Outstanding levels of stretch 

‘English universities to be ranked gold, silver and bronze’, we hear in a new dispatch from the Department of Jo Johnson is Just Saying the First Thing that Comes Into His Head Now (DoJJJSFTCIHHN).

According to an article in the Guardian

the Tef panel will award gold to a university if its courses offer “outstanding levels of stretch that ensures all students are significantly challenged to achieve their full potential”. 

Outstanding levels of stretch, you say.



Yes, I would like to apply for a teaching development grant to support further research into this area. 

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Just say no

Or, dang I do have problems with Academic Advice literature, don’t I. Not all of it! #notallacademicadvice #butalotofit

‘Do yourself a favour’, reads a recent headline in the Times Higher Education. ‘Learn to say no’.

Those acquainted with my half-formed musings will know that I have what we might call a one-sidedly fractious relationship with the THE. This is not based entirely on the fact that all that sub-Private Eye material (and you may also know of my dislike for Private Eye) about their parody university is the least funny thing ever to be marketed at university academics, up to and including that ‘JSTOR and Chill’ t-shirt. Rather, I find that the hot higher education #content provided by the THE runs the gamut from ‘useful and interesting’ to ‘actively damaging to the profession‘, taking frequent pit stops at ‘oh, this shite again’ and ‘I appear to have nutted my head entirely through my desk’. It is to the latter that I shall now turn.

This is a bit mean (perhaps a lot mean). The subject I’ll be wittering on about today is the article I linked to at the top of this post, by researcher Helen Kara, which takes the classic Academic Advice form: you are doing this thing wrong. Stop doing this thing wrong.

The thing in question is: academic overcommitment: saying yes to too much. Kara’s piece is well-intentioned and makes some good points: stop saying yes, she argues, because its unfair both to yourself and to those who rely on you. Say no, keep your workload manageable, and actually perform the responsibilities you take on properly. She notes that ‘saying “no” can be really difficult, particularly if the person asking is, for example, senior to you, or someone to whom you owe a favour’ – or if you’re early in your career. Kara provides some scripts for these situations, and they are genuinely (genuinely. I’m not being sarcastic here, for once) really useful. This is, in many ways, a really valuable piece, and I don’t want you (dear reader) to discount it just because muggins here has capital-V Views about it.

The thing is. The thing is the thing is

It’s nice to have recognition that ‘just saying no’ is harder for those further down the ladder, and that indeed there are other factors that can make refusal difficult, or at least complicated, for people at all stages of the careers. It’s nice to have some scripts to use. But recognition is really all this is, scripts notwithstanding. Academia is a favour and reputation economy with some very big power imbalances indeed; the various pressures of this can’t always be dissipated by even the politest of refusals. As academics we navigate a landscape that can’t be easily sorted into yeses and noes, that is far more complex than appeals to judgement and agency make clear.

And the other thing is.

Kara ends the piece with an appeal to ‘ethics’, which I’ll quote in full:

There is an ethical point to this, too. We forget to notice that if we don’t look after ourselves properly, we can’t do our jobs or look after other people. I love Deborah Netolicky’s memorable description of ethics as the “unsexy undergarments” of academia. I think we should pay attention to ethics all the time, just as we remember, every day, to wear our undergarments. People who overcommit are a danger to themselves, risking their health and happiness, and that can damage their families and friends as well. They are also a danger to their colleagues: I know from experience, as someone who is quite good at managing time and workload, that a collaborator who misses deadlines can cause great stress in my life. So for our own benefit, and for the benefit of our colleagues, families and friends, we have an obligation not to overcommit, and that means learning to say “no”.

Yes, I see the point here. It’s not ethical to let people down, and we should strive never, in the course of our work or otherwise, to damage or impede the lives of others. This is not a small issue. But if you’re going to raise the topic of ethics in a piece like this then questions are going to be begged, and those questions are going to go beyond questions of personal ethics to questions of institutional, societal ethics: the contexts that personal ethical choices take place within. Kara has done really useful and interesting work on research ethics, and my intention here is not to minimise or trivialise that – though I would argue that her handwaving final paragraph does that for her. But ethics in higher education is larger than the personal or the interpersonal, and when you are dealing with the cavernous power differentials of this profession it is dangerous – and yes, unethical – to frame the disembodied agency of the individual as the sole site of ethical choice. I’m overstating what I assume is Kara’s actual position, but I’m taking it from the paragraph above.

