Sharing things

Transcript for 1.8 Martha and Julia

Transcript for Sharing things 1.8 Martha and Julia

Amalie: You're listening to Sharing things, a new University of Edinburgh podcast from the Alumni Relations team about the University community, which we want to get to know a little better.

[Sharing things theme music]

Amalie: Hi, I'm Amalie, I'm a fourth-year student and I'm the host of this podcast. In Sharing things I talk to alumni, staff and students about their stories. Guests have all been asked to bring an object as a starting point for discussion and the object can be anything important or significant. It can represent an event, person, decision, experience or it can just remind them of something. Let's see where this takes us.

In this episode you will meet Julia Calvert and Martha Greenbank. Julia is a lecturer in international political economy at the University of Edinburgh. She's also a snow-loving Canadian who moved to Edinburgh in the spring of 2017 after spending time in Canada and Latin America.

Martha works at Dovecot Studios, here in Edinburgh. She graduated in 2018 in architecture and during her time at university she was heavily involved with the swimming and water polo club.

We talk about patchwork quilts, maple syrup feuds, horror movies, spoilers, being robbed and more.

Welcome Julie and Martha to Sharing things.

Voices: Hello

Amalie: Yeah, It's really nice to have you here.

I figured I would start with the question: what have you brought to the studio and why?

Julia: Oh. What of our things? Martha, do you want to go first?

Martha: I'll go first.

So, I brought quite a large item, which I now think, next to yours. . . I've seen yours already and I'm like. . .

Erm, so I brought my patchwork quilt. It's kind of a homemade patchwork quilt. There's no technical skill in it but it's just full of memories, I guess, that I've got for a long, long time. So I made it in 2010. And I've got T-shirts and festival bands and swimming badges.

Amalie: Oh that's so nice.

Julia: Did you make it?

Martha: Yeah. So, it holds a lot of big parts of my life almost in a really cheesy way. That is a very cheesy thing to say!

Amalie: It says "Martha the Archer." Are you an archer?

Martha: No. So, my friend made me that and that's my star sign.

Julia: Oh, ok.

Martha: That's for my birthday.

Amalie: What is your star sign?

Martha: Sagittarius

Amalie: So how do you make this and what do you put on there?

Martha: So, kind of the back patches are just old fabric that we had around. So t-shirts - I've got, like triathlon t-shirts, swimming t-shirts, my granny's wedding dress material, you know, old – this was my first duvet set -- just a whole range of stuff.

And since then I've put on, kind of like, school badges, university badges. These are all my swimming club tour tops.

Amalie: So nice.

Martha: Yeah Brownie sashes. Yeah, just everything really.

Julie: Did you get your grandmother's permission before you cut up her wedding dress?

Martha: Yeah we did. It was offcut materials. It wasn't the actual dress!


Amalie: What makes, like, something that you do worthy of being on this blanket?

Martha: I mean, like, as long as I feel like I've put effort into it, like I've got very small parts of my life, so I recently volunteered at the Children's Festival, of which that was like two days’ work, but you know I've put an effort into it so that can go on.

Yeah it's something that means something to me or it doesn't even have to be anything. Like my room's not really full of photos. I'm not really. . .I don't really have things like that but actually. . . so it's a nice way of putting everything together.

Amalie: It's really well done.

Martha: I wouldn't look that close to it!


Martha: There's regular re-sews of stitches and stuff.

I'm really glad I've done it. Like, I did it one summer. It was, kind of that, what you do in the middle of summer holidays. And I think it was the first summer that I kind of stood up and I was like I don't want to go to that sports camp that I usually go on.

And so, I made this and yeah, I'm glad I've done it and it does take a bit of effort to kind of keep up with it but it's the kind of thing that you want to keep going and keep going.

Julie: So what are the places that you've been, like what are the countries? I saw Vietnam.

Martha: Yeah, so the four that I've got there are from a trip that me and my friend did. We did that, what, last… two years ago? And we kind of just. . .

I'd never been to Asia before, so we kind of did a bit of a tour. So, we started in India then we went to Singapore, Vietnam and then Thailand.

Julie: Do I see South Africa there too?

Martha: So, I’ve got… one of my old flatmates now she lives in South Africa now, and we had THE most amazing trip. Her parents put us up and honestly they treated us like princesses, the princesses as we are, can I just say!


