Thursday, 20 November 2014

Nails done. Clothes ready. Holiday to be blogged here starting in a couple of days.

I haven't written anything all week but its all on my trusty USB and I intend to try for 5,000 words on 'Power in the lyrics of LC' before I return in three weeks time.

Monday, 17 November 2014

Its hard being a writer

Maybe its because I deferred a lot of jobs during the MA. Maybe its because I need the deadlines of a course. Maybe its because we are getting ready for an exciting holiday. But the writing is not happening often enough. Being a writer is definitely harder than being a student.

And this is beauty week. Nails and face. But not hair, as now I am growing it, it needs less attention.

Sunday, 2 November 2014


We have finalised the design for the kitchen. Its all high gloss black and white with a sparkly white work top, which will extend up the wall over the main worktop. The local company have worked for us before and will undertake all the work including taking the ceiling down to put up LED spotlights. 13 of them in the main kitchen. And we will seal off the kitchen and utility room so that its like a different property with its own entrance so no dirt gets into our house. We've hired a portaloo for the workers. We will be able to live as though nothing is happening. Well, no kitchen, sink or washing machine for up to four weeks!!

A little bit of analysis and writing has been done. This week its been all about the power balance between Cohen's characters. The narrator holds the power in only 3 songs. In the rest of them, he's dumped or abused by a woman or rendered powerless by the system.

The degree certificate arrived - its real and I got a Merit.

Less than three weeks to the cruise. Most Christmas shopping done but no cards written yet. And I've baked and frozen a flourless chocolate cake. We had visitors and ate half the Christmas ginger cake.

Saturday, 25 October 2014

Another distractions week

This week has produced very little writing. We are deep in the design for the new kitchen and I am an expert on worktops and fridges. Not to mention taps and sinks. I have sent for a light meter because I don't trust anyone on lighting. Its very confusing and we like our rooms really bright!! That might be an older person's thing.

We moved my aunt into sheltered accommodation - all on one level, which will be much better for her. We were so exhausted at the end of the day that we felt as if we had moved ourselves (well, OK, not that bad).

Only a few weeks to go til the Amazon trip - will we meet the deadline for the kitchen order? We intend to buy malaria tablets on Monday and yellow fever vaccinations are booked for the following week. And Christmas needs to be organised before we go, including writing the cards. I have just baked a ginger cake, to go in the freezer and be used at Christmas.

We found out today that one of our neighbours, an otherwise healthy woman of similar age to us, had a stroke. You never know and you need to make the most of everything.

Received another good picture of Dinosaur's no-holds-barred approach to eating. A few days ago we Skyped him and he spent some of the time round the back of the screen looking for us.

I saw a greetings card in the shop which really annoyed me. It was a retirement card which suggested retirement was about getting up late, having long boozy lunches and snoozing the afternoon away. Well, its nothing like that here!! In fact, that lifestyle sounds like a recipe for early ill health. We still walk a bit and do Tai Chi most days, as well as racing round the house all day doing chores.

TSH is already emoting about Cruise 2016. Cruise 2015 is, of course, already booked.

Sunday, 19 October 2014


In the euphoria about getting the MA, I still managed to start some work on Cohen's use of metaphor. It's difficult to do this one methodically. I started by taking every 50th line of the lyrics, which gave me 90 lines. Almost one third of them contain creative metaphor, which seems high but I have not compared it with anything else - I could use the comparison corpus from the other popular songs.
TSH was out today and I constructed our new shoe storage unit. Millions of pieces and no instructions. But I mostly managed it - good job I'm a Chartered Engineer (in IT, so it didn't really help much) - but was nine connecting pieces short. When TSH came home, he said I had connected it wrongly and he's going to redo it. Don't you just hate it when that happens?

Friday, 17 October 2014


Studentat60 has an MA!! I am so thrilled. I got 67 for the dissertation, which is pretty close to my average for the taught modules. So I think it will be a Merit. 10 years of retirement taking me from an IT background to an MA in English Language. The early retirement gods have been repaid.

Tuesday, 14 October 2014

Other priorities

No writing for two whole weeks. Visits to TSH's family and a four day visit to us by TSH's mother. All enjoyable but no time to think. I don't think that this was displacement activity to avoid the work of writing because its all happening in my head. This week we are home and trying to get back to normal. But we are planning a new kitchen so we spent the last two days online looking at appliances and worktops. Today we have an appointment with a designer so no writing. I hope to make a fresh start tomorrow. This must be what being a writer is like.

My shellac nails lasted for three and a half weeks, so I'm very impressed. With classic nail varnish I'm lucky if I make it out of the salon.

In one week's time, I should know if I have an MA.

Monday, 29 September 2014

Bake Off

Last week, I produced around 2,000 words. If they are all good and I keep up the pace, I will be finished in a year. But no work on Sunday because of Christmas cake and Bakewell tart baking. Having watched Great British Bake Off, I am becoming very conscious of not producing a professional finish. My food always tastes good but Paul would be horrified at the appearance.

