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.



terrylove said...

Thanks for that, it sounds like you managed to trim, whittle, shrink, rewrite and otherwise condense what you wanted to say into a decent presentation- well done.

Do you think in future you will need less reworking because, after this, you'll have a better understanding of the requirements for papers at this event, or is it just the way you work and so it'll be nerve wracking again?

I used to work for a bloke who used to present fairly regularly to BCS,fantastically knowledgeable but he would always go through multiple rewrites and last minute changes - it's just how he worked and the end results were always well received presentations. I'll never forgive him for dragging me in one time...

When your sessions papers are published will you be able to republish them or at least link to public readable versions do you think?

Anonymous said...

With reference to your first couple of sentences,don't sell yourself short,n 1 f

Tudor Cook said...

@Terry..most of the problems I had were because I had become too focussed on the 15 minute time slot, rather than simply concentrating on writing down what I wanted to say, then seeing how long that would take to read out.

Different conferences have different styles, the Oxford Food Symposium for instance has a "no just reading your paper out" rule, but then all of the papers presented are published so the presentation can be "extra"stuff that you found out after submission or such this case I wasn't sure either way and had initially plumped for the wrong style..oh well!!

@No.1 selling short, just stating the a presenter (and an attendee as well I'd guess) I was one of a VERY small number that weren't presenting information regarding their PHD or Masters thesis.

Maria said...

Hi, :)
What do you mean by "fireboxes are not authentic"? ;)
If you look in Scappi's Opera you'll see one of these named "focone". There is even an image on the Bayeux Tapestry where two men are cooking something on the lifted fire.