Martha: But yeah it was amazing and that's the kind of things. . .so like for me if I ever go on a trip or do something and I don't get anything that I can sew on, I like. . .so that one I bought afterwards because I just wanted to kind of mark it on my quilt, you know.

Amalie: What's like your favourite thing on the quilt?

Martha: I mean, I do love my old tour t-shirts. I think it's quite a nice mark of time because it obviously it tells you the dates and the times you went and where you went, and that's quite nice to see, because obviously a lot of my university time was kind of centred around the club.

Amalie: Which club?

Martha: The swimming and water polo.

Amalie: Cool.

Martha: Yeah, a lot of my time and effort, I might say is centred around that so it's nice, and it's just, kind of, they all run together and it's just… my four years at university.

Julie: Did I see some cereal badges on there, like, I thought I saw Frosties?

Martha: So Frosties - I don't know whether you have these? Frosties somehow sponsor all of the kids' swim badges, and I think, so for any Brits out there, they will recognise these so well.

Julia: I’m a little bit North American for that maybe, but it's funny.

Martha: Yeah, I know, I've never really noticed why.

Julia: [laughing, muffled words]

Amalie: Have you ever done any swimming Julia?

Julia: Ah yeah, I was a lifeguard for about like half a summer, and then, erm, and then I wasn't.

Amalie: Why, only half?

Julia: Actually I got hired halfway through the season and I just wasn't liking it. It was so much responsibility for me. Back in my day, I would take any job that would allow me to work outside. I'm an outdoorsy person but just being in charge of kids running on the deck and having to yell at them, or you know, tell them to stop, or lives, it was just too much responsibility for me at the time, so I declined the offer to do it again the next summer.

Amalie: Mm, ok.

Julie: Yes, I have lots of little job experiences in my, in my background that didn't last long.

Amalie: Like name another example?

Julia: I was a bartender for about four months, which was great I really liked the aspect of the job where you would stand behind the bar and talk to people. I love that. I love doing interviews as part of my research for that reason. I love talking to people and figuring out, like their story and who they are, but then serving drinks and having to multi-task was not my forte, so I didn't last.

Amalie: Talking and serving drinks?

Julia: Yes, yes.

Amalie: …was a little too much to handle.

Martha: And they wouldn't just hire you as a talker behind the bar?

Julia: I tried, I tried, but you know they saw a problem with it for some reason!

Amalie: Do you want to tell us about the object that you brought?

Julia: Sure, so it's hard to live up to a quilt with so much history. And I certainly put fewer hours into this object but it means a lot to me because. . . so what I'm holding right now is a glass – would you call it a jar - a glass vessel of maple syrup, which seems kind of cliched because I'm Canadian, so for a Canadian to bring in maple syrup seems, you know, oh lord she's one of those people!


Julia: But it's actually from Vermont because it was given to me by the late John Peterson who was a professor in PIR [Politics & International Relations].

He passed away in May, not to bring it down, but so him and I always had this kind of dispute about who had the best maple syrup. So John, as soon as he heard I was from Canada, said: "You know that's great but you guys talk up your maple syrup just way too much, it's you know, it's the best in Vermont," and I said "no way!" And so as soon as he went back to Vermont to visit family, he brought me back that.

He was known for sort of bringing staff back small things from his travel. They were kind of inside jokes or just to make fun of us or just you know, to lord over that he thought his maple syrup was better. So I brought him back, when I went to Canada, a bottle of maple syrup from Canada and I didn't open mine because every time a student came into my office they would see it and they would laugh and it was kind of and nice icebreaker. Because they thought, "Oh Jesus, this Canadian lecturer has this maple syrup on her desk - that's so weird." And so, it became a way of me sort of like easing tensions with students. Sometimes they're nervous coming into your office.

So I didn't open it and then John did open the Canadian maple syrup and he shared it with his friends and he said: “You know Julia, all three of us just thought it was terrible, this maple syrup from Canada, you Canadians, you know, I’m just convinced that you're overselling it."

And so I would have a meeting sometimes and he would come into the room and just say, "Have you asked her about the maple syrup yet?"

Martha: So you've not tried your maple syrup?

Julia: No, no, I haven't.

Martha: So, you don't know whether it's better yet?

Julia: So, no, I haven't tried it and I'm kind of afraid now because I don't know what it will do to my identity, like if he's right, if Vermont maple syrup is better than. . . where do I go from here?

Amalie: Who are you?

Julia: And do I have to tell the rest of Canada?

Martha: It's your responsibility.

Julia: So, I might leave it for a little while.

