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CFP: HARN 2018, Lisbon, 11-12 October

May 10, 2018

It’s here! It’s here!

Working in conjunction with the Institute of Contemporary History (CEHFCi-UÉ) – Faculty of Social and Human Sciences – New University of Lisbon, and the Section of Archaeology – Lisbon Geographical Society, HARN announces the call for papers for our 2018 conference.


Thanks so much to Ana Martins for organizing this! We are all looking forward to the abstracts and papers.  See below and share far and wide and we hope to see many of you there!HARN 2018 CFP


Free Book: Unearthing childhood: Young lives in prehistory by Robin Derricourt

July 20, 2018

The lovely people at Manchester University Press have sent us a review copy of Robin Derricourt’s latest book. Who would like to review it?

Derricourt - Unearthing childhood cover image

The publisher’s description says: This is the first book to survey the ‘hidden half’ of prehistoric societies as revealed by archaeology – from Australopithecines to advanced Stone Age foragers, from farming villages to the beginnings of civilisation. Prehistoric children can be seen in footprints and finger daubs, in images painted on rocks and pots, in the signs of play and the evidence of first attempts to learn practical crafts. The burials of those who did not reach adulthood reveal clothing, personal adornment, possession and status in society, while the bodies themselves provide information on diet, health and sometimes violent death. This book demonstrates the extraordinary potential for the study of childhood within the prehistoric record, and will suggest to those interested in childhood what can be learnt from the study of the deep past.

‘Children in prehistory are often neither seen nor heard. In this ground- breaking study Robin Derricourt shows what the accounts of our deep history have missed. Broad in scope, the book encompasses many examples from across the world of human prehistory. Derricourt has put children back at the heart of the history of humanity and Unearthing childhood will be essential reading for everyone who takes the past seriously.’ Professor Clive Gamble, Centre for the Archaeology of Human Origins, University of Southampton

The book has excellent reviews – you can see them here. There’s a blog post from Robin about the research for the book on their web site here, and  a Q&A session with him  here

If you want a chance to own this book in exchange for a review I can publish on the blog then send me an email to and I will put all the names on separate pieces of paper, stick them in a bowl or other receptacle, blindfold the 6 year old and get her to pick a piece of paper – I feel you need assurances of transparency about the process! Admittedly there is no real need to blindfold her – although she is star reader of her year, has a certificate, I am so proud! – it’s just it will make me laugh and with the long (oh so long) school summer holiday about to begin I need all the amusement I can get!

With that holiday in mind, I’ll be blogging when I can but it may be intermittent.




July 11, 2018


Joan Leopold, University of Oxford

My interests are in the history of linguistics and anthropology as well as other “social sciences”. I am currently finishing a biography of Edward B. Tylor (1832-1917)

Ana Cristina Hamat, Muzeul Banatului Montan

Ana Cristina lists her interests as Roman and Medieval archaeology

Welcome, Joan and Ana Cristina, and many thanks for joining our community!

Tea with the Sphinx – part 2

July 6, 2018

After the roundtable we got started on the conference proper (well, after coffee – which had less effect than it might have had because it turned out I was mistakenly drinking decaff). There was a choice of session 19th Century Literature or Faith (sorry, but if I have an earworm then you have to have it too) I chose Literature: Haythem Bastawy presented his paper ‘Adam Bede: An Ancient Egyptian Genesis’. It’s years and years since I read Adam Bede so it was fascinating to revisit it with such an expert – Haythem argued that although the title Adam Bede references early chrisitianity (Adam the first man, Bede the 8th century historian) the book was written as a rebellion against Victorian religiosity after Elliot had lost her faith and she was drawing on ancient Egyptian motifs and religion to create a new Genesis story, a new beginning. For Elliot, according to Haythem, the origins of western culture lie in the East and the very first sentence of the prologue referencing an Egyptian sorcerer’s magic mirror provides the framework for a retelling of the story of Adam and Eve woven through with the gods and goddesses of Ancient Egypt.

