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.

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.

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.

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.





I duly worked on the list of primary Sources as instructed, which was useful.

I thought it would help Christine to get to grips with me if she saw a paper or two, so I analysed the first lines when Rhiannon appears “The Advent of Rhiannon.” Then I examined the gold silk she and others close to her wear, and its economics. “Rhiannon in Silk.”

Adjusted the project to fit the two required stages MA Res. then full PhD. Made a Research Plan to cover the next few months.

None of this was amazingly impressive but I was still taken aback when Christine dubbed my progress “Acceptable” on the record she has to make. Shocked, as I am accustomed to achieve well, I said dryly that I would really have to pull my socks up for her. It was her turn to be surprised. She said this was actually quite an approving term. I grumped it wasn’t to me. She kindly edited it to “very acceptable.”

A historic joke methinks.

Meeting Bramble

It seemed wrong that my chief heroine is a mighty horsewoman and I had never so much as touched a horse. I decided to meet one and arranged an appointment with Bramble the Welsh cob in Somerset.

She was almost exclusively interested in eating grass, but graciously allowed me close. Unfortunately I wasn’t told she doesn’t like her neck patted but she didn’t punish me, just ambled off.  Here we are, two tubby females in a field.

Bramble the Welsh Cob, and Shan. May 3 2014.

Bramble the Welsh Cob, and Shan. May 3 2014.

Christine tutorial 1

Only a little less terrified than my very first meeting back in January.

Christine is consistently gentle, but she holds so much power: to open the gates, or cast me out.  She is surprised I am so nervous, but it is not primarily about she herself as she is very kind to me. It is who she is.

She asks me to prepare a thorough list of sources and goes over the bureaucratic requirements. She misses nothing, which is very reassuring.

I also met Liz who had helped me connect with Christine, and who was now elected as my second supervisor, and very welcome to me. She will at intervals coordinate the gender research. We had quite an electric meeting.

2015 plans, papers, conferences

My conference diary 2015 until the summer, updated. Abstracts will be uploaded both here and on
I’m aiming to complete my general review of Mabinogi scholarship summer 2015 which will generate lots for the site. In the autumn I will move to more focus on my own theories. However these are already leaking into my presentations.

Thurs 19 FEB. 3pm. SWANSEA MEMO (Centre for Mediaeval and Early Modern Research) Director: Prof. Daniel Power. Reading group for mediaevalists.
A triadic prompt for discussion. 1) The Mabinogi. 2) Rhiannon as ‘Tour Guide’ to my research. 3) This website as a research tool, why and how. More info.

Sat 28 FEB Sun 1st MARCH: BRISTOL Conference ‘Rule and Recreation.’
Presenting Sat. 10.45 ‘Exemplars and Shadowplay’ Mabinogi as exemplar of lordly rule; polarity of ideals and cautionary models.

Sat and Sun 20-22 MARCH: FALMOUTH. Conference, ACSIB (Association of Celtic Students of Ireland and Britain). Celtic Studies. Presenting ‘The Mystery of the Three Matriarchs of Britain.’ (Day/ time TBC)

Fri MARCH 27-29: GREGYNOG Conference, AWWE (Assoc. Welsh Writing in English) ‘The Country and the City.’ Presenting ‘Mabinogi Man: Pwyll and Manawydan.’ (Day/ time TBC)

Sat Sun APRIL 11/12 LONDON UCL Conference, EMICS (Early Medieval Interdisciplinary Conference Series). ‘Stories and Storytelling in the Medieval World.’ Presenting Sat PM ‘The oldest prose stories of Britain: the Mabinogi as political project.’

Fri/Sat 17/18 APRIL OXFORD, St. Edmund’s hall. Conference, Medium Aevum. ‘Colour.’ Presenting Sat. 10:45 ‘The Golden Thread: an example of Mabinogi subtlety.’

Fri – Mon 1-4 MAY LONDON Conference. ‘Medieval London and the World.’ Presenting ‘In Defence of the London Ravens’ Defense: deconstructing a deconstruction.'(Day/ time TBC)

Tues JULY 7 LEEDS IMC (International Medieval Congress at the University of Leeds) “The Use and Abuse of the Middle Ages in Modern Society.” Presenting Tues 7th panel 4.30-6.00 “The Once and Future Mabinogi”

Christine James – ryuedawt

I had corresponded with four universities during the autumn 2014 to find a home to study Rhiannon.  One disqualified itself after initially looking good.  Another was friendly and seemed to understand my project, but could only offer a fairly rigid scheme of study. The other two never answered my emails.

The fifth, Swansea, didn’t look like it did medieval studies. Most of what I saw on the site was 1500 or later. But I sent an enquiry just in case. Then, as I was looking at the prospect of a very long tiring commute, and a less than ideal structure, Liz McAvoy wrote from Swansea Dec. 9th 2014 to say Christine James would be very interested to discuss my project.  I emailed her but Christine was much too busy to see me immediately but we arranged to meet Jan 10 2015.

I looked her up of course and was stunned to discover this was the Archdruid of Wales.  As a long term guest resident of Wales I knew just enough to know how august this made her, but nothing of what I could expect. Shiver.

A momentous meeting, and I knew it. It was like being a teenager again, a teenager of 64? Interesting. John helped me get up and get ready. I dressed with great care, and needed every second of John’s warm reassurance as we drove the motorway.  Acid panic. John carefully deposited me at Christine’s office with my laptop. Her welcoming smile was gentle but I could not  know then that this was perfectly sincere, and reflected a person of gentleness. Also I had already learned that academics are deceptive, especially how women can be so sweet surfaced.

How to describe two magnificent, formidable women, yet both shy, and with issues of uncertainty to cover about the work to do, meeting for the first time? The air was solid around us. The rest of the world did not exist. I was utterly terrified, as if I had been transported to the top of the highest mountain, all alone, to meet my destiny.

John walked past the door at intervals, doing his wolf guardian. He said the two voices quickly went into a happy rise and fall so he went off satisfied all was well. I babbled away no doubt sounding quite silly but it must have shown Christine a little something. She is as I was to learn astute at seeing it further than most.

I walked away in a boneless dream. I had found my mentor, and for the first time ever since I was young, someone I could deeply admire.