• Life, Liebster, and Love in 11 Questions

    A little under a week ago, my friend Toni messaged me to tell me that she had been nominated for the Liebster Award, which recognises the achievements of small blogs. I can’t think of anyone who might deserve the prize more, personally. Toni has a fantastic blog all about food. I know what you’re thinking: for the record, it’s not ‘just another food blog’, but is abundant with tasty inspiration, and I urge you all to check it out at http://www.ettas-corner.blogspot.co.uk.

    Part of the award’s criteria is that the award winner has to name 11 other blogs that they would consider nominating for the award, thereby effectively ‘paying it forward’, and offer those 11 bloggers 11 questions to answer. Toni was kind (and perhaps deluded?!) enough to count me amongst her 11; so, without further ado, here are her questions for me, coupled with my responses:

    Vanilla or Chocolate ice cream?
    Chocolate. Bitter is better.
    Elvis Presley or Johnny Cash?
    Oh no, now that’s not fair. Why do I have to choose? I love them both. I love country and blues, but also rock and rockabilly. Right now, at this moment in time, I’d say Elvis. But that’s probably only because I recently discovered this guy, who is simply amazing: http://www.blackelvis.co.uk/ Can’t wait to see him at the Goodwood Revival this year.
    Photography or Illustrations?
    Photography, but nothing that I produce myself. I love to create, to make things new with my hands, but have never been a keen illustrator or photographer.
    Cookies or Cake?
    Vintage or futuristic?
    Vintage, but nothing that smells musty and nothing that’s discoloured. I like to discover things in charity shops rather than pay £50 for something at a vintage fair that I could have had made new for less.
    Beach or skiing holiday?
    Beach. I don’t care where, just take me there. Now.
    City or country?
    I like to live and work in the city, but retreat to the country every once in a while.
    Comedy or horror?
    Dark comedy…ergo, both?
    Lark or Owl? (Early Bird or Owl?)
    I’m definitely a lark. The early bird catches the worm.
    Your five perfect dinner party guests?
    This is also tricky. How do I do this without upsetting anyone I know? The truth is, there are so many people that I love to have dinner with (Toni and her partner included), so I am going to give you my fantasy list, which includes: Dolores Ibarrurri (a.k.a. La Pasionaria – to whom this blog is partially dedicated), Mary Seacole (a Jamaican woman who nursed British troops – and also kept them well fed – during the Crimean War), Karl Marx (because it all started with him), Jane Austen (so I could ask her why) and Edwidge Danticat (because I don’t need to ask her why). Ok, so four out of the five are dead. I guess it would just be Edwidge, then.
    The one thing that makes you happiest?


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  • Life Things


    The time seems to have elapsed again, and we are now in the last hours of June. That means that half of 2013 has already disappeared; gone; poof! I often think about the passing of time, and that’s been especially true for me this last year, but I wonder if that’s perhaps because my life seems to have been marked by so many colossal events over that time. When I cast my mind back to what I was doing this time last year, I almost don’t recognize myself. At the time, I was deeply unhappy in my professional life. While I loved the essence of what I did – working with people, helping them to achieve, and helping them to rebuild their lives – I was disenchanted by the lack of job security, seeing dear colleagues forced into redundancy, retirement, and redeployment situations, and the general disarray of the probation service. Of course, I had never intended to follow a career in probation work: it was never my ‘calling’, but it wasn’t even that. Very gradually, I felt as though my spirit had been ground down, until there was little of me left. Some mornings I woke up feeling sick, dreading the fact that I had targets to meet and professionals to schmooze, and I would fill my calendar with an array of weird and wonderful activities so that I would always have something to look forward to; ‘If I can just make it to the weekend, it will all be okay,’ I would often think to myself. And when I found out that I had been offered a scholarship on a PhD programme, it was as if all my prayers had been answered. But once I knew, I was just itching to start, and began to resent my job more and more.

    Yes, the me of one year ago is bizarrely different to the me of now. These days, I struggle to factor in extra-curricular fun time, and when I do, I feel burnt out, as I have to summon up the energy to dive into my research with fresh eyes and a clear mind on a Monday morning. I struggle to make time to see my family – the people that are most dear to me – and this has been an especially hard readjustment given that I often saw them, if not once, sometimes twice a week last year. I only hope they realize that it’s not because I don’t love them very much. Of course I’m well aware that a work-life balance is important, and I have been struggling to negotiate with this very conundrum over the past few months, but I also know that we can sometimes overload ourselves, and it often takes time to realize that.