A few hundred words about the meaning of the lyrics on Monday. My nail varnish is still good after almost two weeks.

Wednesday, 24 September 2014

Some progress

I managed to write a few hundred words yesterday - focus on the way Cohen uses pronouns so its not clear who everybody is. Have listened to the new album again - still  love it.

Our Tai Chi class has been closed, which is concerning because its important for our health. And we have friends we only ever see there, so we'll never see them again. It was inevitable this would happen because numbers were dwindling but we never expected at the end of a class to be told there would be no more classes. So do we join another one? Or just give up, as I have not enjoyed the classes for years and found them more and more stressful. But TSH wants to go. And its a health thing.

We'll be glad when we get a new kitchen, as the dishwasher is giving more and more problems.

Baking Christmas cake this weekend.

Monday, 22 September 2014

First Ink

I have started to write the chapter on 'who is everybody?' and have written a few hundred words about the narrator. Whilst I don't think the writing will be too difficult as I have lots of material, the discipline involved (without the deadlines associated with a course) will be tremendous. Even at 1,000 words EVERY week, it will take almost two years to get to book length.

Yesterday I went to a reunion of the women from my year at Bury Convent Grammar School (now Holy Cross College). Everybody is still lively and getting a lot out of life.

Today British Gas are in residence, fitting our new boiler. They are mostly in the kitchen but also need access to all radiators, the tank in the loft and the airing cupboard. They seem very nice, polite and considerate.

Big day today - new Cohen album - listened to it once - a triumph!!

Wednesday, 17 September 2014


Studentat60  isn't a student anymore, so for the first time since retirement 10 years ago, there is no schedule. Time has been used setting up a new mobile phone contract (it really is that complicated for me. I now have an O2 PAYG bundle, arranged by a charming man in the Retentions department at O2). We are also planning a new kitchen, which is even more complicated. Cupboards, appliances, worktops, tiles, taps, radiators, lights ........... All to be selected.

I still work but now as a writer rather than a student. So this blog will now cover the transition. The first set of analysis on all the Cohen lyrics is complete and the plan is to start putting ink on paper tomorrow. Today I am booked in for a manicure.

The examiner's meeting is on October 17th. So soon  after that I will find out if studentat60 is an MA.

Friday, 29 August 2014


Student at 60 is 63. And too busy planning holidays and a new kitchen to be working on the lyrics. And the mobile phone contract is ending and getting a new one is a nightmare. Do I really need a smart phone? Or an old person's large buttons calls only PAYG? Well, maybe we haven't come to that yet.

Monday, 25 August 2014

Some progress

I have started to develop spreadsheets for the lyrics in 'Songs from a Room' - Cohen's second album, from 1969. I suppose that seems like ancient history to some people. I am looking at the pronouns - who is speaking? who is he speaking to? who is he speaking about? Cohen often mixes up these roles - he speaks as if about a third party and then it becomes apparent he means himself.

Yesterday we went to a party at Dinosaur's other grand-parents. He was very well behaved and charmed everybody. And I got sunburnt. On a cool day in Yorkshire. Probably no-one else present had this issue - I really do have very sensitive skin. So today its Aftersun every few hours.

Sunday, 17 August 2014

The book

Back from a good holiday in Portugal blogged at . And now its time to get back to work. The dissertation is in but I have no serious intention of just sitting back and retiring, even though it is occasionally tempting. But that would be the beginning of the end!  So I've started to look in detail at Cohen songs other than the ones I analysed for the dissertation. The general idea is that I'll write about the student experience, the overall statistical analysis of the whole set of lyrics and then a set of detailed analyses of the more interesting songs.

I am not a student anymore but this 62-year-old is not retiring!!

Sunday, 3 August 2014

Holiday time

We are about to take a river cruise in Portugal - blogged as usual here:

I sill have not firmed up the forward plan, but the chances are that I will be expanding my Cohen dissertation into a book. But in the meantime, there's a holiday wardrobe to plan. Toes are already purple with sparkles! And hair is still looking good.

Thursday, 24 July 2014

The most exciting day

I've just made the electronic submission of the dissertation.

I have also printed out the copy which I will be taking for binding and hand-over in person in a few days time.

I had a lot of trouble with the 10 Appendices, which are in a mixture of formats, including Word and Excel. I got them to print nicely but then found that I am only allowed to submit 5 files electronically. Copying them into the main dissertation didn't really work because the formatting went all wrong. So eventually I batched them into four groups of roughly similar format so that I could submit just 5 files. This is the sort of logistics that brings down a dissertation. Microsoft Office was supposed to make Word and Excel totally compatible but they are not.

So that's pretty much it ...... except it isn't because I need to firm up the forward plan. My supervisor has suggested I should try to publish a version of my work in a journal. I would like to make it into a book. And then there is my partly-planned novel to pick up again. And that is a complicated one, so might take a few years. And might need a creative writing course.

