London Kills Me.

NB: My most sincere apology for posting this so very late after the events (July 2007); there is much more to come when time allows. I must have no new experiences from here on out until I catalogue all the old ones. This is the LiveJournal way.

Do not grudge me my vanity, if I allow yours; or rather, let us laugh at both indifferently, and at ourselves, and at each other…

— W. M. Thackeray

It’s only from the cooling breeze blowing in from the Forth, hunkered in the calming shelter of stone tenements, part-dizzy from a pint of frothy 80/-, that I feel the comfortable ease to unequivocally state that London is an utter shithole. To my southernly-based friends, I mean no personal insult, but let it be said that I stand amazed at the fortitude of anyone who can face that misery on a day-to-day basis, especially in summer. When I first moved to Edinburgh, I was warned by nearly a dozen ex-Londoners that the place is abysmal, yet so many of my American friends love it to death, and have urged me to visit as often as possible. I’ve loved and appreciated the perspectives that both rudysyntax and velvetdahlia have revealed during their time there, and I held their experiences in my mind – both desirable and un – as we made our way around the sprawl to and from the Jacobite Studies Trust conference just two weeks ago. It was lost amidst the sticky heat, the exhaust and the cancer, the bigotry, cultural confusion, and claustrophobia. As I’ve heard it stated, London kills me.


This is not a disgruntled, complaining tale of woe, however, but rather a recap of the proceedings of the conference, which I attended with the very sharp and amiable hermiston over three very special days in mid-July. In a way, being present for such a marked event was really a milestone in my life, as it’s obvious from recent posts here that my future years will unequivocally contain another academic stint in this discipline. Gathering together all the top names in the field to present papers, hobnob, and compare notes, it makes sense that such a conference would be the perfect place to establish a future plan.



My goals for the conference were twofold: one, to meet some of my academic heroes and hear some of the newest scholarship within this ever-changing discipline, and two, to establish a solid bridge to my future studies while shopping around my doctoral proposal, getting it out there into the queue of notable future projects and collating responses, enthusiasm, or opprobrium so that I might more finely tune it before I settle in. In the event, I feel like both were accomplished and more, that the course is much clearer now, and that I’ve made some excellent new friends who will help me ensure that my work gets done.


We arrived at Paddington Station and then went on to our hotel just outside of Hyde Park. One of the scholars from St. Andrews had also booked the same accommodation, so we immediately had a seasoned companion with which to dine and chat. It was a pleasure getting to know him, and, though I had some nervous trepidation at first, it wasn’t long before we were fast friends, blethering on about everything and nothing. The inaugural piss-up went late into the night, and mostly through a bottle of Macallan, and then some.



We awoke earlier than we should have, just in time to suit up and grab some typical British fare at the local spoon, a gastronomical nightmare which was repeated every day we were in town. Still, it soaked up the liquid murder from the night before, and gave us enough energy to make it to the Academy and through a series of lectures that perhaps would have killed weaker men. It’s not that the first day was poor, but it’s important to note that the first half of the schedule was filled with some terribly slow, stultifying presentations that had nearly no immediate relevance and were decidedly Anglocentric. In fact, this latter point was a theme during the conference. The inaugural lecture, for example, was a detailed, phase-based historiography of Jacobite literature and scholarship, which pointedly missed two of the most prolific, serious, and relevant historians of the discipline – both of whom happened to be Scottish. I had written a similar paper during my postgrad stint, and I approached that noted ‘British’ scholar with the glaring question, only to have him confidently say that neither had anything to contribute. I was later disappointed to learn that this man was looking into a chair position in Scottish studies at a Scottish university. Mind that this is not necessarily an issue of nationalism, but one of sobriety – we can hope.


