(Last Year’s) New Beginnings (and in Limbo)

I wrote the bulk of this post shortly after my graduation last year, but never posted it.  I have, in fact, just been through all my draft posts and deleted a fair number that are no lone relevant, but this one still serves! So, to the post I found today:

I graduated on 17th July 2018. To some, this is a life-changing experience as you leave one stage of life and move on to another: you may have moved away already, be living with your parents again or have started a new job on the other side of the world.  It may be the last time you see anyone you’ve just spent the last 3-4 years with.  Or it may simply be, as it was for me, an excuse to wear a silly hat, have some nice photos done and drag the parents around campus again. For me, it was my third graduation: my second at University of Nottingham, and my first where the weather wasn’t horrible. I’ve lived in Nottingham since 2003 effectively and so the day wasn’t really the same sort of special as I’m on campus all the time, and I didn’t study at the Uni much so didn’t really make any friends who also graduated at the same time: in fact, my name was on its own under my degree level and subject. Some of my friends from RPGSoc and who I’ve met through owning rabbits are graduating this year too, and some graduated earlier than me and some later, so I’ve looked them up in the programme and wished them well.

For me, graduation was the formal end of my time as a Masters student. It is not a new beginning in itself but signals the final point in my Masters timeline.  I can no longer call myself a student, but then I haven’t actually been a registered student since 1st October 2017: I couldn’t join any societies as a student member all last year, but then I hadn’t passed my course until part-way through the academic year, so I wasn’t ‘not’ a student. I was in a sort of limbo, where my student email still functioned and my student card still worked, but I was an associate member of the Student’s Union and couldn’t vote, or stand as a council member, but yet all my emails came through to my student account. With graduation, that ends and I become a true Associate Member again.

But where does that leave my status as a researcher? Does the formality of graduation end my association with Nottingham? It certainly doesn’t end my research: I fully intend to carry out as much as possible even without formal support, thanks to my status as a University staff member, which gives me access to libraries and resources in a very similar way to those I had as a postgraduate research student. And that association with Nottingham through formal employment, albeit completely unrelated to my own research, means I cannot in good conscience call myself a fully independent researcher since it is the University of Nottingham which has supplied me with library books and access to online resources which I would otherwise be unable to afford, especially as I only work two days a week.  Working part-time enables me to enjoy hobby time as well as continuing to pursue my research activities and support myself without simply sponging off my parents and/or the other half which wouldn’t work for me longterm.

So, I am an independent-ish researcher with an MA(Res) looking for opportunities.

Which brings us to today, a year since I graduated (the same graduations are happening today, rather than a calendar year), and where am I?  the short answer is: limbo.

I’m an independent researcher with ties to University of Nottingham: I work 2 days a week as an administrator in a pan-European doctoral training programme, and the University lets its admin staff use the libraries and resources too, so I’ve still got all the access to books and journals I had before, but no-one telling me what to do, or guiding me as such.

I’m both working (14.5hrs per week!) and not working because I’m not fulltime, not on a permanent contract and not working as an academic, researcher, teacher etc. I do not know where I belong and there are no set rules or overall guidance in terms of paying academic society memberships, conference fees etc. The student – academic dichotomy doesn’t fit me. (I feel some readers may be thinking the adult – child thing doesn’t apply to me either XD)

I’m still researching, but not as much as I’d like or as much as this job lets me (with the other 5 days off), because my house renovations have taken over a year (which is a blog post in itself but a much more private one I’m not willing to write) and I’m really struggling with it now. I need some sort of finalisation, order, or simply space to sit down, knock out the work I need to do and try and reorganise my time back to what it used to be, rather than the only workspace being the bed or the sofa if I have books I need to access, or the downstairs computer if I don’t, or I need Windows (perils of upgrading to a Chromebook Flip, although I will be getting a second PC eventually).

Life, however, has been generally good over the last year. Academically, I’ve presented new (fledgling) research at conferences, written a book chapter(!) and am currently rewriting a book review (from November: see above house status :S).  I’ve had two proper rejections (a conference and a different book chapter) which weren’t too bad, and I cannot complain because I’ve had loads of great acceptances which far outweigh two tiny things.  I suppose having a fairly wide ‘niche’ is useful!