Amalie: What do you feel like it means to you, that bottle?

Julia: Ah, it just reminds me of John I guess and yeah, the way that he used to make fun of me so much, which I still cherish. [She laughs.]

We do that a lot in my department and then yeah, I just love that it's an ice breaker for students when they come into my office, so I'm going to keep it, I think. It's going to be in my office forever probably, collecting dust.

Martha: Maybe you should make the trip to Vermont, and try it out for real.

Julia: I know, but then my identity.

Martha: Would you call yourself a maple syrup snob?

Julia: No, I don' t- maybe yes, maybe, yep, yeah, I think.

Martha: That's a real journey.

Julia: I want to say no because it's, you know, I don't like to think of myself as a snob in any way, but I think yeah, I think I'm judgmental, yeah, that's for sure.

But some Canadians, like, I won't name any names, but they prefer the really runny sort of stuff, like from the giant, like, big things that you get from Costco and you just pour it out and it's like half butter, half syrup and some Canadians like that!

Martha: Gasp!

Julia: I know.

Martha: Yikes.

Julia: Yeah, so not all of us are maple syrup snobs.

[Sharing things theme music]

Amalie: When was the last gift that you received, or what was it?

Martha: I can't even remember what I got. If we go back to Christmas - we have a an ongoing discussion with my family at the minute - so for Christmas, Mum and Dad got me a pan and I was quite ungrateful about getting a pan because I feel like anyone, any student, will be able to understand the feeling of moving into student flats in Edinburgh and you get into the kitchen, open the drawers and it's full of pans.

Like, I've now moved around for 5/6 years, so we're pretty up there with how many pans we've got and because by that point you file through which are the good ones, and which are the bad ones, and so mum and dad very nicely thought that a new good pan would be a good gift but I ended up just carrying a pan with me.

Julia: What would be the best present for a parent to give their kids who is about to move into a dorm in Edinburgh?

Martha: In Edinburgh [makes blowing out sound, thinking.] Edinburgh.

Well Edinburgh, notoriously gets cold flats, so I think things like rugs, a good duvet would go, honestly, so far, because I think if you then try a good duvet after not a good duvet in Edinburgh. . .

Amalie: or a quilt?

Martha: a quilt.

Julia: Do you ever get requests to make them?

Martha: I mean all the time. I mean my whole flat at the minute is like: "You need to give us a sewing lesson," of which in my head sewing is not that hard but we will eventually get a sewing lesson because I feel it is a life hack.

Julia: Yes, undervalued these days.

Martha: Yeah, so I know, but I do regularly get heads around the corner, like "Martha, can you just sew up my dress for tonight?" or, yeah. . .

Amalia: Do you do other, like crafts?

 Martha: Yeah I make cards, I like a collage.

Julia: My guilty pleasure is just Netflix, I suppose, and I guess. . . so no creativity unfortunately.

I put my creativity into my reading and research, just thinking about theories and putting things together and research design and stuff like that seems boring when we talk about it, and courses, but when you get really into it, it can be a little bit creative I suppose.

Amalie: Yeah, 100 per cent!

Julia: Sounds convincing doesn't it?

Martha: Do you have any outside interests, other than Netflix?

Julia: Yeah, interests - I really dig horror movies. That's kind of my outside interest.

So, I'm thinking, like a lot of my hobbies. . . I'm not athletic like you are, although I do have a running group. There's a small running group in PIR, so that's kind of my outside athletic interest but otherwise, I like walking around and hiking and that kind of thing.

So, all of my hobbies don't involve sitting on a couch but a good majority of them do.

Amalie: What kind of horror movies do you like?

Julia: I love the slasher kind.

Amalie: Oh, really!

Julia: Like the 1980s. 1980s horror movies - like that was just such a fantastic decade for horror. Like back in the day when [searches for words] when they had real effects and everything wasn't CGI. And when they had like “poufy” bangs and feathered hair.

Aw, just glorious!


Amalie: Like the very bloody kind?

Julia: mm-mm, like Halloween.

The only ones I don't like are zombie movies because I just get way too stressed out, especially if the zombie movies, like the zombies move fast in the movies. Those ones freak me out.

I sit there with like a pillow right below my eye line and I just kind of like squeeze it and then when a zombie comes, I move it up in front of my face and so I end up watching like, you know, 50 per cent of the movie because I'm just too stressed out.

Martha: Favourite horror movie?

Julia: Halloween, probably.

