Creative Histories Revisited

I was so busy on Thursday, and so tired on Friday, that I didn’t cover the Creative Histories conference very well. Therefore I’m going to look back over days 2 and 3 so I can highlight some of the great presentations we had. (I looked at Wednesday in more detail here.)

Thursday opened with Ronald Hutton who is the UK’s leading authority on the history modern paganism. I was particularly struck by what he had to say about how even being suspected of having pagan sympathies was sufficient to damage his academic career, and make it difficult for him to taken seriously as an expert witness on the subject. This is very reminiscent of how trans academics are treated when we try to say anything about trans-related issues. I’ll have a lot more to say about this in a post I’m writing for Will Pooley’s blog.

The other morning session on Thursday was all about creative writing. Nick Barratt, who is one of the historians who works on the hugely successful TV ancestry series, Who Do You Think You Are?, talked about the tension between entertaining the public and doing good history. We also had presentations on story structure and performative story telling. This is a very long way from the traditional structure of academic writing, but of course an essential skill if you do want to tell a story rather than present an argument.

After lunch I headed out to the Other Lecture Theatre, which involved a trek through the zoo. We had a couple of papers on maritime history, and got to see an amazing quilt made from very small squares so as to reproduce a pixelated image of a portrait of Nelson.

The final session was mine, but I was preceded by two excellent papers. Sonja Boon talked about the difficulties of writing about the history of slavery when some of your ancestors were slaves. Obviously that connects with my comments above about doing pagan and trans history. Joe Krawec is researching 20th Century British industrial history, but as a comics fan she is keen to use sequential art in presenting her research. Her paper was about telling history through comics, and the process of learning to produce them. The title of her paper, “Punching Hitler: comic books and their uses for the historian”, will take a lot of beating.

Friday opened with a session on criminal history, though it might not have sounded like it from my tweets. The first paper was about the Digital Panopticon, a project to make a huge number of 18th and 19th century criminal records available online. The second paper was all about how the techniques of journalism can be used to tell stories from history. And paper three told a fascinating story about how a man convicted of murder in Shanghai later became a minor celebrity in London.

After lunch we had a guest presentation from biographer, Julia Blackburn. She talked about how she writes her books, but also in some detail about her latest subject, artist John Craske. He certainly makes for a fascinating story. Here’s Blackburn talking about her subject in The Guardian.

After lunch we had a session on digital projects, which included the OutStories Bristol LGBT History map. The other papers were about the Many Headed Monster blog, which looks great but is not my period, and about Experiencing Arcadia. The latter is a lovely project about an 18th Century garden that has been let down by some poor IT choices. Historians, of course, are generally not well informed about IT issues, and can easily go down the wrong path.

I need to spend more time writing apps, but I have no time.

There were, of course, many other sessions. The conference had either 2 or 3 streams most of the time. Some of the other sessions looked very interesting. I’m still working on bi-location.

The final session of the conference was a round table looking back on the themes of the conference. There seemed to be general agreement that it was a good thing that historians should be more creative when presenting their work, though admittedly the group was very much self-selected. I’m rather surprised that the idea of a PhD By Published Work doesn’t exist in history. Nicola Griffith has just done a really interesting blog series about her journey towards getting one of those.

The big problem from the historians’ point of view is that being creative is all very well when you have an established reputation, but for anyone starting their career it is a major risk because you will get called out for not being “objective”. For us non-professional academics, being creative is a lot easier, but we run the risk of not being taken seriously by historians who are in academia. Ultimately it is all about hierarchies and gatekeeping. People make rules about who is allowed to do what history, and how they are allowed to do it, to try to limit the types of stories that get told. Conferences like this kick back against such strictures, and I’m delighted to see Bristol University taking the lead in doing that.

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Dinomania at Bristol

Here are some more photos I took of the dinosaurs on view at Bristol Zoo.

As usual with animals, getting them to stay still to be photographed is not always easy. Some of them, such as the Pachyrhinosaurus, were gently snoozing. Others were very busy. The most active of them was the dilophosaurus, which seemed to fancy itself as a dragon and delighted in spraying small children with water. Here it is in action. (The background noise is the rain.)

Better photos and more information about the various creatures can be found here.

