3 is the magic number…

Another late post! Letting it all slip a bit as I get my head as far into writing as possible (not always easy…) I’ve now finished all three analysis chapters (wtf, I know, right?) in 3 months and am bashing away at my redraft literature review, then I’ll do my methodology, then intro / conclusion, then edit the whole thing, submit to supervisors to read, then edit one last time before submitting in November…!! So bloody close now. Can’t wait to see what’s around the bend as well! So here are some musings from last month.



“What do you want, a medal?” “yes.”

I am writing a PhD


I am writing a PhD


57 more than 23*,


that is a lot of words you see,


Spending lots of time in the library


Sometimes going a little crazy


People people everywhere


But not a one to talk to,


I’m not cut out to be alone


For days on end, just me, my phone


and my laptop, my most intimate friend


Oh one day this PhD will end…


I am writing a PhD


I am writing a PhD


“What do you want, a medal?”






In the above image of the medal I should be given, the woman is me, the tablet with words on is my thesis and the unicorn thing is my talisman of strength and good word-writing skills. The rocks represent the weight of the task and the mountains the classic image of struggle and consequential great views / achievement.


NB. relatively I have got it pretty cushy, I am always in absolute awe of folk I know who are doing PhDs and full time jobs and being parents and playing in bands and cooking great food and making films etc etc, so I don’t really deserve a medal, I’m just nearly at the end and am an over-sharer.



*thousand words

Chapter 2 – People

I am actually onto my third analysis chapter now, but here is an old post about the second analysis chapter…oh how time flies!


The sun is positively BEATING down here in Glasgow, ‘Total Eclipse of the Heart’ is blasting from the building site, and memories of loch swimming and 6Music Festival gigs are only recently fogging in my mind’s eye from the weekend…

It’s been a while since I’ve written and my brain is a little fuzzy today (turns out your natural alarm clock isn’t always the best thing to rely on…) so rather than wake up and ‘carry on writing my PhD’ I thought I’d have a bit  of free-writing-esque on this here blog, let you know where I’m at, that sort of thing.

Dangerously plural: why living with many languages is dangerous.

A beautiful meditation on the complex and plural creature that is identity, the ways that language opens us up to understanding (and confusion), and the ways that challenging the ‘single story’ of language, identity and models for life poses a threat to this sense of untoppleable power held by those dominant forces who spit the ‘truth’ of the this singular way of being.

I love the feeling of being able to communicate in Spanish; to make myself understand and to (most of the time) understand in turn; to stumble through a conversation, perhaps reversing, stop-starting at points, but muddling through the heavy traffic of words. I’m eternally grateful to my father for giving me a love of language, and a curiosity to improve this precious key which enables me to flow between people and places with relative ease…this is not to ignore the non-linguistic forms of communication which have dotted some of my previous posts, but rather to nod to the joys and wonders of multi-linguality. It appals me that languages are not more crucial in the British Education system (but then lots of things appal me about what is included in the curriculum so that’s not saying much)…our tiresomely continuously colonial attitude to learning about the world is very dull, and it was precisely only those teachers who spoke so excitedly of this power which language held who have stuck with me as I left school. Language is a dangerous and powerful tool, which is why it has been actively oppressed in so many parts of the world and so many points in history; the English did it to the Welsh, the Spanish to the Latin American indigenous…time and again those in power recognise the power of language. True, an attention to language alone can’t make changes, and can even be dangerous in itself if we then ignore other issues which are at stake, but it is certainly an important place to start.

Glasgow Refugee Asylum and Migration Network (GRAMNet)

There was an elder tree in the garden of the house where I grew up. It was easy to climb and its branches formed a shelter filled with filtered sunlight. I loved that tree. One evening I sat hidden among the elder smells when my Scottish mother called on me to get down out of the tree and come in. I moved reluctantly, slowly, so my Italian father called me too. Then something happened in my brain and I felt as if something had exploded inside my head.

Hearing the word “tree” in English and then in Italian had triggered a sudden landslide of realisations. This thing I was in, this high green thing I loved, was a “tree” for my Scottish family at the same time as it was an “albero” for my Italian family. Different words for the same thing; but how could it be the same thing…

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Bridges – building and burning

Another oldie for ya, wrote this in August last year…when I finished all my interviews! Madbrilliantwildlongtimeago. Anyway, it’s a musing on the presence of bridges in the interviews I did with the women, which I thought was quite interesting but won’t be a huge part of my thesis. That’s the great thing about blogs, is you can write whole posts about things which you don’t have the word count space to do in your thesis – hurray! Anyway. Enjoy!

Hello! So it’s been a while. I’ve been deep in the depths of ‘deep hanging-out’, as anthropologist Clifford Geertz calls ethnography.

I officially finished my 20 interviews yesterday, which is bananas and amazing and thrilling. I would never have thought this time last year…that I’d have completed this thing and would be moving into analysis and working on chapter plans…

in one year I’ve moved house (twice), started going to groups, developed relationships with the amazing women who attend these groups (in a weird researcher not quite fully fledged friend capacity which I’ve found very hard to negotiate at times), done all of the interviews I hoped to do, presented at two conferences, had an existential crisis, moved in with two major babes, started violin lessons, and a thousand other things in between of varying sizes of significance.

I just wanted to take a moment to reflect on what I’ve learnt over the last 12 months, and use this space to take stock as I move gently into the next year, the autumn, winter, and this long year of writing which I now face.