Martha: Love me some John Carpenter.

Julia: Yeah, he's great. I came from the suburbs, like a suburban community, and so just to, I don't know [laughs]. . . I get a kick of like the set and the whole story line.

Amalie: Because it like reminds you of home?

Julia: Yeah, well I was going to say that but then I was like: "Stop don't say that" because then it's like  [laughter.]. . . "You like the idea of a serial murderer running around suburbs that remind you of home?" Like that's a bit jaded, you know, so I don't mean that!

But it's just yeah the whole plot is perfect, the acting is great. It's like suspenseful but then there's actually a storyline behind it, yeah it's great.

Amalie: I'm a kind of person who will Google when the jump scares are.

Julia/Martha: Oh really!

Amalie: Mmmhmm.

Julia: Ok, I kind of do this, like Game of Thrones. I was in Peru at the time when the last couple of. . .do you guys watch Game of Thrones? [everyone says yes] and you've seen it all?

Amalie: 100%.

Martha: No spoilers.

Julia: No spoilers.

Amalie: Let's, you know, beware of the listeners.

[lots of laughter.]

Martha: No, I disagreed, I feel if you've not watched it now, then you've run out of time.

[more laughter. Some inaudible chat.]

Julia: I was. . .so I would Google the ending to figure out what would happen, like, in each episode, what was the final result, did anyone die that I cared about and then I could relax and watch it because I found, again, it's kind of like the same effect as zombies on me - it was too suspenseful, so I'd have to, you know, know what happened and then calm myself down and then watch it.

Martha: Are you fine with spoilers or not a fan?

Julia: I'm totally fine with spoilers.

Martha:  I'm totally fine with spoilers but I get so much abuse from that.

I think I'm the same as you, I just enjoy knowing what's going to happen, and I also I think it's almost like a power thing for me to be like sitting there and be like: "I know what happens!"

Julia: So you just lord it over you roommates? That's fantastic!

Martha: But I do sometimes search it sneakily and then pretend I don't know what's going on and I'm like, “Wow, can't believe that happened!"

Amalie: What a surprise!

Julia: My partner gets a kick out of it because I'll be watching Game of Thrones and I'll have Googled every single thing, so when I was in Peru, I was actually watching a Twitter, a live Twitter update, someone was tweeting it - thanks BBC - like what exactly happened, like "oh this person died" or "these two were in a fight", and so like every five minutes I would update it and just read like what was happening so that I could go home to Canada and watch it.

So I was watching it with my partner and you know the dragons would come in and I would be like [gentle shriek], and he would be like: "You know what happens, why are you so stressed out right now, you know exactly what happens, who dies, and who lives," but I just get super into things, so it's yeah, I need spoilers.

Amalie: Julia, you mentioned liking hiking and the outdoors. What's been the best hike you've ever done?

Julia: I did the Ring Road in Iceland with my partner and it's something on both of our bucket lists. So, we got a tent and a car and just took off. The Ring Road is like that long stretch of road right around Iceland.

And Icelanders are so, so incredibly nice and every person, every restaurant that we stopped at, someone would look at our tourist map. Because my partner is really into maps, so like whenever he sees a map, he just totally nerds out and needs to look at like every single street, and like you know, upside down, and he goes nuts for them.

So he'd pull out these maps and you know Icelanders would come by and say you know you got to go to this thing, you have to go down here, if you see this sign go down there, and so we saw the sign and went down there, and he's also really into like Viking stuff so we took off to this little sort of side road that someone told us to go down and then we walked right up this massive hill, which was a waste of energy because there was also a nice path on the other side of the hill that was much you know. . .so we went straight up stupidly not seeing the signs or being able to read them and there was this, like a Viking grave at the top, and then like a Viking house, like ruins and stuff and so my husband was just, you know, standing at the top of the hill just like almost crying. So emotional.


Julia: Like, I was like half dying from the climb and he was just standing there looking around like [fake crying].

It was one of those moments, when you know, for him it was like super, super special and for me too, I was just way more exhausted so, you know, I was trying to catch my breath a little bit.

But that was the best hike because we had no idea what was up there, the person that told us to take this off-road was just like "just go down there and you won't regret it" and we're like, you know, "Ok, I guess we'll just do what they say for some reason - hopefully it's not like a black hole that we we’re walking into or something weird," but no it was amazing.

So what's your favourite country that you've been to?

Martha: I don't know. I mean my favourite country in general is Italy. I think it's amazing. It's one of my favourites and I could go again and again and again.

