Archive for December, 2013

Just before the old year ends and a new one begins I thought I’d do a recap on how things have gone for me in the last year, particularly academically.

My honorary research fellowship was renewed again. This is from History in the School of Humanities at the University of Dundee. After I finished my PhD in 2010 I asked if I could get an honorary fellowship, to help me continue to access vital resources like electronic journals, which are typically only available to current staff and students of universities subscribing to them. This is particularly important as more and more university libraries switch from subscribing to print copies to e-journals, which, generally, are restricted in who can use them. I’m a life member of one local university library, and have another one nearby, but neither opens up their e-journals to people who aren’t staff or students. So this was important to allow me to keep up to speed with current research and new developments. And the fellowship has been renewed every year since. It’s also nice that when I give a conference paper or publish a new academic journal paper it provides some kudos to the department which has supported me so well.

Over the year I’ve submitted more journal papers. I learned early in January that another paper had been accepted. It’s derived from part of my PhD thesis, with new additional material, and will be published in Library & Information History in 2014. Another prize-winning paper is due to be published at some point in the Journal of the Edinburgh Bibliographical Society. And I was asked to do my first academic book review, for the Journal of Scottish Historical Studies, and it was published in November 2013. Other papers are with editors, or at various stages of development. And I was pleased to see two of my past academic papers became freely available online, under open access rules.

I took part in four academic conferences this year. The first was a conference for archivists, where I gave a talk about my experiences as a disabled user of archives. This was held locally, in a hotel in Dundee, so was easy for me to get to, but I was very weak from the neurological disease that day, and it was something of a struggle. But I wanted to present this important view, and was glad to make it. I blogged about both my time there, and the topic I was talking about.

In the summer I attended one day of a conference about the Middle Ages in the Modern World. This was at St Andrews, my former university, actually very near to where I was once a science undergraduate and postgraduate student. This was much fun. Again my husband was with me on the day, to help me manage everything in my wheelchair, and I blogged about my time there.

The third conference was that of the Economic and Social History Society of Scotland. Their autumn conference, in September, was held in Inverness, and focused on the topic of Rural Scotland. I gave a talk about my postgraduate Masters dissertation research examining Melrose regality court records (local court records for Melrose and the surrounding area) in the late 17th century. I am currently looking to publish this as an academic paper, and got very good feedback and had a very rewarding time there.

The fourth conference was held in late October to celebrate the work of my PhD supervisor who died a month earlier. It had been planned long before he died, and was a conference of mixed emotions, but ultimately positive.

I also had another flying visit to the Edinburgh International Book Festival in August. Not academic at all, but a wonderful celebration of books and reading, and I was very glad to be able to go again.

In November I took part in Academic Writing Month again. My goals were more modest this time: resubmit a revised journal paper (done), and submit a paper to the SHARP (Society for the History of Authorship, Reading and Publishing) 2014 conference in Antwerp (also done). Whether my paper for SHARP is accepted or not I will be there. I’m also planning on going in 2014 to a book history conference at St Andrews in the summer, and will be flying down to London to attend the Worldcon World sci-fi/fantasy/etc. convention at the Docklands.

Another major interest of mine is genealogy. I run a Cavers one-name study, researching all families with this surname, particularly before 1900. Developments on this in 2013 included me starting a new Y-DNA study to use DNA to look for connections between different Cavers lines. I also gave a talk about my Cavers one-name study at a Guild of One-Name Studies regional meeting at Perth. A version of this is online, with PowerPoint slides and my audio delivery.

I also run two one-place studies, where I research two parishes in the past. Both of these have a particular focus, for practical reasons, before 1820. The two parishes are Coldingham in Berwickshire, and Melrose in Roxburghshire, both Scottish Borders parishes with family connections for me. I continue to transcribe and develop online resources for these studies, and in 2013 this included adding a person index of about 9000 names for Melrose court participants between 1657 and 1676. Likewise for Coldingham I put online a list of 19th century prisoners from the parish.

I’m a roleplayer, and play Call of Cthulhu online at Play@YSDC. This works well for my neurological disease, meaning I can play as and when I’m able to. It also means I get to play with people around the world. In 2013 I started a new game in our ongoing campaign of Doctor Who / Call of Cthulhu crossover games. And I also started a game set on the Bass Rock, hopefully the first of many games (if our characters survive!) set in Scotland. Sadly I also dropped out of a game for the very first time – it was proving too unreliable in terms of keeping going, with long periods of inactivity by the keeper which I couldn’t keep up with – but I hope that won’t happen again for a long time.