I actually came here to write a draft about my latest carnivorous plant exploits, but reorganising my drafts has been much more productive!

A realisation about PowerPoints

… They’re all set out to look like little book chapters, aren’t they!

I am about to embark on writing a chapter for a book, and I’ve dug out the paper I wrote and gave upon which this chapter is based.  The paper is laid out so each paragraph is split by the command , except some where I change tack and talk about something while the previous slide is still up.  The University of Nottingham PowerPoint template has subheadings: a subtitle page, so to speak, which breaks the ‘chapter’ down into smaller chunks, different sections basically, and I think that’s actually really useful for organising ideas into longer pieces of writing.

I never expected PowerPoint to become my tool for thesis etc. mapping!

I also checked the word count: my chapter needs to be 6,000-8,000 words, and this paper was just over 3,100 before I’ve added references, made it academic (it currently reads how I speak, because that’s what it’s for) and generally tied it all together, so I think I’ve got it in the bag 🙂

Expect an update on blog-status at some point, although right now I’m finding it a useful idea-laying tool, which I think is what I’ve always wanted to do with it academically!

Run down or take off?

The inevitable ‘I evidently haven’t put enough time into this blog’ post, with the usual question: put in the time to keep it going, or discard it (appropriately) and just use it as a static set of webpages?

Option one seems distinctly less likely but then I also haven’t done the organising well enough of my other projects, leaving me with time that needs parcelling up for projects, so I could feasibly factor this in…

So I will see you later, I expect, a it’ll either be a ‘final post’ or ‘I found time! Go me!’ start of a new chapter.

That’s Dawn, MA, to you…

Yes, I did it: I passed my MA!  Only a pass: my weaknesses in writing and formulating did not allow for a merit or distinction, but a pass nonetheless 🙂  Therefore I am now a Master of Russian Metal Music.

And technically it’s Dawn MA BSc anyway ;P

I have mostly written up a piece about Canada but I haven’t had time to sort the pictures for it yet, so you’ll have to wait a bit.

So what else have I been up to that’s kept me away?  Well, Summer was working 40hr weeks on my MA thesis (while still working 18.12hrs a week at paid-work), followed by an Autumn of panicked jobsearching as I was told my contract wasn’t being renewed. I’d found a job within 3 weeks though, which I started while finishing my old one as the times worked so I’m effectively working 5 days a week until Christmas, which might explain a thing or two…

I hope to post again in January!  Meanwhile, keep track of what I’m up to on Twitter 🙂

Ô Canada! La Première Partie

Ta da!  See, I DID manage to get around to writing at least about SOMETHING from Canada!  And I’ve optimistically labelled it the first part.  The second, though, might be well after my thesis submission date in September.  But this, at least, should at least make people think this blog is actually being used 😀

So, this first part?  The most important, to be honest, as without this bit, I never would have gone (although I expect I would have gone sooner or later; I mean, I already want to return!).  This part is my brief conference report.  I had to write it as part of my conditions of funding from BASEES so I thought I may as well replicate it here, with some additions.

Boundaries and Ties: the Place of Metal Music in Communities’, Victoria, BC, Canada, 9th-11th July 2017.

I was awarded a BASEES Postgraduate Research Grant, the Graduate School Travel Prize from the University of Nottingham and funding from the Partridge Bequest held by Russian and Slavonic Studies, University of Nottingham to attend and present my research at the International Society for Metal Music Studies (ISMMS) biennial conference, held this time in Canada.  Having never presented my research outside of my own University, nor having been outside Europe in my life, it was an exciting experience!  The two-and-a-half day conference was supported by keynotes from Keith Kahn-Harris, one of the founding members of ISMMS and Brittney Slayes, lead singer of Victoria-born power metal band Unleash the Archers.  Panels were parallel to give more time and breadth to the programme and included categories such as local & global metal communities, performance, resistance, scene construction and ethics.  Presenters were from a wide range of disciplines and backgrounds, including cultural studies, musicology, anthropology, religious studies and history, as well as independent scholars and industry professionals.