Haytham was followed by Simon Magus who demonstrated that Rider Haggard is way more interesting than I’ve ever given him credit for – I was one of the many who have ignored his books on the grounds that they’re pro-colonialist anti-feminist nonsense. Now, obviously I’m predisposed to believe anyone who has a Welsh accent and would anyway be swayed by Simon’s many and varied qualifications, but he made an excellent case for Haggard’s other influences including the themes of good, evil, redemption, reincarnation and the esoteric quest for a hidden god. Using the terms* Egyptosophy, Mnemohistory and Metageography as anchors, Simon discussed how Haggard’s work – particularly Cleopatra and the character of Harmachis – reflected the ways in which Egyptology found its way into Victorian culture, and how Haggard, influenced by Wallis Budge, clearly asserted a christianised view of ancient Egyptian religion where Osiris is presented as Christ. There was much more to his paper than this – romanticism, agape, theosophy, cycles of time, sin and redemption, death and reincarnation, and I suggest you download and read this.

After lunch (and many cups of caffeinated coffee and tea) there was another choice Gender or Museums. I chose gender because Robin Diver was talking about children’s books and as you know I do love children’s books and the other speaker was our own Rosalind Janssen and I wasn’t going to miss the chance of hearing her.

So – Robin’s paper Morality, Sex and the Other compared anthologies of Egyptian and Greek myths for children. Greek myths have long been seen as perfect for a young audience [worrying, eh?] and although these stories are often brutal, that brutality is  often omitted or  diluted, ascribed to the gods or to natural consequences as with Icarus flying too close to the sun. Modern authors often critique the more unpalatable parts of the Classical Greek world (the position of women, slaves, sacrifices) but the remainder of the story is seen as useful for didactic purposes. Egyptian anthologies are a much later arrival on the children’s literature scene and, Robin argued using The Tale of Two Brothers as an example, they tend to far more brutal, gory, uncritical, unproblematic and unsympathetic. Robin’s view was that the Egyptian stories are seen as dealing with the other, as suggested in the roundtable, these are not western ancestors like the Greeks and so the stories, the characters have less investment.

I think Rosalind’s presentation is the first time I’ve been told at a conference what my expected learning outcomes are!


Rosalind is a great advocate of feminist theology which reads cross culturally and inter-textually and using (the feminist theologian) Nancy Bowen’s translation of Ezekiel 13:17-23, Rosalind argued that it is the bindings in this passage that are important. Building up her evidence from illustrations and writings, Rosalind demonstrated that the wristbands,  knotted kerchief and hair ties which could be loosened in childbirth to aid the delivery (sympathetic magic) all chimed with Bowen’s reading of Ezekiel and all suggested that prophetesses were often midwives. As midwives and prophetesses they dealt with the religious as well as the corporeal realm, whereas Ezekiel and the other – male – prophets saw themselves as having control over life and death these midwife prophetesses really did have that control. This would then explain why Ezekiel was so in awe of these women’s power and so upset by it. As you can imagine it was a convincing and entertaining presentation and she was right, by the end of it I could answer all the questions!20180629_150813_resized

After cake – which every good conference should have – and a technical hitch – which no conference can avoid – we had Michelle Hui Yee Low giving an interweb presentation Fiction Dressed in Facts – Assassin’s Creed: Origins. Now, not only have I never read any Rider Haggard, seen any alien conspiracy TV or read any of the truly fringe archaeologies, I have never played Assassin’s Creed. My gaming is limited to Nintendo DS, we have a PS4 but the gaming technology went beyond me a few years back and I’m never going to catch up. I never cared before, but Michelle’s paper has made me desperate to play Assassin’s Creed, only the discovery that has an 18 certificate is stopping me ordering it and spending the entire school summer holiday playing it with my son. It sounds excellent! There are zombie pharaohs! Quests! Battles! Revenge! Fencing! Fighting! Torture! No, hang on, I’ve gone into the Princess Bride again. Revenge is in Assasin’s Creed, as is Cleopatra and other (dead and alive) pharaohs. Michelle demonstrated that Ubisoft have really thought about the Egyptian origins of their fictional world and have classily dressed fiction as fact and noticeboards and comments suggest their product is leading gamers into further investigations of Egyptology. Michelle further argued that gaming allows interaction between Egyptology and the interested public,  the gamer can make decisions and immerse themselves instead of being a passive consumer. I don’t think I’m going to share that idea with my son!

