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It’s been a while since I posted a serious post, one with more words than pictures. It’s been that sort of fall, really. I’m not sure where the first month of term went; it comes back in fractured images.

(No, I’ve not been drinking the term away. Though we did have an Arkham Horror and Scotch-finishing party one night, to help some friends finish off all their Scotch bottles with only an inch left before they went away for a few months. Let’s say that their liquor cabinet is now substantially tidier. Sadly, the dead bottles have not in fact disappeared, but have merely relocated to the graveyard of departed whiskies. That’s the problem with the beautiful bottles of beautiful whiskies: it’s hard to discard them afterward. The graveyard of departed Scotches is a known phenomenon.)

Term brought with it my first TA-ship. Tutoring, they call it here; after lectures with more than a hundred students, the students break out into groups of ten or so to go over the exercises with a tutor (e.g. me) and get clarification on tricky points. Not having been through the British undergrad system, I wasn’t sure what to expect from the students. In the event, though, it’s the ease with which they accept my authority that’s a little freaky. I suppose I do have nine years on them; they may think of us as hardly younger than the lecturers (professors), which is frankly disquieting.

For some time, the awareness as been growing in my mind that my voice, which I’d always counted on, was no longer quite there when I called on it. It hid. Used to constant lessons and practice through high school and college, it sulked under its neglect and, when demanded, showed up in poor form. In short, singing had been the second biggest part of my life for a good portion of my life (behind studying), and I want it back. It lacks the social usefulness of being able to play a useful instrument (piano, say, or guitar), but I have an affection for it nonetheless. I have joined a chorale.

This, in turn, necessitated finding a dance group that doesn’t meet on Tuesdays to make up for the dance class I dropped, which led to Irish step on Sundays and possibly before my Scottish dance class on Thursdays. You could say my schedule remains a work in progress at present.

My first-year review, which included the forty-page introductory chapter to my dissertation, was held in September. I did not flunk out of my PhD. Now I am in the phase of actually starting the research itself.

As a consequence, I have been getting a number of things done around the house.

Yesterday I made thick wool slippers, as the soles of my commercial ones had worn almost through. Mine are vastly superior, having 2 layers of lambswool sweater for the uppers, and the following for soles, from top to bottom: 1 lambswool sweater, 1 wool sock (left over from my leg warmers), 4 layers of rather thin polarfleece pullover, and 1 heavy cotton twill from NTS’s old trousers, for ruggedness. They are the most comfortable thing that has come between my feet and the cold kitchen floor. Making applesauce

Today I made applesauce. It seems that applesauce is not a mainstream food in the UK and I have not found it in regular grocery stores. I left the skins on, which adds some texture. I would only recommend it if you have access to a food processor, stick blender or food mill, though, in order to get the puree the skins. (Happily, the previous tenant of our flat left a stick blender. Hooray!) Mine is much thicker and tastier than the organic stuff from the co-op (the only place I’ve found it), although that’s pretty good, too. I have decided against investing in formal canning apparatus while I’m here, so this is for the fridge. I hear you can freeze applesauce, though, so I may try that sometime if I ever have a very large stockpot.

Plantain and calendula | FarOuterHebrides

Plantain and calendula (pot marigold)

Other projects I’ve undertaken this fall include hand salve, plantain calendula salve, 2 rag rugs for the bathroom, 1 for the kitchen, and a completely refashioned wool knit shirt (very fiddly). More on those later.