Tag Archives: Arctic

Sat down and wrote this today. Anyone with anything to add to this list, please do so in the comments!

You know you’ve been living in (north) Norway too long when…

1. Everyone in your house owns a viking jumper. More than one, even.

2. You buy viking jumpers for all your friends/family, irrespective of where they live, because you think they’re so great.

3. You consider learning to knit (particularly a viking jumper) even though you don’t know which end of a knitting needle is which.

4. You look at the thermometer and think ‘it’s over -5; I won’t need a coat, just my viking jumper’

5. When someone says they’re vegetarian you assume that they eat fish.

6. You think lunch at 11.30 is a bit late.

7. You think going home at 16.00 is working late.

8. You think ketchup is a perfectly acceptable accompaniment to macaroni cheese.

9. You get out the barbeque in -8 because the sun’s out, and even though you have nothing to put on it except sausages. (After all, what else can one grill?)

10. You get excited when exotic items such as dried chick peas are available in the supermarket – or anywhere.

11. You no longer spend Saturday afternoons and Sundays wondering why all the shops are shut.

12. You wonder why anyone would want to travel by plane on a Saturday.

13. You realise that everyone in your house owns a pair of skis, and you take yours with you on domestic business trips between January and March.

14. You assume that winter lasts until May – any sign of life before then is ‘early this year’.

15. You get wildly excited at the sight of the sun, but also think it’s normal not to have night for four months of the year.

16. You think nothing of paying 100 nok (£10/€12/$16) for a bottle of wine in the shop, nor of paying 3-4 times that in a restaurant. In fact, you are so used to the high price of everything that you don’t even bother to look any more.

17. Post takes over a week to get to you from Oslo, and you think this is OK because ‘ting tar tid’ (things take time).

18. Customs will hold on to your parcels for several weeks without explanation, then charge you lots of money for the privilege, and you just shrug and pay up.

19. You dream of holidaying on the Hurtigrute (coastal ‘express’ which takes 11 days to get from Kirkenes to Bergen).

20. You agree that watching a fire burn is an evening’s entertainment.

21. You spend your free time either outside, or planning what you will do once you get outside.

22. Your kids’ friend gets dropped off at preschool in the snowplough.

23. You do the school run on a spark (kick sledge).

24. You have multiple items of woollen underwear, all of which you wear regularly.

25. You consider elk (moose) to be your biggest driving hazard.

Goats major and minor demonstrating points 1, 4, 9, 15, 21, and 24

Goats major and minor demonstrating points 1, 4, 9, 15, 21, and 24

Here is the introductory post for my curation week @wethehumanities. Hope you can join us for a glimpse into the life of a Norwegian researcher!

We The Humanities

Week 4 four sees @wethehumanities take a Scandinavian turn with a curation from Norway.  Kate Maxwell will be taking over the account on Sunday night and early risers will get to accompany on her mammoth fortnightly commute in the small hours of Monday morning.  From the sounds of her introductory post Norway’s life-work ethic puts much of the rest of the world to shame and we suspect that we won’t be alone in googling visa applications by the end of the week.

In its fourth week of rotation-curation, @WeTheHumanities leaves the shores of the United Kingdom for the first time. So let me invite you on a journey of discovery to Norway, where I am working on a postdoctoral project on multimodality in medieval manuscripts, particularly Old and Middle French literature and music.

As a UK-passport-holder living in Norway, my adopted country sometimes seems utopic. With high social equality…

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There’s one thing I regret about my PhD: handing in the day after my first baby’s due date. (Baby was conveniently late.) The fact that things worked out that way due to circumstances beyond my control – together with my determination to get one baby out of the way before the other one arrived – does not help. It was stupid to risk my (and potentially the baby’s) physical and mental health in such a way, and I suffered as a result.

This is not intended to sound negative. There is a happy ending. The baby was fine, the PhD was fine, and I recovered. But I view it now as a harsh introduction to, and as a symbol of, the struggle faced by so many academic parents, regardless of gender, sexual orientation, partnership situation, background, disability status, and all of the other factors which make up a person. How on earth is it possible to combine the demands of a life with children with the demands of an academic life, particularly in the delicate post-PhD stages?

Obviously, there is no simple answer. Every situation is different, and I am sure that a great deal depends on the age of the child(ren) at the time of hand-in (though they do say that the grass is always greener…). Yet one thing I do know: becoming a parent changes your view of life.

