Diversions #4: Subversive Pastimes: Constructing and Cultivating a Floating Allotment

The outbreak of social protest in 1830 has been recognised by a number of scholars as the spark for the national movement for allotments. Embittered and hungry labourers destroyed agricultural machinery and set fire to haystacks in what is known as the Swing riots and links the organised allotment movement to political protest. The allocation of allotments (strips of land rented to labourers at market rates year-round) was not simply an attempt by elite landowners to buy off labourers and avert further rioting, it was also hoped that the commitment required to develop a flourishing allotment would instil several favourable virtues in the rural poor including self-respect, independence, industriousness, sobriety, thrift, and honesty. Continue reading

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Diversions #3: On the Dialectics of a Victoria Sponge

As might be expected from a blog post entitled “Diversions”, written for an online journal aimed primarily at PhD students, this one starts by stirring up images of articles left half-finished and monographs lying shut upon a desk, their unturned pages crying softly through their unbent spines to be read. Pressing as it may be for the contents of these no doubt worthy sources to be imbibed by their, you guessed it, distracted reader, he has far more diverting things with which to occupy his time than concerning himself with reading a Marxist critique of this, a Freudian analysis of that. From a dust jacket, a certain pessimistic German theorist from the last century stares out towards the unoccupied chair in which a diligent young researcher should be sitting, his disapproving gaze threatening to burn a hole in the upholstery. But enough context, it’s time to come to the point of this post. Continue reading

Diversions #2: Running and Research: Finding Solutions through Body and Mind

For the last six months, I’ve been training for the London Marathon. I am not what you might call a “natural runner”; running, for me, basically consists of trudging round London at a pace slightly quicker than walking. I might not be that speedy, but I do seem to be able to keep going somehow, and I managed to get around the course on 23rd April in 5:41:21.

What I have loved/hated about training for the marathon is the mental resilience it takes. What is primarily difficult about running 26.2 miles is not so much the physical element – although don’t get me wrong, I am writing this the day after the race and fear getting up from the sofa knowing my joints appear to have gone on strike. Instead, it is a question of what to think about for all that time, and what to tell myself when I want to stop but need to push on a bit further. That being said, there is such a deep satisfaction that comes from finishing a long run, knowing that I persevered and managed to meet my goal; crossing the finish line yesterday was such a phenomenal moment. Continue reading

Diversions #1: Words and Sounds to Accompany a PhD Crisis

This letter is a reproduction of faded scribblings found penciled on a study carrel in the clock tower at Maughan Library.

 Words don’t come easy, especially when you are writing a 90 000-word thesis. Ambiguous arguments, obscure references, and above all else, REPETITION, repetition, repetition…, are your worst enemies. ‘This sounds familiar, have I written the same paragraph before?’ you wonder as you scroll down the endless river of words.

 You wish someone would stop you, and just take over: a ctrl-X here, a ctrl-V there – life’s problems solved in a few simple keystrokes. But you know this is not happening. You must stop wasting time and keep writing, keep feeding the word count. Continue reading