    Just over a year ago, I had started going to a lindy hop class on a Tuesday evening. I met some wonderful, happy-go-lucky people, and meeting with them filled me with such joy. I would rush home from work to make a quick dinner before driving out through the country to the Five Wents memorial hall in Hextable, and after the class, I would arrive home again and show Julian all the new steps I had learnt. I have been thinking a lot about lindy hop lately. It’s been nearly nine months since I went to a class, and I really miss it. But it’s no longer the thing that I need to get me through the week. I want to start lindy hopping again (and, preferably, with Julian) but the time will come for that. In the meantime, I have a whole host of interesting things to keep me occupied.

    Weekends should be sacred, used purely for rest and ‘decompression’, although they rarely ever are. This weekend, however, I think I have managed my time pretty well. Yesterday, I got up, worked a little, ran, and then spent the afternoon with family, and the evening with friends. This evening I have played 12-bar blues, and I have blogged. Finally, I watched the sun set on my balcony. New challenges await tomorrow, and I will take them as they come.


  • Time, Space, Here and Now

    This blog began several weeks ago when I went to see the latest Star Trek film, Into Darkness. I was pretty riled at the time: riled that I had spent my Saturday evening watching an action movie that was so far removed from the sci-fi fantasy dramas that I had grown up on, and riled because it was so disappointingly sexist. A lot of time has passed – I’m still riled, of course, but so many things have happened since that moment that have affected me in unspeakable ways. In a sense, I suppose that this is why I’ve been absent for such a long while, and I have to apologise to my dedicated followers for over a month of nothing. I’ve been busy, but that’s no excuse; that’s just the excuse that I make for myself.

    Knowing where to begin after such a long absence is hard. To surmise, I have been testing my own limits; I have been mining deeper into the recesses of my own mind (testing those hypotheses) and, in the process, becoming more increasingly assured of the importance of the project(s) that I’m undertaking. In a sense, this is good news: affirmation that we are doing the ‘right thing’ is always going to fill us with a little bit of warmth, is it not? On the other hand, it is also a sad reminder of the fact that pervasive scars have been created by prevailing imperial sensibilities. It’s strange that it’s only been a few weeks since a horrific incident a few miles down the road from where I live exploded across the world media. I even heard about it on French Radio. The EDL went on a violent rampage: taking to the streets, abusing Muslims, torching mosques. My friend could see blue lights and helicopters from her balcony. People became disgusting. Or, rather, the things that were already disgusting just became a little more visible. Either way, I was sad that, over and above every other emotion that I experienced over that course of time, I wasn’t surprised.

    I should have had something to say, perhaps? I spoke with friends and family, I commented on other blog posts, tweets, and articles, and I ruminated. I am continuing to think, because I know that the scars won’t suddenly be healed overnight. Writing helps me, but it doesn’t help the problem. The problem is big, and the solution needs to be greater than big. I’m continuing to work on that one, and continuing to develop progressive ideas. I won’t be mute again though. Silence is not what I do; silence is what I combat. This is me, right here, back with a BOOM. It isn’t an essay, but I’m here to let you know that the fight is still very much on.


    ‘Better to die on your feet than live forever on your knees.’


  • Mix Tape

    Several years ago, I met somebody that I consider to be a kindred spirit. Fate threw her in my path, but I only got to enjoy her company for a few short months. She had travelled to England from the United States to study on the Master’s programme on which I was also enrolled, but had to return shortly after the end of the spring semester. When she left, I gave her a few mementoes to take back with her (some pressed flowers, and other ephemera), and she left me a mix tape. Well, I say mix tape, but it was a CD. She had put together some songs for me to listen to: things that she liked and things that she thought I might like. Since that time, I’ve been meaning to return the favour, but haven’t. Life, it seems, has always gotten in the way of all of the things that I need and want to do, and it’s been brewing in my mind for a long time. I started to compile a list of songs about a year ago. I would hear things and think, ‘ah, yes, that needs to go on the mix tape’ and would jot them down so that I remembered when the time came. Time ebbed away, and still no mix tape materialized. But then I thought, ‘why don’t I send Renee a virtual mixtape?’ So, I set to work, sourcing the best quality tracks on YouTube, or perhaps simply the ones that I liked the best, and created a playlist. This is that playlist.

