The Secret of Change

It has been a terrifically long time since anyone posted on this blog, and I thought for both our followers that might be a little sad. So here’s what’s new.

Nearly everyone concerned with the project finished their dissertations and are nervously awaiting their results. For some, these projects have been tremendously challenging to complete, for others, they simply proved Roy Castle right; dedication really is all you need.

No matter the results, we are now all on the treadmill of desperation, otherwise known as searching for a job. This is the exciting part where doors are being thrown open left, right and centre and then promptly slammed again when employers realise university education doesn’t prepare you for real life. But occasionally, just occasionally, someone opens that door wide and a whole world of possibility is revealed and these opportunities must be seized. So carpe that diem Beth, Craig, Hayley, Dan, Sarita, Aysha, Adam, Aneesha and Rachel, because after spending a year getting to know you and (sometimes desperately) directing your talents on this project, I know you’re capable of greatness.


Last Day

Today is the last day of the Dorothy Wordsworth Exhibition, so please do come along if you haven’t already as this is your last chance.

We’d like to take this opportunity to show our appreciation of all those who have supported this project. Firstly, thank you to both of our wonderful speakers, Susan and John, you both did an excellent job, and provided a wealth of informative and entertaining material. We’d also like to thank the Wordsworth Trust (particularly Jeff Cowton) for their support of this project. I hope many of the visitors of the exhibition will consider visiting the Trust. With Dove Cottage, the Trust’s museum and archives, and the magnificent Grasmere scenery, there is much to recommend a trip.Thank you also to Newcastle City Library for hosting the exhibition, and Fiona Hill in particular for all her help. Our technical adviser Richard Light, and to Jeff Wilson (the Russell Crowe of the Percy building) of Newcastle University, also deserve great credit for their work on the digital side of this project. Thank you too to Michael Rossington of Newcastle University for initiating the project, it has been well worth it and a rewarding experience.

Finally, we would also like to express our appreciation to all those who visited the exhibition and attended the talks and events. Real inspiration and engagement was on show in your comments, questions, journal entries and poems. We hope this exhibition has provoked a real interest in Dorothy, her life and works.

Of Earphones and Rhubarb Pie (Aneesha)

What a day! The warmth was unlike anything I’ve ever experience before, and no pattering rain to accompany it! I didn’t dare ask for more when I strolled out to the bus-stop this morning. The journey to the library was an unexpectedly strange one- a stray baby on the bus decided it liked my earphones and refused to let go, even when we got to my stop. It finally came down to me either cruelly snatching them from his/her tiny fists or just letting the earphones (which, to be honest, could not have cost me more than three pounds) go. So, obviously, I snatched. And then ran as quickly as I could out onto the street and in the general direction of Newcastle City Library. This whole affair caused a significant quickening in my pace, possibly from shame at having effectively stolen a toy from a child (MY toy, though) but more likely from anxiety that his/her furious mother would chase me down the street hurling profanities.

As a result, I reached the library far earlier than I had anticipated. Waited for my classmate with whom I’d be working for the day, who was off printing receipts (that I had been unable to print) on her way back from work (her morning was probably a lot more grown-up than mine), and called our speaker for the day, John Crouch, incessantly while looking desperately for him around the cafe at the library. Finally found him, flushed and panicked (Me), surrounded by cups of coffee and sheaves of notes (Him). We exchanged pleasantries, and as I watched him stack beautiful, ancient-looking books into his bag, I knew the session was going to be a good one.

The turnout was excellent: we all but filled the room, and the lecture that proceeded was more *insert positive adjective here* than I could ever have thought it to be. Things I learned today:

  1. Most town names ending in ‘by’ are ex-Viking sites (Appleby, for ex.)
  2. The word ‘haversack’ comes from the bags used to carry oats in Cumbria (“hafer” being German for oats)
  3. ‘Georgie Porgie Pudding and Pie’ stemmed from George I being called the Pudding King (It was during his reign that Britain became famous for its assorted puddings)
  4. The Opium Wars should really have been called the Rhubarb Wars

More than that, though, I learnt that John Crouch, our speaker has the kind and quantity of knowledge about Cumbrian history and gastronomy that makes me both awed and slightly envious. He spoke, we listened, and we were amazed. Dorothy’s recipes (her famous rhubarb pie being the star of the afternoon), his stories about the importance and ubiquity of food in understanding history and the sudden closeness we all felt to the Wordsworths by means of the recipes Dorothy cooked in their kitchen at Dove Cottage made for a great afternoon, well-spent. If there’s one thing I can hope for, it’s that John had as wonderful a time today as we did.

