Tuesday, 2 November 2010

Reality Check

Today was incredibly stimulating, probably to the point where I won't sleep tonight. I went to my "Theory into Practice" seminar, which provides us with information about researching our subjects and discusses ethical issues around "spilling the beans" on people who are now dead. We also talked about the problems around using subjects who are still alive, and how to tread carefully. It can be a real minefield because you're giving the point of view of one person, but there may be lots of people out there who see a situation very differently. It's like when you're a kid and something traumatizes you (and can last your whole life), but your sibling might see the event quite differently. Both of you are right, it's just a different perspective. There lies the problem for a biographer.

My fellow students are so bright and well read, I often feel like an idiot Colonial. I'm not the only one though. Michelle, the lawyer from Missouri, feels the same. And she's one clever cookie. It's just that when people from Britain start throwing around names of people we've never heard of, it makes us feel like we're definitely living in a foreign country. I'm happy that the subject of my dissertation is Canadian, but has lived in the UK for 50 years. At least I feel I have a foot in both cultures.

So today is the beginning of reading week at the University of East Anglia, and I came home feeling like I was on holiday, forgetting the key words "reading week." I realize I have six books (big ones) to read, one 2500-word essay, and two 5000-word essays due after Christmas. So, no...this is not "a break," but an opportunity to do some serious writing. First though, I'll treat myself to just a little break.

Nan arrives tomorrow and I'm so excited about seeing her and spending some time catching up. It'll be strange though, sharing this flat with another human being after five weeks of solitude. I told some classmates today that if I were to suffer a fatal heart attack on a Tuesday evening, no one would even miss me until maybe the following Monday (Monday and Tuesday being my days at the university). After I leave the classes, I have no contact with anyone except for the bus driver and the cashier at the supermarket. People would say, "It's so unfortunate that she was gone all that time before anyone noticed."

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