    Track #1 – Aloe Blacc, Miss Fortune

    The first time that I heard this song, I thought to myself, ‘this is about Dick and Nicole Diver’. Literature and music are two of the special passions in my life, and I suppose it’s only natural that I should view them in conversation with one another. We all know Fitzgerald for Gatsby, and those of us who don’t soon will, but it’s that other, longer tale that will always haunt me: the tale about the rich and beautiful woman who falls in love with her handsome psychotherapist who thinks himself invincible and loses everything. It’s to Tender is the Night’s heroine Nicole Diver, ‘Miss Fortune’, that I am indebted for my own name. I don’t know if I ever told you that, Renee? In any case, each time that I hear this song, I re-read the book in my mind. I think about Dick…and where he might be now…

    Track #2 – Ed Sheeran, A Team

    On a basic level, this song is about a crack addict, but it also makes me think of Sunset Boulevard and the tragedy of faded youth. The face ‘crumbling like pastries’ resembles the crumbling mansion at the top of Sunset Boulevard inhabited by Norma Desmond, an old silent movie star who winds up a forgotten recluse. It sends shivers down my spine, and I’m reluctant to empathize, in case I end up with a hole in my back.

    Track #3 – Public Enemy, Harder than you Think

    In August last year, London hosted the Olympic games, and it was a wonderful showcase of all the great things that our small island has to offer in terms of art, culture, and sport. This song became the anthem for the Paralympics, and I was reluctant to add it to the list, because of its subsequent over-popularization, but I think that it still encapsulates the great feeling that that time, and those moments, embody for a South-East Londoner such as myself. And Public Enemy rock. What more can I say?

    Track #4 – Flight of the Conchords, The Most Beautiful Girl in the Room

    An odd choice, you might think? Think again. Before Renee flew back to Michigan to get married and finish the rest of her degree from overseas, we went on a trip to Norfolk, and spent the weekend at my parents’ cottage. We visited the seaside in Southwold and bought lots of tasty deli treats, and walked around the Plantation Garden in Norwich following a delicious lunch in my favourite little bistro. While we were driving around, we were listening to Flight of the Conchords.

    Track #5 – Shakespeare’s Sister, Stay

    It occurred to me as I was putting this mix tape together that there wasn’t really much that spoke to Renee here. So I thought, ‘Renee liked going to The Globe when she was over here: there just has to be some Shakespeare’s Sister!’ So here they are, in all their short-haired, scary, early-nineties glory.

    Track #6 – Sugar Hill Gang, Rapper’s Delight (Long Version)

    Renee knows why. I had no idea that there was a version that was fourteen minutes long though. Yes, that’s right, FOURTEEN MINUTES. It’s partly due to the length of this track that I’ve only included 8 tracks, instead of 10 (I have to imagine that I am creating a real ‘mix tape’, after all). There are some gems in here, notably: ‘Hotel, motel, holiday inn; if your girl starts actin’ up, then you take her friend.’

    Track # 7 – Silvio Rodríguez, Fusil Contra Fusil

    I first heard this song when I went to watch Che: Part One with my dad. Ever since, I have been simply mesmerized by it. One day, I would like to learn how to play guitar like that.

    Track #8 – MC Solaar, La Belle et le Bad Boy

    Because it’s just awesome, and because I think Renee will like it. A lot.


    So, my dear, this is my gift from me to you (via the world). I hope you enjoy it: http://www.youtube.com/playlist?list=PLnhugeeKdaU8MqrAQ5ov_UU-bLVqS6EkR


  • Affirmation: BAAS

    This time last week, I was taking in the delights of Wiltshire as I made the journey via South London to Exeter for the British Association of American Studies (BAAS) annual conference. It was quite a trek, and I was naturally fretting about the kind of reception that my paper would get in front of an audience of my peers. Really, I knew what I could expect, and had little reason to worry. This is because I had already delivered a paper at the previous year’s conference. At that time I was still working a full-time job and my holidays were being eaten up by PhD applications, funding proposals, and trips to the British Library. I didn’t mind it; it was a welcome release. Though I loved my job, my passion has always been further study, and it was such a great opportunity to be able to meet the people working in my field before I had even embarked on my academic journey. More than anything, it helped to reaffirm why I had decided to make that leap into the unknown and leave behind the corporate world in which I felt so at ease and in control.

