Tuesday, 27 March 2018

Getting back to it

It's been over a year since I posted here. Latterly such an absence has usually indicated some health catastrophe (my 'career dogged by injury', to borrow the footballing phrase), but the last year has finally seen me getting back into the swing of things a little. I've given papers at conferences and symposiums (including my first international trip since the major medical interruption), I've done a couple of more popular talks and events (the first large-scale outing for my singing voice since 2014, for example), started to get used to indexing Folklore (in my second year at it), drafted a long-awaited chapter for an edited collection, and taken part in various other events and ventures that begin to feel like me finding my place in the world of folklore again. As someone who's still a little wary of his own physical fragility I'm surprised by how much I actually have done in the last year.

More interesting to readers here is the fact that I haven't just been picking up old threads. I have been doing that, of course, because it's essential - the book chapter sees me reviewing some of my thinking about ghost beliefs and new religious syncretism, for example, while last week I was giving a Vaughan Williams Memorial Library lecture on ghostlore in traditional songs - but it's not been static. My ongoing engagement with the history of the discipline has become ever more a way of introducing non-academic non-specialist audiences to its full range (I've just written a forthcoming guest post for the Folklore Thursday blog), as well as a way of trying to negotiate the survival of academic folklorists and other interested academics in a university world that offers us little security or support.

It's also seen me getting interested in some new figures and areas: I spoke twice last year (at the splendidly titled 'Folklorists Are Fallible' conference in my beloved Tartu, and then at the third Folklore Society/Royal Anthropological Institute 'Folklore and Anthropology in Conversation' seminar) about the 20th century field collector and writer Violet Alford, and will be speaking about her again this summer. My paper at the forthcoming Folklore Society conference is also very much about how we are as folklorists, what we do to identify as such and how we interact with other folklorists. Later in the year I'll be going back to the question of ghost belief and religious syncretism (particularly around Spiritualism) for a major conference in Oxford.

I actually have things to blog about again, it seems, so I will.

Part of this reorientation/reawakening has involved some apparently cosmetic fiddling with my library, refiling and reshelving books and copies of papers. In doing so I also moved around a lot of my fieldnotes. One sheet caught my eye as it fell loose. It dates from early in my MA researches (2004-6), when I asked co-workers in the Civil Service department where I was temping for their recollections of childlore, skipping games etc. The following was remembered by a woman in her late 20s from her schooldays in South Essex:

1, 2, 3 Mother caught a flea
She put it in the teapot and made a cup of tea
The flea jumped out,
Mother gave a shout,
And down came father with his winkle hanging out.

It's good to be back.

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