The final session of Day 1 looked at Entertainment: Lizzie Glithero-West‘s paper The Conjuror’s Greatest Show – Belzoni and the Egyptian Hall discussed one of my favourite people in Egyptology and in particular his exhibition at the Egyptian Hall in 1821

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Placing the exhibition within its (international) political and economic context Lizzie argued the show coincided with a renaissance of interest in Egyptology and that Egypt itself (through the defeat of Napoleon’s savants there) became an integral part of British pride. Belzoni’s exhibition was a huge success, praised by journalists and visited by many, was this solely due to timing? Lizzie suggested that while the timing obviously helped it was also the hall itself that contributed to public interest by referencing ancient Egyptian motifs and stories


In addition Bullock had already established the hall as a successful location for a quasi Museum/exhibition, the space within was adaptable and appealing. However, it was Belzoni himself who was the key to the exhibition’s success, he was creative and reactive in his selling of Egypt to the British public by bringing real Egypt to London. In turn Belzoni and Bullock’s successes led to  an increased interest in Egyptian architectural motifs, the use of Egyptian themes by contemporary and later artists as well as stimulating scholarly research and excavation in Egypt – all of which ensured that Egyptomania continued throughout the nineteenth and twentieth century.

Equally entertaining was the final paper of the day delivered by Ellie Dobson From the Albert Memorial to the Egyptian Hall: Bram Stoker in London. Now, I have a confession to make, not only have I not read The Jewel of Seven Stars, I have never read anything by Bram Stoker, not even Dracula. I need to up my reading game if I’m going to carry on having tea with the sphinx. Now, I’m fairly sure Ellie began by quoting Anthea in The Story of the Amulet talking about whether Pharaoh’s house would be like the Egyptian Court in the Crystal Palace and how this demonstrates the familiarity of ancient Egypt for early twentieth century readers and how Stoker knew his audience would understand his own references to ancient Egypt. But I could be wrong since I was as stunned as a kipper to realise here was a book I had read (in fact, I’ve read all the Psammead books and the Bastable family books and yes I am boasting because it shows I’ve read something). Anyway, tuning back in, it turns out Stoker knew Wallis Budge (did Budge spend all his time consorting with fiction writers?) Petrie and Alma Tadema as well as having many friends in the Order of the Golden Dawn, so he had a network of sources for the Egyptology and magic themes used in The Jewel. Not only would Stoker’s readers have knowledge of ancient Egypt, they would also have been very familiar with the cursed mummy and/or artefact trope, and, as Ellie pointed out the use of real locations in Stokers fantastical psychogeography would have reinforced that familiarity. We are given early warning of Stoker’s equation of London with Egypt when the narrator, Malcolm Ross, takes a route across London passing the Egyptian Hall and the Albert Memorial. With its Isis and Osiris decoration the Egyptian Hall signals elements of Stoker’s plot, just as the Africa Group on the Albert Memorial foreshadows Queen Tera’s power


In this hybrid London the Thames can be the Nile and Egypt leaks into London, just as London leaks into Egypt. By using real London geography Stoker ensured the novel’s fantastical aspects (and locations) were made believable to the reader.

And on that note I’m going to finish, Day 1 complete, way more than 1,000 words used (and I think I got more wordy towards the end there). Day 2 will have to wait until next week, there’s an even more shocking confession than my horror/adventure novel illiteracy coming – I’ve got this foreshadowing business sorted!

In the meantime, have a great weekend


*Don’t feel patronised by me adding links, they’re there for my benefit. Especially now I’ve discovered it’s mnemohistory not nemohistory – admittedly that mistake led me here, which was entertaining but not a lot of use for this blog post 🙂


July 5, 2018


Cathie Sutton, Victoria College, University of Toronto

History of Archaeology, Material Culture, Material Culture of Colonization in Canada.

Welcome, Cathie, and many thanks for joining our community!