    Since starting my PhD in October, I have had to relearn my attitudes towards everything, and accept that control is something that is peculiarly elusive in the doctoral world. That’s okay though, because I have realised that I like to live a little on the edge, and I’m excited about the prospective uncertainty that I will face in my career, because the people that have touched my life over the past year have helped me to see that the possibilities are endless. The life of a researcher can be quite isolating, and I can see why it would be easy for a lot of people in my shoes to become reclusive, but I have always thrived in a communal environment, and am always seeking out opportunities to attend seminars, conferences and meet up with like-minded friends who I can bounce my ideas off of. BAAS, for me, is the culmination of all of this. With such a thriving community of Americanists, it is hard not to find someone with whom you share some kind of intellectual overlap. When I arrived at the second panel of the morning last Friday to deliver my paper, I was amazed and overwhelmed by the number of people who had come along to listen, and engage with the arguments being presented (last year, I had an audience of about 9, which included the other two panelists and the chair). It was thrilling, and truly enlivening, and I met some wonderful people who were able to offer me some great advice off the back of it.

    A week before the BAAS conference, I went out with my mum, and we spoke about the recent work that I had been doing in the archives. I was happy to see her taking an interest in my work, and she gave me some important things to take away and consider. It also reminded me why communication is so vital to research; when my research, in particular, considers how phantoms of the unconscious have been channeled throughout history, there is no way that I can conceive of exorcising these phantoms without bearing them out publicly. What we bring to light must be shared with the world – and not just the familiar world, but the world in its entirety.


  • My Vesey Street, Lower Manhattan

    Lower Manhattan

    Around 6 months ago I took a trip that I will never forget; I went to New York City for the second time in my life. It was the marker of so many wonderful things – my mum’s 50th birthday, mine and Julian’s engagement and my parents’ 28th wedding anniversary. It’s a city that means a lot to us as a family, and to Julian and I in particular, but I won’t go into that here (it’s not long after lunch and I really don’t want to make you hurl).

    While we got to revel in NYC’s manifold delights, and although we got to see most of the things that we hadn’t been able to on our previous trip, I was sad that I still didn’t manage to see it all. For me, the trip was no ordinary jolly. Though I only had five days, I wanted to capitalize on the opportunity to pillage the resources of the NYPL and to seek out the ‘ghosts’ that form the foundation of my American-oriented research project. The Schomburg Center for Research in Black Culture came up trumps here. There were some real gems. It’s a shame that my time was so limited, as just as I found myself having to leave, the material started getting more interesting (and legible!)

    Just before I left London I attended a fantastic seminar hosted by Celeste-Marie Bernier at King’s College London as part of their ‘Race Matters’ seminar series. I don’t remember how, but during the Q&A that followed, the African Burial Ground cropped up in conversation. For a long while, I had wanted to visit the national monument in Lower Manhattan, and had hoped to be able to do so on my trip. I considered it necessary in helping me to build an understanding of how burial (and by this I mean white burial of black history and culture) is imbedded in America’s cultural memory. That aside, I wanted to pay homage to a resource that has been so great an inspiration to me over the past year or so that I’ve been following them on twitter.

    Two days after I visited the Schomburg, I coursed my way around the Lower East side, hitting up Greenwich Village (via Mark Twain’s house), the Highline and Katz’s Deli. In the afternoon, we split from my parents and headed down to the World Trade Center memorial (after booking tickets to visit Lady Liberty on the following day). When we got to the memorial, we were told by the stewards that we needed to collect our tickets from their gift shop on Vesey Street. Hmmm…Vesey Street, I thought. Like Denmark Vesey – the South Carolina former slave that had plotted a huge slave insurrection in Charleston in the early nineteenth century. Although I have since learned that the street was not named after this particular Vesey, I was a little excited at the prospect of this ghost of the American past wreaking its havoc in the financial district, reminding us what it was all built on: namely, greed and slavery.

