A week or so ago I found I had been nominated for the Liebster Award by not one, but two bloggers, separately:
I’d never heard of the Leibster Award before, so this was rather a surprise! An online search later, I discovered that it’s an award chosen by bloggers for other blogs that they think are really rather good. Having only started my blog less than a year ago, and having been terribly remiss at posting on it since starting my PhD in January, I was chuffed, to say the least. It’s really nice to know that people are reading what you’re putting out there, and what’s more, that they actually enjoy it!
Coincidentally, I write this blog post just as I reach 500 followers on Twitter. Seeing as I mostly tweet about medieval things, I find this somewhat touching, and heartening. People are interested in the medieval! I know it’s not the outrageous numbers of followers sported by popstars (Rihanna has 28,675,811 followers at time of writing) or even joke accounts (Bad Joke Cat has 118,193), but considering I don’t have naked pictures of myself as my Twitter picture, and nor am I a cute, joke-telling kitty, I’m pleased with my number, happy to have so many people showing an interest in medieval topics.
But perhaps the medieval is back in vogue, peeking out of the academic sphere to make a comeback in the arena of popular culture? There seems to be an almost constant stream of medieval documentaries on British television at the moment (particularly on BBC4), not to mention the popularity of historical novels (think Philippa Gregory, Elizabeth Chadwick) and medieval-esque novels (think Game of Thrones), plus my thesis supervisor was on BBC Radio 4 with Melvyn Bragg recently, discussing Malory’s Morte D’Arthur. As one fellow Twitterstorian said to me when I expressed my surprise at having such a following: ‘Medieval is “the new black” – we’re cool. We’re the new “it” factor – everyone wants a medieval friend. Roll with it :)’
Perhaps she’s right!
Anyway, getting back to the award. The rules of the Liebster Award are as follows :
- Thank your Liebster Blog Award presenter on your blog and link back to the blogger who presented this award to you. (Please do look at both these ladies’ blogs, they’re fab!)
- Answer the 11 questions from the nominator, list 11 random facts about yourself and create 11 questions for your nominees. (See below)
- Present the Liebster Blog Award to 11 blogs of 200 followers or less who you feel deserve to be noticed and leave a comment on their blog letting them know they have been chosen. (See below)
- Copy and Paste the blog award on your blog (here it is!)
Here are the answers to the eleven questions I was given by my nominees! (As I was nominated twice I’ll answer a mixture of questions from both):
1. What is your favourite book, of all time?
It’s a book that very few other people seem to have heard of! It’s a novel for young adults called The Little White Horse, written by Elizabeth Goudge in 1946. Don’t let the name fool you, it isn’t tepid, wishy-washy stuff. Set in 1842, the orphaned Maria Merryweather, accompanied by her governess and dog, sets off to live with an uncle she’s never met before in the timeless village of Moonacre. There she finds an ancient family feud, a magical inheritance, and also meets a mysterious boy whom she’s sure she’s met before… The whole book is full of characters that burst out of the pages and into life, and creates a beautiful magical realism I’ve never seen matched elsewhere. You’re never quite sure whether things are actually supernatural, or whether it’s all a matter of perspective. This book has been dear to me since it first fired my imagination as a child, and even now as an adult I return to it when I want to escape to the world of Moonacre. Every time I read it I see new levels of meaning that flew straight over my head when I was younger; this book stands the test of time.
2. Which five historical figures would you invite to your fantasy dinner party?
Ooh this is a game I often play, and it’s always so difficult to choose! I’d definitely invite William Marshal because he lived an amazing life (and after reading Elizabeth Chadwick’s novels about him, how could I not?!), Elizabeth I (my mum’s ultimate heroine – she’s passed the bug on to me a little too), Geoffrey Chaucer (to see if he could drink a gallon of wine, and because he’s an east London lad), Margery Kempe (she’s such a hoot) and of course, if there’s such an historical personage as King Arthur, he’d HAVE to be there, just to answer the question, once and for all, of whether he existed!!!