The talks for the exhibition are over now, and it won’t be long (July 7th) until we close. If you’re close by and haven’t come by, please do- we assure you, you won’t regret it! Details here.

Here’s a stock photograph of a rhubarb pie for you, that I borrowed off the internet. In reality, I hear, they look even better.Rhubarb Pie

Goodbye for now.

Tuesday June 30th – Hayley’s Entry

I wake up and check the usual sources to see what I’ve missed in my sleep. The Guardian informs me that everyone is still politically incorrect, The Telegraph tells me that the economy is still a bit iffy and the Daily Mail reassures me that female celebrities are still leaving their houses and having the audacity to take both their legs with them.  I open the Word document “Dissertation” that haunts the desktop of my computer. Casper’s unfriendly cousin. Like the world more generally, not much has changed overnight. The word count remains the same as it did yesterday, a figure sum that rivals only my bank account in its pitiful lack of 0s. I put my extended literary education to good use and declare this to be pretty damn microcosmic.

I leave my flat and walk to Gregg’s. There is a sign in the window telling me that it has closed down. I proceed to express my dismay to everyone I encounter while going about my business. The cashier at Tesco feigns interest. The woman who cleans the stairwell of my building doesn’t acknowledge the news. Probably my accent. I hope all who overhear my bemoaning are au fait with the names of beloved Northern bakery chains. I hope they don’t just think I’ve been abandoned by a man named Gregg.  If Gregg’s was replaced with Gregg then this day would be failing the Bechdel test as hard as the 2015 best picture nominations list. I suppose I’ll have to walk to the next closest branch when I’m in the mood for a pastry now. That extra 20 metres will really take it out of me.

All this talk of pastry reminds me, if you’re free tomorrow there will be a talk at Newcastle City Library at 2:30pm by the food historian John Crouch. It promises to be a witty and engaging look at food likely to have been eaten by Dorothy and her Romantic era contemporaries. Rumour has it there’ll even be a live cookery demonstration and the chance to sample the results. Who needs Gregg’s/ Gregg anyway?

Saturday June 27th – Beth’s Entry

I woke up surprisingly early for a Saturday and spent basically my entire life (read: two hours) doing a weekly shop and cleaning my flat. I’ve spent most of the past week in Copenhagen so my home has fallen into what Dorothy might have called ‘a state of disrepair’. Or, as my Mum would probably call it, ‘a bombsite’. I then made a token attempt to work on my dissertation before heading into town to check on the exhibition.

Having not seen it for a week, I was pleasantly surprised by how many people had made ‘A day in the life of…’ contributions! I was meeting two friends for a cuppa that actually ended up being a gin (it was dead sunny today!) so, beforehand, I got them to come take a look at the exhibition.

Checking out the boards!

After the exhibition, and subsequent gin, I went home to do some work and get ready for going out tonight. Overall, a fab Saturday!

A quick reminder that we have Susan Allen’s talk at 2pm tomorrow in the City Library! Having heard Susan speak about her work with the Trust when visiting Grasmere, I’m very much looking forward to it – she’s very engaging and, if you don’t already have tickets, I’d recommend booking!

See you there!

Thursday 25th June – Sam’s Entry 2.0


It’s my turn again, these days are just flying by. Up early to take my car to the garage for a service. I wonder if Dorothy ever had to wait for her chaise and four to be serviced? I did my best to blend in with the mechanics. This involved me smearing my face in engine oil and saying ‘mate’ at the end of every sentence. I jest, I didn’t really say ‘mate’.

I was at a loose end, so I decided to walk to the beach, whereupon I was viciously savaged by a labradoodle at exactly the moment Canis Lupis (see Fantastic Mr Fox soundtrack for full details) came on my Ipod. Coincidence? Probably, yeah.

Restless, I took a journey into town via Metro since I was sans automobile. It was a less than inspiring journey. I used my time wisely and ruminated on many topics. For instance, how does Clark Kent ever clean his glasses at work? Surely people would know he was Superman then? Or, as my hero Karl Pilkington once mused, how does Dracula have such an accurate centre parting if he can’t look in the mirror? All good questions that will not help me at any stage of my life.

Went to the library to have a look at our exhibition. It’s still there, so if you’re reading this between now and the 7th of July, then why are you bothering when you can get yourselves down to the City Library, level 5 and 6 and see it with your own eyes?

Met a friend, had some fancy tea and tried to dry off after the deluge that almost drowned me. We set the world to rights (again! What’s up with the world? It seems we have to do that at least once a week at the minute). I dodged the puddles and made it back to my car sometime later. I was asked for a second time whether I wanted to keep the old parts of my car (why? What would I do with them? Mount them to my walls and open a themed restaurant? I think TGI Fridays has beaten me to it).