July 4, 2018


I am so glad it isn’t just me who automatically makes words out of initials, I’m even more pleased that where I admitted to making TwtS into TwitS organiser Nichola Tonks made it into, well, something else. I forgot to list that joy of TwtS – likeminded people, uncouth we may be but we haven’t lost our childlike sense of wonder (ok, infantile sniggering at rude words). I also forgot to mention cats, there were fewer cats at this year’s TwtS but Charlotte Coull and I did show each other photos of our cats, I’d just like to say ‘Charlotte, your fluffy cat is not a domestic cat, she’s either a miniature lynx or a wildcat. Fact.’


By Peter Trimming – Yawning ‘Kendra’Uploaded by Mariomassone, CC BY 2.0,

So, now I’ve cleared that up for Charlotte, let’s move on to the actual conference itself


As you can see it began at a civilised hour giving me plenty of time to inhale coffee and get lost enjoy a pleasant walk around the campus. The University of Birmingham very kindly has plenty of maps, is it only me who thinks that in addition to the ‘you are here’ marker there should also be a ‘and you are facing in x direction’? It’s all well and good telling me that R16 is next to R15 but if you don’t know which direction you’re facing R16 could be any one of these ivy covered red brick buildings. Pft! Anyway, with the aid of the campus maps and an entirely unfounded confidence I not only found R16 I also directed some other people to where they might have wanted to be. As an aside, would you ask the person staring at the map where a particular building is? Or would you think ‘This person is obviously as lost as I am. I will go and ask someone who looks like they may have been here before’? I say, if you ask the person standing next to a map tracing routes with her finger and talking to herself then you have only yourself to blame when you discover yourself to be in completely the wrong part of the campus.

Ahem. After registration and receiving my name badge (sparkly green ink! Oh yes!) and drinking yet more coffee, the conference kicked off with the round table (less Arthurian and more a line of chairs but let’s not quibble) with Ellie DobsonElena Theodorakopoulos and Aidan Dodson answering questions about myth, truth and the pursuit of historical knowledge. The discussion began with what is meant by ‘superstition’ as opposed to ‘myth’ and how superstition is used as a pejorative term to dismiss marginal beliefs as opposed to core beliefs, be they myths or otherwise. This led on to how simply writing things down can give them a reality a concreteness that is hard to shift, hard to unpick and disprove. This point became a central theme of the discussion – if a myth has become a fact then how do we, as disbelievers, research it and unpick it? Aidan suggested that academics had to own up to their mistakes – retractions take up far less space and are given less prominence than the original theory. Elena also made the point that myths are often good stories whereas truth can be boring, however, she argued reception studies re-supply the interest by allowing people to find out how their beliefs came about. Ellie warned that there is a tension around debunking myths, funding comes from public bodies and if they lose interest – because of the truth being less interesting than the myth – then that can affect funding and so stereotypes will remain. There was then much discussion of  various examples of the tenacity of  stereotypes, particularly in the media: Aidan had tried to do a programme debunking the Armana myth but it coincided with the debate about the extra chamber in Tutankhamun’s tomb and so the programme became focussed on that. Elena said Classics had the same problem – Catharine EdwardsMothers, Murderers and Mistresses: Empresses of Ancient Rome had been an excellent feminist and balanced investigation of women in the Roman Empire but it was largely ignored.

At which point we got onto aliens and alien conspiracy theories, I have few notes from this part, probably because I was too busy trying to re-hinge my jaw. I’ve led a sheltered life I can tell you. Aside from reading Lest Darkness Fall by De Camp (and I still have a copy on my bookshelves) I’ve come across Von Däniken and Graham Hancock but I haven’t read any of their books and I hadn’t even heard of most of the names and programmes that were being discussed. How does everyone know about these things and I don’t? More importantly, what am I doing when other people have the time to catch up on these things and how can I stop doing them so I can join in the fun? Anyway, the important thing here is there are a lot of alien conspiracy theories in Egyptology, not so much in Classics, presumably, as Elena said, because the classical world is seen as too close to us, it is seen as part of our history and gets pulled into the modern. Although that view also leaves out the weird and unpleasant stuff of the classical world, the magic, witches, sacrifices and slaves. Whereas Egyptology and prehistory are not claimed as our heritage so can more easily be othered and the other can be aliened and enjoyed – particularly curses.

