Archive | December 2013

Daily Prompt – Out of your Reach

Daily Prompt: Out of Your Reach

Was there a toy or thing you always wanted as a child, during the holidays or on your birthday, but never received?

When I was younger, I always wanted to be an amazing dancer. I had ballet and tap classes and did grade exams when I was younger, but eventually stopped a few years after my parents divorce because the travel and to-ing and fro-ing got too much. After that I did badminton and eventually found a Street Dance class to do one evening a week. The issue with Street Dance, I always thought, was that I was dancing in a studio and not on the street. I was learning the routine from someone else, it was often quote complex, but it wasn’t exactly true to the form for me. Anyway, I didn’t want to be a street dancer, I wanted to be a classical ballerina. I loved the discipline of the form. The way that the older girls were so confident and strong as we watched them stretch.

I never became them. Nor did I become particularly skilled as a dancer elsewhere (and my badminton skills are not the best). But what I did get to satisfy, somewhat, my desire for ballet was numerous books about girls learning ballet, which fuelled my fondness of literature and spurred me to think that perhaps one day I could be the writer inspiring little girls to dance.

If you read around on my blog, you’ll find that my interests have developed far beyond ballet, though I know that my children would definitely be introduced it at a young age, were I to have any. Ballet is good for strength, discipline and confidence. It is a beautiful activity. And whilst it may not be as cool as some of the more gothic interests I have developed, it remains a part of who I am.

I mean – I still have the slippers and certificates.


Gingerbread Carol Service – Edge Hill University

This evening I found myself at the first of three carol services I will be attending before the week is out. It was held in the Studio Theatre in the Arts Centre that was refurbished and reopened just over a year ago over at Edge Hill university where I am a third year English Literature student. The five carols we sung were familiar to all: ‘In the Bleak Mid-winter’, ‘Oh Come All Ye Faithful’, ‘Silent Night’, ‘Little Town of Bethlehem’ and ‘Once in Royal David’s City’ (I may have got some of these wrong – made the mistake of listening to the Songs of Praise CD in the car home and now I’m a bit confused between the two!). It was great to hear them sung passionately by various students and members of our University’s Christian Union, whilst interspersed with readings from both Luke and Matthew of the Gospels.

As well as the readings, a guest speaker – whose name (like a lot of things about this evening) evades me – came to speak not only about the true meaning of Christmas, but also the legitimacy of Jesus Christ. Something that is, of course, a very interesting topic. From him it has enabled me to continue in my own agnostic questions of the position of God, Christ and religion in my life and the 21st Century. He passed on two books that will be useful to me in my pursuit: D.J Caswell, Real Lives: Stories of Changed Lives and Toolkit: Helping you share the Gospel and publication by Young Life re:sources.

It may have been an unplanned distraction, after all I was due to come home and continue working on my brief review of Elizabeth Robins’ 1913 essay ‘Woman’s Secret’ before presenting in Victorian Poetry on Friday – but Christmas Carols and Victorians are inextricably linked – are they not?

Daily Prompt – A Source of Anxiety

Today’s Daily Prompt led me back to a poem I wrote just under a year ago about the physicality of anxiety. I edited a little in line with the changes and experience a few months can bring.



red runs

down the lanes


through the tunnels

letting life

it maps


rushing rushing rushing


at the centre





the ground

is moving

shaking, trembling

you move

abandoning the epicentre

the walls crumble

everything collapses

zest lost

total desolation









Bram Stoker ‘Dracula’

As part of the module LIT3033 Late Victorian Gothic: Deviance, Decadence, Degeneration I am reading Abraham ‘Bram’ Stoker’s 1897 novel Dracula. Many are familiar with the story as a direct result of the numerous film and television productions that have given it a fair chunk of media attention. I read it because after enduring Stephanie Meyer’s Twilight series in order to prove a point (that they were badly written), I felt that I needed to have a taste of quality vampire fiction to get me back into the groove of it. Stoker by no means invented the vampire, but he arguably invented the modern vampire (and no – not the type that sparkles!). His Dracula is the perfect creation – he can move from Transylvania to London and around the streets undetected, he is able to adopt the guise of the perfect English gentlemen to suit his needs and he takes advantage of the sexualised Lucy.