The ‘baby’ metaphor was no joke. I really did think of my PhD – and my dog, for that matter – as my ‘baby’. Then I became a parent, and realised that such metaphors are comical not just because they are amusing, but because they are so woefully inaccurate. I do not wish to wax lyrical about the joys and tribulations of parenthood, for there are plenty of other blogs for that I’m sure. No, what struck me was this: having become a parent, my family became more than the most important thing in my life. They became my life. The PhD, the research, the professional life that had mattered so much to me became just a job. A job I loved, that’s true, but nevertheless just a job. It was a radical shift of perspective, and one that didn’t happen immediately. After the arrival of my first child (though for many parents they don’t come one by one), the first weeks (months, even) were consumed first by the needs of the child, and then of the parents. Basic needs: health, nourishment, sleep, fresh air, and, where possible, sanity. At some point during that time I had my viva. It took place the morning after a night of very little sleep (babies have an instinct for these things), and I remember frantically re-reading bits of my thesis on the train as I made my way to the university. What on earth had I written about? Two hours of intellectual discourse later, I realised that it was not only perfectly possible to switch mental gears, but that I really did know my stuff. Later, lunching and chatting with colleagues while breastfeeding, I felt everything was possible.

Indeed, most things are possible, though they might take longer than they would for non-parents post-PhD. My PhD corrections only took a week, but that week had to be booked in advance in order to ensure childcare with breastfeeding breaks. After weaning (and graduation) I took up a part-time teaching fellowship. While switching the brain back into ‘work mode’ was easy enough, it took me much longer to learn to quickly return to ‘parenting mode’, to move from intellectual debates back to spending a day with someone whose only word was ‘buh’ (and enjoy it too). Then baby no. 2 came along, and we did several conferences together: baby in the sling, grinning, sleeping, feeding (even while I gave a paper). I kept up the part-time work, researched alongside, and made ends meet.

There are, however, only so many hours in a day. I did not have the time (or, truth be told, the inclination) to bombard the job market as a working parent to two young children. Any jobseeker will tell you that jobhunting is in itself (virtually) a full-time job; any parent will say the same. So I took my time, and I became extremely picky about what I applied for. After all, being part of my children’s early years seemed far more important than jumping straight onto the academic job ladder and all it entails, despite the hopes, ambitions, and expectations I’d harboured as a student. Whereas I once would have taken virtually anything and made it work, I took an honest look at myself so that I didn’t waste my efforts on jobs that were either above or below my skills and needs. I only applied for those for which I had a reasonable chance of success and were close enough to perfect to justify the effort and potential upheaval. My patience paid off: when my children were four and two I began my dream post-doc, returning to full-time research with eyes very much open both to life outside the academy and within a family. The fact that it is a two-year contract is actually an advantage: it gives everyone involved a chance to assess how things are and work out what will happen next.

Throughout those years ‘on the sidelines’ I continued reading, got some publications, attended carefully selected conferences, and kept an eye on job listings. I also spoke to other academics who were parents, particularly those who had been parents for longer than me. Their advice was unanimous: take your time, things will work out in the end. They were right. The journey of parenthood is long, and learning to balance everyone’s needs takes time. So I shall finish by repeating and reiterating the advice I heard: let the rat race rush by you for a while, put aside the anxiety, and try to embrace any uncertainty as life’s way of telling you to enjoy your kids.

The future is theirs

The future is theirs

This is a post I wrote for the RMA (Royal Musical Association) blog, which you can view here (without the photo): (published 1st October 2013).

The midnight sun is here, summer has arrived. For this year’s summer project I have decided to add more ‘creative stuff’ to my blog. This may take the form of music, poetry, prose, photography, or a mixture of modes. Indeed, as well as working on the creative impulse, I will also look into the process from the other side: to reflect on what it is to create, and upon the creation. This is something I touched upon in the post ‘Cycles and Circles’ which I published here in April, but I would like to take it forward a step or two.

Thus I also intend – wary of the slope to Hades – to read all of the stories shortlsted for this year’s Caine prize. (For more info see the inspiring article in The New Inquiry here.) Thoughts on Tope Folarin’s ‘Miracle’ to be delivered soon.

To start us off, some poetic thoughts which I will leave uncommentated (for now at least).

Arctic summer

Naked on the beach
Flesh in the light
Sun turns in circles
Orange glow at midnight
Sky in the water
Blue on the sea
Snow on the mountains
White peaks protruding promise
Leaves on the trees
Green lush springing anew
Flowers turning their heads
Yellow on the slopes
Stones harbour their memories
Grey on the bay
Blood flowing from wounds
Red stains on the shore.