    Julian and I had planned to visit the African Burial Ground after we had been to the World Trade Center memorial. It would’ve been the last stop – and rightly so – as we had wanted to have some time to reflect as we walked back from the memorial. As we meandered past New York’s municipal building, we took a wrong turn, getting lost down a sidestreet. Eventually, we found the right sidestreet, and the African Burial Ground. When we reached it, however, my heart sank. It had already closed. The sun hadn’t even set yet – it was a beautiful fall day – but we hadn’t realized quite how late it was. I admired the beautiful structure from the outside, and walked around it, reading the information boards that were dotted around at regular intervals. You see, this was, and continues to be, the site of an African burial ground. Beneath the tarmac lie numerous souls, mainly those of slaves who were brought here and buried according to African ritual and custom. It is only in the past decade that the site was declared a national monument. I was deeply upset that I couldn’t go inside and explore the site fully, and this feeling remains with me still.

    We left the memorial and walked back round to Brooklyn Bridge and, though my feet were worn after all the traipsing, Julian managed to drag me to the halfway point. It was breathtaking. We stood there and watched the sun go down on a city that was built by the displaced, the lost and the forgotten.

    Sadly, I know that however deeply I penetrate, and whatever I shore up and excavate in the process, my understanding will always be limited. Next time, however, I will make the African Burial Ground my first port of call. Until then, I hope Vesey continues to make mischief in Lower Manhattan.




  • Itchy Feet

    I’ve always had a vague idea that I’d like to travel, and have charted on a theoretical map in my head all the places that I’d like to see. Mexico, Thailand, Samoa, Brazil, St. Lucia and Croatia are a handful of places that have always been ‘up there’. I’ve been very fortunate to have seen many wonderful places already and I relish any opportunity to explore the unknown treasures that my own small island has to offer, but I have recently felt the urge to step up the vague notions I’ve previously had of raking my feet through foreign sands and reach out for something more tangible.

    I guess it’s only natural that these feelings should surface when I’m planning to take the biggest trip of my life. In November this year I will be jetting off to New Orleans in the name of research, and I hope to spend about a month in the Big Easy. I haven’t travelled that far away from home for that length of time for a long while, and I’ve certainly not done it on my own before. I’m really excited about the prospect, and I get a little bit squealy inside when I think of all the amazing things that I will get to explore. I’m particularly enthused by the idea of getting to see some of the tignons (headdresses worn by free women of colour under colonial sumptuary laws) in the LSM’s collection.  Of course, while I love what I do, and while the libraries and museums will certainly yield an abundance of wonderful things to keep me occupied throughout my stay, I have no shame in admitting that what I am perhaps looking forward to the most is the food.  With fare ranging from beignets, gumbo and barbecue shrimp to po boys, jambalaya and oysters served hot and cold to titillate my taste buds, I know that I’ll be in for a treat, and I might just come home looking like the Pillsbury Doughboy.

    I’ve thoroughly enjoyed making the preparations for my big trip, and I know that there’s a lot more yet to do (on top of the thesis writing, conference papers, archive work, and museum talks that I will be working on over the next few months), but I am starting to think that this is really only the start of a much bigger journey – a journey that will almost certainly take me away from my familiar London-Norwich enclave for perhaps an unspecified period of time – and I’ve been starting to lay the foundations. I don’t want to say too much at this stage; although my thoughts are no longer a fog, they’re still only blossoming. I hope it won’t be too long before they start to bear fruit, however.

    I’d like to end this piece by mentioning a very dear friend who took a massive leap into the unknown this year, leaving her job, her friends, her home and most of her worldly possessions to go and live and work in France. Her journey has been an uphill struggle, but she has been an inspiration, and I can’t wait to be reunited with her in the summer for a few beautiful days. See, ma chèrie, look what you’ve started! I hope you’ve got something that I can scratch that itch with…