Continuing the roleplaying theme I’ve been writing more of a series of crossover history/roleplaying articles, which I plan to compile into a book, probably in digital format. This is slow-going, but I hope to make more progress in 2014. Likewise I have been continuing to develop my very long-standing interactive fiction (text adventure) work in progress – a whodunnit set in Hermitage Castle in the Scottish Borders, about 500 years ago. Again another thing to work on in 2014.

My neurological disease continues to be a problem, but is being a bit better behaved at the moment, and may have gone into remission or need less daily chemotherapy and steroids to control it. I’m still left with the legacy of brain damage from the past, and wide-ranging disability that this causes. But I hope for a bit of a break from too toxic a cocktail of daily drugs. And maybe I will be able to get more done in 2014 than I have for a number of years. It may be just a temporary respite, but I want to make the most of it.

Anyway I’m looking forward to 2014 in an optimistic manner. Hopefully it will be as productive and rewarding as 2013 was.

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I’m a keen reader of books, and have been since a young age. So it made a lot of sense that for my history PhD I studied reading habits in Scotland in the past. But it was often a case of searching for a needle in a haystack, with reading habits largely invisible and typically unrecorded. So when I found any record of what someone had read, or what reading meant to them, it was important to make the most of it, both for that single reader, and what it told us more widely.

So in that spirit, here’s a post recapping on my own reading over the last year. Oh if only I had something like this for more of my historic readers! I have in the past blogged about books I’ve finished each month, at my LiveJournal blog, but will probably discontinue that now, in favour of an end-of-year update. So this may be the first of more to come in future.

I record my reading progress in Goodreads, and so far in 2013 I’ve completed 72 books. Most of these were read on my Kindle, which I can manage much more easily now than in print, due to the brain damage and significant reading problems it causes.

Generally I read last thing at night, before sleep, sometimes for up to an hour, but more usually for half an hour. So it can take me quite some time to finish a book. I also like to have multiple books on the go. Typically I will be concentrating on one novel, but also have various collections of short stories on the go, and non-fiction works. Most are on my Kindle, so I can easily flit between them as the mood takes me, and carry them around, for example to coffee shops, easily. I’m long-term ill, with a very nasty neurological disease, which can mean that often for days or even weeks I’m too weak to read at all, even for a short time. So my reading lapses at times, but then when I’m stronger again I pick it up again.

In terms of genres my reading is quite varied. I like fantasy a lot, and horror, and mysteries. I’m less keen on hard science fiction, or too realistic crime. I’m also not generally a fan of literary fiction. Oh and I like historical novels a bit, and like steampunk a lot, and also graphic novels, which I find generally to be really easy to read, and rewarding.

I’m a member of an online book club. The book club members take turns choosing the book to be read each month. We have quite similar tastes in many ways, but throwing open the choice like this throws up some surprises for us as well.

In Goodreads I rate books finished on a 1-5 scale. 5 means it is the very best of all; 4 I enjoyed it a lot; 3 I enjoyed it but with reservations; 2 significant problems stopped me enjoying it; and 1, well I can’t go any lower than that.

I’m pleased to say that only 2 books this year rated 1: Alan Moore’s Nemo: Heart of Ice graphic novel, which was barely coherent for me, and Eoin Colfer’s First Doctor e-short for the anniversary Doctor Who short stories by children’s authors – bad for me, because the Doctor’s characterisation was so off. Another 4 books – including 2 more of the e-shorts – rated 2/5. And 16 were scored 3/5, moving into the enjoyable territory. And 32 at 4/5, i.e. very enjoyable.

18 books were rated the very best of all. These included Neil Gaiman’s American Gods, which I hadn’t read before, but was finally able to, because it was available for the Kindle. A much older book that I rated just as highly was Edmund Crispin’s The Moving Toyshop, a mystery set in Oxford, and a rollicking good read. A third memorable book was The History of the Beano: The Story So Far. It’s a history of the long-running children’s comic, and is full of old strips, as well as articles and other information about Beano history. I borrowed this book from the local university library, but was able to pick up a bargain copy for £5 at the Edinburgh Book Festival (RRP £25), so have my own copy to keep.

Another book that lingered long in the mind was Whitstable by Stephen Volk. This is a fictionalised tale of Peter Cushing encountering a real-life horror, and was wonderfully written, very moving, and quite powerful stuff. Thoroughly recommended. Likewise I hugely enjoyed Keith Miller’s 2-volume collection The Official Doctor Who Fan Club, which tells the story of this 1970s fanclub and its accompanying fanzines, including lots of facsimile reprints of the latter.

It’s been a good year for reading for me, and hopefully 2014 will be likewise. Again I expect to read mainly on my Kindle, but I’d also like to make an inroad into my academic books backlog. And if my paper is accepted for the SHARP conference in Antwerp I will also have some preparatory reading to do for that.

