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3 Apr

As talks turn to preparation for the Great Armstrong Renovation, I humbly propose this as a poster-sized source of inspiration in the new PhD Room:


Zumba – probably my new most favorite thing

29 Mar

So despite being a hopeless wannabe hipster I somehow managed to miss the Zumba bus when it was still hipster. I know there was a time Michelle Obama was doing it and skinny Indie Kids everywhere were going to Zumba in their converse before they remembered they didn’t like sweat and that anything that happy probably wasn’t for them in the long term.

After the hapless hipsters had abandoned Zumba to go listen to Belle and Seb the yummy mummys got in on the act. They could pretend to be young and cool by dancing with the celeb endorsement of M’Obama  still there to prove it wasn’t a) a cult or b) not for people their age. In addition afterwards they could all discuss what Apple and Plum had learnt at school whilst sipping on one of those mood ion drinks and discussing how great Zumba was for losing baby weight. Job done.

I first considered going to Zumba when I moved to Newcastle but all the classes seemed to sell out and the thought of going to the uni gym to do Zumba was too much for me. The uni gym is a place inhabited by girls with eyelashes and hair extensions who are all super skinny and seem not to sweat, which I can only assume is because they don’t actually exercise. The thought of Zumba with girls who looked like they might dance in a stylish manner and know about rhythm was not appealing. Nor was the almost certain need to have makeup on to go to the class in the first place. Or having to overhear what had happened in Sinners the night before, whilst the alcohol filled Sinners sweat penetrated the air. This Sinners air is not the air of last night’s fun, it is the air to today’s shame. It has no place in an exercise class where people over 21 are allowed to attend.

And so it was that shortly after the Zumba craze had been and gone I found myself in Chillingham Road School on a Thursday evening with Doc Gamble. Our first key move was that by going to Chilli Rd School there were no hipsters to be seen. When we arrived the other women in the room were all easily over 40 and one was clearly knocking on 60. There was no way that these women could be the paradigms of stylish dance that I can only presume the cast of Geordie Shore would be if they weren’t always so drunk in Riverside. As the class filled up a couple of other young’uns appeared, a few grannies and a host of middle-aged women.

What emerged was a heady mix of school hall, women of all ages and sizes and some banging tunes. I was transported back to the days of Peru instantly. As I shook my ass whilst jumping backwards I had a sense of deja vu that somewhere in Lima at 4am in a salsa club fuelled by cheap cocktails I had danced this move under the instruction of Peruvians (although it involved another person being there to grind my ass upon). As I span around in circles I was back on the dig parties I had raved away at, the salsa moves came flowing back and the music was so unbearably happy that I couldn’t help but  grin and sing along.

The reason that Zumba is so awesome is because of my experience in Peru – when I was in Peru everyone mocked my inability to dance: constantly. I was the butt of all the jokes because no matter how long they spent trying to teach me I could never salsa right, I shook my ass wrong and I constantly got out of time. I loved it though. When I came back to the UK I discovered quickly that dancing as if I were in a dark, smoky Peruvian club caused a lot of trouble, seemingly grinding and wiggling my ass into things was not what was called for. So my Peruvian dance moves come out only when I am very drunk. But when they do come out they are notably a touch better than other people’s salsa moves, so you know I clearly wasn’t that bad after all, not my fault I couldn’t get my ass cheeks to bang on each other eh?!

Zumba was like one of those rare house parties you go to where people start drinking and dancing and just don’t stop until 4am, and everyone just dances like they don’t care and they have a total ball, except that I was sober, I didn’t vomit anywhere, I didn’t pass out, I didn’t drunk dial, I didn’t wake up broken, I didn’t think I might like Skips again to discover I hated them, I didn’t ‘accidentally’ eat toast, no boy offered to walk me home, oh and the other party go-ers included some Grannies.

So I know there are several other PhD-ers out there that are trying Zumba at the minute. I say continue onwards! Nothing that makes me smile that much should be legal. And something that gets rid of that much stress whilst releasing endorphins is exactly the kind of thing HASS should be providing instead of bad coffee and powdered milk.

