Thursday, October 12, 2006

The wonder of the Bill Hicks clip I posted on Monday may have helped to distract you from the fact that I haven't posted for two days. I am not going to bore you with my petty excuses and/or reasons, and it's not because I can't think of any (I'm a writer, if I wanted to lie, I'd really lie, tell you that I was climbing Everest or something).

This week has been a bit crazy on the old work front, but crazy good, not crazy knife wielding caffeine psycho that hasn't slept for days - actually now that I think of it, I've been a bit like that, but the week hasn't. I've been based down at the Royal Naval Museum for the first three days of this week, which has been fabulous, and the task at hand (the creation of exhibition copy in time for January) is really taking shape. Sometimes it's a big howling scary shape, but the shape is definitely there.

Working space has been an issue since I started at the RN, one which we avoided nicely at first because I was lucky enough to be working in the Naval Library most of the time. Now that the material gathering stage has been shifted down a priority, I've been working this week on getting to grips with the material itself. This is a great process because so much of the material is really interesting, but also because I have never been involved in the preparation of an exhibition before, and it fascinates me.

I can't keep crowing on about all this for too long this morning because I should be on my way to work right now (sorry Chief, but you should never tell a Junior you're coming in late), but I've been found a desk in the researchers' office in the attic this week, and the two women currently based in there, Gemma and Mel, have been so deliciously welcoming to me that I felt compelled to mention it. Gemma and Mel both have Masters degrees in Museum and Heritage Studies, though they both have entirely different specialisms: Gemma knows a whole world of stuff about medieval history and Mel is my new guru on all things art history. For the record, they are also the loveliest people to share an office with, ever, and they have provided me with the model for my imagination to base its dreams of a shared writing studio on.

We get a lot of work done, maybe because we are all doing things we love to do for a living, but there is always time found during the day for a little chat and a laugh, which has made this week perfect for me. Yesterday, Gemma (who is the fount of unexpected knowledge and is always coming out with these fascinating facts) announced that her favourite ship's name is HMS Cockchafer. The picture at the top is the Cockchafer in all its glory ( I know that some of you will think I should say 'her' glory, but I'm going to post more on that topic tonight). Prompting Gemma's announcement was something that Deborah, my boss on the Chasing Freedom contract, read aloud to us from the Parliamentary Papers.

She was reading an account of the capture of a Portuguese slave ship off the coast of West Africa in the 1800's and she read aloud to the office, "I boarded the Portuguese Hermaphrodite." We kid you not, it's the exact phrase in the records. Ignoring the implication of this admission, why would you call a slave vessel (bear in my mind that by law, slavers were legally considered pirates by most nations in the mid 1850's - some countries punished slave traders by death) the Hermaphrodite - it hardly strikes awe or fear, does it?

Anyhoo, it's almost 9, I still have to take a bath and finish a pot of coffee so that I can go to work looking awake. Back later, missing you already, obviously.

1 comment:

G said...

I love HMS Cockchafer! Where did that name come from?

A hermaphrodite brig, or brig-schooner, is a type of two-masted sailing ship which has square sails on the foremast combined with a schooner rig on the mainmast (triangular topsail over a gaff mainsail). As such it has a mix of the two main types of sail plan, hence the term hermaphrodite.

Impressed? Sound like I know what I'm talking about? Not at all! You made me curious and I found it, along with a picture of one, on

Good old Wikipedia!