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I’m an enthusiastic user of Twitter, mainly using Tweetbot on my iOS devices. As well as tweeting myself I follow other tweets, including using search terms to find things. And over the last year I’ve used a number of searches repeatedly, saving them so I can search for them again later. And I still have these saved terms, and they provide an interesting overview of my year in the past. Here they are, in chronological order.


This is short for Doctor Who set reports, and is used for tweets including updates and photos from people who witness filming. I used this search tag to follow filming for the anniversary special. I look forward to using it again in 2014 to follow what’s happening with the new series and new lead actor.


Twitter can follow breaking news as it happens, and rarely was this more evident than during the manhunt for the Boston bomber. News agencies were trying to play catch up themselves using Twitter. There was some concern at the time that members of the public tweeting updates were compromising the search, but as someone observing the events play out it was riveting.


I participated in the “Democratising or privileging: the future of access to archives” conference held at the Apex Hotel in Dundee in April. I could only attend one day of the conference, the day I was speaking, and used this Twitter hashtag to follow what was happening on the other day, as fellow attendees live tweeted what was happening at the conference, and their impressions of other talks. I blogged about my day at the conference.


Each year in August the Edinburgh International Book Festival is held in Charlotte Square. I’ve attended it a number of times, including in most recent years. I could only go briefly this time, on one night, but used the hashtag to follow what was happening on other days. Again I blogged about my time there.


I’m a big fan of the modernised TV version of Sherlock Holmes produced by the BBC. I’m eagerly looking forward to it returning to TV on New Year’s Day, but earlier this year I used the search hashtag to follow filming, and news that was coming out about the new episodes in production.


I’m no royalist, and would prefer a president. But I do have a soft spot for one royal couple, who attended St Andrews University, like my husband and me, and met their future spouse there, again like us.


In 2012 I attended my second SHARP (Society for the History of Authorship, Reading & Publishing) conference. In 2012 it was held in Dublin in Ireland. This year it was in Philadelphia in the USA, too far for me to go. But I was able to follow the conference via Twitter and this hashtag. Again a number of attendees were live tweeting their impressions of the papers as given, which was entertaining to follow. I plan to attend the 2014 SHARP conference in Antwerp.


I’m a roleplayer, regularly playing the game of Call of Cthulhu. The ENnie Awards are some of the biggest awards in the gaming world, and again I was able to follow the awards as they were announced via Twitter.

ebay down

Not a very exciting search term, but useful for when eBay went down for quite a prolonged period. As often happens I could find out more information about what was going on via Twitter than official sources.


Often I’ll search for tweets referring to my home town.


This year saw the 500th anniversary of the Battle of Flodden, a disastrous battle between Scotland and England. It is not as well known as other British battles, such as Culloden or Bannockburn. But for Borderers it is an important part of our shared history.

charles mckean

My PhD supervisor died earlier this year. In the weeks after his death I used this search term to search for obituaries and other references to him. I blogged about my own memories of him.

“missing episodes” and #missingepisodes

As a Doctor Who fan 2013 has been a big year, with the 50th anniversary of the series’s start. But one of the most exciting events for me was the announcement of the recovery of 9 lost Patrick Troughton episodes. Before the news was confirmed the Internet was awash with rumours. There are still rumours that there may be more recovered episodes yet to be revealed. Marco Polo perhaps?

renaissance conference

About a month after my PhD supervisor died a conference to celebrate his work was held at Perth. He was a noted scholar of Scottish Renaissance architectural history, and the conference, which had been planned by him before he died, celebrated both his work in this field and that of other scholars inspired by what he had done. It was an event of mixed emotions, but ultimately positive in its outlook. Again I blogged my thoughts.


I’ve played text adventure games since 1980. In the 1980s I was a huge fan of Infocom, as well as British companies like Magnetic Scrolls. In the 1990s a series of text adventure creation languages became increasingly popular, and in 1995 the first Annual Interactive Fiction Competition was held, and has been held ever since, in the autumn. Each year I try to play and judge as many games as possible. This year was no exception, and I used the hashtag to see other people’s responses.


Another Doctor Who hashtag, this time for my favourite part of the main anniversary celebrations: the docudrama telling the early history of the series. There were quite a few hashtags around, including the much shorter #AAISAT


It has not been a good year for Royal Bank of Scotland customers, with some major system failures. We have had enough, and will be changing bank early in the New Year.


Early in December saw another very bad storm. Affecting among other places Scotland, it led to this hashtag, which provided updates, including pictures of the (now infamous) trampoline which a train hit between Edinburgh and Glasgow.


One of the most heartwarming stories this year was that of a little girl who lost her cuddly toy on a train, and the quest of a woman via social media to reunite the toy with its person. Luckily it had a happy ending, just in time for Christmas.

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