Meanwhile ... we have another holiday soon. And a family party to make for Sunday.

And I've ditched Old Faithful and have a new hairdresser - Creative. She talked a good talk and it looks good now but we shall have to see how it looks in a few days time.

So watch this space -  there will be another project soon.

Monday, 21 July 2014


Its a scary thought that in just over a week I will be going to the campus with a printed copy for binding. So very soon, I need to accept that no further tweaks are possible and I have to freeze it and start printing. I've reduced the word count to just under the required 12,500 and checked and rechecked the references and citations.
We are only just a week returned from our Norwegian fjords cruise and in about two weeks we cruise the Duoro. So its all a bit of a flurry. A river cruise is different in dress code from an ocean cruise so it will take a bit of thinking through.

Sunday, 20 July 2014

Holiday reading

Books I read on holiday - all these are recommended:
Sophie Hannah - Hurting Distance
John Le Carre - A Delicate Truth (this one is for Le Carre fans, but he has not lost his touch after all this time)
Belinda Bauer - Finders Keepers (this is the third novel, after Blacklands and Darkside - chilling thrillers)
Elizabeth Moon - Speed of Dark (told from the point of view of an autistic character but more nuanced than Curious Incident)
Emma Donoghue - Room (stunning original novel, perhaps the best of the bunch for me)

Sunday, 22 June 2014

It really is nearly finished

S likes my discussion section and says it reads well and contains some good ideas. I am so thrilled because its the first praise I've had. So I just need to add in a conclusion (which he says I can merge with the discussion), adjust the word count and do lots and lots of proof-reading. I am so relieved and it feels like a weight has been lifted off my shoulders. I loved the analysis part but absolutely hated every minute of the writing up. And normally I love writing but the style of this has felt so strange to me.

I've cancelled my next appointment with Old Faithful, but I don't think he's fully got the message that I'm not going back. He was very defensive about how short he had cut it and said 'it was lovely when I left the salon'. Well, he always makes it look lovely at that stage but that's no good to me the next morning.

We've been away for a few days - blogged here and will be going on another cruise soon. TSH and I will both spend a sea day sanity checking the dissertation.

Thursday, 12 June 2014

Two triumphs

The dissertation is nearly finished. This is the closest its been and I feel a tremendous sense of relief.  In theory, it could be handed in because all the relevant parts are now there. But I've sent the discussion chapter to S, so gloom may follow.

And I've passed Level 185 of Farm Heroes Saga. This is the most difficult level ever and I've been doing it for about a month. Unprecedented for me. And I did it today with 3 stars!! I have a sneaking suspicion that 'they' realised the level was impossible and have changed the way it works during the time I have been playing it. If you are as addicted as I am, you get a 'feel' for how a level 'plays' and I think it changed a few days ago. I wonder if that happens?

And my leg is almost back to normal.

Great day!! Prosecco on the terrace with TSH tonight, as the weather is warm and sunny.

Sunday, 8 June 2014

A busy day

I'm working through the dissertation and finding lots of places where I can improve it. I also found a Table with some incorrectly calculated numbers!!! If I'm the scientific nerd who doesn't like writing in an 'arts' style, the least I can do is get the calculations right.

I had a big wardrobe clear out and quite a few garments are going to charity. My wardrobes are still overfull but there are 'good' items I can't bring myself to get rid of even though they are not my preferred ones any more. Maybe I should have been more ruthless with things I haven't worn for a couple of years or more. I probably need someone to do the job with me like they do in the makeover programs on the telly.

I'm having great trauma with my hair. I agreed with Old Faithfull that he would stop being randomly creative and that he would do 'same every time'. Since then, TSH has been photographing it after every visit and then during the period before it is cut again. And its been the same until this time, when it isn't. Its far too short. But I don't like the style I've been having either but I know if I tell him that, he'll go random again. Do I hate the hair or do I hate the way I look at 62?

Friday, 6 June 2014


I have been afraid to contact S, because I don't need criticism which results in more work right now. But I didn't know whether some of my Tables counted towards the wordcount or not, so I had to consult. As a result, I have moved them to an Appendix, so I'll need to describe them in the body of the text. He was very encouraging in his note.

The discussion chapter, which I'm finding quite hard, is well under way. But does anyone else find the flaws in the argument when you try to summarise it?

But my leg is improving and my filling has been replaced. And we had an afternoon tea party to introduce the new grandson to TSH's family. He is a very smiley boy but teething is starting, which seems painful.

Wednesday, 28 May 2014

Getting there

I have revised large parts of the dissertation and put the Table and Figure headings in, which starts to make it look very organised. I am currently working on sorting out the references, which aren't that many. I have kept reasonable records but there are still things that need checking.