Vampires often go hand in hand with sexuality. In my opinion, J. Sheridan Le Fanu’s ‘Carmilla’ is a more sexualised tale, drawing out the power dynamic and creating steaming tension, presenting the readers with a scene that cannot be read in any way as other than a homoerotic experience between the two women.

But sexuality is not something that I am looking at in my research project on Stoker’s Dracula, I have decided to stretch myself somewhat beyond what I would call my “safety zone” and allow myself to pursue my long-standing interest with psychiatry by applying this to Dracula. I’ve thus far looked at the legal reforms that took place over the 19th century and how this could have shaped Stoker’s narrative. No doubt I will provide you with suitable and sufficient reading to stick your own teeth into as I read secondary criticism and look at documents from the 19th century that can aid my understanding of mental illness at this time.

University Challenge

It would seem that my third and final year of being an undergraduate is all about pushing myself to do new things. With the Vodafone 24 Challenge now behind me, the first Shell deadline just over a fortnight away and some really exciting assignment deadlines that feel more pleasure than work it is definitely time to admit that I made it to the Edge Hill University University Challenge team! In fact, I think I “nailed it!”

The results for our team, answering 20 questions as supplied by the BBC were:

Katie Frazer 11

Thomas Devling 7

Joanne Lynn 7

Emmet McKeown 6

and our reserve will be

Daniel Cairns 5


So I think that we all did a great job there! We’re waiting on our first stage activity, which I will update you on at some point this week, but other than that it is time to definitely go grab that hot chocolate in town!


Until then, I will update you with what I am currently reading, which at the moment is Bram Stoker’s 1897 novel Dracula. I’ll aim to not give you some boring stereotypical view of the vampire gothic novel, but hopefully give you some insight into what my research project will be on as well as where my interests lie in terms of gothic literature.


The next book I will be reading is called Florence and Giles by John Harding. It was published quite recently and seems to link heavily with my dissertation topic: The Influence of Henry James on the Modern Ghost Story. So expect a lot on that!

Vodafone 24 – Unveiling the DRAD

Given the challenge by Vodafone to come up with an original and innovative idea based on one of the three given stimuli and then to develop this into a new mobile phone related product or service. Our given options were:

• If you could make your phone do something magical, what would it do? How would it work? Keep within the realms of probability, although the technology may not exist yet.

• What could you measure and gamify to make people’s lives better?

• How could technology help in disaster zones?

We had a few ideas knocked about over Facebook between the two of us, but ultimately we settled at looking at how technology could be used to help in disaster zones. With Jo at work, and myself the less technologically aware of the two the first five hours involved not only a great deal of research into what was already in use in this field, relating to the autonomous device that Jo had  initially proposed we used, but also a great deal of education on what an autonomous device is and how viable it would be in implementing it.

From the research that I conducted, one particular disaster came up a lot: Fukushima. The nuclear power disaster that unfolded in the wake of the tsunami that hit the North East coast of Japan in 2011, that was actually trying to use robotics in order to assess the radiation levels and levels of damage, but unfortunately even their most recent efforts in November 2013 were constrained by poor technology.

So, returning to our autonomous device, we decided to call it a DRAD – that is Disaster Relief Autonomous Device – and the best part of it is not just the name, it is the fact that with the combination of existing technology it could actually be put into use.

So what is the DRAD and what does it do?

Well the DRAD combines existing probe technology that has already been used in disasters such as Chernobyl and Fukushima with ongoing research, such as that funded by the US Defence Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA), that is currently looking at creating an intelligent, autonomous robot that has the use of fine motor skills, something that has already been outline as a limitation within current technology. In the past month, a Japanese company has come up with a fabric called β38 that shields beta radiation, which we proposed that when combined with lead (which absorbs/ shields gamma radiation) would provide a great material that could work as a shell to protect the electronics from the various kinds of radiation damage it would be subject to.

Simply put, it is an autonomous device that would solve many of the problems relating to the limitations of the technologies already in use. What it does exactly is included in our 14 page report and Prezi that will be linked to at the end of this blog.

I think that it is incredible that in less than 24 hours we were able to come up with something that is not only innovative, but useful and viable. Perhaps more incredible is the fact that we had an almost finished project before 1am, just 13 hours into the challenge. All that was left to do this morning was cast fresh eyes over our work, change a minor error and write this blog post. Which is pretty good going, if anything I think we should reward ourselves with Black Forest Hot Chocolates and  a Goat’s cheese Panini.

The Report and the Prezi