Weekend Reading: Slides and Ladders

It’s been an eventful week, with more ups and downs than a seesaw in a playground (more on that later).

First thing’s first: I should let you know that I’ve changed my name. I’m now Cora Beth Fraser – although it will no doubt take me some time to change it manually all over this website and elsewhere. As you can imagine, there is a long back-story to this, and maybe someday I’ll tell it – but not this week. For now, I’m happy to be back with the name I was born with – I’ve missed it a lot!

The world of work has also been eventful. It’s another long story – but the basic outline is that all Open University tutors (about 4,000 of us) had been promised a shift to a better contract in October 2021. The university suddenly announced this week that this wasn’t going to happen, at least not right now. The contract was a big deal and had been years in the planning, with regular updates and webinars, so the announcement (and the manner of it, which was distinctly off-hand) came as an unpleasant shock. It’s left a lot of us wondering why we care so much for an organisation which doesn’t care for us. So if you know any other OU tutors, this would be a very good week to be nice to them, because they’re pretty unhappy!

What else…? Oh, in Big News, the Roman-themed playground between my house and Arbeia Roman Fort has finally opened – to absolutely no fanfare, yet it’s been attracting huge swarms of excitement-starved families for the last three days. Consequently I haven’t yet managed to get any really good photos, since most of the equipment has been buried in children all week – but here are a few very early-morning shots. As you can see, historical accuracy has not been the main concern – but I’m reliably informed that the slides are very slidey.

I’ve been swamped by work this week (I marked this week “BAD WEEK!!!” in my diary way back in October, and I was not wrong), and have had little time to work on any of the many projects which are bouncing around in my head – but one thing I did make time for was a visit to the monthly #WCCWiki editathon. It was my first time editing Wikipedia, and I was curious to find out more about it. It was certainly an eye-opener! If you’d like to find out more about the work of the WCC volunteer editing team, you can check out their Wikipedia pages here. Essentially their goal is to work on redressing the massive gender imbalance in biographies on Wikipedia, by creating or expanding pages about women in Classics.

I’ve known about their work for a while, but what I didn’t know was how much there is to be done. I thought that maybe I would show up with a name of a notable female classicist or a woman from the ancient world, and then I might spend a while researching and creating a page for her. I hadn’t realised that the WCC Red List (the list of women or organisations in Classics who don’t have a Wikipedia page but probably should) is already well over a thousand! And those are the women who don’t have a page at all; there are many more who only have very brief entries which need considerable work. It’s all quite overwhelming, and daunting too, because it’s not always easy to get pages or edits accepted by other, hostile editors (did you know that you have a better chance of getting an edit accepted if you have a pseudonym that makes you sound like an old white man?). But I have to admit that I rather like the challenge! So I’ll hopefully be editing more Wikipedia entries in the months to come – only you won’t know it’s me, because I have my pseudonym sorted!

Finally this week… I’m coming up on the one-year anniversary of the Comfort Classics interview series! Will there be an Event to mark the occasion? No. Do I have mystery special guests lined up? Also no. But maybe I’ll come up with something for next week…!

This week from around the Classical Internet


Doubts about Sappho poems – The Guardian

Trailer for new series ‘Domina’ – The Hollywood News

Vesuvius killed people in 15 minutes – The Guardian

Roman port in the Wear? – BBC

Paul Cartledge honoured by Greece – Neos Kosmos

Roman remains under Subway – Gloucestershire Live

Caligula’s floating palace mosaic comes home – The Independent

Comfort Classics

Tim Kenny: Apollonius’ Argonautica

Comment and opinion

Weavers and Profs – London Review of Books

The story of the Calf-Bearer – Greek Reporter

Parts of Hadrian’s Wall you haven’t heard of – Chronicle Live

Drugs and Eleusis – Kiwi Hellenist

A tribute to Tony Birley – CUCD Bulletin

David Raeburn obituary – The Guardian

Diversifying and decolonising – Classics at Reading

Plotinus and mindfulness – Antigone

The music of Sophocles’ Ode To Man – Antigone

The Greeks, Afghanistan and the Buddha – Antigone

Podcasts, videos and other media

Boudica: Through Roman eyes – The Ancients

The rise of Cicero – The Ancients

Ancient Medicine – Time to Heal

The road to Plataea – Casting Through Ancient Greece

Finally, you might enjoy this from Dr Jeremy J. Swist, who took on the challenge of translating some Iron Maiden into Ancient Greek – and performing it…!

6 thoughts on “Weekend Reading: Slides and Ladders

  1. That’s on my bucket list for end of lockdown – a visit to the Roman Playground to celebrate my completion of my A330 EMA (hopefully without killing anyone – well I am doing it Medea and if things get difficult I might accidentally channel her!) Those ‘slidey slides sound awesome! In the meantime I’d best get back to reading about Medea


  2. From your website and all the work you have done, I believe that you care a great deal about the students you are responsible for and that is why you have been prepared to work under your current contract. I hope that the OU come round quickly and give you all the new contracts. Good luck.

    Liked by 1 person

  3. Dr Fraser has a certain ring to it 🙂

    When I saw your Tweet on the contract I was so surprised by how disappointed and angry I felt on your behalf. It was also a shock because I am a big OU fan, after all it gave me a BA and MA on the back of 5 O Levels 50 years ago. But then I got to thinking that, although there needs to be a delivery system, my love is actually for the academics and tutors. These after all are the engine room who design write and deliver the modules that build skills and confidence. So, my take is that the institution that delivers this should be careful and treat people properly as, without the enthusasm and dedication of the academics and tutors there would be precious little to offer.

    I sincerely hope they re-adjust their decision quickly before too much damage is done and give stability ESPECIALLY in these strange times when the pandemic is affecting us all.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thanks! Management is problematic – we had some very bad years a little while ago, when management were pushing some disturbing ideas. Then we turned a corner, and huge improvements were made. This is a setback, and a big one – but management are aware now…! So hopefully things will get fixed – we’re not quite back to the Bad Old Days yet. The OU is great, and remains great – it’s just that sometimes the centre loses sight of the periphery!

      Liked by 1 person

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