I thought I would create this post as a bit of a reality check for those who might attach only romantic notions to “PhD in Shakespeare studies” and to “new life in Australia” or “Brisbane”. Before I post some pictures as an evidence of the prosaic nature of my day to day life, I must acknowledge that because Shakespeare and historical research (especially in the provocative field of religion, English Reformation and counter Reformation) is my passion, I do consider myself fortunate to be able to do this full time and at the same time be financially supported so that I don’t have to work in order to pay for my cost of living.
Right, so I worked (that is, read and studied) this Saturday, the Sabbath day between Good Friday and Easter Sunday. I worked on a “weekend” because I’ve mostly wasted first 18 days of my PhD by doing nothing but “settling in”. So, I woke up today (Saturday) at 6am to the alarm on my cellphone. Instead of microwaving something and turn it into “breakfast” , I decided to “cook” something using real heat. I’d seen one of my housemates make fried eggs the other day, and this morning I tried to follow his example. Eventually, by 6:25am I was staring at this platter of fried (in Canola oil) eggs, onions and salt (they’re still cooking in the picture):
I should mention that it was my first meal in well over MANY YEARS that was cooked with real fire. No kidding. Moreover, I managed to “cook” it without setting the house on fire. Quite some achievement. Also, it was EDIBLE, if I say so myself. And since I was the only person who ate it, my opinion alone counts.
Then, still sleepy and blurry-eyed, I took the bus to university. Having reached my study space sometime after 8am, I shuffled off to the kitchenette, and then I woke myself up with repeated ministrations of strong black tea. It took me, as usual, 2-3 hours to get “started” around noon.
Most of the afternoon at the university I read a wonderful little book published by Oxford university press on Tudor history with all the wonderful “Royal” characters: Henry VIII, Edward VI, Mary Tudor, Elizabeth I. It was only a “brief” overview, but look at all the pink highlights. Apparently, I seemed to think that everything was so very fascinating and important and needs a mention in my PhD thesis (whenever I start to write it)… !
Yes, I like to write whole sections from a book I’m reading in my own handwriting which may look as chook scratchings but I can read it and that’s all that matters. So many pink insights from a little book. Pretty fancy… huh?
Well, talking of “little books”, my eminent thesis advisor suggests that I should begin this research by reading the Complete Works of William Shakespeare. “That’s all very well,” I told her with a snigger, “but, as of now…. I don’t even own Shakespeare’s complete works with scholarly footnotes etc.” With this convenient admission cum excuse for procrastination, I shrugged my shoulders, completely satisfied with my own reply. However, she turned to her bookshelf and retrieved this huge door-stopper and placed it on the table with an ominous thud….
“You keep this for good. I don’t need this,” she says. Which means I have no excuse now. Anyhow, just to give you some idea how big this book is, here it is with my plastic lunch box which usually carries about 6 bread rolls (that is, a slice of bread wrapped around things like peanut butter or Vegemite or cheese slices or roast beef slices…). Most days, after I’ve had a big breakfast, these 6 bread rolls (along with a steady supply of black tea) can keep me going in the library or study space for whole day till evening. But look, this Shakespeare book seems to be bigger than my lunch box. It sure is many times heavier….
But then again, I do LOVE Shakespeare and consider it a privilege to be able to read and re-read his plays as part of my “job”. In the last 6-7 months I already have read and re-read many of his plays. For those of you who have some familiarity with his works, in the next 2-3 days I plan to read King Lear (probably the only MAJOR Shakespeare play that I have not read in full) and then Winter’s Tale and then Troilus and Cressida (in that order).
I also mean to watch and re-watch BBC adaptations of most of Shakespeare plays. Most of these were “videotaped” in the 70s and 80s. They are low budget affairs without the modern frills of sound or special effects. But that’s the way I like Shakespeare, without embellishments that either add to or take away from the original text. These BBC productions are usually about 3 hours long and are based on the whole text of each play. You can also watch them on Youtube. (Youtube versions also have text appear on screen as subtitles, which is always a bonus). Here are some of my favouritees:
The Taming of the Shrew (John Cleese in the leading role of Petruchio!)….
(I loved Measure for Measure (one of my personal favourite Shakespeare play, by the way) adaptation too… but sadly it’s no longer available on Youtube. However, these BBC adaptations are available as DVDs from most libraries). You’re welcome to watch the above if you have spare time and the inclination.
Update— This is an update on Sunday morning (20th April), the Easter Sunday. It must be mentioned that my life now is intimately linked with the bus schedules. Various buses conveniently connect my Brisbane suburb to UQ. Sundays and public holidays have considerably reduced bus services. Which means that if I have to leave my house early in the morning, say around 8am, there is no direct bus service (till around 9am). The online schedule advised me that I can take a bus to Auchenflower and from there I can catch another one within 5 minutes to university. This arrangement works very well as I found out on Good Friday. But what really surprised me was when I got off the bus and walked to the bus stop on the other end of the road….. there lay the big Brisbane river right behind me. It was an awesome view. Within minutes, the City Cat Ferry too cruised by generating giant ripples in the calm waters that spread out from the middle of the river and then crashed against the banks on either sides. (Too bad I forgot to video the sight from my cellphone….)
This morning I decided to take a picture of the river from the bus stop. I could not take more shots of the river from other angles as there were some morning walkers etc. around and I feel very awkward filming and taking pictures in public places when others are looking at me. As you can tell, I’m not Japanese!….. But anyhow, here is a shot of the river (the buildings in the background are from the city centre, I suppose). I am standing well above the river on road level. You can see the cycleway/ walkway that runs along the river’s bank. It is around 7:30am, Easter Sunday. The Chinese girl behind me at the bus stop is staring at me (I am red-eyed, nauseated with sleep-deprivation and need more black tea when I get to university). And in front of me the waters gleam with the morning sunlight….
CLICK ON THE PICTURE TO ENLARGE
For now, I say Hoorrooo!