Saturday, November 20, 2010

Catching Up to Today

Hurrah! We are in the home stretch for catching up to the present, and from here on out I can post in real time.

This week began with the Isis Winter League races (IWLs), in which I rowed with the W1 boat. These races are 1200 meters long, from Donnington Bridge to just upriver of boathouse island, and they are done processional style, meaning one boat after another instead of side-by-side racing, as would be done on a wider river. This means that you are really racing against the clock, though your goal is of course to catch and pass the boat that was sent down before yours. We had a really good piece, rowing-wise, but our coxswain had us a bit all over the river. This was partly because the boat in front of us would not move over to let us overtake them, so our cox actually called us off the pressure for three or four strokes so that we would not crash into them! Still, after all the swerving, when the results were posted the next day we were there in bold at the very top of the list: the fastest women's eight on the river that day! We were really excited, and our coach and captain were so proud. Now we have to keep it up so we maintain that title through the rest of the IWLs, which continue throughout Michaelmas and Hilary terms (we have the second one this weekend).

On Tuesday night of this week there was the first Conversazione, which is a night during which the MCR and the SCR get together and listen to a presentation by a member of either on what he or she is researching at the moment. This time it was given by an MCR member, Xavier Droux, who spoke on "Excavating Egypt's Earliest Kings: the Hierakonpolis Menagerie. It was a really well put-together PowerPoint presentation, with some great photos and maps and effects. He said that the site he has been excavating for the past seven years is older by about a thousand years than the famous kings and queens like Tutankhamen and Cleopatra. They have found a number of animal remains, including elephants and hippos, that suggest that these kings were keeping a menagerie of powerful animals. The hippo seems to have been a favourite, as a number of carved figures from tusks or stone have been found representing them. It was a really interesting talk, and I am glad I went--I had considered not going, as I had not slept well the night before and I wanted to rest. I really should take the lesson that I tend to have quite a good time when I drag myself out of my cave of solitude, but sometimes it is so difficult to want to go out when I have a warm bed awaiting me! (This will be an ongoing battle this winter, I fear.)

My essay title was due yesterday by noon. The very interesting process here is that you register a title about four weeks before the essay is actually due, and you are bound to that title (though very minor changes might be made) regardless of the direction in which your research takes you. I had continued to struggle with selecting a topic throughout the week, but I was leaning toward something to do with King Lear, as the play had moved me when we read it for class the previous week. My reading of criticism on it drew my attention to Robert Armin, the actor generally believed to have played the Fool. His life was fascinating, and most of what I read said that his coming to the acting company changed the way Shakespeare wrote clowns and fools. I wondered, though, if that were completely accurate, because the date of his coming was a bit foggy, as was the date of the leaving of Will Kemp, his predecessor. I began to think, what if Shakespeare was already thinking of changing his fools (his developing writing style is well documented by critics), and he had tried to push Kemp in that direction, but was unable? Then it could be that Armin was more an actor capable of being moulded than a serious influence on his work. The ultimate title of my paper, which came to me in a flash of inspiration early Friday morning, is "'Invest me in my motley': Shakespeare's role in Armin's Fool." I mean to argue that it was Shakespeare who shaped Armin, rather than the other way around. (The quotation is from As You Like It, spoken by Jacques--not, as one might guess, by Touchstone, the character Armin probably played.)

After turning in the title, I was so happy and light-hearted that I practically danced through the rest of the day--which happened to be sunny and beautiful. I finished setting my poem in the printing class (and gave myself the aforementioned wrist tattoo, though it has since faded to a faint "One Perfect R..." with the "ose" more or less vanished. Then I came back here to write to my family for a few hours before circuits at 5:30--which I ended up not going to, because I remembered the Welfare Tea at 5:00--which I also ended up not going to, because I couldn't justify eating biscuits and drinking tea when I hadn't worked out at all this week, the morning practice on Tuesday having been a bust because of heavy fog, and erging on Wednesday having been a bust because no one remembered to pick up the key! I stood in indecision for a while, and then decided not to do either, but to start this blog instead. You lucky ducks.

At 8:30 I went to the Mitre to meet Lauren and about 14 other people for Lauren's birthday celebration. The food was unimpressive, rather what one might expect from a Friday's in the States, but it wasn't bad, and afterward some of us went back to Lauren's apartment for some cake, wine (or for me, juice), and great conversation. We were there till after midnight--I think I didn't feel the pressing need to leave early that I usually feel because we were a literal stone's throw from my own flat. We discussed things like accents (Lauren's boyfriend complimented my Cockney, hehe) and politics (well, part policy, part which-president's-wife-is-hotter) and even love (whether it is all chemical or if we can override the natural affinities). It was an interesting mix, as well, with two Americans, two Brits, two French girls, one German, one Austrian, and one Finlander! There had been an Italian, Giovanni, at the start, but he didn't feel well and went to bed. I thoroughly enjoyed myself the entire night, and as Lauren is one of my favourite classmates, I was very happy to have had the opportunity to celebrate her and hang out with some of her friends.

And that was last night! So now we have reached today, during which I have done nothing but some laundry (all my clothing is draped about my room, because our dryers don't work, but I did discover a free spin-cycle option on the washer today, so at least they were not sopping wet) and a little bit of cooking. I thought I might do something with the two large mushrooms that were going bad in the fridge, so I threw them in a Le Creuset pot with half a chopped onion and a chopped clove of garlic and some balsamic vinegar, and I sautéed them for a bit, then added some dried herbs and salt and pepper and a few cups of water and simmered for an hour, then added some flour to thicken into a sauce. I think I will make a chicken breast tonight to put it on. I am enjoying experimenting in the kitchen, but I am still not too sure of myself, so *everything* is still an "experiment," and I would not like to inflict it on anyone else. That said, my eggplant lasagna from the other day turned out surprisingly well, even if it did set off the fire alarm...

So! I had best do some reading now as submitting a title does not equal writing a paper. Till next time, folks, take care, and keep smiling! XXX

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