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One Game Left #WWC17

I was so busy at Creative Histories that I didn’t have time to look in much on the Australia-India game. A quick check at lunch showed that the start had been delayed by rain. When I checked again I could not believe my eyes.

The match had been reduced to 42 overs a side. India had won the toss and elected to bat. After 25 overs they were reduced to 101/3, Mithali Raj having just misjudged a ball from Kristen Beams and seen her stumps flattened. 17 overs later they concluded their innings with a total of 281/4. That’s 180 runs added for just 102 balls bowled, and only one wicket lost. What happened?

What happened was Harmanpreet Kaur. She had already shared in a partnership of 66 with Raj, but on becoming the senior partner she took over the match. She finished on 171* off 115 balls, including 7 sixes. I got to watch the highlights this morning and it is rare that you see batting so destructive anywhere. It was an innings that Viv Richards or Sachin Tendulkar would have been proud to play. Those Indian fans lucky enough to have paid £10 to watch the match in Derby more than got their money’s worth. They will be able to say, “I was there”, when one of the legendary innings of Indian cricket was played.

Give them their due, the Australians did not give up. Their innings was dealt what was probably a fatal blow when Meg Lanning was bowled by veteran Indian pace bowler, Jhulan Goswami, for an 8-ball duck. Elyse Villani (75) and Alex Blackwell (90) stepped up to the plate to try to keep their side in the match. Blackwell even managed to score faster than Kaur. But neither player could match the dominance of Kaur. Villani was out in the 23rd over, and she was quickly followed by Perry in the 26th, Healey in the 28th, Gardner in the 29th and Jonassen in the 30th. Blackwell tried her best to win the match on her own, but it was too big a hill to climb and Australia were all out with 11 balls remaining and 37 still needed.

So tomorrow’s final will be England v India. The Indian side will be on a massive high after that victory, and will remember beating England in the first match of the tournament. England, however, are on a 7-game winning streak including incredibly close games against Australia and South Africa. They will also have a much bigger crowd behind them than the Australians did. Lords is sold out, so the atmosphere should be incredible.

Whoever wins tomorrow, and a very close match seems likely, the winner will be women’s cricket. Lots of eyebrows were raised when this tournament was given prestige venues and full TV coverage, but it has delivered far more drama and quality cricket than most people expected. Lords has a capacity of 30,000, but the TV audience for tomorrow’s match could easily hit 300 million (more than 3 times that many watched the Champion’s Trophy final between India and Pakistan men earlier in the year). That’s serious eyeballs. The sponsors will be delighted. Getting money and TV coverage for future women’s cricket tournaments will doubtless be a whole lot easier. Here’s hoping that also translates into more money for the players.

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Conference Wrap and Dinosaur Hunting

Day 3 of Creative Histories continued smoothly with a lot of interesting presentations. These included one by my colleague, Andy Foyle, about the LGBT History Mapping Project that we undertook. Andy co-presented with Josie McLellan of the University of Bristol History Department with whom we worked on the project. (The University’s IT department wrote the software.)

I have a lot more I want to say about the conference. Some of that will be here over the next couple of days, and I have also promised a post to Will Pooley, the genius behind the event, for his blog. Many of the other presenters will also be doing guest posts for him. For now suffice it to say that I had a fabulous three days and have come away with some new friends, and a lot to think about.

We had an hour and a half between the end of the conference and closing time at the zoo, so I took myself off on a dinosaur hunt. You can see the entrance to their enclosure above, and in the distance a few kids playing with a friendly pachyrhinosaurus. I’ll have some more pictures, and possibly some video, for you over the weekend. In the meantime here’s a selfie that I took with my new friend, Rex.

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TV Stars

Emma Newman and I, with special guest Hugo, did our TV slot yesterday. We were on the same show as Sue Mountstevens, the local Police Commissioner, and Martin Booth, the editor of Bristol 24/7. I had come hot foot from the Creative Histories conference. My cab had been half an hour late arriving so I was a bit frazzled. Hopefully I managed to get myself smartened up a bit before I went on air. At least I did better than poor Martin. There had been a desk last time he was on the show, so he figured he was safe turning up in shorts. Now there is a sofa.