My research concerns the first album of Russia’s leading heavy metal group, Aria, and I presented a basic overview of late Soviet cultural history as well as insights into my research on themes and influences in the album.  I was the only person presenting on Russia but other researchers presented on cultures as disparate as Japan, Madagascar, Austria, and Indonesia, proving that metal music and culture is a global phenomenon.  I connected with researchers in Birmingham who hope to extend their ‘Home of Metal’ study out from there to other ‘homes’ of metal across the world.

In the evening of the first day there was an opportunity to go to Unleash the Archer’s album release gig in Downtown Victoria, and on the final day there was a special screening of the documentary film ‘Blekkmetal’ about the origins of Norway’s black metal scene, set against the backdrop of the 2015 festival of the same name.  This was followed by a Q&A session with two of the producers.  In the evening there was an opportunity to experience more of the local metal scene in an ‘all-ages’ gig at a local community centre.  The ISMMS AGM was also held during the conference and I participated in this as an ordinary member. There were also plenty of opportunities for networking and sightseeing: on one occasion I happened upon one of the locals down at the beach:


North American River Otter

I was heartened by the interest in my research, and I was able to reconnect with friends I first met in Hull in March 2016.  I was impressed by the range of different approaches and projects metal scholars are undertaking and managed to speak with most people about their research.  I was also in charge of live Tweeting the conference using ISMMS’ official Twitter profile (@ISMMSOfficial), which was challenging but very useful for making me think differently about the papers being given.

Overall, I think the conference was a very valuable experience: not only was it an excellent opportunity to present my research to the ‘metal’ side of my field, but it was also an exceptional chance to travel well outside of my comfort zone!  I did, in fact, experience ‘culture shock’: because Victoria is an English-speaking part of Canada, the difference in culture was, in a way, surprising, as everywhere else I have been are predominantly foreign-language based foreign cultures!

I made many new academic friends at the conference, people who are researching new and exciting things and people who are very interested in my research.  I have opened up some opportunities for myself in future research as well as in the opportunity to become more involved with the administration and promotion of ISMMS, once my MA is finished.  I also pushed my boundaries by experiencing music I don’t generally associate with (extreme metal) and research that is unusual and innovative, pushing the boundaries of academic thought (especially Gemma Antonelli’s paper on self-mutilation in performance).

Thankyou very much to BASEES, the University of Nottingham Graduate School and my Russian and Slavonic Studies ‘family’ for granting me the financial opportunity to undertake this groundbreaking trip!  It was beyond worth it!

Don’t hold your breath for the next instalment: my list of ‘urgent things to do once my thesis is handed in’ might already need to be split into ‘super urgent’ and ‘can wait until after Christmas 2017’…!

Better late than never?

You know how it is: you start a new blog, intend to keep something of it going and then circumstances change and it all goes a bit awry. Well, that happened.  Here’s a brief summary of life over the past 8 months.

Firstly, I didn’t do anywhere near enough work in Semester 1, and the blog was not the only thing to suffer.  I’m catching up but this week, having been Freshers’ Week, I’m nowhere near target either, so procrastinating here probably isn’t helping greatly.

Secondly, it all kicked off at work: we had a sudden closedown of the trial I work on. That meant having to fit 2yrs worth of work into practically 3 months. My study work didn’t suffer much but everything else did.

Finally, there has been a lot of things to do with organising and administering RPGSoc and related outfits to be done.

Of course, that wasn’t the half of it: what else has been going on?

RPGSoc won the National Student Roleplaying and Wargaming Championships in Manchester: I’m the current Champion of D&D 5th Edition and Large Model Painting.  I have been playing 5th Edition on Thursday nights still: our gaming group has changed with the change of storyline, and it’s not as good anymore (the group slightly, the storyline mostly), but it’s still brilliant 😀

I’ve been to no airshows since the loss from the air of Vulcan XH558, but I did go to both Bruntingthorpe Cold War Jets open days with my friend from Essex who’s recently moved to the area and I also went to Newark Air Museum’s Fleet & Foreign Open Cockpits thing (although only for the Foreign-y bit), as well as City of Norwich Aviation Museum while I was visiting Emilie and the East Midlands Airport Aeropark with my Mum.  I also visited the Avro Heritage Museum last December with Matt.  So that’s four new Vulcans on the ‘visited’ list 🙂

We went abroad to Austria for the first time in ages and I remembered how much I miss Graz.  Some friends moved back to Nottingham and it’s like the family came home.

