Monday, October 08, 2007

Stench of Death

Got through the week ok, despite having a cold. The conference was as I expected, rather a lot of technical 'snags' despite lots of planning, but that's it till next year. It's an unexpected bonus of doing a conference paper when you feel crap - your nervousness disappears, probably with a large proportion of your intellectual capacity and enthusiasm, but ho hum, that's life. Possibly not very sensible to curse quietly to yourself when the laptop goes into 'sleep mode' if you're standing on a stage in front of a microphone either.

First batch of final year dissertation tutorials done too, and a nice mixture of topics. Size zero models to sustainability, mourning jewellery to religious icons and Freud... the latter was nearly going to be about criminals, as her dad's in the Met, but she changed her mind. I'd have preferred the criminology topic, but it's not my choice to make, as they can do whatever they like.

Probably more than half of the students changed their ideas completely over the summer, so I now realise there's not much point doing too much preparation in future. One asked if she could change from doing the body and 'second skin' to chocolate, as she was more excited by it. Fine by me, after the initial wave of utter horror had passed.

'Horror'??? But everyone loves chocolate, don't they??? A colleague said Mmmm, hope she's going to bring you in some samples! Ooh, no thanks, I hope not. I know it's only a written dissertation on paper and she's not going to make me touch, sniff or eat the stuff, but my first reaction was of dicing with danger.... I've got an extreme allergy to anything with cow's milk in it, even microscopic quantities induce anaphylaxis. I swell up, stop breathing and lose consciousness in minutes. And die, if I don't inject myself with adrenaline and get an ambulance in time.

So the sweet smell of chocolate to some is the putrid stench of possible death to me. A bit melodramatic, but it makes my point. I'm finding it mildly amusing that I'm going to be spending time over the next few months on a subject that would kill me. The Anaphylactic Academic's equivalent of extreme sports by proxy, maybe.

When you start doing dissertation tutorials with students, you can't help noticing things related to their topics that maybe might not have registered in your mind before. The chocolate subject is really interesting, as it's only a load of sugar, cocoa and milk. People get so obsessed with it, and the way it's marketed seems totally unrelated to what it actually is. There was a chocolate fountain mentioned in the wedding plans of a young couple in Coronation Street (Brit TV soap opera) the other night (Sarah Platt, the teenage mum). I couldn't help thinking it was written into the script in a snobby social class sort of way - as if it was a tacky, bad taste thing that wealthy but working-class footballer's wives would have, making it something to be aspired to by ordinary people impressed by the trappings of celebrity. Maybe I'm wrong, but will continue thinking about it!

I like the way the chocolate fountain in the image is lit up from underneath that pink plastic base... illuminates the fruit dips beautifully! (I'm not being sarcastic either, it reminds me of fairy lights, which I'm also rather partial to).

Oh yes, nearly forgot!!! Well, no I didn't, but I'm trying not to be too excited, as it's not very modest. I got 'writing up' status for my first draft of my PhD on Friday, after the meeting with the Professors which I was actually dreading. So I'm officially into my *final year* and have saved loads of money in fees. Apparently I write very well and it's a fascinating subject. Absolutely loads of work to do from now on, but it's a good milestone to reach in a project of this size. It's boosted my confidence a bit too, as you start to oscillate between thinking your work could be either total genius or utter bollocks after a while, as you're too close to it to be objective.

Anyway, that's that for now - have to finish stuff for tomorrow (first seminar of my autumn course) and still feel a bit manky, so I think I'll get on with it.


Roses said...

Hi. Just thought I'd drop by and check out your blog. If it's okay with you I'll add you to my link list in my main blog and my creative forum blog 'definitely beautiful'?

Dairy allergy - nasty. You must spend all your time checking labels. Yuck. I'll have a look and see if Hotel Chocolat's 100% Cocoa Solid, might be suitable for you. There isn't very much room for other ingredients including sugar. I'll get back to you on that.

Claire said...

Hello! Thanks for popping over, and that would be really nice of you to add me to your links! Must do a proper link list myself now I'm getting into it more.

dickiebo said...

After flopping my 'O' Levels in 1954, I thought that that was that! (Crikey. 3 'thats' in 4 words, - must be wrong. Hey, ho!)
Anyway, I'm now 'living' a Ph.D with you, and getting very excited. Well done, mate.

Hotter Than... said...

There was a wry smile as I read about the chocolate fountain reference in your post. There does seem to be an intersting divide between aspiring and sneering. An individual wouldn't label themselves a chav but aspirational, and yet others would look at their life and immediately think "chav".
I just look at chocolate fountains and think "mess"

Claire said...

Dickiebo - Thanks! I seem to be inflicting the PhD horror on rather a lot of people these days, including invisible blog readers, don't I!

Hottie - Hello! Very true, design and social class are a curious subject mix. I get quite cross at snobby attitudes towards design, though I don't think people realise they're doing it sometimes.

Roses said...

As promised I popped into Hotel Chocolat and enquired about their 100% cocoa solid chocolate. They assure me there are no dairy products in it.

However, I'm sure there is the fine print that says it's made in a factory where nuts and other potential allergens are present.

I have a friend with a fierce nut allergy that choses to ignore that warning and she's been fine. But, you could always check it out, see what you think...

Claire said...

Hi Roses,
Thank you, that's really kind of you for checking.

I think I'd be a bit wary about the manufacturing of their chocolate, as I'd imagine there would be a lot of milk slopping about in the vicinity that could contaminate the dairy-free line. It would probably go unnoticed by a 'political' vegan, but a scary risk for someone with anaphylaxis.

It's turning into quite a chocolatey week, with my choc dissertation student and her picture of a chocolate wig and trip to Cadbury's!!

Roses said...

No worries hon, I said I'd have a look. Plus, I was curious.

If you don't want to risk anaphylaxis, I'd completely understand. I suspect it would ruin your day somewhat!

zooarchaeologist said...

MMM chocolate, not sure id manage to read the thing myself without having to have some. what a rotton allergy. Your PHD on jewellery sounds really interesting, im very jealous....