Emma was great. Very assured for her first time on TV, and had an answer for every question. Pete Newman was watching the show in the Green Room and he seemed very pleased with how it went. We were only on air for 7 minutes, so my apologies if we didn’t get in a mention of everything.

As I said last night, the TV people are normally good about giving us MP4 files of our slots. If I get one I will stick it online for you.

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Mad Day

This morning my social media alerts went crazy because I have a new history blog up the the University of Sheffield’s History Matters site.

Hopefully that didn’t interfere too much with my tweeting of Ronald Hutton’s brilliant lecture.

There was lots of other good stuff at Creative Histories today, though I was a little distracted by the need to have a conference call with Stonewall about a new campaign which I’ll be telling you about in August.

I got to present my steampunk paper. It seemed to go down well. Sonja and Joe, who presented in the same session as me, were both brilliant. It was an honor to follow them.

And then I rushed off to Filton to be on Made in Bristol TV with Emma Newman to talk about the Clarke and the Hugos. Em was brilliant as always. I took one of my Hugos, which outshone me effortlessly. Hopefully I will have the video for you next week.

Now I need sleep. I have to be off to Bristol first thing tomorrow for more history and a spot of dinosaur hunting.

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Creative Histories – Day 1

As promised, I am in Bristol. I have not yet got to explore the zoo, but I have listened to four interesting papers and made a bunch of new friends. I have also discovered that you get very well fed at the zoo. Or at least you do if you are a human (or masquerading as one). I can’t vouch for anyone else.

Creative Histories is all about engaging with history in creative ways, not all of which involve fiction. The first session today was all about more visual arts. We learned about a project to make textile arts based on stories found in the historical archives of Hertfordshire (which featured alchemists, pirates and witches). We also heard about preserving the artistic heritage of Wiltshire, including making pottery in the style of the Bronze Age “Beaker People” (because Wiltshire looks down its historical nose at most of the rest of the UK in the same way that Egypt does at Greece and Rome).

Session two was all about children’s fiction. We saw a great interactive ebook project based on a YA novel about the Spanish Civil War (which sadly sank without trace because Apple’s big plans for interactive ebooks never amounted to much). There was also a really powerful paper about the evolution of children’s historical fiction in Australia which had some of us in tears. Also bonus Shaun Tan mention.

Tomorrow I get to do my paper. I am in a great session. I have Sonja who is currently based in Newfoundland but is a newcomer to Canada. She’s talking about writing about Colonialism when you are a person whose culture was colonized. And I have Joanne who is talking about teaching history though comics. Her paper is titled, “Punching Hitler” and she has an awesome batgirl-logo necklace.

Basically all is well, apart from the flamingos who have been barracking loudly from their enclosure just outside the windows.

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Em & Cheryl Do TV

Today, and Thursday and Friday, I am at the Creative Histories conference in Bristol. I’m there primarily to talk about steampunk, though I do hope to come back with some photos of animatronic dinosaurs that they have on display. Selfie with my head in a T-Rex’s mouth? I’ll see what I can do.

However, I will be taking a short break on Thursday evening because the amazingly talented Emma Newman and myself will be on Made in Bristol TV that evening. We’ll be on The Crunch some time between 7:00pm and 9:00pm. We will be talking about the Clarke Award, After Atlas, the Hugos, Tea & Jeopardy, and doubtless Doctor Who as well.

Don’t worry if you miss it, or are outside of the catchment area. The Made in Bristol folks are normally very good about letting guests have an MP4 of their segment, and I’ll stick it online once I have it.

Posted in TV, Where's Cheryl? | 1 Comment

Semi Final Drama at Bristol #WWC17

Wow, that a game!

It all started quietly enough. South Africa won the toss and elected to bat on a Bristol wicket that has been favoring setting a target. England bowled and fielded well, restricting SA to 218/6. The amazing Laura Wolvaardt (66) and ex-captain Mignon du Preez (76) were top scorers. Wolvaardt is still only 18, and clearly has a glittering career ahead of her, unless she decides to go to medical school instead which I understand is a possibility.