And that brings me back, not without trepidation, to the wording of the piece. ‘Learn to say no’. The article circles around the word ‘no’, returning to it at the ends of paragraphs, always with the same implication: ‘no’ is clear. It is to be used to claim agency. Learn to say it, and your agency will be recognised and respected.

Except. ‘No’ swims through so much of what we are told, in social environments that may be challenging or dangerous, we should say and do. ‘Just say no’ to drugs. ‘No means no’. ‘No’ claims agency, keeps you safe. Except when it doesn’t.

Learning to say ‘no’ guarantees nothing. It does not guarantee that a person who wants something from you will not use the power they have to get it anyway. We err, and we endanger ourselves, when we trust this word. It carries no spell to preserve us. In the light of scandalous abuses of power in the academy, I do not believe that this is the ethics of refusal we need to focus on.

OK, it may be that I’m going a bit over the top in response to a light-heartedly-toned piece about agreeing to do too much peer reviewing. And I do want to make very clear that this is not something that I’m entirely qualified to speak on: I have not experienced harassment or abuse within academia, and I am not equating the mere experience of being subject to unequal institutional power relationships to the experience of being abused through them. But decisions over workload take place within the same mesh of reputation and obligation and power that harassment and abuse does. We all negotiate this every day, no matter where we sit in the hierarchy or what things we are trying to procure or avoid. The great, great majority of these interactions will be relatively benign, but even within them ‘no’ is subject to negation or negotiation: a refusal to take on an admin responsibility may be ignored, overruled, or renegotiated, often for perfectly sound reasons. Kara’s ‘no’ essentially takes place in an empty political space, in which words carry the full weights of their intentions: no means no. There is nothing more to say.

This captures much of my unease with a lot of Academic Advice Literature. I find it tends, as a feature of the genre, to depoliticise: to strip acts like saying ‘no’ of their political weight, to site the forces pushing against them into the (depoliticised, depersonalised, degendered, deracialised) bodies of shy or unwilling individuals. Just claim agency, just say no. I am not arguing against Kara’s purpose, in the sense that more refusal – and, crucially, more freedom to refuse – and thus more manageable workloads would be a pretty uncomplicatedly good thing. However, I’m uneasy with this depoliticisation, and most of all with Kara’s formulation of personal ethics. It’s not victim-blaming – I don’t think one can really be termed a victim of promising to write too many book chapters, even if they are painful to do – but it partakes of some of the same mechanisms, some of the same blinkeredness, and some of the same language. Learn to say ‘no’, by all means. But understand what ‘no’ can’t do, too.

 

Multum in Parvo (said the cupcake toppers)

Walking towards work yesterday, feeling a bit fragile (I’d responded to grief at the memorial service for Lisa Jardine by hitting the wine with aplomb and the canapes not at all, and then crashed a Finnegans Wake reading group in a nearby pub, something that I suspect Lisa would have found hilarious), I wondered a bit why I was trudging down a cold Bancroft Road and not, eg, at home on a sofa with a cat on me. I had a hangover, and I was sad, and January stretched in cold puffs of breath all around me, frozen and uninviting.

I had reasons to go in, of course. Good ones. Ones that made me think of Lisa. She didn’t meet the brilliant first year student I was due to talk to about Beowulf, whose sheer intellectual curiosity astounds me on a regular basis. She never knew – though I’m convinced she’d have adored – the guest speaker for our graduate seminar, a young digital humanist who is transforming scholarship while wearing brightly-coloured DMs, making jokes, and being outspokenly, excellently feminist. I don’t think she ever met the MA students I saw there, but I think she’d have liked them and their proposed PhD projects a lot, and offered up her expertise and her scholarly network the way she always did: generously, good-humouredly, and with great glee at the prospect of new and exciting scholarship. She didn’t get to attend the wonderful salon at the V&A last night, organised by the brilliant Lisa Skogh, but she’d have loved it – loved the international focus, loved the voices of young scholars raised in democratic discussion with the great and the good. I wasn’t even teaching yesterday, and still I have this long list of people and projects I’d have loved to share with her.

I forgot to take the programme for Lisa’s memorial service out of my handbag before I left yesterday morning. I’d quite like to prop it on my office shelf, next to the magazine cover with Alan Cumming’s face on it (he watches benevolently over my scholarship), but I’m not sure I can: seeing her wide smile in the picture on the cover would always be a reminder that I don’t get to see that smile in person any more. It still has the effect on me it always did: I smile back, infected by her joy, but the difference is that now I start to cry, too.