I have lost all connection between what I'm doing and analysing Cohen's language. A lot of the joy has gone because I am useless at writing it up in the right style. And I always used to be praised for my business reports. And I'm a linguistics student! What has happened to me?

I am feeling very old because of my leg. I can do stairs one step at a time and I now have a limp. I can't have my daily walk, which is really important for fitness and I am dubious about ever going back to Tai Chi because it puts a strain on the knees if not done perfectly. And I'm far from perfect!

But tonight I'm having glitter on my feet because we are going to a party on Saturday and I might wear my silver sandals. Still haven't chosen the outfit.

Friday, 23 May 2014

Home again

We've just returned from a really enjoyable holiday in Eastern England, blogged here:

And I've got a problem with the ligament in my leg, so I'm supposed to rest with my feet up. I'm trying my best, but sitting still when there's a mound of washing to be dealt with is really not my forte. But TSH is doing his best, so I'm on lighter duties than usual.

Last night we went to the cinema screening of the National Theatre's 'Curious Incident of the Dog in the night'. A very clever adaptation of a book which is written completely from Christopher's point of view, which is difficult to portray on stage. The actor who played Christopher was brilliant, but must have been physically and mentally exhausted at the end. These screenings are a cheap and convenient way for those of us 'oop north' to see the best performances without the expense of a trip to London. They also plan to screen something about the British Museum Vikings exhibition.

I have resumed work on the dissertation by writing up the notes I made on holiday. Next I am going to address Cohen's use of 'the'. I have written a lot already but its a bit muddled and I intend to sort it out today. I'm up to almost 15,000 words, so I have more than enough for the required 12,500.

Wednesday, 7 May 2014

On the road again

There may be no posts here for the next few weeks as we are travelling and using the other blog:    https ://

Thursday, 1 May 2014

A good night out

We went to see Northern Broadsides perform 'An August Bank Holiday Lark', which is their WW1 tribute. It is set in an East Lancashire village in 1914 and has lots of singing and clog dancing. Funny and tragic. How could they send those young men to die? At one dramatic point, Barrie Rutter was alone on stage, without speaking, for what we estimate was about three minutes. And you could have heard a pin drop, even though until then there was laughing and whispering and coughing etc. etc. I have never seen an actor hold an audience like that before. Barrie Rutter has amazing charisma.

This blog has now had just over 8,000 views - thanks for visiting.

I haven't touched the dissertation for a few days. I refuse to give up but I refuse to alter everything I have written. I will write what I want to write.

Tuesday, 29 April 2014


I sent the intro to S and got back a lot of comments. I don't understand all of it, but basically 'its not very readerly' and doesn't explain properly why I have done the work etc. etc. etc. Plus, my research questions are badly worded - he doesn't want 'keywords' in there because that's just a method. I remember inserting that word as a result of a previous discussion with him. So its another rewrite. And I'm running out of time.

So ..... I walk away. I don't need this. Or I rewrite again and end up with loads of stress because there isn't the time. Or I forget S and his comments (which isn't easy or advisable as he is one of the markers) and just submit something and hope to scrape through.

I have never been able to write the essays in the style they want. And I have never understood whether what I have written is any good or not. After I finish this (now, or after the results or whenever) I wanted to write books. But I can't even write a decent intro to a dissertation I'm really enthusiastic about.

Maybe I should just give in, retire, be old and gaze into space.

Saturday, 26 April 2014

The Introduction

I.m aware I've been selling this blog short on lack of detail but I really have been working hard on trying to get it into shape. I have written an introduction now, although it might well change again after S has seen it. But for everyone who has stuck with me this far, here it is:

1          Leonard Cohen Un Canadien Errant

‘And I thank you for those items that you sent me
The monkey and the plywood violin’

1.1        Lyrics

The couplet quoted above is an example of the compelling cryptic writing of Leonard Cohen. He has been labelled "the poet laureate of pessimism", "the grocer of despair" and "the godfather of gloom"   and his work called ‘music to slit your wrists by’ (Lisle T. d., 2004)   (Ratcliff, 1990, p. 5). These judgements are partly because of the monotone in which his songs are often delivered but partly because of lines like ‘your love is some dust in an old man’s cough’ and ‘they chained you to your fingernails’. However, Cohen, listed as one of the ‘top ten great singers who can’t sing’ is sometimes quietly humorous, referring to himself as having been ‘born with the gift of the golden voice’ (McCormick, 2009). His fictional conversation with a deceased hero includes the line ‘Hank Williams hasn't answered yet’.
108 lyrics, recorded on 12 albums from 1967 to 2012, are sometimes regarded as belonging to the folk or rock tradition but are sufficiently diverse that the work does not fit into any genre other than that of popular music itself. The lyrics are popular with other singers and Cohen’s website lists 2756 covers, including numerous versions of ‘Bird on a Wire’, ‘Hallelujah’ and ‘Suzanne’  (Jarkko Arjatsalo, 2014).