England started the chase solidly enough. At 139/2 with Taylor and Knight settled it looked like they would wrap the match up comfortably. Then there was a run out, a brilliant throw by SA captain Dane van Niekerk, to get rid of Taylor. This precipitated a collapse which left England at 166/5 with 10 overs to play. Thankfully Fran Wilson, Catherine Brunt and Jenny Gunn all chipped in with useful runs, but wickets continued to fall.

With one over left, England needed 3 to win. Shabnim Ismail, the pick of the SA bowlers, against Jenny Gunn.

Gunn smashed the first ball straight back at the bowler. Ismail tried to take the catch, but the ball was traveling too fast and it didn’t stick.

Ball 2: Gunn gets a single. 2 runs needed, 1 to tie.

Ball 3 is to Laura Marsh who has just come in and has faced only 2 balls. She is clean bowled.

Ball 4: the new batter is Anya Shrubsole. She’s not known for her batting, but somehow she managed to carve the first ball she receives through the covers for 4. England win by 2 wickets with 2 balls left to play.

And breathe.

So England go on to the final at Lords on Sunday. South Africa go home, reflecting on what might have been. The second semi-final will be Australia v India on Thursday.

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My Worldcon Schedule

As I noted yesterday, the Worldcon draft program is now available. I have four panels as follows:

Thursday 17:00 Publishing Translation
With Liz Gorinsky, Gili Bar-Hillel & Didi Chanoch. I’m moderating.

Friday 11:00 Juried versis Voted Awards
With John-Henri Holmberg, Neil Williamson & Haijun Yao

Saturday 11:00 Gender and “Realistic” History
With Thomas Årnfelt, Gillan Polack, Jo Walton & Scott Lynch. I’m moderating.

Sunday 16:00 The Power of the Reviewer: Promoting and Hiding Diverse Voices
With Greg Hullender, Emma Humphries, Elizabeth Hand & Erin Roberts

Hopefully I will see some of you at one or more of those panels.

Now I need to look through the schedule in detail to see what else I want to attend.

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British Fantasy Awards Shortlists

The short lists for this year’s British Fantasy Awards were announced at the weekend. Bristol people have done rather well.

To start with, Pete Sutton’s A Tiding of Magpies is on the list for Best Collection. It is Pete’s first book, so that’s a pretty impressive achievement.

In the Best Anthology category we have Fight Like a Girl, edited by Joanne Hall and Roz Clarke. Lots of my friends are in this one, and of course there was that spectacular launch event.

That book is published by Kristell Ink. Jo does a lot of work for them, in particular for their fantasy imprint, Grimbold. And Grimbold is on the list of finalists for Best Independent Press.

Which is all very impressive but it doesn’t stop there, because Jo’s The Summer Goddess is on the list for Best Novel.

The results will be announced at Fantasycon in Peterborough over the weekend Sept. 29th – Oct. 1st.

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Got (Worldcon) Program?

The draft programming schedule for this year’s Worldcon in Helsinki is now available here.

I will talk more about my program items tomorrow (I have to rush off to Bristol shortly), but there is one item that I want to draw your attention to:

Wednesday, 16:00-17:30 Live Tea & Jeopardy, featuring Emma Newman, Latimer the Butler, and special guest George R.R. Martin

What on Earth constitutes mild peril where George is concerned? Will anyone in the audience survive? Will I end up going to Mary Robinette’s fashion panel, which sounds fascinating, instead? All will be revealed in due course.

Posted in Conventions, Finland | 1 Comment

Fringe Tonight

It is tine for another BristolCon Fringe event tonight, so I shall be off into Bristol shortly. We have an excellent show lined up for you.

First up will be Justin Newland (also known as “the man who asks questions”). Justin was born in the tenth ember of 1953, making him a Capricorn. Hey, someone has to be one. Today, he lives with his partner in plain sight of the Mendip Hills, in Somerset, England and writes historical, fantasy and speculative fiction with a supernatural bent.

Our headline guest tonight is Virginia Bergin. She studied psychology and (briefly) fine art/film and video at university. She has had lots of different jobs — so many she’s lost count — and she even got paid to write for documentary, corporate and e-learning projects. She lives on a council estate in Bristol, UK. She likes science, archaeology, nature, art and walking.

