Posted @ 08:19:51 on 03 November 2012
Blogging these days feels like a bit of a luxury. Between working full time, researching part time, keeping my creative pursuits up to scratch (which is vital to my own sense of equilibrium) and co-running our little family household, life feels a bit fraught sometimes, and it is easy to get into "worn out" mode. When I get tired I get really grumpy, and it can be far too easy to slide into a bit of a downer. But over the last few weeks I have had a little wake-up prod from some of my lovely colleagues.
A few weeks ago in class we were looking at time management. I was struck by just how much of my week is devoted to working, and often research has to fit in around that. I click back into my old writing pattern, which is to be most productive when sitting on the tube. It shouldn't work, but it does. This week I discovered that the Welsh writer and friend of Mary Webb) wrote his books on the train to Waterloo, which made me feel a little less odd! When I commented on this, our tutor told us that students who are working are often better suited to research as they are used to being really disciplined with their time. One of my fellow students then piped up and told the class that she is working full time, studying part time and has two small children.
My second wake-up came this week, when I was getting ready to go to school for a lit crit class, which is not my favourite subject. Ask me to think in abstract philosophy and I just get muddled and go blank. A colleague asked me where I had to go for class, and I was telling her about the Keynes Library, which is a room inside the English department on Gordon Square. The first time I walked into this beautiful Georgian room, I was a bit confused. It is stunning, with great big double windows that look out on Gordon Square gardens, two beautiful fireplaces, and these great big six or eight foot paintings on the wall, but there are no books there. Then I realised, it is called the Keynes Library as this part of the building used to be John Maynard Keynes' house, and this was his actual library. The paintings on the walls are original works by Vanessa Bell. And I get to sit here, grumbling about Lit Crit classes?! When I described this to my colleague, she blurted out "I love your life, Bex. It is so cool!" and I had to reply, "yes, me too!"
So this week I have been having some lovely adventures in research. The first chapter I am working on is belief systems in Mary Webb, so this means I get to play on home ground. I am looking at how she portrays mainstream Christian religion (which of course in the early Twentieth Century was really the main one) and her interest in nature mysticism and folklore. I am trying to establish if she had any links at all to the other people dabbling in alternative belief systems at the time, like the Golden Dawn. I am trying to find out what she was reading that helped her develop these ideas, but so far I am not finding much as her husband destroyed a lot of her papers and belongings when she died, but then I had a mini breakthrough. I am reading Henry Webb's book, The Silences of the Moon, and found a direct quote in there from Cornelius Agrippa - woohoo! It is amazing to think some things don't change over time - those who are interested in esoteric or occult practices, always seem to gravitate towards the same source texts.
My second was that I took a leap of faith and wrote to a professor I met recently at a conference. The conference felt a bit odd, as the only mentions Mary Webb got were not very flattering ones, so I wasn't sure if I would get a response or not, but I did, and it was a very generous, helpful response, which led me to what may be a really useful strand of research. Sometimes you just have to take a deep breath and ask.
My other fun thing was finding this lovely picture of the Wild Hunt.
The Wild Hunt is something that features in several of Webb's novels, and it is something I am particularly fond of since it is also quite evident in Dartmoor folklore too. I can't wait to get stuck into this one!