Wednesday, 9 October 2013

And Miss Margo says ...

Three weeks in already - it must be a function of my advanced years (comparatively at least) that the weeks keep flying past.  The flatmates - who are proper postgraduates and therefore a good ten years younger than me - are very kind and welcoming, but clearly do not feel the time is going quickly; in fact, they seem to have all the time in the world.  They do not seem to feel the fear when I say that it's already nearly the end of week three.  Surely they feel the same "eep, only twenty weeks of actual teaching on one of these masters thingies". 

I do already have an MA, but I did it over two years while I was working so there's a lot of latitude in lots of ways.  Here I am so profoundly aware of the gaps in my knowledge that every day feels like a struggle to catch up.  Is it bad that I decided Fabric of Britain was a suitable part of the work schedule and watched it for research?  It is interesting in many ways, and moving in others - I had a lump in my throat looking at the jumpers knit by prisoners of war in the German camps, and thinking of the embroideries destroyed during the Reformation.  It was timely as I had spent the morning reading Margaret Scott's Medieval Fashion and Dress and am feeling very in the spirit, especially after several hours spent dawdling around the cathedral at St Albans on Saturday afternoon.

It is a funny thing to be splitting my time between two homes.  Of course, it means I don't get to enjoy the life of living out of London which was part of the original ambition, or much of the life living in St Albans either.  I am always in lectures, at the library or at my desk in Glasgow, and always running around like a loon when I'm back in London.  Of course, I'm not in London but I can't quite get that out of my system yet either.  Actually, in Glasgow, I invested in a giant cushion so I could read on the bed-the-width-of-a-park-bench and that has been pretty good.  Those swivel chairs they stick in halls are a killer on the back.  

And two weekends into the commute and Husband is no longer speaking to me which leads me to question whether he really supports this quest or not.  Hmm, it's quite the head scratcher.  I have found this a particularly gendered and vexed issue though.  I know at least three other couples where the chap has sauntered off for a year - commuting back and forth during the week for study or to fulfil a dream to live abroad and of course that is fine and does not show a lack of commitment or "team work" which is a term I particularly despise when it comes to relationships because we are not playing some kind of competitive sport or trying to tie up a particularly knotty legal transaction. 

For some reason, it seems, my womanishness is the issue - I should want to be at home fulfilling my domestic function of caring for a grown man.  The fact I get home and do five loads of laundry on Fridays apparently does not quite cut it, and neither does the storm I cook up or the Christmas cake fruit I set off with stewing in the boozy concoction of marvellousness ready for baking after a few weeks of loving nurture.  The fact I am ambitious and value my career is not apparently as valuable.  I know it is not as financially valuable - I am still in a career that earns less primarily because it is still seen as dominated by women.  So I am perplexed as to why it is different for me to be studying for a year, having supported Husband in achieving several of his own ambitions - when other couples seem to be happy for their menfolk to go off to realise some yen they have.  I'm in danger of over-associating the reading I've been doing about the emergence of social and legislative control over women's bodies with my own situation but it is quite a good way of de-personalising.  It all just seems a bit ... erm, silly.  It is jolly peaceful though and I've got an awful lot of my blanket knit and reading done while I've been at home in the chilly silence.

Anyway, despite that St Albans is a delightful place which doesn't mean I don't miss the fun and uniqueness of SE London, or my lovely neighbours (who are keeping an eye on the pumpkin that continues to grow with apparently nothing curbing its enormousness - did you know pumpkins have no natural predators?), and the postman who I hallooed on my way to the station.  But I am having my 80-something year old neighbour round for tea - she looks not a day over 65 and is a hoot - so am starting to find ways into the local neighbourhood.  Small towns (and yes, I know it's a city) are different and you do have to get to know the ways; but nonetheless, there's almost nothing that a good cup of tea and a chat can't overcome is there now.

Still getting my head around the study and the commute but I'm already swirling with ideas for my dissertation while having to knuckle down to actual writing for essays due now.  The world of work has at least prepared me for time pressures, even if it does materially change the way you need to think about things which has made accessing the language and style of academic life a challenge, but that's no bad thing - it is supposed to be a challenge after all.  And it certainly is. 

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