We’ve talked, a bunch, about how we go on without her – without her clout, yes, her ability to make things happen, but above all her personality, her warmth, her kindness. I guess we do what people always do when they lose someone: we work with the resources we have, we make virtues out of what we have to give and to share ourselves. I met some of the best people I know through Lisa, and I learnt not just skills (although the skills are invaluable) but an attitude to life, to my teaching, to my research, that shapes everything I do. Tuesday night reminded me not just of the brilliance of the people who gathered around Lisa, but of their infinite variety. She encouraged us not, necessarily, to be like her – unless the occasion called for it – but to be ourselves, to revel in our individuality and the individuality of others: and to treat these things as virtues, as drivers of good teaching and good scholarship, good living, and (when necessary) bad behaviour. I wish beyond words that she was still here, but I know that the resources that we have, encouraged and shaped by her, are wonderful.

Roll up, roll up: AtB portraits to benefit Nepal!

Hey hey lovely people of the internet,

Would YOU like a *bespoke* Avoiding the Bears portrait of yourself, or your friend, or your pet? Have YOU always dreamed of posing for Holbein (ahem) in your finest, with your best scientific instruments and stretchy skull thing? Well, dream no more! A version of this dream may be about to come true!

tills

Tilly and Maximilian approve this message!

I, a person with no discernible practical skills, want to do something to help the victims of the devastating earthquake in Nepal. Nepal is very close to my heart, and some of the best people I have ever met live there. I won’t rattle on about my feelings here, because this is not about me, but I want to do something that isn’t watching rolling news in my pyjamas and crying, so this is what I’ve come up with: drawing funny pictures. I mean, this has got to be good for something.

So, I will draw pictures of you – yes, you, or anyone else you would like – with a historical figure of your choice. Ever wanted to hang out with Henry VIII? Chill with Confucius? Max and relax with Margaret of Anjou? All of these things can be achieved, for a small payment to one of the charities helping to get food, water, shelter and medical assistance to the wonderful people of Nepal.

2015-04-27 11.09.36

This is a quick sketchy picture of my sister’s dog interviewing professional sadness merchant Charles Dickens. Your picture will be much better than this.

What to do:

1. Choose which sort of picture you would like:

  • A5 black and white portrait of you and a historical figure of your choice: £15
  • A5 colour portrait of you and a historical figure of your choice: £20 (more expensive because painting is difficult, right)
  • A4 black and white picture: £20
  • A4 colour picture: £30
  • Plus £5 for every additional figure (I will totally draw you with multiple members of the seventeenth-century Royal Society dressed up as the Backstreet Boys, if that is your wont)
The Earl of Essex is taking time out from his beard-grooming routine to support this important cause

The Earl of Essex is taking time out from his beard-grooming routine to support this important cause

2. Given the time-sensitive nature of all this, I don’t want to take donations myself – but instead to cut out the middle man and get the money to charities ASAP. So: please make a donation to one of the following charities (chosen because I know they are reputable…). Giftaid that donation, if you’re a UK taxpayer. Feel free to donate more than the price of your chosen picture if you can.

  • The British Red Cross
  • Oxfam
  • Unicef
  • Save the Children
  • HVP UK – this is especially close to my heart: this charity supports the Hindu Vidyapeeth (HVP) movement in Nepal, which runs schools and associated social projects. I volunteered at several of the schools a few years ago – they really do wonderful work. They desperately need funds to support the schools and the communities around them at this time.

4. Send a screenshot of that donation, and/or the confirmation email, to me at kirsty dot rolfe at gmail dot com, along with the following:

  • Details of the kind of portrait you would like (see above for what’s on offer)
  • The name of the historical figure(s) you’d like in the picture, along with any other details about them you’d like me to know/that I’ll need to find visual record of them (if you have a picture, please attach it!)
  • A picture/pictures of you/your friend/your pet/etc so that I don’t draw you or them totally wrong
  • Your address so I can send you the completed picture.

I will then:

1. Draw that picture

2. Scan that picture and send you a nice electronic copy (on a proper scanner! Promise not to take bad photos on my phone, like I do with my own stuff)

3. Post the hard copy of the picture to you at no extra charge (no extra charge! whoo). Due to finances I can only do this if you’re within the UK, BUT: if you’re outside it, please let me know in your initial email and we will work something out.

Obviously cartoons are not an instant art form (would that they were) but I’ll get your picture done and posted ASAP.

Please get in touch with me at kirsty dot rolfe at gmail dot com if you have any questions, any requests not mentioned above (eg you want to make a giant donation and get a great big picture. I can totally make that happen), or if you’d like to buy any picture already featured on this site – I have a lot of them knocking about.