Time wasted from PhD: 20mins

Time probably gained for PhD from the sanity I think Zumba might bring: 60mins

Desire to do Zumba while drunk: STRONG

Teenage Crushes 3

23 Mar

Louise’s made me afraid. Hawk made laughed so hard at the Tim Tin that I cried. How on earth do you follow these efforts at all?! Unclear. But I should start with a confession, I too fancied Tim Henman, I too cannot explain it.


Most of my later teenage crushes are ones I still stand by. This category of crushes is primarily dominated by skinny indie boys in tight jeans with asymmetrical floppy fringes. Here is a little collage, I would still happily date all these men, they now sit alongside my all too well known obsession with ‘nerdy’ looking rappers like Tinie Tempah, Ghostpoet, Childish Gambino and Dizzee Rascale.


But this statement doesn’t shock anyone who knows me. All such people know my barely hidden desire to be a hipster with a boyfriend who is either in a band or a rapper. So how do I compete? I considered posting  a list of my academic crushes. Whilst I was an undergrad I grew a list of academics who I had never even seen the faces of when I feel in love with them. I would read the great works of theory in archaeology and think, ‘Woah your brain is so sexy, so very sexy, I fancy the hat/glasses off your brain’. I never fancied them, I just fancied their brains. I wanted to hang out and have coffee with them and talk about their books. This probably tells you waaaaay too much about the effect of Cambridge on my mind. The problem with releasing this embarrassing list (which would be hugely amusing as we all know archaeologists aren’t the most attractive bunch) is that all of them are still alive, and I still for some unknown and wholly illogical reason hold out the belief that my career as an academic might work out. So I don’t want to find my PhD examiner, future article referees, interviewers for jobs, people on funding bodies etc. googling me and discovering  not only my burlesque dancing twin and this blog but also my massive intellectual crush on them, or worse that I don’t have a crush on them deeming their work to therefore be crap. So I must beat another path….


I never really liked any teen boy bands when I was young, I liked Indie boys as we have already discussed. I fancied Johnny Depp, but who didn’t (Louise you weirdo). I had a bit of a Johnny Wilkinson crush for a while (again who didn’t). But I tell you who I did fancy, who I still fancy a bit, and this is entirely inexplicable and completely messed up and almost certainly requires a psychiatrist – The Fox from Robin Hood. Yeah this one, yes him, the animated fox…


BUT WAIT! A quick browse around the internet looking for pics of my foxy heart throb suggests I am not at all alone in this…. Who else fancied this fox?!?

Time wasted from PhD: 20mins

Time spent wondering where the screen saver collage of Indie Boys I had aged 18 went: 20mins

Embarrassing Teenage Crushes No. 2

23 Mar

Greetings from sunny Bristol! After the perusal of Louise’s gritty, honest account of her teenage crushes, I’ve found myself in a confused state of awe, slight disgust and profound admiration. At this point in time I can think of no better way of killing half an hour than to take up her challenge. Dear reader, prepare to beetle your brows in bafflement, spit out your juice in shock and wring your hands at the sheer weirdness of it all, as we delve into the Hawk’s secret lair of humiliating adolescent crushes!!!

The Hawk’s First Forays into Adolescent Passions: a Brief Summary


1.) Tim Henman


To this day I could not tell you why I fancied Tim Henman in the late nineties. I’m not even sure that 12 year-old Natalie knew. I think maybe the Big Breakfast told me he was cool? Whatever inspired this brief phase of madness, the sad fact of the matter is that it was exacerbated by the theft of a small, laminated photograph of Mr Henman that I found on a display board in the changing rooms at my secondary school. I stole that photograph, and proceeded to carry it around in a small, tin mint box, carefully lined with tissue paper (???!?!?!?!!) in my pocket, so that I could take it out and admire my beloved’s face at any point during the school day. One day, my little brother found the Tim Tin. I vehemently denied constructing it out of love for Tim Henman – I told him that, in fact, its creation had been inspired by a hatred for Henman so strong that I intended to stick pins in the photograph, like some weird kind of voodoo doll. My fearful eyes must have betrayed me however, as my brother took the tin straight to my mother and they both laughed at it so hard that I thought it might genuinely kill them. I sobbed quietly in my room for several hours, and vowed never to tell anybody about my secret crushes ever again.


