, seeds planted months ago have gradually come to fruition. For example - in April in Syria, I added "buy a flute" to my todo list. Now, in Scilly, I am playing my way through a book of Irish reels, as well as some other music borrowed from a local flautist for variety.

- o 0 o -

My goals for 2009 were to wake up before midday every day, and to visit all the counties of Britain that I didn't already know. I mostly managed the former but I have many places still to visit.

I'm not sure what my goals for 2010 should be. I've started a lot of sentences lately with "when I'm grown up, and have a house, and a dog... " (she's going to be a collie), so perhaps I should think about growing up and acquiring a lifestyle suited to a house and a dog. Not just yet, though...

- o 0 o -

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