Virignia will be reading to us from her recently released novel, Who Runs the World, in which men have gone extinct. Was this all caused by a woman being cast as Doctor Who? I can see I will have to ask her that question. Come along and see what she says.

As usual we will be in the Function room of the Naval Volunteer. The readings start at 7:30pm.

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Sinisalo Wins Prometheus Award

The Libertarian Futurist Society has announced the results of their annual awards. The full results are here, but the one I want to talk about is the Prometheus which is for Best Novel. It was won by The Core of the Sun by Johanna Sinisalo (my review here). The press release describes the book as “both libertarian and feminist” which will doubtless raise some eyebrows among both libertarians and feminists, who tend not to be on the best terms. I’m not going to argue with the jury, I’m just going to be very happy for my Finnish friend who has once again written a very fine book.

Posted in Awards, Feminism | 4 Comments

Last Round Saturday at #WWC17

Yesterday saw all four of the final group matches in the Women’s World Cup. As I noted on Thursday, most of the semi-final places were already decided. The one big question was who would take fourth place. India and New Zealand were playing each other in Derby for that honor.

Suzie Bates won the toss and opted to field. For a while it looked like a good choice as India were reduced to 21/2, losing both openers cheaply. There was also a brief break for rain. However, the weather improved, and with it the fortunes of the Indian batters. Harmanpreet Kaur (60), Vida Krishnamurthy (70) and, inevitably, Mithali Raj (109) enabled them to post a challenging score of 265. The Kiwi women were clearly intimidated by the total they were having to chase, and went too hard too soon. Consequently they were bowled out for 79. It was a sad end to the tournament for a very promising side, but I’m delighted to see India still in the tournament.

Down at Taunton Australia took on South Africa. Australia won the toss and elected to bat. They started slowly and cautiously, but eventually got into their stride and posted a target of 269. Nicole Bolton (79), Ellyse Perry (55) and Beth Mooney (53) all made good scores. For SA leg-spinner Suné Luus took five wickets. Meg Lanning was rested again to give her shoulder time to heal.

In reply South Africa started really well, and they were ahead of the required rate until about the 20th over. However, Australia gradually wrested back control of the game and ended up winning by 59 runs. Laura Wolvaardt (71) was their top scorer.

I spent the day in Bristol watching West Indies play England. It was not Caribbean weather. Given how cold I was in the stands, the West Indies girls must have been in fear of freezing to death. They won the toss and put England in, hoping for some help for their fast bowlers. They did OK. Both Sarah Taylor and Nat Sciver were dismissed for 0, but England has plenty of depth in batting and Heather Knight (67) led her team to a total of 220. Off-spinner Afy Fletcher was the most dangerous bowler, taking 3/33.

It was certainly an achievable target, but it needed the West Indies big guns to fire. Hayley Matthews, who had performed magnificently in the field, did her bit with the bat as well. Unfortunately she also ran out her opening partner, Kycia Knight, and after that the West Indies innings fell apart. Taylor, Dottin and Aguilleira were all out cheaply, and the English bowlers kept such a tight rein on the score that the required run rate soon became impossible. Nat Sciver, incredibly, ended with figures of 3/3 off her 4 overs. Her first ball was a rank long-hop that should have disappeared over the boundary, but Tammy Beaumont took a superb running, diving catch to dismiss Nation.

As it turned out, the match of the day was at Leicester where Sri Lanka and Pakistan were playing for pride, having both failed to win a match thus far. Sri Lanka batted first, making 221 thanks mainly to 84 from Dilani Manodara. Pakistan made a good attempt to chase, but kept losing wickets. They were finally all out for 206, but they had 20 balls left and could have won had they been able to stay in.

The first semi-final will be England v South Africa in Bristol on Tuesday. Sadly I can’t go as I have a very busy week, but England should be confident having comfortably beaten SA (scoring 373) at a match at the same venue earlier in the tournament. The second semi-final is Australia v India at Derby on Thursday. Australia comfortably won their group match in Bristol, but India will feel much more at home in Derby where they have won 4 games, including their early upset win against England, and their victory over Pakistan which saw the tournament’s only sell-out crowd thus far.

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Crunch Time at #WWC17

There were three hugely important matches in the Women’s World Cup yesterday, all of which had bearing on who qualified for the semi finals.