My Masters has really kicked off: I’ve been to loads of conferences as a participant so I’ve travelled well!  I’ve also met lots of very interesting and lovely people.  My supervisor thinks my work is very good (it has been described as ‘excellent’!) so it can’t all be that bad.

Let’s not leave it another eight months, eh?  Well, I’ll try my best.

It’s Not All Work…

I came to Moscow to do some research for my Masters, but let’s face it, going to Aria’s 30th Anniversary concert was never purely research.  Also, the chance to do bits of Moscow I always wanted to see, and in winter too.  Coming on my own meant I was free to do what I wanted so I visited the Cosmonauts Museum (at least partly to contrast it with the Cosmonauts exhibition at the Science Museum London) and the Central Museum of the VVS (the Russian equivalent of IWM Duxford).  I didn’t take any pictures in the Cosmonauts Museum: it would have cost me 230rub to do so, and when I knew I was going to buy the 400rub guidebook it didn’t seem worth it!  I probably couldn’t do most of it justice.  I’ll do a post about it later though, along with the other bits of Moscow I did and didn’t see.

This post is about the Air Museum, located about an hour-and-a-half’s train ride outside the city at a little place called Monino.  Monino used to be a base until the late 50s when the museum opened: I think it was replaced by the base now at Chkalovskiy, which is a base for some very large and loud aircraft (I can see/hear why they’re banned from most European airports, like the VC10 was!).  It’s not easy to get to, it’s a long walk up what yesterday were icy roads, but it is signposted in strategic places, and as long as you can read Russian (even if you don’t know what the words mean) it’s pretty straightforward.

I’m still not entirely sure what the opening times are: the two websites (one for the equivalent of the IWM ‘general’ site, one for the VVS part) had different times, so did the signs up around the museum.  It’s safe to say if you aim to arrive about 10am, you should be OK.  The lady on the desk was curt (normal for Russia) but the other ladies (it’s usually always ladies) were very accommodating: the lady in the first room responded to my question in English and the lady in the shop was very chatty (in Russian, but she was patient and friendly, like you’d expect in England, an not common but certainly not unheard of in Russia).  She was lamenting the lack of public transport to the museum and the lack of street lighting on the roads.  She also told me that on festival days there are cockpits open, so something to bear in mind when I come back.  The museum itself is laid out in a room, two hangers and the field.  There was a lot of walking outside in the snow!


As this MiG-29 shows, there’d been quite some snow…!

Inside the first room was the history of flying in Russia, which was very interesting and I think fairly understandable even for those without Russian.  It was the only room with very little English.  It contained engines, models and uniforms, as well as a Polikarpov and something called a Letalin: the first (working) human-powered flying machine in Russia.


Models and motors




Letalin ornithopter


Some weird Edwardian-ish thing…

The first hanger contained the WW2 (Great Patriotic War) aircraft of Russia: they range from sleek inline and radial ‘tactical fighters’ through armoured inline ‘strike’ (ground attack) aircraft (Il-2 Sturmovik) to radial beasts designed for reconnaissance and light night-time bombing.  The night-bombers represented in the museum were from a female squadron, which was very interesting.  Two of the aircraft in the room were classified monuments: others had been produced in their factories years after original production stopped (the joys of the Soviet system), others restored from parts of a crashed aircraft.


Il-2 Sturmovik


Po-2 night-bomber with female pilots exhibition


“Death to the German Occupiers!” MiG-3


National monument La-7



The final hanger, an ancient construction of steel with wooden slatted walls (through which birds entered) contained some of the ‘unique’ exhibits: Il’ya Muromets, a massive four-engined bomber from WW1; the ANT-25 long-range record-breaker; a number of small, experimental aircraft and ‘firsts’.




One of many Buran test models


Russian ‘flying bedstead’


No idea beyond the obvious




Il’ia Muromets


Volga capsule for a balloon (note bird poo!)

And, finally, there was the massive expanse of outside.  And, man, was some of it massive!