2.) Squall Leonhart


Shredder, move over. This guy has a girly, expressionless face, complicated locks and a MASSIVE FUCKING SWORD. Sure, his body was constructed out of roughly seven polygons for the majority of game-play, and he was already taken (by that BITCH, Rinoa Heartily, for those unaware of Final Fantasy VIII’s intricate plot-line), but by God was he hot. I covered my school planner with pictures of him in 1999… And possibly 2000, too. Ahem.


3.) Curtains

I was close to undiscriminating when it came to my love of boys with curtains. What’s not to love about this captivating, edgy hairstyle? The way the hair brushes gently against the forehead, the generally greasy demeanour that it adds to the wearer… I once fancied a guy at school for three straight years because of his lengthy, silky curtains. I was undeterred upon discovering that he was the school maths geek. The day he shaved those beautiful curtains off was one of the worst of my adolescent life.

…Like any phase, my curtains obsession had its peaks and troughs. A generally accepted peak being:


A humiliating trough:

15 Adam Rickitt photo.jpg


Wow – that was exhausting! And somewhat cathartic. I hope you have all enjoyed this somewhat repulsive trip down Memory Lane.



Embarrassing Teenage Crushes

23 Mar

It’s been a while since I’ve posted on our blog, so I thought I’d go all out with this post. Embarrassing teenage crushes. Yes, we’ve all had them, and I’m counting on you all to follow my lead and post them here. No “I had a crush on the guy who lived across the road” or any of that bullshit. I want celebrity crushes, crushes on characters etc. So make your own post, complete with pictures, and let’s have a good laugh at the expense of our younger selves!

In no particular order:

1. Pinhead (Hellraiser)
Had a weird crush on the leader of the Cenobites when I was about 14/15 after seeing my first ever Hellraiser movie.

2. Hessian Horseman (Sleepy Hollow)
I was about 15 when this movie came out. I went to see it 9 times at the cinema, up until the point it stopped playing! Then I bought all of the merchandise and built a small shrine in my room.

3. Edward Scissorhands
Not a massive Johnny Depp fan, never really saw the attraction, but this is one of my favourite movies, and was one of my favourite characters in my mid teens.

4. Dani Filth (Cradle of Filth)
When I was about 14. Pretty embarrassing, really.

5. Shredder (Teenage Mutant Hero Turtles)
Can’t really eplain this one. Chalk this down to tweenage years and hormonal imbalance.

So there you have it. Variations on a theme of leather I guess. Except for Shredder. Must have been the armour.

Now it’s your turn!

Time wasted on this post: 30 minutes
Time spent reminiscing over a misspent youth: priceless

International News

7 Mar

You know, I really love living here in Jolly Old… I really do! I love the dreary ambiance, the accents, the fashion, the beans on toast and most of all the beer. But every once in a while, I see something that makes me long for the homeland. This is one of those things:



Only in America, y’all!

Time spent on this post:  10 minutes
Time spent surfing the web and stumbling upon this post:  45 minutes


5 Mar

Guest post: Introducing the Oxford Archaeology Correspondent. The Oxford Archaeology Correspondent can best be described as Sophie 1.0, the beta version of Sophie that Rachel used to live with. She likes the Palaeolithic and the colour orange. She does not understand new fangled things like the Bronze Age and modern music.


I am a stranger to lycra. I am no fan of mustard. My hair is almost all one length. My taste in music can best be described as obscure, but not in a cool way. The last time I wore a rucksack out in the evening, it was 3 am and I was hiking up a mountain in Lesotho to catch a bus. On Saturday I went to a Hipsters vs Goth party[1]. Hipsters? Whosters? Helpsters.