At Taunton South Africa thrashed Sri Lanka by 8 wickets, building up a massive net run rate in the process. Captain Dane van Nierkerk was once again the star with the ball, taking 4 more wickets to bring her total for the tournament to 13. Conceding just 6.46 runs per wicket, and with an economy rate of 2.76 runs per over, she is clearly a major asset.

The televised match was Australia v India at Bristol. Meg Lanning won the toss and asked India to bat, which seemed like it might have been a mistake as we watched Mithali Raj (69) become the top run scorer in international women’s cricket, and take her career total over 6,000. Alongside her Punam Raut (106) scored her first century for the side. But although they looked very settled they were not scoring fast. When the team tried to accelerate at the end of the innings wickets fell rapidly and India finished on just 226.

Australia had made more than that at previous games in Bristol, including 256 against England just last Sunday. From the start it was clear that they were capable of chasing down the total. Bolton (36) and Mooney (45) got good starts, and when they were out Lanning (76*) and Perry (60*) finished the job off.

Finally at Derby England faced highly fancied New Zealand. Heather Knight won the toss and elected to bat, banking on her bowlers to win the game as they had against Australia. For a while they looked in deep trouble with Winfield, Taylor and Knight all going cheaply, but the reliable Tammy Beaumont (93) and hard-hitting Nat Sciver (129) enabled England to post an aggressive total of 284. New Zealand in response were never able to keep up with the required run rate and were eventually bowled out for 209.

One of the things that has impressed me about this tournament is the amount of ingenuity used by batters. Several of the England girls have been merrily deploying ramp and scoop shots that were deemed radical in the men’s game only a few years ago. Sarah Taylor plays them both from her normal right-handed stance and left-handed as well (and, baseball fans take note, to switch hit in cricket you alter your stance while the ball is in flight). Yesterday Nat Sciver produced a shot that I have never seen before, and one I suspect most male players would be rather nervous of attempting. Watch and marvel at “The Natmeg”.

All of this means that Australia, England and South Africa have qualified for the semi-finals. The fourth place is between India and New Zealand who face off in Derby on Saturday. The England-West Indies and Australia-South Africa games are also key to deciding who plays who and where. Pakistan v Sri Lanka is sadly only for pride.

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Sheffield Does LGBT History

The lovely people at the Department of History at Sheffield University have a blog called History Matters. This year they have decided to run a series of posts on the subject of LGBT+ history. The first one has gone up, and appropriately it is an impassioned plea not to erase queer people from history. I am looking forward to a lot more of this over the coming days.

I’m also pleased to note that I will have a post in the series. I’m not sure when it will go up, but it has been through editing so it is just a matter of scheduling. It is about Romans, and in particular about someone who defiantly asserted that his gender identity was that which he had been assigned at birth.

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Chris Riddell at Mr. B’s

On Monday I took myself into Bath in the afternoon for an event that was intended mainly for kids. However, some of us refuse to grow us, and anyway Chris Riddell put in a few things clearly aimed at adults.

The event took place in Bath’s Masonic Hall which is, as you might imagine, a weird-looking place. On the stage there was a throne decorated with arcane symbols. Chris elected not to sit in it, but he did draw himself doing so.

The way Chris does events is a lot of fun. He asks for questions from the audience in advance (written on postcards), then draws randomly from these and finds something to draw to illustrate each of his answers. Several kids went away very happy with sketches he had done for them.

I didn’t put in any questions because I wanted the kids to be able to get the attention, but I did buy some raffle tickets because they were being sold to support Mr. B’s charity of the year, Bath Welcomes Refugees. I had fully intended to put mine back if I won anything, but then Chris threw in the sketches he had done while he was waiting for the event to start. The one of him in the Masonic chair came up and it occurred to me that I would love to win that. And guess what? I did.

More surprise was to come. The top prize was to have your portrait done by Chris live at the event. It was won by my friend Marjorie, who was delighted to win and even more delighted at this drawing of her as a princess.

All in all, it was a very successful day. My thanks to Chris and the staff at Mr. B’s.

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New Judith Clute Website

My dear friend Judith Clute had a brand new website. For a bunch of complex reasons it has been easier to have a new domain, and that means it is not yet appearing high on Google searches. Judith needs people to link to the site to get it noticed, hence a bit of promo from me.

