By Janie Masséglia
As you’ll have seen from the blogs over the last few months, even with the challenges of childcare and library/museum estrangement, the Great Work of the LatinNow Project continues. This month we thought you might like to meet the team and take a peek into the life of a research project in lockdown.
Meet the Family
LatinNow has a good-sized team, with the day-to-day running of the project in the hands of Principal Investigator, Alex Mullen, and our brilliant group of Research Fellows, Senior Scientists and Collaborators. It was a friendly group to begin with, but our VOCES POPVLI travelling exhibition to Europe last autumn also meant that we’ve cultivated the kind of banter that comes naturally after spending hours together in a van. Here are a few of us posing for the 2020 Philology and Epigraphy Quarterly Allstars calendar:
Clockwise from top left: Camera-shy PI, Alex Mullen’s famous ‘Groovius Maximus’ mug (and a glimpse of a stylus tablet from Vindolanda!); Pieter Houten; Janie Masséglia; Simona Stoyanova; Anna Willi, Morgane Andrieu.
Let them eat cake!
Food is an important part of our team culture and most pre-lockdown project meetings were accompanied by food (and often pizza if the PI had her way). Some of our best thoughts have come over a dinner table. As we’re not currently able to inflict our cooking on each other, some of us have been signing off our emails with virtual baked goods and sending round photos of what we could be enjoying. Except for Anna, who, in an unprecedented move, decided not to send us virtual “slices of the egg-free buckwheat carrot cake we made because it is absolutely disgusting, sorry!” She’s just so thoughtful. Here are just some of the lockdown highlights:
Clockwise from top left: Simona’s lemon posset, Anna’s sweet Easter rolls, Janie’s Dangerous Rainbow Cake (since even the tiniest piece has a highly decorative effect on the digestive system of toddlers), Noemí’s Easter mona, Pieter’s Lênzevlaoj (made to his grandmother’s Limburgian recipe, and most assuredly in no way related to the Linzertorte), and Morgane’s tarte à la fraise,
A Room with a View
We’re used to being in different countries: Scott is based in the US, Noemí and MariaJo in Spain, and Morgane in France. But the restrictions on movement have had a big effect on how we work. Libraries being closed obviously restricts our access to books, especially epigraphic corpora. For several of us, the loss of nurseries or usual help from family members and carers meant learning to work with babies and toddlers in the office. For Morgane, the lockdown meant that she was unable to get to the boxes of potsherds housed frustratingly nearby in the Lugdunum Museum, which are central to her work on ancient graffiti. For Pieter, it meant an accidental change of country. He popped back to the Netherlands in March for what he thought would be a holiday, only to have his return barred and his accommodation in Oxford cancelled. He and his fiancée have been making the best of it, setting up their workstations on the kitchen table and reconstructing a missed trip to Greece on their balcony. One of the first things we started doing when lockdown began was sending each other pictures of what we could see from where we were. We all did it. Considering that we all felt stuck in one place, I suppose we wanted to let each other know what that looked like.
Clockwise from top left: leaf-shaded tennis courts for Simona in London, Noemí’s magical views across the Spanish Med, a Greek-style frappé break on the balcony for Pieter in the Netherlands, a peek of the village sports pitch for Janie in Oxfordshire, Happy Easter messages on Alex’s driveway to cheer up fellow villagers in Cambridgeshire, spectacular riverside view for Morgane in Lyon, and building works and bins for Anna in London.
Views from our windows, pictures of our children (even a first grandchild – hurray, Scott!), scans from hard-to-locate epigraphy corpora… we know what makes each other’s day. The WhatsApp group means we can send all kinds of messages around the group without the formality of email. And being a multinational group ourselves, interested in cultural difference and language exchange, we love hearing about linguistic and cultural transitions.
Take Anna and Simona (brought up in Switzerland and Bulgaria respectively) who, it turns out, are both unsettled by the sound of Ice Cream vans, while the Brits in the team hear the same music and want to ring our mums and ask if we can have a 99, even though it’s nearly dinner time:
And then there’s Pieter’s name. It has been a running joke in the team that Pieter Houten should really be Pieter *van* Houten, after he was signed up to the University of Nottingham with the accidental addition (we’re not sure how this happened but everything points to the PI…). And it seems that his fellow countrymen agree, meaning that lockdown has brought him both an unexpected change of country and a new name:
Wherever you’re reading, greetings and a virtual chocolate brownie from all of us at the LatinNow Project.