1.2        Life

Leonard Cohen is a Canadian singer-songwriter who has released successful albums across the world over a period of more than 40 years. He was born in Montreal in 1934, and was a poet before he became known in the late 1960s as a writer of songs. His perfectionism about his writing is highlighted by a conversation with Bob Dylan, who said he wrote one of his songs in fifteen minutes, whilst Cohen admitted to two years for ‘Hallelujah’, although the real answer appears to be more than five years (Simmons, 2012, p. 320).
Spirituality is an important referent in Cohen’s work, which uses Christian imagery such as ‘crucifix’ and ‘Joseph looking for a manger’. His Jewish heritage influenced his use of Holocaust themes in lyrics such as ‘Dance me to the end of love’   and ‘First we take Manhattan’ (Simmons, 2012, pp. 318, 340).  Despite being ‘embedded in (Jewish) religion’, Cohen also took an interest in Scientology, and in 1996 was ordained a Buddhist monk, , saying that he finds it ‘deeply satisfying that .... the Kaballah is remarkably parallel to that of ..... contemporary Zen’ (Simmons, 2012, pp. 74, 196, 390, 438)
In 2004, at the age of 70, when his career both as a writer and a performer might have been considered coming to an end, he discovered that his business manager had stolen up to 13 million dollars from his retirement fund  and that the only financial option appeared to be touring again  (Simmons, 2012, pp. 427, 451). Cohen was reluctant but a London promoter offered to pay the bills for rehearsals ‘as long as you want,’ saying that if he decided not to tour, he wouldn’t owe anything (Simmons, 2012, p. 453). Perfectionism was once more apparent as Cohen spent around 1 million dollars before agreeing to start a tour (Simmons, 2012, p. 457). The first tour, a world-wide success, ‘not only restored (his) funds, it improved them considerably’ and since then, there have been other tours and a 2012 album ‘Going Home’ (Simmons, 2012, p. 482).

1.3        Awards

Cohen has received many awards, including those from literary bodies, popular music institutions and the Canadian Government. In 1985 he received the Canadian Author's Association award for poetry and  in 2011 he received the award for literature from the Prince of Asturias Awards, with the citation ‘Considered one of the most influential authors of our time, his poems and songs have beautifully explored the major issues of humanity in great depth’ (Canadian authors, 2014)   (Fundacion principe de Asturias, 2014)
Cohen is well respected in the music industry and in 2010 was inducted into the Songwriters Hall of Fame, whose exclusive membership is described thus ‘Out of the tens of thousands of successful songwriters of our era, there are fewer than 400 inductees who make up the impressive roster enshrined in the Hall of Fame.’  (Songwriters Hall of Fame, 2014).
The Companion of the Order of Canada is that country’s highest civilian honour. Cohen’s citation includes the words: ‘Known for his striking imagery and evocative descriptions of the human condition, Leonard Cohen has the distinction of creating a body of work that has remained contemporary and significant through three decades of shifting musical and aesthetic tastes’, describing him as ‘a Canadian icon and a venerated dean of the pop culture movement’  (Leonard Cohen, C.C., G.O.C., B.A., LL.D., 2002)
Cohen has also written several volumes of poetry and the American Academy of poets states that ‘Cohen seamlessly re-institutes that ancient notion of the lyric as belonging to both verse and song.’ (Leonard Cohen, poet, novelist, musician, 2014)

1.4        Aims and research questions

The intention here is to make a small contribution to starting the task of carrying out methodical linguistic analysis of Cohen’s lyrics.
·         What  information about the linguistic features of Cohen’s lyrics is provided by keyword analysis?
·         What information does keyword analysis provide about the portrayal of the first person narrator?

1.5        Outline of dissertation

In the next chapter of this dissertation, I will briefly review the existing literature in the fields of stylistics, corpus stylistics and the analysis of the lyrics of popular music. Chapter 3 will describe the acquisition of data for the Cohen and comparison corpora and then describe the methodology for comparing them. The analysis sections of the dissertation will first describe the manual stylistic analysis of a small number of lyrics and then proceed to assess the  keywords across the lyrics.  These two analyses are complementary and there will be a description of the extent to which the two approaches support each others findings. The final chapter will contain a discussion of the results. 

Monday, 21 April 2014

Easter 2014

We've had house guests and day visitors and loads of food. I always make too much but people are happy to eat up the next day and there's always the freezer. Nothing much goes to waste around here. TSH's new grandson was here for the first time and seemed to enjoy all the people and activity. Teething has started but he was very quiet in the night. Now its almost back to normal as only TSH's mother (aged 94, still healthy and independent) remains.

No dissertation work for quite a while but its always in my mind and I played 'Songs from a room' yesterday to cheer myself up. Knowing that I sorted out the styles and I now have a single smart document with a Table of Contents which looks quite professional makes me feel a lot better.