Szechi Lecture

The historians sat in the room, geo-politically grouped in their tweeded enclaves, casting furtive glances over the backs of chairs: of bewilderment, embarrassment, or pride as the lectures continued over two days of London heat. There were high points, such as Dan Szechi’s narrative tale of plebeian outrage in Edinburgh during the aftermath of the 1715 rebellion. Edward Corp’s physical reconstruction of the Jacobite court at Rome was of great interest to many, especially to those who enjoy picturing where and how James VII & II slept. Murray Pittock, as usual, ruffled feathers and gave us a sea of information in which to bob, and the delightful Eamonn O’Ciardha apoplectically ad libbed his way through a rousing tribute to Irish soldiers caught in the crucible of the ‘Forty-five. We were impressed by some of the newer scholars that took part in the conference, such as Nathalie Rouffiac, who, with her command of the French language, will undoubtedly uncover important things up to this point left unknown. And though some of us ‘missed’ part of the second day, it appeared that there were a good few who had an unnatural understanding of the Catholic clergy during the Jacobite era.


We didn’t believe he’d actually do it, but that cantankerous rogue, Steve Murdoch, dropped his ring into a dram of whisky in the middle of his lecture to describe the toast recently uncovered from an 18th-century Jacobite secret society. And he did, in fact, drink it doon. Extra special heaps of praise go to the indomitable hermiston, who stood directly in the mid-day sun to give his lecture, after two days of drinking and carousing, not flapped by the Academy or even Jonathan Clark. He proved that the 8th phase of Jacobite scholarship is just on the horizon, and that we have something to contribute. And this is an aspect of the conference we perhaps didn’t see coming. There were few young scholars there, and fewer still that were inextricably connected to the suede patches on the elbows of historians like Macinnes, Pittock, Szechi, and Murdoch. It’s not that we had a deathgrip on these men, but that they took us in, smoothed out our feathers, and made us feel a part of the lot. We were asked for post-lecture feedback during the conference itself, and the evenings were spent in good company at dinners and in the noxious pubs of Paddington and St. James. There was a pod of us, seemingly separated from the rest of the conference’s activity. And while I don’t think it was a defensive stance, I am somewhat suspect to believe it had everything to do with perspective, historiographical context, and, perhaps, sanity.


In the end, I made many friends and learned much along the way. I was given a chance to thank the boys on my bookshelf for their contributions, and I was able to ask about their passions or omissions. And only because these historians were interested, I spent the right amount of time proposing my own future studies, which, I am incredibly pleased to report, is now a certainty. My plan is ambitious and bloated, but the across-the-board response was very encouraging and inclusive, and the lads have given me some exciting choices to make in the months ahead. They’re willing to wait for me, and they’re eager to take advantage of my energy and drive. Look to these pages as it coalesces, if there is interest. For now, I must buckle down and pen a detailed pro/con list so I can discern the best course of action. Until then, however, these are all just words, plans, and promises. The proof, as they say, is in the (black) pudding.

And lest you think I am too stuffy from these measured, focused words, I assure you that the only real recovery from these proceedings was the very standard into which I often retreat while Stateside. World of Whiskycraft, late at night. Three fingers in the glass, four on the keyboard. The hotel had free Internet, and I couldn’t refuse. Look at the damage to that bottle!



By all means, feel free to peruse more pictures here and here.

22 Responses to “London Kills Me.”

  1. divineseduction Says:
    September 18th, 2007 at 12:16 pm

    I'm sure I've said it before, but you clean up so nicely. 😉
    Well, that, and I've got a soft spot for handsome boys in tailored suits. 🙂
    I think it's fantastic that you were able to meet some of your scholarly idols, and that you've gotten to test out your ideas for the future, and they seem sound.

  2. FunkyPlaid Says:
    September 19th, 2007 at 10:07 am

    Awfully nice of you to say these things.
    We'll see if the ideas test out, but at this point there's only reason to look ahead with great optimism.

