Weekend Reading: Goodbye 2019!

Tonight I’m waving goodbye to 2019 with a glass of wine in one hand and a paintbrush in the other.

I can’t say I’ve enjoyed 2019. In fact it’s been a Teutoburg-scale disaster of a year for me, and I’m frankly amazed that I’ve survived it. But at Christmas I have a tradition of looking back and remembering all of the good things from the year – and being a painter, I tend to do that with a brush.

Back in 2010 I invented what I call ‘History Baubles’. Actually back then I called them ‘Work Avoidance Baubles’, which sums up my original motivation fairly well. The idea was that, every year, I would paint a few baubles for my Christmas tree, commemorating the events and achievements of the past year. It seemed like a good idea at the time, to create the Annals of my own life in bauble form.

It’s just occurred to me that I’m like the Kitsch Tacitus of Christmas.

Against all odds I’ve kept my little tradition going every year since – including the year when I was expecting a Boxing Day baby. I even painted baubles to celebrate nothing much happening. So I have baubles recalling the joy of finally getting double glazing, and commemorating the year my son wore a trilby to nursery every single day. Taking out the Christmas decorations is like reading a very personal (and slightly weird) history book.





So tonight I’ll be picking up my paintbrush again (while watching A Muppet Christmas Carol, naturally). It might not seem like I have a lot to celebrate, but looking back, there’s enough to keep me busy for a while. Here are some of the Classics-related things I’ll be immortalising in bauble form this Christmas…


  • My first proper conference presentation, back in February. I know it’s ridiculous to get to my stage in academia without having done the conference circuit, but I’ve always been petrified of speaking in front of big audiences! However, so many of you came along to cheer me on that it wasn’t half as bad as I expected.


  • A great trip to London in March, which allowed me to see lots of my favourite people all at once while also talking about Classics and drinking free wine. Fantastic fun – more like this, please!


  • My classicist sister and brother-in-law made me an auntie for the second time, which is brilliant because I get all the fun of buying cute Classics-related baby clothes without the obligation of having to wash them fifteen times a day.


  • I managed to contrive two nights out, to see Stephen Fry and Margaret Atwood. Yes, only two nights out in a whole year (and one of them was technically more of an afternoon) – but that puts me two up on last year. Here’s to an upward trend…



  • Then there’s my house, which has been a disaster for years, but which is now (thanks to an insane amount of late-night decorating) starting to look like a place where a mad classicist might want to live. Highlights include a snazzy pink cardboard column in my kitchen, NASA travel posters of Jupiter, Venus, Ceres and Europa in my dining room, some great IKEA display cabinets for my coins, and my Roman heads (believe it or not, they came with the house) back on the walls of my newly decorated, Loeb-red hallway. Just wait until I find enough time to start on the murals…




  • And finally, there’s you. At times this blog has been the thing that kept me going – and I’ve received so many kind messages, both from people I know and from total strangers, that have put a smile on my face. If I haven’t replied to you yet, I’m sorry: I’ll be trying to answer all my messages over Christmas. But thank you all for reading, and for responding when you can. This website takes all of my free time (and quite a bit of my sleeping time!) – but it’s worth it.


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I hope you too have lots of lovely things to look back on, when you make your own Annalistic Baubles (what? really? nobody…?), and I hope your Christmas holiday is everything you want it to be. I’ll see you in two weeks, on the other side of the Cake, Ovid and Whisky binge I’ve got planned.

Merry Christmas, Io Saturnalia and all that!







This week’s links from the Classical Internet



From Classical Studies Support

Pliny and Dickens: Christmas Concatenations – by Steven Havelin




Temple of Coloured Marbles – Live Science 

University Classics Bulletin – CUCD 

Roman ketchup factory – Jerusalem Post

Minoan disposable cup – The Guardian 

Biggest ever Roman shipwreck – CNN Travel 

Hidden mosaic sundials – Science in Poland 

Mithraeum in Ostia – Archaeology Magazine 

Wrong name for the Parthenon – The Telegraph 





Comment and opinion

The murder of Agamemnon – Classical Wisdom Weekly 

Vindolanda’s travelling shoes – Vindolanda Blog

Ovid and looking back – Lugubelinus 

The artist who took on Schliemann – Al Monitor

Classics, class and the Election – Topica 

Women in Classics: Sarah Pomeroy – Society for Classical Studies 

The Pig War – In Medias Res

Plato’s Republic – The Conversation

Experts vs. popular writers about Rome – The TLS 

Digital Inclusivity – Historical Transactions 






Other stuff

Undergraduate Essay Competition – The Hellenic Society 


I’m in awe of the students who produced an entire ‘alternative’ Prof Michael Scott calendar; it’s a thing of genius! Take a look, here.

12 thoughts on “Weekend Reading: Goodbye 2019!

  1. I just want to point out that, yes this has been a turbulent year for you but, you have come through it relatively unscathed and, more importantly, much stronger.
    As a regular recipient of those History Baubles you should note that, every year when they come out to put on show, they truly do act as memory joggers just as they were meant to do.
    Io Saturnalia right back at you ….. and enjoy what little time off you can grab.
    See you the other side of the Solstice.


    1. I’ll be painting one with a ladder on it for you this year…!

      (Explanatory Note To Readers: this is my dad. He shows up regularly to balance on the very top of the Big Ladder and paint the high bits for me.)


  2. I look forward every Friday to your take on the world, although I am not a OU student anymore your wonderful ideas make me laugh in a way only PG Wodehouse does, so your in good company. Happy Christmas.


  3. Happy Christmas / Io Saturnalia 🙂 Reading your Friday-posts and seeing your enthusiasm make a student feel inspired and motivated. Thank you!


      1. Ahah I’m not 100% sure it would go very well with our purple curtains! … 🙂 I’ve had a few Teutoburg years myself I guess but the OU is helping me a lot to regain confidence, and it’s very nice to see tutors as engaged. Makes one feel kind of allowed to follow their own passions as well.

        Liked by 1 person

  4. Dear Cora Beth,

    All a matter of perspective. I guess Arminius judged the „ Teutoburg-scale disaster „ differently, and it seems to me that there are often (albeit not always, I’d admit) chances in originally unwanted changes. I keep my fingers crossed that things will turn out well/for the best!

    Io Saturnalia,


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