3. Do you have any bad habits?
Several! My worst is probably switching off from unstimulating conversations. Especially if I’ve had a drink or two. It really is a horrible personality foible and I’m working hard to erase it.
4. What would your death row meal be?
A genuine Thai green curry with coconut rice. Without hesitation. I could eat that all day every day, yum!
5. Do you have a pet hate?
Several, and as I get older I find I’m getting more of them! The one that makes me peeved on a daily basis is people not being aware of, or not respecting, other people’s space. This takes the form of groups of people blocking the pavement, or someone putting their bag on a seat on a busy train, or playing music loudly on public transport… I think it’s symptomatic of this western, capitalist ‘me first’ attitude that we seem to embrace now. It really pisses me off. I’m glad that I can walk everywhere now that I live in York.
6. Where is your favourite place in the world?
So far… Iceland or Tintagel. If you really forced me to choose, then I’d choose Tintagel. There’s something about that place, something about Cornwall as a whole, too. I think it might have something to do with the apartness of it all, geographically and historically. The west of the island of Britain wasn’t as affected as much as the east by Anglo-Saxon and Danish invaders, and there is an oldness, a wildness to the west of the country that I feel when I’m in north Wales too. Of course the Arthurian in me loves Tintagel’s literary connections with Arthur, but aside from that, it really is the most magical place. The ruins of the castle, isolated on a sea-battered headland, the moors, the cliffs, the hidden glens, the fresh Atlantic air… not to mention the Cornish pasties and cream teas! I’d recommend a visit to that part of the world to anyone. It infuses the soul with magic and wonder.
7. What would you do with a £50m lottery win?
Give me a moment… *daydreams*… Ok I’m back. Well I’d be boring and do what everyone else says they’d do in the first instance. I’d start by paying off the debts of mine and my partner’s families, as well as our own debts of course (take THAT, never-ending student loan!!!). I’d pay for my PhD in full and then I’d buy a HOUSE. A house with a LIBRARY where I could put all my books, and buy even more books to fill it with!! And a STUDY. Oh my goodness. Even the thought of that is enough to induce near-hysterical glee. I’d also travel. I’d go everywhere, starting with Brazil. I really fancy Brazil. I’d get a personal trainer who would shape my body into a temple. Basically I would do whatever I wanted. Nothing has ever stopped me from doing what I want to anyway, really, but with money like that, I would really have fun. I’d live life to the full. Plus that’s too much for little old me to spend in a lifetime, so I’d definitely give some away – probably to an environmental charity, and I’d set up scholarships for poor kids from the east end like me, and do lots of volunteer work, because let’s face it, I’d probably never have to work again, if I didn’t want to. Although I’m sure I still would. Maybe.
8. What is your greatest achievement to date?
Finishing my Masters whilst working full-time. THAT was hard.
9. Can you tell us about one of your goals for the future?
My main goal is to be happy. Right now, today, in this moment, I’m happy, but happiness is something you get from within, an attitude to life that you have to keep working on. I feel strongly that happiness isn’t something that can be provided by external sources or stimuli unless your mindset is right. But in terms of those external things, I’d really like to do the best job I can do on my PhD. If I can look back at the end of three years and say yep, I did my best, then that will help make me happy.
10. What is your favourite thing about blogging?
Doing the research! I only blog about things I’m interested in, and it always fascinates me to know more about them – the places I’ve lived or have been to, and the people who’ve gone before us. The amazing thing about history is that it all actually happened! Being a literary scholar before an historical scholar, I sometimes get wrapped up in texts and forget that.
11. And finally, have I annoyed you by nominating you for the Liebster?
Not at all, I’m flattered! It’s a lovely pat on the back, and lets me know I’m on the right track with my blog. It’s a welcome recognition.
And here are 11 random facts about myself!
- I’m a qualified Yoga teacher. I’ve been doing Yoga since I was fifteen, and have been going intermittently since then to my first class, taught by a lovely lady called Jane. One day she suggested that I do a teacher training course to push myself further and extend my own practice, so a few years ago, I did! Learning Yoga and practicing it on a daily basis has undoubtedly changed my life and my health, and I truly believe that doctors should consider prescribing Yoga before they prescribe lots of other things for mental, physical or emotional complaints. It has helped to ground me and keep me sane during trying and stressful times in my life, and is now so deeply ingrained in my lifestyle that it’s automatic.
