Indulgences. Interesting things. It's fascinating what different people count as an indulgence. To some it's a bottle of wine or a slice of chocolate cake; to others it's curling up on the sofa to watch a favourite film or read a new, or indeed an old, book. When you're a PhD student (and, I suspect, a fully fledged academic) it's doing anything that isn't research or teaching related. At the beginning of this month I allowed my self the ultimate indulgence for a PhD student in the writing up period: I went on holiday.
I took the holiday I always take at this time of year to indulge what someone in my academic field once described as my 'errant interest in the Brontes'. I went to Haworth for the Bronte Society AGM events. Now, I've been going to these since I was 15, and I always go alone. But I'm never alone for long. The Bronte Society has given me friends - good friends - all over the world, and every year brings new people from new places, all walks of life, and new friendships. We aren't all academics; this year I met a dancer/choreographer and a writer from the States, and old friends include a nurse, an academic, a musician and a joiner. And it's easy to make friends; you see, we always have something to talk about (this year conversation ranged from Bronte biography, through modern poetry, to our favourite TV shows / actors, to Internet dating) - we have a common interest to start things off. You don't have to know all there is to know about the Bronte family and their literature; you don't have to be an academic or an expert. All you need is to be interested and the Society offers you the opportunity to go to Bronte or other literature related places (not just day excursions, but holidays to Ireland, or Brussels, for example), talk about Bronte books / lives, or just plain meet people and chat. Yes, there are academics. Yes, the Society holds academic conferences. But those aren't the most important things; it's not primarily about that.
This is why it saddens me that, after my 13years of AGM events, I am still one of the youngest people there. It didn't surprise me when I was 15, 18, or even 20. But in my late 20s, it worries me. It doesn't matter, to an extent. I don't primarily notice the age of my friends there. But if new, younger members don't join, the Society will eventually be in trouble. And this is more serious than it may sound: The Bronte Society owns the Bronte Parsonage Museum, and if membership shrinks too drastically, we will have to pass it on to a different organisation, and I don't know about you, but I think that would be very sad indeed.
To the left, you'll see a link to the Bronte Parsonage Blog. It has some posts from a variety of members about the recent AGM events. It even has some photographs. If it looks like something you'd enjoy, the Bronte Parsonage Museum website has information on what we do and how to join. Check it out! Indulge your interest...