Please don’t make me draw cars. I hate drawing cars.

Kirsty x

P.S. Here are some more examples of me historical portraitin’:

He is, you know

He is, you know

What do you MEAN Poirot isn't an important historical figure

What do you MEAN Poirot isn’t an important historical figure

WHAT DO YOU MEAN JARVIS ISN'T AN IMPORTANT HISTORICAL FIGURE

WHAT DO YOU MEAN JARVIS ISN’T AN IMPORTANT HISTORICAL FIGURE

He’s gettin’ married to the widow next door, she’s been married seven times before

I’ve enjoyed Wolf Hall a lot, not just because I enjoy everything that David Starkey expresses distaste towards on principle. It’s really well made! It has Noted Fit Ginger Damien Lewis™ in it! And major hats! And Claire Foy being petulant! Anyway, in celebration of the final episode screening tonight (which I’m going to miss because I’m going to a pub quiz, as I am a great lover of pub quizzes), I’m sharing one of the first songs (re)written many moons ago for the Electric Renaissancists, the now-long-dormant historically-themed Belle and Sebastian covers band started by Sarah and me…

Play the video, and read along!

HENRY AND THE DISSOLUTION

Henry wrote a Catholic book
He showed it to Sir Thomas More today
Henry where did it go wrong
You used to persecute the Lutherans

Henry was a teenage monarch
He wed his brother’s wife when he was young
He gave himself to books and learning
He gave himself to being number one
Henry I don’t know if you are gonna have a male heir
Henry I don’t know if you are gonna have a male heir

Henry met a girl at court
They went under the covers for a grope
Fell asleep till it was morning
He dreamt about a church without the Pope
Henry never felt so good except when he was ruling
Henry never felt so good except when he was ruling yeah

Henry let’s get a divorce
You can have new wives whenever you want
But you will be disappointed
You will have six wives and only one son
Henry you kicked all the monks out in the Dissolution
And the song you wrote was ‘Henry and the Dissolution’
Dissolution… (x3)

The best looking boys are traitors
The best looking girls are losing their heads
So Henry where does that leave you
Dressing in furs and looking well fed
With Cromwell on your shoulder saying everything when you talk
With the floors in Whitehall Palace creaking every time that you walk
If you’re ever feeling blue then write another song about the Dissolution
Write a song about the Dissolution
Call it ‘Henry and the Dissolution’
Call it ‘Henry and the Dissolution’

The Dissolution… (x4)


 

In addition, here’s some Rylance Eyebrows fan art, as inspired by a conversation with Heather:

eyebrows

To be clear: this is fanart of Rylance’s EYEBROWS, not his EXPRESSED VIEWS ON STUFF.

 

And a cat:

cat

Training the cat to be his factor in Antwerp

 

Remember, readers, hold your friends close, but your enemies closer.

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‘YOU’RE MY BEST FRIEND YOU ARE CROMMERS’

 

It’s a start

It has been a long time since I posted anything on here, and the last thing I posted was a bowl with a picture of Charles II on it. I’ve been a little distracted.

The distractions have been many and various, like writing stuff and applying for jobs and all that malarkey. Especially recently, when I’ve been gearing up to move, scrounging boxes from the cash and carry and staring at my books while saying things like ‘All my friends are bibliophiles, I THOUGHT THIS WAS NORMAL’.

Anyway, apologies. Please accept a tale about a bike. It contains thrills (well, maybe not), spills (definitely), mythical hidden treasure (none at all, actually), and a moral about academia (of course) because that is (as they say) how I roll.

Happiness is a Gold Bike and a Good Book

I remember going to buy my first bike. It was at someone’s house, and the bike in question was painted in dull gold and cost my father five pounds. I used to ride it behind our house, in an alley between two lines of terraced houses, where the neighbourhood kids would congregate to muck about on bikes and kick footballs. In my brain the image of us there has blurred with history, into some approximation of a Hovis advert or a Shirley Hughes book, all earth-toned 1950s clothing and cameraderie.

not good at prams

Representative alleyway friends, about to embark upon game of marbles/conkers/postwar regeneration

I’m pretty sure we weren’t wearing short trousers and trading cigarette cards, but in my memory we might as well have been. I remember the boy who was my particular friend, though to my sadness I can’t remember his name, who was convinced that my five pound bike was a valuable antique under its gold paint. I borrowed a piece of sandpaper from my mum’s tool box and we tried to take the gold paint off to see what was underneath.