Friday, 11 April 2014

Its all about Style

I had an awful day yesterday. I started to create the dissertation from all the bits I have everywhere. And the numbering in Word proved challenging and then didn't work at all. So I asked Google and discovered that only really stupid people do the numbering the way I have been doing it since Word was invented. There is a thing called 'styles' which I remember dimly from a training course, except it seemed too complicated and there were always experts like secretaries to help with all that stuff. I never thought I would need to know. But now I do. Yesterday's searching just confused me more and more. And I thought 'Well, if I don't get an MA, then so what? I'm too old and my mind has gone.' But I really want an MA. I'm a 'completer-finisher' in management parlance.

This morning I decided on one last try and found this: And the scales dropped from my eyes and I 'got it'. TSH says he doesn't mind if Jim Henderson, who wrote it, is my new hero. And I showed it to TSH and he's already changed his normal style so that it comes up in the right font. We are a changed household.

Best novel I've read in ages: 'The Distant Hours' Kate Morton.

Thursday, 10 April 2014

A little break

We visited Port Sunlight, which has an art gallery, a beautiful town built by Lord Leverhulme (founder of what became Unilever) for the factory workers, and a museum explaining it all. I have lived all my life in North West England and am ashamed that I have never visited before. Great day out.

We also went to Chirk castle, which is always an enjoyable visit, especially in the spring, with camellias and magnolias. And then Bodnant, which is fast becoming a truly great garden. It has been redesigned in the last five years or so, with overgrown areas cleaned out and replanted, whilst keeping the spectacular old trees. It has terracing in front of the house, with a long water feature, from where there are views of Snowdonia. The bad news is that the very special Head Gardener has been poached by Sissinghurst. Our loss is their gain.

TSH went photographing steam trains.

No time for any actual dissertation work.

Friday, 4 April 2014

Clash of personas

So I am trying to sort out the dissertation. I have thousands of words in different Word documents and most of them have comments from S which need addressing. And there's still the issue of getting it all into one document with the numbering and headings and correct Table and Appendix numbering.

And meanwhile I have a very busy year with holidays and family parties to arrange and plan the outfits for. At this time of year when its getting warmer but I still need a light coat, what do I wear to feel comfortable and look smart? I like long tops but my lighter coats are too short. A new light but long coat, maybe?

I need to start cooking for Easter. Simnel cake tomorrow, brownies and carrot cake next week. All to be gluten free for TSH's daughter.

Will the dissertation get finished? It has to - I have worked too hard to fail now.

Monday, 31 March 2014


I have started work on re-writing the analysis of the three lyrics which was much criticised by S a while ago. I haven't been able to face a re-write until now. I made a start and then realised I had done some of it before. I found another version lurking on the laptop I work on when away from home. Normally I am so organised about all that but I must have missed backing it up. So I've spent the afternoon reconciling the two versions, which is a waste of time, but at least I've tuned back into it.

I've been keeping different sections in different files for ease but I think it is about time I created a master copy and put everything into it. And then I'll need to get the numbering system of the document right. I think I'll take out all existing numbering and then start again with a clean slate.

Thursday, 20 March 2014

I read everything

I've always read everything. When I was a child it was sauce bottles and cornflake boxes at the table (we were not allowed books at the table). I've never been able to bear not having anything to do with my brain. It's less now because of the constant sound track of 'Do I need to put some washing on? What are we eating tonight? What do I have to organise for tomorrow night? Have I got the clean sheets and towels out?' But I read all the road signs when TSH is driving us along - I'm too much of  a wimp to do much driving because I'm scared of speed and other drivers. Even when we are abroad I read everything, so I learn a few new words in languages I don't speak.

Today I read the best sign ever. An estate agent called Doolittle Dalley. Brilliant. Just in case you think I made that up:

Wednesday, 19 March 2014

A dragon slayed

I have written a large part of the literature review, which was the most dreaded part of the dissertation. I read several other reviews and copied the style, so I hope S will think its OK. I'm still waiting for copies of some of the papers I requested the library to get for me, so its not complete. But I feel so much better about it.
The weather is warmer so I can't wear my warmest clothes any more. All last year's lighter things look old and dated. I can feel a spree coming on!!

Friday, 14 March 2014

It seems more real

Two days on campus this week, surrounded by students much younger than me. One of them asked politely 'Do you work here?' She wanted advice about taking over a University  PC which had been abandoned by another student in the middle of a task. I said that as the other one had been missing for around half an hour and the PC was meant for everyone, she had forfeited any rights and the young woman should just take it. 'What if she loses work?' 'That', I said firmly with the wisdom and callousness of 62 and 1/2 years, 'is her problem'.
I found out how to get a pre-paid card for the photocopiers and started copying. When you are a distance learner, you have to use precious time in the library in a concentrated way. The copier announced that it needed service and I should call someone. There was no phone and no number and no indication of what to do. I moved to another copier. Which was two floors away from my subject books. Lots of exercise. And then a queue formed. And then my card ran out of money and I needed to recharge it. But everyone is so polite.