I just had a sudden, desperate urge to be back in Bradford.

Back in a place I know at a time I knew it well.

Back in a place and a time when everything was in place. When people I loved were all around me, and I had no concern for what the future held.

Back in a time where I was filled with that total euphoric carefree joy of youth.

Before I knew he was ill, before I really understood what a mess the world was, before folk moved on and moved away, and I began my own journey, carving out my own lines through life.

Back to a time and a place that felt like getting into bed, all the time. In the best way. In the most comfortable way.

Back to a time where I still fitted on my mum’s lap (when was that ever a time…I’m big like my Dad was).

Back to a time where I roamed the rooms that I wore like a second skin, where I imagined whole worlds within them, aided by my furry stuffed friends. (Toys, not taxidermied animals, I’d like to point out…)

Back to a time where was held, and had to do little holding of others in any kind of meaningful, self-aware way.

Back to a time where, in my memory, nothing was wrong.


Rose-tinted, deluded, painfully nostalgic.


Hello, so it’s been a long time…

I’ve been struggling to start and then trying to keep momentum up with writing my PhD…started writing my first analysis chapter in February which is due in on the 13th march…eek! So I’ve not made much room for anything else writing wise.

I’m telling, you, starting writing is the HARDEST thing but once you’ve started the flow is for me anyway, generally easy to maintain unless I hit a block. I’ve taken a couple of days away to visit family and give a lecture so I have shifted away slightly in my brain towards how important people in my life are doing, talking about belief systems, the future, the present, the toxicity of individualism…so my brain kinda hurts and now I’m back at the desk trying to jump back in the pleasantly flowing river of writing.

Those who do, those who don’t

Hello! Happy New year, hope you had a restful festive season and a good start to the year, I’ll write a bigger post soon but just a quick thought which continues on from the last post about Daniel Bedingfield (….Daniel Blake).

I’m reading some stuff to put into my context chapter, and I’m looking at the Government’s lovely fluffy Immigration Act to find some stuff from the foul horse’s mouth about ‘hostile environment’ policy.

Crikey. the witch Theresa May holds no punches. I knew that already but it’s always chilling to read it first hand.

Here, she essentially talks about how those who come to the UK illegally (I mean, how many other options are we giving people to come here really…we’ve hardly put on any luxury cruise liners at a reduced rate have we…) are wholly undeserving of access to any of the resources they might need such as basic healthcare, employment and housing. Flippin’ heck, Theresa, you do not take after your elderly nun name-sake in your generosity of spirit do you? Again, knew this already but always good to remember who the enemy is. (Not Theresa herself, but rather she is a voice of a bigger disgusting, racist, xenophobic, nationalist system…)

I am Brian Wilson: or ‘The Good Immigrant’

13.12.16 – I need to stop writing posts and then not putting them up so that they all start with this stilted smattering of time-hops…but here is one about ‘the deserving’….

8.11.16 – In the wake of this absolutely shit-shower of an election, I have a blog post reflecting on representation and ideas of the ‘deserving’.

“Vignettes move us. The bigger picture just seems to make many of us fearful. We can still be touched by a story of desperation and hardship…”  – (Michael Buerk in BBC’s Moral Maze, 27.10.16)

I went to see Ken Loach’s new film last night, which I inexplicably kept thinking was called “I am Brian Wilson” rather than “I, Daniel Blake”. Weird.

Vignettes move us. The story of one man, the woman he befriends in the Job Centre and their struggle with the State, can reduce some to “a shivering wreck… awash with tears, aghast with anger, overwhelmed by the sheer force”, whilst they leave others skeptical of the extent to which they address the bigger picture. There are questions here about representation which I’ll come to in a bit…

Held in Humanity

An old one from my field notes:


There is a group of Eritrean women who come to the choir I attended for a period of time, one of whom halfway through a song takes a call, which later on it transpires is from her two friends whom she was inviting, and who turned up a little later. They are all seemingly good friends, the shared language is no doubt a huge help for this particularly in a group (and a country) whose language they do not yet speak much of.

In the 5 minute break we are allowed, they are huddled around a plastic bag outside in the corridor, tucking into some food one of them has cooked and brought with them. I walk through the door, coming back from the toilet and they see me and smile and beckon me over, fingers red with food. “Come come! Have!” “Oh!” I say, going over to them, “are you sure?” “Of course!” they reply, with that facial expression that says ‘why would we not offer you our food?’ and I move towards the plastic bag (I’ve never eaten food out of a plastic bag before and it’s been a long time since I’ve eaten with my hands, especially something which is being shared by many people, and so there is an initial uncertainty in my belly which is a result of my long history of learning individual, utensil-centric habits). But I tear off some of the bready pancake (injera I later find out is its name, from going to an Ethiopian restaurant in manchester and attending a talk about food from around the world, one of which was about Ethiopian food) and wrap it around some of the orange stuff, and try and mop up some of the red stuff as well. “Potato”, is all I am told, and it’s totally delicious. “More, more!” They say, happy to be sharing it with me. “That’s so kind” I tell them, as I tear off some more pancake and wrap it round some more delicious Eritrean morsels. “How long in Glasgow?” I ask them, as we chew. “7 months”, they tell me, “6 months, me” say two of them. “Same as me!” I say, “7 months”. “Ah!”, we laugh at this shared newness and unfamiliarity with the city. I go to say more, but we are called back in to the room, so I squeeze one of the women’s shoulders in thanks and go and wash my hands.