  • Running away with myself, or, The Red Shoes

    My jaw is on the floor. I look up at the clock on my computer screen to see that it’s 4.44pm; I’ve been working since 8.30am and I feel like I haven’t done half of the things that I’d planned to do today, and I know that I still have a stack of things that I hope to do before the day is out. Yet, although I have a plan, and although I know that it’s impossible to think that I can accomplish everything that I had intended to do in one day, I feel like time, ‘like grease through my fingers’, is slipping away. I think that I feel that sense of time loss more acutely as I slept terribly last night, so you might say that I’ve been doubly robbed. Personally, I wouldn’t; I’ve been a sporadic insomniac since the age of about 16, so fatigue is something that I have for a long time been learning to combat. In addition, it might be logical to assume that more waking hours should proffer me with more hours of productivity. If this were the case, then I think that I’d have little need to write this post, and you’d all, no doubt, be very envious of the full and productive life that I lead. Alas, while I strive as best as I can to stay ‘on my feet’, sometimes my feet get pretty tired. And, to use another foot analogy, I sometimes picture myself in those fateful ‘red shoes’ that Hans Christian Andersen taunted me with as a little girl – the ones that dance and dance and continue to dance even after I’ve chopped off my feet. A touch melodramatic? Perhaps. I know that my situation is not unique and I know that there are many people in my life that work harder and longer, and have pets and dependants that I don’t even have to worry about, but surely there has to be a point at which we all draw a line?

    This post is not intended to be a diatribe against Chronos, or even against those other keepers and controllers of time that we know to exist outside of mythology, but is rather more of a scoping exercise; on a more human level, it intends to instigate a conversation about the efficacy of knowing one’s limits. As a woman with a strong sense of my own (and indeed every woman’s) potential, I am loathe to use the word ‘limits’, for the fear that it may spiral into derivations thereof (limitations, for example), but I should be very clear in saying that what I actually refer to is our personal right to say ‘No, I’ve done enough, and I’m not doing that’. I wonder, furthermore, how we do this without cutting out the things that we love to do and form the vital core our existence. While reading is part of what I ‘do’ on a daily basis, and while I do essentially ‘love’ it, I feel that it’s important to make sure that I go to bed reading the trash that I’ve chosen to read over the French article that I kick-start my day with.

    My second discussion point relates to guilt. Those of us in academia can always rest assured (however ironic this may seem) that we have never researched enough, read enough, accumulated enough, written enough, and edited enough. The process is perpetual; when we stop, the work is still there; when it’s completed, it could still be improved. What I have found runs in tandem with ‘clocking off’, therefore, is an immense surge of guilt. This year’s Christmas was particularly hard for me, and, while I enjoyed the mince pies and family frolics, I berated myself for not working for a few days. That old adage about ‘work-life balance’ just seems a bit hollow these days. After all, it’s not really a problem of ensuring that you harmonize work and life, but a problem of feeling constantly let down by yourself, even in the advent of harmonization. So, my question is: how do we erase guilt, and how do we absolve ourselves?

    In the time that it’s taken me to write this piece, I could’ve read an article. Alternatively I could have washed the clothes that are spilling out of my laundry basket. If it had to be the latter, then I think I made the right choice.

    To be continued…after I’ve located those darn shoes…

  • Women, Brilliant Women

    Today I want to celebrate the fact that I am a woman. What I mean to say is that I am a woman amongst women. Today, of course, marks International Women’s Day. I am sitting on the tube (yes, sitting – lucky me!) and there are two women either side of me. Both are reading (one a Kindle, the other a paperback). This is usually my commuting pastime. When I get on the tube and my mobile signal drops out and I can’t use twitter or Facebook I descend into my own world. Whether that be a fictional or a theoretical one it is very much my world. It is the time when I most engage with my own thoughts, ideas, and creative energies. I am not one amongst millions of social networkers, but merely one. It makes me truly happy to see so many women in my immediate vicinity immersed in their own worlds: sleeping, reading, working, and daydreaming. While some stranger’s rucksack may be thrust uncomfortably in their face, and while they may be forced to straddle an aisle littered with luggage and feet, this does not inhibit descent into that solo, private world.

    I am now at King’s Cross; I’m off the tube; I’m walking. So are the other women. I’ve lost them.  Whoops, I almost took a wrong turn!

    I could tell you what I aspire to be as a woman, and what dreams I hope to inspire in my future daughters, but I think it would be better to celebrate what I have achieved and what I am. We cannot celebrate what we have not yet made possible, and we do not need to augment the pressures in our lives by pondering too much on this. Besides, I think I’ve said quite enough (for the time being) about lists. I am a woman, forged by a woman, and by those men that have always reinforced my worth. I am fortunate to have what all women should rightfully have: a voice; a passion; a life. Let’s celebrate us, and let’s continue to fight.

    I’m now at the BL, my intellectual home, and walking into the ladies’ toilets I notice a sticker on one of the cubicles that reads, ‘Armpits for August’. I smile. Yes, we are brilliant. We most definitely are.