Everything is difficult when you are not familiar with the routines. And by the time of the next visit you have to learn it all again. I have now drawn a map of the library, as the stylistics section is hidden. No idea why.

Session with S went better as I am 'improving' and my work is now 'nearing draft stage'. But he agrees that my results are really exciting.

Wore long(ish) purple top one day and navy jacket the other. Interesting jewellery.

Friday, 7 March 2014

Two Operas, 'and' and 'the'

We don't get out much, so the opera twice in a week was a  treat. Both were at the Lowry in Salford and both were performed by Opera North. The first was Puccini's 'Girl from the Golden West', a bit unusual in that there were no grand arias and it was more like a sung play. The second was Verdi's 'Macbeth', which has the benefit of being based on a gripping story. Quite a bit of the Shakespearean dialogue was in there and its amazing how much I remember from studying it at school about 50 years ago. We really enjoyed both but wonder if the Opera North chorus always wear muted colours with lots of caps and headscarves.  Excellent voices in both performances.

I was very tired at lunchtime after two late (for us) nights but I had a productive afternoon, improving my keyword analysis chapter. And and the again. Its amazing what you can deduce from such basic words.

Tuesday, 4 March 2014

Change of tack

My timetable said that I would carry out the analysis in Jan/Feb and then go on to the literature review in March. Well, its March and I haven't finished the analysis. But I've already arranged to visit the campus to spend time in the library and have a session with S soon.

So.. I've started preparation for the literature review, which I have been dreading all along. Somehow I have to find all the 'relevant' (not sure what that means exactly) academic books and papers out there, summarise them and link them into my own work. I have bought a book about how to do it. I have had kindly guidance from S and from my little sister the librarian. I have found a good on-line lecture on dissertations with a good section on the purpose of the review. And I'm still terrified.

Also .... Does this mean I'm really behind with my work? Will I finish on time? I also have several holidays before submission date. I have a retirement to live.

Tuesday, 25 February 2014

I'm getting quite excited about it

When I first did the keyword analysis, I was disappointed that all the words that came up were things like 'the' and 'and'. But now I see how important that is. Its not what he's saying but how he's saying it that's so important. And as far as I know no-one has ever analysed Cohen like this before. This really feels like research now.

But I'm still not happy about my writing up. I know S will be (politely) scathing again. I always thought I wrote well - at work in the old days everybody said I did. So is this so different? Or am I 'lostitat62'?

I've ordered two sleeveless tops for the summer. One blue, one pink. Lets hope we get good weather. But I can wear them under jackets and cardigans.

Saturday, 22 February 2014


My latest task is to carry out some computer analysis of the songs. I have already done quite a lot of work on this but I printed it out and read it and it was so disorganised I was ashamed. So I've gone right back to the spreadsheet and reworked it. I have 38 key words. These are words which Cohen uses more than the popular songs I am comparing him with. Its a statistical measure. Then I've checked whether these words are significant across the whole corpus or just in a small period. For instance, 'lover' is key but its all because there is one song 'lover, lover, lover ........', so it doesn't tell you much. And then I've drawn graphs. In colour. Then I can set criteria for how I choose which words to look at in more detail. I know it will all come down to 'the' and 'and' again.

Its getting warmer and I can't wear my winter jumpers any more. I had some good ones this year, which I really enjoyed wearing. So  is there anything in the wardrobe I've forgotten about? Or do I need new?

Saturday, 15 February 2014


In our Skype session, S told me (again) that my material is fine and the way I package it isn't. I need to include more details of my arguments. Its not that I don't have the evidence or the understanding. I just don't spell it out in the right way. I don't include enough examples (I'm always worried about the word count). I should have got this right after nine years of university courses in the humanities.

But I think he liked my overall argument that the fascination of Cohen is the way he uses language typical of conversation alongside language typical of narrative fiction alongside language typical of academic writing. And he draws the reader/listener in by being intimate and challenging at the same time.

It occurred to me that no-one as far as I know has ever done this kind of analysis on Cohen before. So its all original. And that feels good.

Monday, 10 February 2014

Its all rubbish

Yesterday it all read well. But now that I've put the manual analysis in a document for S to read in advance of our Skype, it all reads like rubbish. Are the arguments rigorous enough? Have I drawn suitable conclusions? I am usually accused of being 'a scientist', stating just  the facts. But the facts are all there is. And when I try to deduce something from them, its not usually the 'right' thing. But my judgement is as good as anyone else's.

I've also included my outline arguments for the computer analysis.

Its a compliment to be called a scientist. A linguist is a kind of scientist.

Sunday, 9 February 2014

Nothing like a bit of pressure

I have an appointment to Skype S next week and I said I'd send him some sample dissertation by the end of tomorrow. So I looked at what I've written and I didn't think it good enough. So I've spent the afternoon restructuring, signposting the findings and making sure that the arguments are supported.

