The Duchess

John and I were now sick of being ripped off by bad places to stay if we dared to go away. Conferences were going to mean we had to stay overnight quite often or it would be too tiring to do the journey. Coupled with an unreliable temporary car since the disability office threw me into crisis and I wrecked my usual car … and the result is our glorious Duchess.

Her true name is Gwenhwyfawr – great lady of whiteness though she is actually pale gold. She soon became the Duchess.

My lovely golden Duchess car

The Duchess, Oct. 22 2014

She’s an estate with lots of room, if we want we can sleep in her.  She’ll get me to Swansea in high style and comfort. She’s big, beautiful, comfy and just SO lovely.

I was intimidated at first as she’s a lot bigger than what I’m used to. It took me 10 days to drive her slowly in a car park. But a few days later I was on the motorway and all was well.

WordPress experiment

I like XF forums a lot less nowadays and most academics seem to like blogs, so I decided to try and use WordPress to coordinate my online Mabinogi resources.

WP is at least well established so support should be possible.

My trusty helpers at Nimbus Webhosting had it running in an hour or so, though we had some trouble with directory names. I settled down to customise. The backend is much better than last time I tried WP.

Othering a Guest

Othering a Guest   Shan Morgain.

(The Self and the Other: Swansea, 10 October 2014)

Actually managed to get the pics to work this time. All went well except for having to climb THREE flights of stairs because no one fixed the lift.

Matt Wall chaired my panel and sent me feedback. I won’t give all the detail but here are the main points:

You presented with considerable authority and passion for your subject, you used humour and had a style that was informative, while inviting and informal.

The visuals/slides that you used were informative and nicely designed, while there was a little trouble with the software at the beginning of the talk, you overcame this well.  [groan]

Matt thought I should have made my concept of othering more specific.  The 20 mins time limit is a tyranny! but the criticism is an important one. Perhaps a quick image display next time.

Even more interesting Matt questioned me on whether the othering of Guest was by academic or popular response? I did not know how to answer at first which shows how good the question was.  I returned to it later, and explained that the attitudes I had seen were in the Introduction sections of the Mabinogi books, including popular translations. So although the othering is at its core, academic, there are readers ‘in the wild’ who do read introductions and ould be influenced by them. Also key points like Guest being an English upper class lady are on many websites where the Mabinogi is briefly  introduced.

Thanks Matt for a generous review and thoughtful critique.

Sioned Davies Narberth tour

21 Sept. 2013 A tour of the Mabinogion sites with Sioned Davies.

Beginning/End location: The Old School car park, Narberth, SA67 7AG
Price of ticket: £10 (£8 for Academy members)
Food and drink: Not included. There will be an opportunity to buy lunch on the trip.
Recommended clothing: Comfortable shoes; warm clothing; raincoat.

Contact Literature Wales to book a place on the trip:
029 2047 2266

Here Be Dragons! (Aberystwyth)

Dwy iaith, dau ddiwylliant? / Two languages, two cultures?
Sept 6 Council Chamber, National Library of Wales.
Coordinator: Mary Constantine.

Finally my first presentation this time round in my second postgrad life. Very nice to return to CAWCS at Aberystwyth as a (junior) presenter. With dear John at my side of course.

The hotel was rubbish, the dinner booked on arrival was not at all as ordered. No breakfast in the morning, most unpleasant man who when we left (on time) at 9am ordered us to go which we were glad to do. Then we got in early, tested my presentation images, all worked fine. But no breakfast did mean being tired as the long morning passed. When it was my turn the tech stubbornly refused to run! No carefully prepped pics. Embarrassing.

Everyone was extremely kind about it, and understood. In the end my little piece “Here Be Dragons” on the bridging between two languages and its challenges, was well received.  M. Wynne Thomas turned out to be not at all a stuffed shirt trailing titles, but a canny and generous elder statesman. Mary Constantine was strikingly efficient and welcoming. The debate was fascinating; it reminded me of early feminist days when we felt so grateful of chances to get together. Good to feel less isolated.