The site includes the original artwork that Judith did for the new Amanda Palmer & Edward Ka-Spel album, I Can Spin a Rainbow, which I have included above. Head over to Judith’s site to see the high res version.

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Cricket Catch-Up

When I last reported on the Women’s World Cup I was looking forward to the game between West Indies and New Zealand at Taunton. It did not go the way I wanted. 150 was a far better score than West Indies managed against South Africa, but the Kiwis knocked off the runs with consummate ease leaving our girls 0-4 for the tournament.

Elsewhere South Africa pulled off a surprise victory against previously unbeaten India. That threw the race for qualification to the semi finals wide open.

On Sunday I took myself into Bristol again to watch England v Australia. There are no more exciting match-ups in world cricket than that, and I had been touting this one as the game to watch from the start of the tournament. I had no idea how right I was going to be.

England won the toss and elected to bat on a wicket that had been full of runs in the past, and with a warm sun beating down on them. When Sarah Taylor was batting runs seemed ridiculously easy to come by, but when she was out for a rapid-fire 35 off 33 balls things slowed down. Heather Knight threw her wicket away trying to go too fast too soon. Tammy Beaumont dropped anchor to steady the side but then was out for 49 to a ball I still think should have been called a no ball for height. It was left to Catherine Brunt and Jenny Gunn to drag the score up to something respectable, which they did very well.

England finished on 259. Chatting to Lisa Pagett of Western Storm during the interval I opined that we were quite a few runs short. She agreed. Australia were capable of chasing a target like that.

Nicole Bolton and Beth Mooney got them off to a good start but then got got out trying to accelerate. Meg Lanning and Ellyse Perry also got themselves well in, and it seemed only a matter of time before they started to raise the run rate. Then, surprisingly, Lanning was bowled by Alex Hartley for just 40, a failure by her astronomically high standards. There was still plenty of batting to come, but Perry went back into her shell and the required run rate began to climb. With 10 overs to go Australia were 14 runs behind England’s pace and the required rate was above 9 runs an over.

Perry, inevitably, began to score faster. With 4 overs left to play, Knight brought back Catherine Brunt to stem the flow of runs. It worked. She dismissed Alex Blackwell and Perry in the same over. Panic set in among the Australian batters and more wickets tumbled. It all came down to Jenny Gunn needing to bowl her final over for less than 16. Then her final ball for less than 6. She got the job done, and England won by just 3 runs. The crowd (in which I include myself) went wild.

England’s performance wasn’t perfect. There were a couple of dropped catches in the field that would have made their lives easier. Catching is, of course, hard, especially without gloves. Vernon Philander dropped an even easier one at Lords in the test match the same afternoon. England’s ground fielding, however, was exemplary. Heather Knight, patrolling the covers, must have saved at least 15 runs turning sure boundaries into singles. This was definitely a case of defense winning matches, and it had the crowd on the edge of their seats for the final hour of the game.

England and Australia both have two games left to play and need one win each to be certain of a semi final spot. Australia play India at Bristol tomorrow, and South Africa at Taunton on Saturday. Neither game is a foregone conclusion.

England play New Zealand at Derby tomorrow, which will be a very tough game. Then they play West Indies at Bristol on Saturday. On past form that should be a win, but as far as West Indies are concerned Bristol is as close as they have to a home match. Also they have run into some form.

On Sunday West Indies played fellow stragglers, Sri Lanka, at Derby. They made a fairly respectable 229 thanks mainly to 46* from Trinidad’s Merissa Aguilleira. Spin Bowler Anisa Mohammed disposed of the core of Sri Lanka’s batting order and West Indies won by 47 runs.

Today West Indies were back in action again at Leicester. Put in to bat by Pakistan, they racked up an impressive 285 thanks to 90 from captain Stafanie Taylor and a destructive 104* from Deandra Dottin. Pakistan’s innings was bedeviled by rain interruptions and the match was finally settled using the Duckworth-Lewis method with West Indies clear winners.

There is, of course, nothing that a West Indies side likes better than beating the English. I’m looking forward to another superb game on Saturday.

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