I hot-footed it over to the Metrocentre to meet another friend (I’m quite the social caterpillar) and collected my wedding invitation under the only flickering light in Costa. So, laden with an invitation and a nervous twitch, I wished my friend well with her wedding plans and drove home to listen to my dad interact with Nashville, which is concerning because I’m not convinced he knows they can’t hear him…

Tuesday 23 June — Sarita’s Entry

We are now a week into the exhibition and it’s been so rewarding and impressive to see such a positive response. I’m sitting in the library as I write this, looking out over a cloudy Newcastle, and have bumped into a few visitors who are enjoying the displays and keen to find out more about Grasmere. I can see some wonderful additions to the Poets’ Corner, including journal entries, quotations and reviews of the exhibition. It looks like we’ve attracted a broad audience so far, and Dorothy’s journals and the material we’ve displayed has inspired something different in everyone.

On this day in 1802, Dorothy describes her day as marred by spells of rain, before “a sullen coldish evening” set in. Nearing the end of supposedly the coldest June on record today, it’s clear to see the infamous cold weather of the north of England will never change. Today was an interesting and varied day for Dorothy – she read another scene of Shakespeare’s As You Like It, received a letter from William, and ended the day in the company of several friends enjoying some sun amidst the rain, the “grass and trees in gem like brightness” together.

Monday the 22nd of June: Dan’s Entry

Journal entries and poems from the public continue to come flooding in, and it has been a delight to hear what people are up to, and how they have responded to the exhibition. My stewardship of the exhibition today gave me another opportunity to consult Dorothy’s journal entry for the 22nd of June. It was a busy day for Dorothy today: correspondence with Coleridge, starting some Shakespeare, and eating a pie.

I’d like to use this space to issue a reminder that there are still tickets available for the talks that are running alongside the exhibition. On the 28th of June at 2pm in room 7 of the City Library, the Wordsworth’s Trust’s Outreach Officer Susan Allen, will be speaking about nineteenth-century travel and holiday planning (Tickets are available here). Susan will also be running an outreach activity on Monday the 29th of June, 10am-3pm in Bewick 3 in the City Library (this event is not ticketed, all are welcome!). On the 2nd of July at 2.30pm Katie Ann-Stamps, will be delivering a talk on research into Dorothy’s journal writing and her relationship with her brother William (Book tickets here). I’ve heard Katie talk about Dorothy before at a North East Forum Event, and am looking forward to hear her speak so eloquently about Dorothy again.

Sunday the 21st of June 2015: Craig’s Entry

It was my turn to check on the exhibition today, good to see lots of journal entries added to the display by visitors, even a few poems too! In other news, Dorothy tells us that William had a lie in on this day 213 years ago. I can relate. I am reminded of my Byron (this is a literary blog, I feel I can get away with a quotation here!): ‘History, with all her volumes vast / Hath but one page’!

Now that the exhibition is up and running I’ve also had some time to reflect on the whole process. It has been a lot of fun. It feels kind of like we’ve participated in an Apprentice task (without the bickering, and silly team names). We’ve had a clear project manager from the start (she knows who she is!). Thanks for leading us, now I wonder which of us Alan would fire?

Cue Montagues and Capulets.

Saturday 20th June 2015 – Adam’s Entry

Wake up early to some porridge and do the ironing. Wonder for a moment if I’m Dorothy reincarnate. Decide DW wouldn’t take an hour to iron four t-shirts. The day is dull and dank and there is a moisture in the breeze. Get ready and walk to the gym for my daily exercise. Eat half a banana on the way but compost the rest in a shrub – littering?

Head home and chop some vegetables. Take a shower while they boil with noodles. Keep checking them while I shave. Eventually the noodles are ready and I’m fully dressed. I sit down and read a few pages of The Sun Also Rises but mostly I’m eating, adding salt and pepper as I go.

After 10 minutes the dishes are in the sink and I’m packing clothes – things to sell for a car boot on Sunday. Add two black coats and an old suit to a case. Lock the door and head out. Before long I’m in town. I walked faster than I needed to. It’s hard to weave between the crowds on Northumberland Street with a case. I feel self-conscious and eventually realise it’s because the case is pink. I tell myself to grow up. A man plays bagpipes. Other buskers give him daggers because bagpipes have a way of cutting through acoustic guitars.

I arrive at the library and take the lift to the top floor. The exhibition looks good. No cheeky diary entries on the wall. Read a poem someone left. Re-read it then head to the train station. Make the train just in time. Read some more until the train reaches the coast. Look out of the window for the last part of the journey. The sea and sky have fused together.