  3. scothen_krau Says:
    September 18th, 2007 at 12:18 pm

    I have a British co-worker who takes your London comments as fighting words. Luckily, she defines "fighting" as asking me to voice her displeasure through this LJ comment.
    I thought the English breakfast would be my favorite image (being as I have a perverse fondness for that meal.) Then I saw Whiskeycraft. An instant classic.

  4. FunkyPlaid Says:
    September 18th, 2007 at 12:26 pm

    Displeasure noted. It's certainly something I'd never fight for. Tell her she can have it.
    I suggest you toss in a few bottles next time you're gearing up for a WoW raid. The results are undeniably interesting. 🙂

  5. eskimolimon Says:
    September 18th, 2007 at 12:19 pm

    Great stuff. Sounds like fun, though I love London!
    I think I know Pittock. He might have been one of my tutors at university.

  6. FunkyPlaid Says:
    September 21st, 2007 at 8:11 am

    Where did you attend?

  7. handworn Says:
    September 18th, 2007 at 1:56 pm

    yet so many of my American friends love it to death
    Oh, yeah. If I lived in the U.K., I'd live in Edinburgh and visit London occasionally, exactly the way I live in Philadelphia and visit NYC from time to time.
    dropped his ring into a dram of whisky in the middle of his lecture to describe the toast recently uncovered from an 18th-century Jacobite secret society. And he did, in fact, drink it doon.
    Got an online link to hand (so to speak) about that? I hadn't heard of it.

  8. angledge Says:
    September 20th, 2007 at 2:56 am

    Having lived in Philadelphia, Edinburgh, & New York City, I think your comparison is perfect.

  9. handworn Says:
    September 20th, 2007 at 5:49 am

    Why, thank you. Where do you live now?

  10. handworn Says:
    September 20th, 2007 at 5:51 am

    Why, thank you. But in that case, why are you living now in the American equivalent of London? Got to for work?

  11. angledge Says:
    September 22nd, 2007 at 6:51 am

    My girlfriend works in theatre. As far as the US is concerned, ain't no place like NYC.
    We won't be here forever though.

  12. FunkyPlaid Says:
    September 21st, 2007 at 8:22 am

    No online link to this, but if you'll offer me your contact, I'll give you a few words on it.

  13. handworn Says:
    September 21st, 2007 at 8:50 am

    Email address, you mean? Easy 'nuff. My LJ name at verizon dot net.

  14. podle Says:
    September 18th, 2007 at 2:20 pm

    Geeze – is there some kind of rule that all the young Jacobite scholars have to be hotties?

  15. FunkyPlaid Says:
    September 19th, 2007 at 10:08 am

    I'd feel better about this statement if I weren't so damned old.

  16. podle Says:
    September 20th, 2007 at 8:35 am

    Sweetie, remember who you're talking to. You will always be a young pup to me.

  17. hermiston Says:
    September 18th, 2007 at 2:37 pm

    'A dreaded sunny day, so I'll meet you by the cemetary gates'.
    *MA* *MI* *MN* *OdT*

  18. FunkyPlaid Says:
    September 19th, 2007 at 10:11 am

    But you lose, because Wilde is on mine!
    Great memories, mate.

  19. Anonymous Says:
    September 18th, 2007 at 4:35 pm

    London Kills Me
    OMG, I saw that movie! All I remember is that there was a hot heroin addict trying to get clean, looking for shoes and another guy named Muffdiver! I think I remember it to be a good movie! Glad to hear you survived London…did you dip your soldiers and munch some spotted dick? 😉

  20. FunkyPlaid Says:
    September 21st, 2007 at 8:14 am

    Re: London Kills Me
    I can guarantee that there was little to do with dick for most of the week. Lest you think we're barbaric, of course.

  21. Anonymous Says:
    October 12th, 2007 at 12:53 pm

    I wanna know
    how he gets his ring back…

  22. FunkyPlaid Says:
    October 12th, 2007 at 1:56 pm

    Re: I wanna know
    I imagine it was a painful affair, not fit for public pronouncement here, I'm afraid.

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