The downside of this othering is where we came in, the myths that are so hard to debunk and shift, however, the upside of this othering is that people are interested in the past. The consensus from the panel was that even if there is a great deal of bonkersness out there it can be used for good. Once people are interested then you have the opportunity to debunk their myths – preferably sensitively – and replace them with a different story. A different, interesting and accessible story. And work on the principle that the public is way more intelligent than television directors assume.

I see that once again I’ve done a rubbish job at succinctness. I’ll try again tomorrow I shall make it my mission to summarise the rest of Day 1 of TwtS. In one post. In less than 1,000 words. Stop laughing.


Conference – Museums, Collections & Conflict, 1500-2010

July 3, 2018

HARN member, Kate Hill, has sent us the details of what looks to be a fascinating conference

MGHG Biennial Conference 2018 Provisional Programme

13-14 July 2018, National Maritime Museum

Tickets can be purchased online here. For discounted conference tickets and access to the Museums History Journal, membership of the Museums and Galleries History Group can be purchased online here at a rate of £15 for students, £20 for individuals and £35 for institutions. MGHG Membership runs from 1 February to 1 February each year. 

MGHG members: £40 / non-members: £70 / MGHG student members: £25 / student non-members: £40

Friday 13 July 2018


9.30 – 10.00 – Registration and tea/coffee

10.00 – 10.10 – Introduction (Kate Hill, Chair of MGHG)

10.10 – 12.10 – Panel 1: New insights into the history of the Imperial War Museum

Chair: James Wallis (University of Essex) Discussant: James Taylor (IWM London)

  • James Wallis (University of Essex) – The Imperial War Museum’s First World War galleries – a space of conflict?
  • Anna Maguire (King’s College London) – Researching Colonial Experience in the Collections of the Imperial War Museums
  • Kasia Tomasiewicz (University of Brighton & IWM) – Methods in the Museum: Reflections on Positionality within the Imperial War Museum

12.10 – 13.10 – Lunch (not provided) – postgraduate students lunch session for pre-registered participants only

13.10 – 14.40 – Panel 2: Museums in Wartime I: Protecting museums and objects

  • Anna Tulliach (University of Leicester) – Assessing the war issue at the Civic Museum of Bologna (1915-1945)
  • Zoé Vannier (École du Louvre) – Managing a collection “far from drums’ sound”: The evacuation and management of the Near Eastern Antiquities department of the Louvre Museum during World War II
  • Eva March (Pompeu Fabra University, Barcelona) – The Spanish Civil War (1936-1939) and Catalan art museums

14.40 – 15.10 – Tea/Coffee

15.10 – 16.40 – Panel 3: Politics of curating and displaying war 

  • Quintin Colville (Royal Museums Greenwich) – Medals and masculinities: representing the First World War at sea through word and object
  • Bridget Yates (independent researcher) – ‘The present is pretty terrible, the future is unknown, the past is the only stable thing to which we can turn’: Philip Ashcroft, Rufford Village Museum and the preservation of rural life and tradition during the Second World War 
  • Zoe Mercer-Golden (Royal Museums Greenwich) – Treasure, Triumph and Trespass: Curatorial Challenges in the Collecting and Display of “Priam’s Treasure”

17.40 – 17.00 – Break

17.00 – 18.00 – Keynote lecture: Prof Geoff Quilley (University of Sussex)

  •  ‘Conflict, collecting and empire: the nineteenth-century world of the India Museum, London’

18.00 – 19.30 – Reception

Saturday 14 July


9.30 – 11.00 – Panel 4: Collecting during conflict

  • Simon Quinn (University of York) – British military antiquarianism and collecting during the campaign in Egypt, 1801 
  • Nicholas Badcott (SOAS) – Collecting on campaign in Mahdist Sudan 
  • Amanda Mason (IWM) – Collecting Contemporary Conflict at IWM

