The ramblings of an absent-minded doctoral student

The ramblings of an absent-minded doctoral student. Chronicling my life as I earn a PhD in history.

Saturday, January 12, 2013

It's been one week...

What a whirlwind week it's been. I can't believe that 7 days ago, I stepped foot onto British soil for the first time in my entire 25 years. I wish I could say that it's already been adventure-filled, but my days seem to slip away from me. I managed to finally make my way to the archives on Tuesday to get my Reader's Ticket (which is really more of an ID card than anything) and had to wait until Thursday to actually get started with the documents. Since I had Wednesday to "kill" so-to-speak, I decided to check out the pub right down the street--Kew Gardens Inn. At first, I felt a little awkward. I ordered a Wild Wood Cider (on the promise to my husband that not only would I try as many different ciders here as I could during my 8 week stint, I'd have a few for him) and sat down in one of the "comfy" chairs. --By comfy, I mean that it sat really low and deep and was encased in leather. Take that as you will.-- Since I had no internet access (and thus no way to communicate with the only people I know) and there were relatively few people in the pub at that point, I did what I do best: tried to beat my husband's score in Temple Run. I'll say it was to no avail--especially a full pint later on a rather empty tummy.
By the time I went to order another pint, more people had milled in and I ordered an ESB (extra special bitter for any non-drinkers out there) called Junction by Sambrook Brewery. As I paid I noticed a nice, elderly gentleman eyeing me so instead of sulking back to my chair, I decided to introduce myself. I figured if I'm going to be here 8 weeks, I might as well meet someone other than my landlord and my flat mate! Turns out he's an old Irishman (from the Southern end, although I don't recall he told me precisely where) named Mickey O'Neill and something of a regular in the area. He asked me about my travel and my studies, we talked about my husband and the cider thing and when I finished my beer, he offered to buy me an Aspall Suffolk Cider to try for comparison. Between not wanting to offend, and wanting to try it anyway, I accepted and he began introducing me to some more of the locals. I met several nice people (whose names I promptly forgot in the next morning's hangover), in particular one older gentleman who works here at the archives. I've only seen him once, so far, though. I spent Wednesday recovering from my mild hangover, editing my class page, and preparing for the MarineLives forum on Geography, Trade, & Law. The rest of the day? I watched The my pj's.
The last couple of days, though, have been spent here in the archives going through colonial records of Bermuda (CO 37/37, 37/38, and 37/39). I've found some interesting correspondences regarding illicit trade (including assistance to/trade with the Americans by Bermudians during the American Revolution), privateer lists for the island 1782/1783, and prizes captured (same year). I've had a few difficulties (such as the fact that the catalogue's record, and the new labeling don't match up yet, I forgot my memory card, and my camera battery dies faster than I'd like), but it's been going well. Other than that, my nights have been spent keeping up with my teaching responsibilities and editing my dissertation proposal (trying to get it ready to use in grant/fellowship proposals). I'm hoping to do some writing and am considering a paper (hopefully for publication...but also to include in my dissertation) dealing with Bermuda in the 18th century. We'll see how it goes. I need to make sure it hasn't already been written!
Here's hoping I can get into a better routine (like making it to the archives before 11am!) and stay productive! Maybe I'll head into London proper on Monday?

Monday, January 7, 2013

London Calling

Today marks Day 3 of my epic journey across the pond. But it's really the first day I've done anything. Traveling overseas for the first time was intimidating and exhausting. I also didn't realize what a cruel mistress Jet Lag could be. I arrived on Saturday around 6:40am GMT and ended up passing out straight away once we got back to the flat and had the "grand tour." I slept until about 5pm that night and then had trouble sleeping later, so over the course of a few hours I drank an entire bottle of wine whilst Skyping with A and my Kbug. I finally fell asleep but was somewhere between hung over and jet lagged when I awoke several hours later and ended up sleeping the day away again. I feared it would take me the full 8 weeks just to get adjusted! But when I awoke at 2 the next morning, my wonderful husband (6 hours behind me) decided to help me stay awake to kick the jet lag. I think it worked. Unfortunately for him, he ended up being late for work. (Sorry!)
I finally roused myself from the warmth of my bed around 10am and did the usual morning ritual (shower, make up, etc). After lunch, I headed out into the great beyond with no real direction or aim. My original intention was to find the National Archives to prepare myself for tomorrow's first day. I unintentionally went a very long and roundabout way, walking in various directions throughout Kew, across Kew Bridge over the River Thames. I ended up somewhere in Chiswick and turned around to head back in the general direction of "home." I took some roads through neighborhoods and walked along the Thames Walk. This took me through several more neighborhoods and was rather serene. I think doing the Thames Walk will be a weekly ritual (especially since there were several small pubs that looked intriguing). It allowed me to clear my head and was quite invigorating. After I reached what I assume was the end of the walk, I crossed another bridge of the Thames on the other side and found myself in another part of town. But much to my surprise I found signs for the National Archives and followed them. I found it easily enough and was overwhelmed by the size and beauty. Since it was closed today, I walked around the grounds a bit and found my way back to the main road I needed to get home. I took a detour towards Kew Gardens, stopping at the Station, saving the gardens for another day. I finally took the proper route back to the flat and took note of the various pubs, shops, and restaurants along the way. I have much exploring to do in the immediate neighboring area. I think walking around in the fresh air was exactly what I needed. Walking around and finding my way made me feel more confident about being here. And I either have an impeccable sense of direction that I wasn't keenly aware of, or I'm a very lucky traveler! Must have walked a good 11+km today! [I also found the Kew Retail mecca haha.]
Thanks again to the hubs who returned me to sanity and reminded me not only of how awesome I am, but of how much he loves and misses me. Knowing that I'm not alone in that makes me a little less weary. Tomorrow begins the venture into the archives. Wish me luck!