Some sort of skewed bike creature

I assume this is what we thought would happen. NB. One serious flaw with this blog post is that I can’t draw bikes for toffee.

I was never that confident on the bike. I hadn’t taken particularly well to my father’s tutelage, and I never really trusted my ability to kick off from the ground and keep going, a frail travelling coincidence (to misuse a Philip Larkin quote about train travel) of balance and momentum. The bike’s last day was a fairly dramatic one. There was a park a short walk away, where a gravel path snaked through the woods that ringed a lake. The lake had once been an open-cast mine, from which they’d dug the cream-coloured clay for the bricks of the terraced houses. I was there with my family, on my gold bike, doing better than usual. Towards the end of the circle of path was a hill, and as I freewheeled down it, closer to the edge of control than I usually liked to be, the rust that was under the gold paint finally gave way and the frame of the bike sheared in half and I fell smack at speed onto the gravel. My sister still says it’s the funniest thing she’s ever seen.

Imagine my sister laughing, too

Unfortunately when you chop a bike in half it does not grow into two bikes

Anyway, this is why I didn’t ride a bike for twenty years. I was a very nervous child. Having experienced a top-speed bike collapse once, I wasn’t in any hurry to do it again. To be honest, I wasn’t really in any hurry at all. I grew up not really trusting any speed over a sprint unless someone else was controlling whatever mechanism was making it happen. I don’t drive either. I walk and I use public transport, a policy that made me pretty well-suited to living in London and not at all suited to living in most other places.

I even walked everywhere while I was an undergrad in Oxford. Oxford is a town for cyclists. It’s even a town for unsuitable cyclists, like dons on creaking ancient bikes with baskets crammed with fat books on medievalism wobbling up St Giles with long skirts flapping dangerously about the pedals, or worse-for-wear undergraduates weaving through Cornmarket at times they’re not supposed to. I walked everywhere, and when a friend’s dodgy secondhand bike suffered a fate not dissimilar to my golden one – the handlebar shearing off, tipping him into the Banbury Road traffic (he was fine, thankfully, largely due to the fact that he, unlike 90% of Oxford’s travelling coincidences, was wearing a helmet) – I took this as confirmation that cycling, like most team sports and the study of Romanticism, was a death-defying venture and something that I Did Not Do.

Byron is a terribly stubby man and the Wordsworths are stick creatures

I would, however, act as a guide to south Devon for the consumptive Keats. He had an awful time there, which I think would be at least partly mitigated by knowing where the good pubs are.

A decade or so later, though, I am moving back to Oxford and the issue of cycling has come up again. There are buses that travel most of the distance between my new house and my new job, but it is an unavoidable fact that it would make a heap more sense to cross this distance on a bike. With this in mind I decided fairly recently, as a nearly-30-year-old who has now managed to suppress her sense of social embarrassment enough to not mind overly about teens watching her make a wobbly fool of herself in a park, to learn to ride a bike again. My old flatmate offered to teach me, so we headed to the park next to the house with my other flatmate’s bike and she proceeded to teach me in a wonderfully funny and patient manner and I proceeded to be better at it than I thought I would be.

I’m not saying I am *good* at cycling. I’m not saying that I don’t need a hell of a lot more practice before I unleash my abilities on the unsuspecting public, even the Oxford public. I’m not saying that I am fantastic at aiming the thing, or that I did not at one point in my second lesson crash very slowly into the stone marking a vault containing nine people (the park is also a churchyard. It has a few stones marking family vaults dotted about, and at one side of it is a wall covered in gravestones: a literal Wall of Death. I’ve nearly crashed into that a few times, too). I’m most certainly not saying that the little voice in my head that doubts the coincidence – that doubts my ability to bring balance and momentum and belief to a point, and to move that point forward without running over a dog – isn’t there. But I had been saying for years that I was an exception that proves a rule – I *did* forget how to ride a bike! – but this turned out not to be true.

whooooooo

‘We’ve just popped by to give you some tips on braking’

I was in a great mood on my way home after my first lesson. As I sat on the top deck of the bus, bobbing my way happily up through Hackney, I had a realisation: I felt proud of myself. Proud in quite an uncomplicated way about having got on a bike and made it go about. A second realisation followed: I hadn’t felt like this for a while.