11.00 – 11.30 – Tea/coffee

11.30 – 13.00 – Panel 5: Museums in wartime II: Keeping museums going 

  • Catherine Pearson (Anglia Ruskin University) – ‘I knew what I wanted to do and just went ahead’: The experiences of museum staff during the Second World War 
  • Karin Müller-Kelwing (Staatliche Kunstsammlungen Dresden: Dresden State Art Collections) – Museum without objects? 
  • Evelien Scheltinga (research-curator) – Dutch museums during World War 2

13.00 – 14.00 – Lunch (not provided) – selection of archival materials on view in Caird Library on history of the National Maritime Museum

14.00 – 14.30 – MGHG AGM

14.30 – 16.00 – Panel 6: History of War Museums

  • Jacqui Grainger (Royal United Services institute for Defence and Security Studies) – A Lost Museum: the RUSI Museum, 1831-1962 
  • Phil Deans (Newcaslte University) – From A Museum on the World’s Last War, To a Museum on the Two World Wars: Crisis Management and reinvention at the Imperial War Musuem, 1939 – 1946
  • Melanie Vandenbrouk (Royal Museums Greenwich) – Two world wars and art at the National Maritime Museum

Conference closes

Poster Presentations

  • Can a detention centre assist in knowing identity? Presenting conflicts amongst Taiwanese community in Jing-Mei Memorial Park by Wen-Yi Liu
  • War Stories: Trench Art at the Canadian War Museum by Sarafina Pagnotta
  • Maqdala 1868: Ethiopian Treasures at the V&A by Alexandra Jones
  • Lasting Wounds – Comparing treatment of World War One disablement by the Imperial War Museum and the Science Museum by Jenni Hunt
  • The Royal Air Force Museum: its development 1931 to 2003 by Peter Elliott, Curator Emeritus, Royal Air Force Museum
  • The video digital archive as a resource in conflicts research: cultural heritage in war video archive by Marta Ramos Marco
  • “Moving a museum”: the Pinacoteca Ambrosiana in Milan during WWI and WWII by Silvia Colombo
  • “Arsenals of Knowledge” for the Global Peace: U.S. Museums Envision the Postwar World, 1943-46 by Clarissa J. Ceglio
  • Sand, Rubble and Fine Arts: The Newly Digitized A. Sheldon Pennoyer Collection at Princeton University by Julia Gearhart
  • Collecting on the Front Lines: Vignettes from the Global War on Terror by Miranda Summers Lowe

More details can be found here 

Tea with the Sphinx – part 1 (or Reasons to be Cheerful)

July 3, 2018

Because we all know I am extremely garrulous and likely to go on for many blog posts enthusing about this conference. I’m going to try and rein it in this time and only do a couple of blogs, you may have noticed I wasn’t tweeting this time? Sadly, that had less to do with my new incisive and concise persona and more to do with technical issues – ok, so not really technical issues, I’d nearly run out of mobile data and I couldn’t get the wifi to reliably work on my phone but ‘technical issues’ sounds so much better! And I wouldn’t like you to think that the conference wasn’t tweetworthy, it was most definitely tweetworthy as can be seen here and here. I really haven’t got the hang of concise have I? Anyway, moving swiftly on . . .

I thought I’d do a post on what makes TwtS different to other conferences and a post (or 2) on the actual papers themselves, although the two are obviously connected – a large part of the joy of TwtS is the variety and multidisciplinarity of the subjects discussed. But, there’s all the other treats too – as many people noted, there’s a real kindness, generosity and support at TwtS. That’s not to say there’s no academic rigour, rather there’s a carefulness and mindfulness (if that word hasn’t been horribly overused) to the debate that’s lacking at so many conferences where the idea appears to be to score as many scholarly points as possible through attacking the speaker’s ideas. That doesn’t happen at TwtS and it makes for a relaxing intellectual atmosphere, and how often can you say that about a conference?

And then there’s shoes, yup, shoes. It’s a big thing at TwtS and as someone who loves shoes this is an excellent thing to have at a conference – there were Cleopatra shoes

Dragon shoes and Muppet shoes



Sea monster (?) shoes and light up shoes.