Eisteddfod 2014 with Christine James as Archdruid

My second visit to the Eisteddfod and this time it was a very great delight to watch our beautiful Christine leading the traditional Gorsedd ceremony. The Guardian gave it a Witness page which was nice, but considering it’s the largest arts festival in Europe one wonders why it didn’t make the news? Too peaceful? No nasty incidents, no crime or muck, just an awful lot of people having a fantastic time?  Not commercial, all done by volunteers? Or just not English even though tremendously successful, happening right in Britain?

Two PICS John took.

Christine James, Archdruid, 2014,  by John Davies.

Christine James, Archdruid, 2014, by John Davies.

John and I very much enjoyed our first Eisteddfod in I think 2008. It’s such a well organised event so you can trust it to keep you safe, comfortable, and greatly entertained.  To see Iolo’s ceremony actually happen is to join the tide of history.

But this year it was noticeably even better. I would not have thought it possible but there were so many little touches that showed kindness at work. I could sit down every 50 yards or so, there were always chairs – big item for me so I could stay and enjoy it for longer. As we left a steward greeted us by the door to ask us if all had gone well, such a caring detail that demanded a lot of volunteer time. I teased Christine afterwards that her characteristic motherliness was evident everywhere which I think she liked.

Eisteddfod 2014 by John Davies

Eisteddfod 2014 by John Davies


The Guardian page which has these two and more pics. Sadly the lovely accounts contributed have not been saved.

Sullivan anthology reprint

Charles Sullivan has told me that Routledge Revivals List has agreed to reprint his key 1997 anthology. It is currently ONLY available from academic libraries, unless you’re lucky to have bought one years ago.

Sullivan, Charles William III, ed. 1996. The Mabinogi: A Book of Essays. NY: Garland Publications.

This is great news as this anthology collects together the array of work of the previous two decades, when Mabinogi perspectives changed radically from the past.
Charles said ” I published the book because I was tired of having to sort through pages of articles I had copied from various journals.”

Sullivan’s own particular field is modern interpretations on which he is insightful and incisive. Here is an accessible example of his thinking.

Disability Difficulties

The disability issues are the pits. Big runaround only to be told they will do nothing to help.  I just can’t walk the route from the ordinary car park. It’s much too far for me. If this cannot be sorted I shall have to give it all up, for the sake of a half day of parking permission a month. Madness.

They say just pop in X office and Y office. If I could stride along corridors to “pop in” anywhere, I wouldn’t be struggling to get a parking permit!

I  felt so bullied and desperate I thought I must just try to cope. John can’t keep taking a day off to chauffeur me. So  I tried to go there alone, and park in the main car park. This meant by the time I’d walked to the centre of campus one way, I was exhausted. Then after very slowly plodding to see someone, I had to walk all the way back. It was raining slightly, so the handrail on wet stone steps was scarily slippery, and I fell.  Nasty wrenched leg.  Crumpled on the ground, wet, cold, utterly drained and very frightened, I wondered if I could get up as there was no one anywhere near. I breathed a bit and little by little got back to the vertical. Walking was another ordeal.

Worse was to come. By now I was so dazed I should not really have driven back, 1.5 hours mostly motorway. Nor was I in a mental condition to make important decisions. But all I could think of was getting home, being safe. A red light on the dashboard looked worrying but the car seemed to go so I drove carefully away.

20 miles down the motorway I was stranded on the hard shoulder clinging to a fence for support, unable to stand. It was a fast patch and colossal lorries were passing me within a couple of feet of my body at high speeds. It was still raining.  A very nice motorway police officer rescued me, phoned John, and got me to a services where I could SIT until my patient and loyal John arrived.  My poor car was ruined because I should never have tried to drive it.

Eventually I did get the precious permit. Too late for my wrecked car, and the effect on my self confidence of so many barriers was large. I just didn’t expect that being a limited walker was going to be such a huge obstacle. Plus having a fall and being so stupidly exhausted I wrecked my car.  I reacted with a lot of nervousness about going out, when I’d been making good progress on that. Still, nothing will stop me doing this work.