- I am hopelessly rubbish with dates. Yep, as someone doing a PhD in medieval studies I realise this isn’t ideal. Oh well.
- I don’t drink much coffee. Having more than one cup a day makes me go a bit jittery. I realise that this is an oddity in both the professional and academic worlds, where caffeine is a staple. What can I say? I’m high on life!
- I’m SCUBA trained up to PADI Divemaster level. In my gap year I went to Borneo with an organisation called Greenforce. They trained us up in SCUBA diving and every day we went diving, undertaking wildlife and coral biodiversity surveys. Diving is one of the things I love to do most in the whole world – alas I don’t like diving in cold water, and it’s pretty expensive to go to hot countries, so I haven’t had the chance to do it in quite some time!
- I cry really easily when I’m happy. I mostly cry when I’m happy, I can’t remember the last time I cried when sad. Which I guess is a good thing!
- I support Arsenal FC. It’s a family thing. I enjoy going to matches with my cousin but don’t really follow them on tv or anything.
- I am a huge fan of Buffy the Vampire Slayer. Joss Whedon is a god, and I’ve pretty much loved everything he’s ever done, but Buffy holds a special place in my heart. It was on tv during my teenage years, and holds a special relevance for that time in my life. Plus, as I’ve gone back and re-watched it subsequently, I’ve found that I love it just as much as a twenty-something as I did as a teen! It has stood the test of time.
- I’ve been with my partner, Julian, for nearly 7 years. I don’t feel old enough for this to be true, but it is! He’s a scientist, and we’re different in so many ways, but this has proven to be one of our greatest strengths, and I wouldn’t change a thing.
- I have a cat called Medea. She’s the most wonderful cat in the world, and we have strangely similar temperaments.
- I hate peas. They’re the devil’s vegetable!
- I used to work in publishing. I don’t anymore, but I wouldn’t rule it out for the future.
And here are 11 questions for my nominated bloggers:
- Where is your favourite place in the world?
- Where would you like to visit next?
- Who is your idol?
- What is the best thing about you?
- What is the worst thing about you?
- What’s your favourite thing to do in your spare time?
- If you could invite five people to a dinner party, whether historical, still living, or fictional characters, who would you invite?
- If you could have any super-power, what would it be?
- What do you sing in the shower/bath/dancing around in your bedroom?
- What single thing would you HAVE to take with you to a desert island?
- And finally, food: savoury or sweet?
So without further ado, here are my eleven blog nominations, in no particular order:
Sarah’s history – I don’t know if you can nominate someone who’s already nominated you, but I don’t care! Sarah writes prolifically and magnificently, and I can only sit back and gawp at the sheer volume and quality of her blog posts. I bow before her awesomeness!!
Vulpes Libris – a collective of bibliophiles writing about books.
London Unveiled – great places to visit off the beaten path
Spitalfields Life – this blog is very dear to my heart, as the author writes so beautifully and eloquently on all aspects of east London and its fascinating history.
Two Nerdy History Girls – Bestselling authors Loretta Chase and Isabella Bradford gossip about history, writing, and shoes. They do an excellent Saturday morning breakfast round-up of history blog posts from the week.
Suburban Academic – Written by a PhD student of Old English, chronicles, histories, maps and digital humanities.
Saints, Sisters and Sluts – Famous and infamous women in history.
The Freelance History Writer – Here Susan Abernathy explores a wide range of historical subjects, from Ancient to mid-20th century. Susan is also one of the contributors to the Saints, Sisters and Sluts blog mentioned above.
beoshewulf – All things Old English and Anglo-Saxon, written by my lovely friend Hana who is currently writing her PhD thesis on blood in Old English poetry.
My Albion – A chronicle of sundry adventures in England.
DarkHarte Travel – my very good friend Jonathan is currently living in India, but he’s travelled all over the place! This is his travel blog.