Luckily help was to hand, because I knew I could call on SuperMustard. Not only is her entire wardrobe composed of synthetic stretchy fibres, she doesn’t own any matching socks, and she’s so Other, she’s still using a lime-green Creative Zen mp3 player she got at some point back in the middle Bronze Age. This is probably not the time to go into the fact that I remember when she was still wearing flared jeans and a llama-jumper (actually those are probably back in again. Shows how much I know). As a long-term avid reader of PhFreedom, this blog was my first port of call for advice (see, Rachel? I even threw in a sea metaphor). In SuperMustard’s last blog I commented with a plea for help. I quote highlights of the response here.

“You need geek shoes on your feet, if you have some kind of shoe to deal with a walking complaint I recommend those, if not then brogues… There is also an interesting trend for survival gear at present, you could add a rucksack, a compass and a small knife for killing animals” (Crellin 2012)

For more enlightenment, I direct you to . I seriously think you should consider an advice column.

I had some material to work with: I live with a physicist, who owns, at a conservative estimate, 15 checked shirts. Mostly in shades of grey (I’m really not joking – I was worried that if I borrowed a shirt for this party he might be lacking in clothing. No no. Four people turned up wearing his shirts and he still had 11 left). I own an electric blue denim mini-skirt with an exposed zip. I have purple tights (not that I would EVER wear them with that skirt). I own geek-ish glasses (Specsavers, mens, £25. My face is “too wide” for women’s glasses. Hello body dismorphia.). It’s ok though, a little trip to Primark sorted me right out. For the bargainous price of £20 (which included a deviant purchase of a few pairs of black tights and some Kirby grips as well) I filled in the gaps in my hipster outfit. WHIPSTER, BITCHES, WHIPSTER. Throw into the mix a pair of plastic brogues (I actually love these. I’m wearing them now.), a really hideous red/leopard print scarf, a fluorescent pink camera necklace (suitable for holding up to the eye and saying ‘CLICK’ with in a most ironic fashion at awkward conversational pauses), and the two pièces de résistance: a calculator watch (which broke as soon as I put it on, but the sellotape I used to fix it made it even more hipster) and…wait for it… a boy’s age 11-12 space invaders tshirt which cost £1.50 and which I may never take off. I love it.

Accessories wise, my idea was to use an orange plastic sainsburys bag as a handbag, since I decided a canvas shopping bag was too obvious (you can see I was really starting to get into this…) then decided no, that was just stupid. So, I made use of my AARD 2011 conference bag. AARD does not stand for ‘African Archaeology Research Day’. No no, it’s the name of the band I’m in. Or rather, it’s the name of the band the guy I’m sleeping with is in. Yeah, you probably won’t have heard of them, they’re sort of techno-electro-funk with a hint of Gregorian chant. Their first album, Compline Crunk, is available for download on MySpace, because that’s, like, retro now, yeah?

Et voilà:


Helpster to Hipster

The best bit came later though. In a most ironic fashion, they had blacklights decorating the dancefloor. And what did I happen to have in my handbag, but the UV pen I had used to mark my anti-theft serial number on my bike with. Much merriment ensued. Very few people remained unscarred. At least five people were walking around with “LUÍSEACH’S BITCH’ tattooed on their foreheads. One physicist got “Dondé esta la biblioteca?” on his left arm. Someone else got “Dove il duomo?” on her chest. Apparently when I’m drunk I like to ask for directions in foreign languages I can’t speak. Hipster? Who cares.


Fluorescent Hipster Chic

Time wasted from PhD: 30 mins to write this blog post, several hours spent day-dreaming about how I actually kind of want to dress like this all the time…

[1] At this point, you may ask, why didn’t I just go as a Goth? I spend a considerable portion of my time wearing black anyway, but black as in ‘Who died?’ or ‘Yes, I will have another canapé. Now, where are the toilets?’. Just didn’t feel like a challenge.