On ths surface, this is a pretty weird thing to feel. I did finish a PhD this year, and that is traditionally something you are supposed to feel proud of. I had no shortage of people being proud of me or proud for me. We had a barbecue shortly after I submitted my thesis, and my copy was taken down from the shelf and pawed about a great deal by various friends (this is how it got a barbecue sauce stain on its title page, something I announced ten whole minutes into my viva). My friends threw me a party after my viva, even though I’d grumpily declined to organise one myself. People were lovely to me about it all on social media, even people I’ve never met. I was surprised, I remember, at how lovely the staff in the English department were after my viva. For some reason I hadn’t expected them to be proud of me, too.

This all sounds really odd (or worse, like a lot of compliment-fishery) now I write it. But for a long time my thesis was ‘that damn thing’ to me, and I didn’t let myself feel proud of it. I tried to shut it away instead. A PhD dominates your life in a way that means it can’t just be shrugged off, though. Sealing words away in blue covers and avoiding opening them up again is one thing, but you can’t do that with four years of experience and thought. I certainly had that desire in the weeks after I submitted the thesis – I wanted to put it away, get away from it – and remembering how deeply and defiantly I wanted that makes me feel, now, very sad. It’s been a while since I felt that way, but it’s still been a bit difficult to feel actual pride in what I’ve done.

lotta me sitting about basically

I attempted to represent that feeling a bit in this comic. It’ll get bigger if you click on it, though it won’t get more cheerful.

My realisation on the bus was pretty damn useful. My brain tried to minimise my pride at riding a bike pretty damn quickly – ‘what, you’re proud of starting to learn something that you should already know how to do?’ – but at least I saw it doing it. I felt proud of the cycling thing, and then I thought about the thesis, and for perhaps the first time I really thought ‘HELL YES. I WROTE A BIG BLUE BOOK. NICE WORK, BRAIN’.

It’s a start. Accepting that I did something and that it was pretty good and that I should feel at least a modicum of pride is an important part of the process that lets me do new work. I have to recognise that it’s good and it’s worth sharing. Like the whole cycling thing, it’s not a case of standing back, surveying my achievements and saying ‘Yup, job done’. In this academic lark you don’t just do a thing and finish it. The relationship to past work is discursive and developing: when I read my thesis through before my viva I liked a lot of it more than I thought I would, and now as I rewrite bits of it in the hope of making them into articles I find myself disagreeing with them, wanted to scale back on some things and go deeper on others. It should, perhaps, hurt to feel like I’m picking apart my own hard work like that. It doesn’t. It feels like my thoughts are waking up again, stretching, pulling back the curtains. It feels like I’m looking out of the window and seeing a hundred things I want to do – I mean, on top of the hundred things I have to do, but so it goes – and that I can do, if I choose. It feels, in short, pretty good. Not uncomplicatedly good, like my pride at riding a bike again – but complicated in a way that could work. That I can make work. Like I say, it’s a start.

PARTY BOWL (for parties)

My friend Sally came to stay last week and it was lovely, because she is one of the nicest people in the known universe. She’s an ace artist, and she used to work in a pottery painting cafe and retains a deep affection for those fine establishments. So one day we went to Greenwich to paint pots (and also to pootle around the Maritime Museum), in the company of many adorable small children (for it was half term).  She painted me a beautiful mug, while I decided it was time for the first Avoiding the Bears foray into homewares.

I couldn’t think what to paint. The conversation went like this.

Me: I don’t know who to paint! Oh, which early modern personage should I mock in ceramic?

Sally: You could do a picture of the King of Bling?

Me: YES PARTY BOWWWLLLLLL

I was not particularly skilful at using the squeezy bottle for outlining stuff, so Charlie’s face has come out more Ralph Toft than intended. But I flipping LOVE the work of Ralph Toft, so this is all to the good in my opinion.

Here is the inside. IMPORTANT NOTE: Charles II was well dead by 1699. WELL dead. I meant to write 1669, but messed up when I came to paint it because I was singing Prince to myself while I did it. But anyway, let’s pretend like he was thinking ahead (like Prince was!) and imagining the amazing parties that would happen at the turn of the century (like Prince was!) and let’s all take a moment to be sad that Charlie never got to go to said amazing end-of-century parties (unlike Prince, who I imagine partied HARD) where he would have drunk all the Fellows of the Royal Society under the table.

20140607_160613

And here (in rather dull colours because I took the pictures inside without a flash) is the outside:

20140607_194932

20140607_194946

20140607_195001

My flatmate, after reading that: ‘You are a massive geek’. Why yes siree *tips cap*

I think the most appropriate use for this would be at a 1970s-style key party, but I have no plans to hold one of those.