Sunday, 7 March 2010

The value of hobbies

Whenever I feel exhausted to the degree that I cannot even read, I escape to my new Tudor dollhouse. I've made lots of improvements: painted it both outside and inside, put in half-timbering, roofing, window shutters and latticed wondow panes (the latter I have learned to make from the net in which you buy your oranges). The joys of making a period house is learning all about the period. What colour should the outside walls be? A little folder from Lavenham is helpful.

Tudor kitchen tables were made of trestles with boards on them, not fixed so that they could be put away when not used. They had holes to hang on hooks on the wall. Masters would put notices on the board for the servants - hence, notice board. The trestles came in many shapes, such as the comb trestle, which is what I have made. I can soon sit an exam on the Tudor period. (Two weeks ago I had no idea what a trestle was, still less a comb trestle).

My most recent discovery concerns dogs. I want a dog by the fireplace in my grand hall, but how do I find out what breeds were to be found in the Tudor time?


Our process of naturalisation is primarily connected to material objects. For instance, my new computer has a British plug. We will be fully naturalised when all our appliances have British plugs. I wonder how many years it takes. How often do you buy a new hair dryer or electic toothbrush?

Staffan has just taken another radical step toward naturalisation. His car has now a British speedometer.


I have certainly learned enough about academic life here not to be surprised by anything, but it is still inetresting to note the differences. In the old country, when a PhD student chooses a topic it will be discussed with the supervisor and then registered at the department. At some point, the student will present the research plan at a seminar and get feedback from fellow students. Here, the poor soul has to write a 20.000-word report and go through a "viva", which means face-to-face interrogation by two examiners. The supervisor is allowed to sit in and keep her mouth shut. It is hard if the student is obviously giving a totally wrong answer and you boil inside saying mutely: "Haven't we discussed this ten times???". Anyway, my first student has just gone through this, and the examiners were very nice, and most of their questions were anticipated, and most of the comments valuable and formative. For me it was just as much a rite of passage as for the student.