Apparently the largest helicopter in the world, Mi-12


“Concordski”, aka Tu-144


Tu-22M (not merely a development of the Tu-22, below)


Il-76, maybe, having just taken off from Chkalovskiy


Tu-22M backside


MiG-25 backside: the size is almost Viggen-like!


Miasishchev M-17 high-altitude experiment






A Bear’s backside (Tu-95)


Back of the T-4/Su-100


Front of the T-4/Su-100


The very shiny T-4/Su-100


Miasishchev 3M, the first intercontinental Soviet nuclear bomber, according to the info-board. Like the V-force, saw some modification and long service

And not just massive: some of it was purely mental:


Beriev Be-12 boatplane (next to a MiG-31?): crazy-looking


Remains of an Airacobra; for restoration!


Be-12 again


M-141 UAV


EPOS spaceplane


MiG testbed “Ye-166” (actually Ye-152M)


Yak-36 technology demonstrator (Russian P.1107)


Yes, that is a helicopter-crane…! Mi-10


After some research, I believe this is a PZL M-15 Belphegor. It’s hidden round the side of one of the hangars but is pretty mental: biplane, twin-boom tail, jet engine…!


Unknown and semi-hidden, but someone does have a sense of humour!


M-50: what makes someone think that putting the engines at the end of the wings is a good idea?!


And also pretty massive…

But that leaves so much else: all the ‘apparently normal’ stuff.  But nothing’s REALLY normal when it comes to Russian aircraft…


Tu-16 (with my Vulcan to the Sky bug)


Su-10 (Su-27 prototype)


Su-27 probably








A DC-3! Actually a licence-built version, the Lisunov Li-2.  There was also a B-25 but I appear to have forgotten to include that photo here…


Bear!  An older Tu-95 (see the tail shot above)


Su-25: that’s a lot of rocket pods…








Tu-114: note the ludicrously high nose


MiG-31 under Be-12’s wing


A newer Tu-95




A cute little helicopter with water-booms (unlabelled, possible Mi-2)


One of two Mi-6s: this one is the battlefield HQ one (the other is a troop transport etc.)


Cute little Mi-2


Mi-4(?) firefighter




L-29 Dolphin or similar (unlabelled)




MiG-15 side view








Yak-38 V/STOL (Russian Jump Jet, but less capable than the Harrier)


Yak-38 again


Yak-25: I found this aircraft very striking


Yak-27: somewhat arty shot of the sun through the nose


Section of an Il-76


Yak-17: supercute little jet fighter




Fantastic icicles on this Mi-8’s rotors


A dinky little Yak (-130?) next to the massive T-4


Tu-128 prototype




Tu-22M, looks much smaller here





Watch this space for further Moscow-related news.  But next time, not actually from Moscow…

My First Research Trip

Tomorrow I go to Moscow on a research trip.  It will probably be the only research trip of my Masters, but should be a great start to my research career in travelling!

Generally, I’m pretty negative about Moscow: I had a terrible experience in 2003 (it was hot, humid and full of people) and I find it just like London, which I lived next to for 18 years.  In 2012 it was better: the city was celebrating 850 years and we went to the Battle of Borodino 200th Anniversary Reenactment (which I gave a presentation on at the Remakes in Russia workshop in 2014: my first exposure to ‘real’ academia, maybe!).  Everyone in the public services was really friendly, which is weird for Russia generally!  It was similar in St. Petersburg last year: everyone was much more like British service people…!

I will be going entirely on my own this time too, like when I went to Germany in 2005: this is new and scary, because Russia is so… different.  Still, it’s only 5 days on my own and it’ll be a nice break.

Oh, and then there’s my research: as well as attending a 7-hour heavy metal concert, I’m arranging some interviews with key people.  Exciting, and also scary!

I am also hoping to get to the massive air museum at Monino as well, and in a follow up to mine and Matt’s London trip, the cosmonaut museum.  We also went to the tourist ‘tat’ market in 2003 so I hope to return (albeit on a weekday so half the stalls will be shut) and apparently there’s an Ekranoplan outside the Navy museum…

That’s, of course, if they let me into the country in the first place…