I don’t usually make public my ambitions for the year, I rarely inform my family, allowing me to wimp out or rescind on promises to myself. However, a double bout of some virus carried by my gorgeous nieces had me half dead and reading other blogs, including Emily Henderson’s. But this year feels different and hopefully if there are some items on the list I’m falling being on this will make asking for help easier (see number 5!).
I’m not presenting a list of resolutions, this is a to-do list for the coming year. It’s about working harder, exploring London and new locations, finding inspiration and disposing of the excuses that prevent me from achieving my aims. So here is my public declaration.
In the midst of refusing to nail my new year’s ambitions to the mast two years ago, I decided to change the way I selected a resolution. Rather than cite one of the many ‘be a better/more efficient/productive/healthier person’ regular, unsustainable mantras I decided to force myself to do something I love but had kept finding excuses not to do; travel. Originally I considered six countries a decent challenge until I did a few calculations and realised that it would require a modest lottery win to achieve, and so downsized to a much more reasonable two locations.
In early 2012 I went back to Australia and came back via the city state of Singapore, my first, then visited Johannesburg for a conference and Cape Town to see friends, and so South Africa made two. Last year, on another trip back to Sydney and Melbourne, I skipped over the Tasman Sea to Auckland (I can offer no reasonable excuse for not having visited New Zealand when I lived in Sydney) and then Dubai, where I have spent countless hours in the airport changing flights but ventured no further. So, two. I had planned another two trips but external factors crept arose and the plans evaporated.
This year sees the addition of a new rule: no more Australia-bound stop offs. This year they have to be a destination in their own right and the countries up for consideration are Canada, India, Peru, Brazil, Russia, Denmark and Belgium. Well at least one of them has to be affordable! All except for Belgium, present case study options for a book under construction, but Belgium offers the Musée Hergé, which comes wrapped in a beautiful building, and friends I haven’t seen since I graduated from Sydney. Which brings me on to…
Social media has restored regular contact with many friends, most of whom, like me, have worked and studied overseas and have continued to skip around the world. Not that this is a bragging list but I have friends on five continents and without Facebook et al, I would have lost contact with most of them. But reading frequent posts facilitates laziness and that needs to change.
In pursuit of my visiting cities resolution over the last two years I managed to catch up with Oxford University friends in Cape Town, a friend from Sydney and her new husband, and another university friend and his wife in Dubai, a through work contact and long standing family friend in Singapore, and a Sydney University colleague in Auckland.
This long haul travel is great but there are friends much closer to home, in the UK and around Europe, that deserve greater attention. So, Brussels, Stockholm and Swindon, I hope to see you soon.
After The Independent pushed an article with the headline “brain function ‘boosted for days after reading a novel’“, the five day long benefits can only serve to assist with my other work related aims (see below). I have friends who have declared that they will read a book a week and I’ve made that claim before and not been able to keep it up. Given that I will read more than three times this for work, twenty six seems a little more realistic.
My Christmas present from my (very well trained) sister comprised all six books shortlisted for the Booker Prize and I’m starting with Jhumpa Lahiri’s The Lowland. This is likely to be followed by most of the books from my London collection before I turn back to the other four nominees and the winner. After which, I’m going to need recommendations.
FIFTY TWO! I know this might seem ambitious but last year was slow and anything less isn’t ambitious enough. The ground work for much of this writing has been laid and this is the year for pushing myself further and increasing my productivity.
I already have 19 confirmed pieces in hand, comprising 17 entries for the forthcoming online Routledge Encyclopedia of Modernism and two reviews. After that it’s down to editors responding to pitches and proposals already delivered and submitting more. And the writing, obviously.
I started the Cities Research Twitter account to bring together students and early career researchers (ECRs) and promote them and their research. Just before Christmas it reached 20,000 followers, almost double the total at the start of the year. The introduction six months ago of the Monday #CitiesShots invitation to share images of urban spaces and places is as popular as the long standing #ResearchFriday invitation to share links to research and achievements. But there is room for more and the website and journal will provide the platform for this.
While I have greater, long term plans for the website, initially it will be a sign post site. In other words, it will provide information rather than being significantly interactive as the Twitter account will continue in this role. It will also be the ‘home’ for the journal which will be a free to access publication that will publish only the work of graduate research students and ECRs with a focus on interdisciplinary collaboration from all continents. Far too much of the work that makes it into established academic journals emanates from the developed world and I hope that this journal will redress that imbalance as well as encouraging interdisciplinary collaboration.
Now to find funding and sponsorship…
Just about muddling though on half remembered, mangled phrases from GCSE French aren’t cutting it anymore. There really are very few occasions when town centre navigation can sustain a conversation. And ‘my younger sister is expecting her second child’ was not a phrase included in the curriculum at the convent school!
I spend enough time in France for this to be a serious impediment to really enjoying time I here and I recently ordered a plate of veal kidneys in a restaurant, which is a mistake I’d like to avoid making again. Rognon de veau, if you’re interested. And no I couldn’t eat them. Dad has the full Rosetta Stone course on one of his laptops, so no more excuses. The deadline for this resolution is the next time I’m over. Date to be confirmed.
Reading and work are great but removing myself from the house/office/library is a necessity. I’m in need of inspiration and London has some of the best galleries and museums in the world, many of which are free. I know that I am not the only one to spend more time in galleries and museums while travelling than I do when I’m at home but not to do this in London is just absurd and working freelance means that I can visit during the week and avoid the crowds. Inspiration to be found in the Guardian on Saturday and Londonist newsletters.
So head down, books and Oyster card at the ready, and fingers crossed.