Writing a dissertation or any longer piece of writing can sometimes feel like trying to navigate a sea full of ice ?

Sometimes you find yourself going down a certain path only to become trapped with no way out, like the ill-fated HMS Erebus and HMS Terror, two of the British Navy’s warships that became trapped in the ice in 1845 in an attempt to find the Northwest Passage, an open water route close to the North Pole.

The secret to navigating ice, apparently, is to keep moving very slowly and try to work with the ice instead of against it. In the course of this PhD I’ve found myself going down many pathways only to become firmly stuck in place. I’ve had to remind myself that this is an inevitable part of the process, that getting stuck, however horrible, is often the only way to have one of those lightbulb moments that helps you move forward, and that, sometimes, the act of writing, even if you’re not exactly sure where you’re heading, is all about just doing it and seeing where it takes you. Even if that is into the ice ?

Lightbulb moment: a moment when you suddenly understand or realise something ?

(The Erebus and Terror are on my mind because I’ve watched a couple of episodes of The Terror, a series with a supernatural take on their ill-fated journey. Terrifying stuff!)

Photo taken at St Moritz, on an early morning walk ?

Reading matter

Eight books for your birthday. What 14-year-old teenager wouldn’t want that?? ??

Australian, British, and Canadian fiction, some very recent and some not so new… Currently in our house there’s a bit of an obsession with the lovely Anne of Green Gables, both of us re-reading the first three in the series.

The first book, published in 1908 and set in the late nineteenth century, tells the story of Anne, an 11-year-old orphan who comes to live with Marilla and Matthew Cuthbert, a middle-aged brother and sister who really wanted a boy to help on their farm on Prince Edward Island. Lucky for them, they end up with the wonderfully imaginative Anne instead.

So here are the next three books in the series, the first of which was published in 1936, and with Anne all grown up but just as wonderful. I read them a long time ago, but can’t wait to read them again, and am looking forward to talking about Anne’s adventures with my daughter.

The best way to improve your writing is to read as much and as widely as possible, and this is especially true if English isn’t your first language. Reading will help you improve not only your spelling, grammar, vocabulary, and sentence structure, but also your whole approach to writing.

And rereading is just as good. Anne, I first read about you when I was only twelve and here I come again!

Thin ice

Best to tread carefully lest you find yourself skating on thin ice!

Oooh, there’s a lot going on here, so let’s get started:

1. Tread carefully: 1. proceed with caution so you don’t make a mistake 2. watch where you step/skate so you don’t fall over/go under the ice.

2. Lest: what a great word this is! It’s an Old English conjunction, which you could substitute with ‘in case’ or ‘so that you don’t’ or something similar.

3. Skating on thin ice: 1. to do something risky that might end badly 2. to skate on ice that’s too thin to support your weight! 


Look at these little beauties! Homemade waffles, that we enjoyed with fresh strawberries, honey yoghurt, and maple syrup. I’ll stop now before I waffle on about how truly delicious they were.

Little beauty: your first bit of Australian slang! This means something that is very good. Can also mean something that has gone very well ??

Waffle (noun): see above photo ?

Waffle (verb): to talk or write at length in a vague way. Can also mean to not be able to make up your mind ?

At length: to do something for a long time or in great detail.


Water, is taught by thirst.
Land—by the Oceans passed.
Transport—by throe—
Peace—by its battles told—
Love, by Memorial Mold—
Birds, by the Snow.

‘Water, is taught by thirst’, by Emily Dickinson, an American poet who died in 1886. I used to love her poems when I was in high school in Australia. She was a bit of a recluse and considered to be quite eccentric, and most of her poems were published after she died. She often used lots of hyphens (—see above!) and capital letters in unusual places. There is an awful lot happening in this poem in terms of the language she used and how she used it, but in essence this poem is suggesting that we often take thing for granted, only realising how much we appreciate them when we don’t have them anymore ??

Recluse (noun): someone who prefers to avoid other people and live by themselves (just like my cat, Studycat, especially when some of my younger students ring the doorbell??)

Eccentric (adjective): someone is eccentric if they behave in a strange or unconventional manner

Photo taken on my Sunday afternoon walk down from Pfannenstiel back home to Meilen.