There was cake – there was amazing food full stop, although, remember the onion bhaji sandwiches of #Sphinx16? Coronation chicken tarts was another ‘interesting’ taste sensation, I ate one so you don’t have to and I really would advise you not to. But the cake? Delicious and beautiful, on Day 1 we had Twitter cakes

Day 2 images from the speakers’ presentations


There was jewellery

shoes and jewels

Rubbish photo of this slide – check out Lizzie’s twitter feed for beautiful close ups of Jasmine’s jewellery.


As an added joy, there were tarot readings from the wonderful Nikki – ‘if you start looking like you’re taking this seriously I’ll stop immediately’ – Brun (Animal and dragon shoes). Turns out there’s no money in my future, which is unfortunate, nor is there fame. I do, however, have a project and it’s going to be brilliant and I can confidently go ahead because everything is in place for me to succeed. Up to a point. There’s a problem, the Emperor, aka a man who outranks me, is blocking my path and will, if I let him, steal all the credit for my brilliant idea then completely wreck it, all my work – current and previous – will be in ruins, as will my reputation. I will salvage something from the remains but it will be just a small sliver of my former brilliance. Her parting words were ‘Beware the Emperor’ which I think is a fitting motto for every day, quite honestly.

I also gained a brilliant ear worm – and that almost never happens, it’s usually on the level of Kung Fu Fighting, Don’t Stop Believing or Trapped – but this time it was Tulane, fantastic by Chuck Berry, equally fantastic by the Steve Gibbons Band. As an aside my Mum preferred – and often played – Chuck Berry’s version, my sister preferred – and played – Steve Gibbons’, listening now I’m not really sure there’s enough difference for the level of argument this caused! I just loved the song so much I decided I had to call any daughter I might have Tulane, this didn’t happen (I was 11 when it was in the charts, I believed many things at 11 that turned out to be untrue) and I’d completely forgotten my intention until I saw in the abstract that one of the speakers had Tulane University as their alma mater. Ever since I’ve been happily singing:

Go head on, Tulane, he can’t catch up with you
Go Tulane, he isn’t man enough for you
Go Tulane, use all the speed you got
Go Tulane, you know you need a lot
Go Tulane, he’s lagging behind
Go head on, Tulane

And finally, the university itself. It’s beautiful, I’d never been a fan of campus universities, yes they’re very convenient but there’s always the danger of being cut off from the rest of the world, ivory (or brick) towers etc. I’m coming round to them though, at the Edgbaston Campus there are trees, sculpture, fountains and red bricks, not as many as there were and Martyn, amongst others, was rather tetchy about them knocking down the old library. Obviously with my love of bricks I sympathise with this view, but the new buildings look very swish and when they’ve finished the green space bit in the middle it’ll be a lovely place to sit out and admire the architecture. Even now with all the machines, noise and heat (golly it was hot in Birmingham! Look at that grass) it’s lovely

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Below is part of the Chancellor’s Court, which has Main Hall and its nine (male, just saying) statues: Beethoven, Virgil, Michelangelo, Plato, Shakespeare, Newton, Watt, Faraday and Darwin, all excellent chaps but you’d think there was space for at least a woman or two, no? No.

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Anyway, before I get sidetracked by the representation of women in public life – do not get me started on women on paper money and the appalling abuse Caroline Criado-Perez faced after suggesting Jane Austen should be on the new £10 note – let me return to the loveliness of the Edgbaston Campus

The ceramic frieze in close up

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No idea what’s going on here – is that a tuba on the left? The entrance to a wormhole? And, why is there a bath in the middle section?

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Nope, no idea about this one either, and the Victorian Web isn’t very helpful ‘Within their allotted spaces, these features complement rather than distract from the bold outlines of the buildings’ but, but, but what’s happening? Who cares, it’s art innit? And, it does make for a lovely place to wander with a coffee mid-conference, as does the Barber Institute – again the location for Day 2


Photo from Which has lots of lovely ‘then and now’ photos of the building

All of these things combined to make Tea with the Sphinx 2018 a joy to attend, and I haven’t even got on to the papers yet, Stay tuned for the next thrilling installment . . .