Friday, 15 July 2011

Fish Out Of Water...

is always the distinct feeling I get when at things like the IMC this week; I become acutely aware at my own lack of academic qualifications and always feel somewhat out of place. However, although the week started like that, by the end of Tuesday the situation was definitely much improved.

I had arrived on Sunday not having really finished my paper, but after a little time and contemplation I managed to fudge something reasonable together that would fit in the 15 minutes slot that I'd have. After a couple of sessions on Monday though, what little confidence I'd had in the text I'd got began to waiver and a quick review with a more critical eye lead to me re-writing the whole thing.....4 times over the day!!
So, bed on Monday, a fair nights sleep then up on Tuesday and breakfast, where a little conversation and questions from some other delegates got me thinking again about what I'd written.....time for another re-write before my session...just!

Managed to get everything finished, text and some accompanying images, then double checked it all would fit inside the 15 minutes, packed the briefcase and zipped off to get the shuttle bus to the other Uni' site where the session was. Rumour had it that this session was going to be popular, no idea why, but it turned out to be true as it was standing room only! Presented my paper and it seemed to go down ok, got some nice comments and had a few interesting chats about what I'd said so panic averted....but damn glad I'd done the re-writes.

The other papers in the session were varied, but all organised by the Wellcome Trust sponsored project, "You Are What You Ate" ,which I'm a part of...Jo Buckberry discussing the use of osteology workshops for the public in presenting information about the medieval diet and its visible effects in the skeletal remains, Gary Williamson and Iona McCleary on "was the medieval peasant diet healthy"...which included some interesting data on the polyphenol levels of a variety of apple types showing that modern varieties are no more or less healthy than heritage types...and Julia Gant, and Jenny Rogers from re-enactment group 4 and 20 blackbirds on cooking in a re-enactment context, they've only been doing that for 3 years or so and unfortunately it showed, both in the images they used and what they spoke about, but the audience liked them, so who am I to criticise?
I will say though, in case they're reading, that fireboxes in re-enactment are not "authentic", nor are they based on some historical reference, they are a direct result of the implementing of English Heritage guidelines for fires at historic sites which were introduced in the early 1990's. Prior to this time and regulation, the approved method for fires at historic sites was to cut and lift the turf, build the fire, then after the event, replace the turf. It soon became clear though that not only could that damage archaeological fabric close to the surface, it would also have some effect on any future geophysical surveying. So EH introduced a rule for re-enactment on their sites that fires must be in a box, suspended above the ground in order to protect the site as much as possible, this then became commonplace at all historic sites; attempting to claim otherwise, or reverse engineer a non existent reason for them is a touch disingenuous...though to give the ladies the benefit of the doubt, they haven't been doing the hobby long and probably don't know any of that!....but you really do need to check, re-check then check again everything that you say when presenting at this level of conference...unlike at a re-enactment event, here you could guarantee a knowledgeable audience.

I chose to go to the other 2 sessions organised by "You Are What You Ate" and the 1st was absolutely top notch...some great papers on Anglo-Saxon attitudes to feasting, stable isotope analysis of food consumption at an early Scottish Monastic site and disputes and punishments associated with the bread assizes in medieval London, Oxford and Southampton. The final session of the day is where it came unglued!!
First paper was an interesting one on the medieval view of the Roman recipes attributed to Apicius. Then Dr Timothy Dawson on food from the later enduring eastern empire (Byzantium to you and me, but that's incorrect it seems) then came the crowning turd in the water pipe to quote Blackadder. "Feasting at Tintagel in the Late Saxon Period" by presenters who shall remain nameless (though not hard to look them up!)
Apparently they'd submitted a proposal and abstract that was " referenced as one would expect for re-enactors"...shame they didn't bring that....or any notes, paperwork, images, information,  coherent thoughts...or indeed sentences!
Instead the two of them rambled and babbled for 20 minutes, no structure, no plans (it seemed), no real idea what they were talking about...really best not to bluster, bluff, and bs about a subject when an acknowledged expert is in the audience...which they'd have known if they'd bothered to come to the session before! In short, possibly the worst "paper" (and calling it that, even in quotation marks is being generous!) I have ever heard presented....but fair play I suppose for having the stones to do it....and to think that I was worried about the contents of my paper!

Still, all in all a pretty good use of time....heard some interesting papers, met some interesting people and put the case forward for the work we do, or at least tried to anyway.

It's a shame that the congress doesn't publish the papers, but with over 1000 presented it's no surprise really, still the Wellcome project is looking to publish all of our papers at least, so that should keep the powers that be at work happy.

Now that this is all out of the way, I can get back to work, hopefully up to the National Archive in the next week or two to have a look at the Eltham Ordinances and some other similar paperwork...I'll keep you all posted about that when it happens though.


Full(ish) Report....

,,,to follow soon!

Am nearly finished writing the report for you about Tuesday at the IMC but have just noticed the time...I've got to be up early, so I'll have to finish and post it tomorrow.


Monday, 11 July 2011

Ah Ha!

turns out that if you knuckle down and actually write something, rather than rely on random waffle and some pretty pictures, then making something coherent that fits inside 15 minutes is possible....just in my case, but that's only because I gave such a scatter gun title and abstract for the proposal that covering everything I mentioned in those in 15 minutes would task the best of us.

Still, as i just put on Twitter, after the 5th complete re-write of the day it finally makes sense, fits inside 15 minutes and covers most of the topic title...result!! Now just have to present it.

Wish me luck!


It's IMC Time....Day The First.

So sat here in my digs at the International Medieval Congress, half eight in
the morning and the room's already like a sauna....gotta love student
Finally finished putting the talk together last night, though undoubtedly
there'll be some tweaks later on when I have had a chance to gauge the
average presentation style here...I have to say that this is a first, 15
minutes to present a meaningful presentation knowing that there is virtually
no chance of a longer, more full version being published for people to read
if they didn't get the gist of what I was talking about...still, I'll soon
find out I'm sure.
Being such a large gathering is also unusual compared to what I'm used many attend that all of the keynote speeches are on a first come
first served basis in terms of fitting in the rooms...which strikes as odd,
not having space for everyone to see, but I guess that's what happens with
such a popular this morning's keynote talks are at the other
university site (the congress is split between Boddington and Weetwood Halls
at the university of Leeds) and all the rest of the sessions...and more
importantly, lunch...are here at Boddington, I don't think I'll be rushing
to try and get a space, time will be better spent re-checking the talk for
tomorrow and having a look around the book fair here...though the wallet
will be remaining firmly in my pocket....I hope!!
Right, time to try and get a cup of that hasn't been extruded from
a machine!! (it was an interesting "taste"....a tea puree pumped into the
cup, then topped up with hot water...I have to say I *have* had worse, but
not that much worse!!)