In summary, Cohen does not stick to any one linguistic style, even in one lyric. He is intimate, like conversation, organised like writing, memorable like poetry and complex like literature. I know you might think 'well I always knew that' but now I have the evidence - at least, I do for my three sample lyrics.

I would have just tinkered with it (again) if I hadn't had the appointment.

Slow roast pork for dinner, so I keep setting the timer for an hour and going to the kitchen to top up the water so that it doesn't dry out. I rubbed it with cloves and cinnamon and the smell is awesome.

Tuesday, 4 February 2014

Old and young

We've been to visit TSH's 94 year old mother who is independent and alert and brilliant. That was immediately after visiting TSH's daughter and husband and the new grandson who is brilliant and becoming alert but not independent for a while yet.  So I've had another few days off.

But today I've looked at how Cohen is using 'there'. He mostly (66%ish of the time) uses it existentially - 'there are laws to obey' rather than 'standing there', indicating place. This shows that he writes with great authority - like an academic or an expert witness.

I've been amusing myself on youtube with extracts from Cohen concerts I have been to . When he sings 'Save the Last Dance for me' and 'Marianne', two big finishes with audience participation, he looks exhausted. But he gives an outstanding performance and he's nearly 80!

TSH has been ill with a stomach bug but hopefully OK now. I think I'm immune.

Wednesday, 29 January 2014

Another short holiday

We've just returned from a short break in Brussels. we didn't take the computer, so I'm updating the blog from here. Its partly done at

I've spent the afternoon reading the 7,000 or so words in my analysis section. It doesn't read too badly, so I've spent the time identifying gaps where the evidence is a bit weak. I should send it to S for comment soon.

Tuesday, 21 January 2014

Have I found something?

It occurs to me that the way Cohen uses 'the' and the nouns that follow requires a lot of work on the part of the listener/reader. He talks about 'your hair upon the pillow' but he hasn't explained who he is with or where they are, so the reader has to start to work it out. And he uses a lot of metaphor, like 'sleepy golden storm'. Now these are not hard to work out but when he says 'the monkey and the violin', the reader is left to wonder what it means (and I don't think that one is even a metaphor).And 'the gates of mercy in arbitrary space' needs a bit of thinking about. So we like his lyrics because they make us think. And work at meaning.

I have spent the afternoon drawing up a spreadsheet of Cohen's use of nouns and verbs compared with other pop songs. He uses nouns to a level that is more typical of fiction and verbs to a level more typical of conversation. Far more than the other lyrics do.

Thursday, 16 January 2014

Standing back

I felt I was getting a bit bogged down with it all so I summarised my findings and sent them to S. He was fairly encouraging and made some more suggestions. Part of my problem is that I am looking for patterns in the language use and not finding many. I suppose that is in itself a finding and suggests that Cohen uses a wide range of language. There is a wide variation in what his lyrics are 'about' and also in how he creates the song.

Had a good walk round Dunham Massey today. We saw the deer gathered together more than usual and wondered if they feed them in one place at this time of year so that they can more easily get to them if it snows. The winter garden is fabulous. Whoever designed it is a genius because they have retained some star plants and trees from before but opened it all up for planting of bulbs, dogwood and the amazing white-barked trees and shrubs.

I've just watched (on a webcam) my youngest sister receive her MA in librarianship. She got a distinction but I know I'm not going to match her at that one. My three younger sisters all have masters degrees so I NEED to get mine this year. Sibling rivalry is alive and well.

But in case anybody thinks we had a privileged start - we are from a working class family brought up in a Lancashire cotton town.

Sunday, 5 January 2014

The analysis section

I decided today to try to put the analysis section of the dissertation together from all the bits and pieces I already have. I ended up with over 6,000 words. They won't all make it into the final version but that's well on the way to my 12,500, which will also include introduction, conclusion, data acquisition and the dreaded literature review.

I've merged the three manual analyses - Marianne, Manhattan and Going Home because there are common features and it saves word count. I have started looking at the keywords 'he' and 'his'. There is a lurking 'other man' in 'the stranger song', 'the master song' and 'one of us cannot be wrong'. These are all from Cohen's early period, so I have produced files of his early, middle and later lyrics and tomorrow I will do some analysis of whether there is a difference in the use of these pronouns over time.

The apple crumble was very good.

Wednesday, 1 January 2014

How could anybody make a mess of an apple crumble?

Cooking all day today because we are taking food to TSH's daughter to help out when she is busy with the new arrival. TSH's fish pie looks great but my apple crumble exploded all over the oven. My excuse is that its gluten free and it cooks differently. But its a pathetic excuse. I've topped the crumble topping up with some spare I had in the freezer but I'm not sure it will cook when I warm up the rest gently. Am I past it?

My brownies and my nut roast look OK.

No Cohen today.