I love the food, I love the culture, but outside of that then Vietnam was just amazing and I think because it's got that kind of authenticity to it, it's just, it's fresh and it's an amazing place to go.

I would really recommend going it if you can have the chance.

Amalie: Is Italy represented on your quilt?

Martha: I think Rome actually is. I might get this wrong - oh no, I've got Paris. I don't know actually if it is - it's not! [Gasp]

Amalie: What are those bands - are they festival bands?

Martha: Yeah, festival bands.

Amalie: So this is like a huge quilt with, like, a lot of things on.

Martha: It is a big one. You know what the really cheesy part about this is that I first got the idea of this from. . .erm any Twilight fans out there?


Martha: We all were when we were 13. Bella gets given a quilt by her mum. And if you watch the film back, it's got the same purple outline that this one does and it's full of T-shirts and that's where I got the idea from in the first place. [She laughs.]

Which now is, obviously 10 years later, is quite an embarrassing story but I think it is an element of nostalgia for that one.

Amalie: Did you ever read Twilight Julia?

Julia: I did read the first book. I was living in Nicaragua for a summer and when Twilight - the first one - came out, and I was desperate for English language books because I was trying to learn Spanish but you know it's just at the end of the day when you're touring around and you just kind of want to settle in your own language and read something comfortable and I had refused my girl friends so many times to borrow their Twilight books so then I said, you know, mail me a book and of course what do they mail me: a Twilight book.


Julia: Yeah it was quite clever. So I read the first Twilight book and yeah, guilty pl. . . I read it in probably, you know, like a night and a half.

Amalie: Yeah, I think everyone goes through that.

Martha: I recently watched the films back and it's quite an experience now. It's funny.

Julia: Do they stand up to time?

Martha: No

Julia: No.

Martha: You know I was like such a fan. Me and my friends were fans. But it takes you back to that kind of era of then - like Edward Cullen walking into the canteen.


[Sharing things theme music]

Amalie: You mentioned Nicaragua - why did you live there?

Julia: I was doing some research for my masters degree. I went to the University of Guelph for a Masters in International Development and so I wanted to travel and I wanted an excuse to go back to Central America - one that my parents wouldn't sort of like you know wag their finger at me.

Amalie: So you'd been there before?

Julia: Yeah, it's nice when you have a legitimate - not a legitimate excuse, any excuse to travel is a good excuse - but when you have a way of like calming down the fears of your parents, you can tell your parents you're doing something with your life but then also you get to go away for a couple months.

Amalie: Perfect.

Julia: Yeah that was me, and so as part of that degree I went to do interviews in Nicaragua with civil society representatives and trade experts. Oh it was just fantastic.

I lived in a small community called Granada, which is just off of Lake Nicaragua and then I would go into Managua through these one-hour bus journeys and they were always interesting.

You take like a chicken bus, which is like this brightly coloured sort of school bus and then everything would come on, like people, goats, chickens, lots of things. It was fantastic. Yeah, it was a very great way to spend a summer.

Amalie: What's the weirdest thing you experienced that summer.

Julia: There?

Amalie: There, yeah.

Julie: Hmm. Oh I got robbed.

[Collective cries of "oh no."]

Julie: I mean that's not that's not a product of being in Nicaragua, that's a product of just being silly, a silly traveller.

It was like my second-last night in the city and I was. . .I had rented this sort of flat that looked out on the street, and I had all of my things. . . I was packing up my big sack to go away in the next couple days, and I wanted to get it out of the way and so I had like my camera and like my laptop out. . . and my door in Nicaragua, you often have like two doors, so one is like this intricate sort of like iron kind of door, where you would. . .it has a lock and you would have it closed but then you'd open this big wooden door to get the breeze because there wasn't any air conditioning and so I had the big wooden door open.

It was like 11 o'clock at night and someone came by and probably saw all my stuff, like right by the door and thought: "You know if I could get that iron door open, I could probably get that stuff," and so they got that iron door open and they got some of my stuff, and I was in the back brushing my teeth and I heard like, sort of like a key jingling sound and I was like that's strange and so I went out and then there was this big man standing in my doorway with my computer.


Julie: And I thought "oh no". And so I had two options: one was lock myself in the bathroom, and, you know, just let him have my stuff and prioritise personal safety, but I took the second option which was to throw my toothbrush at him.


Julie: And chase him and I chased him into the street but then he jumped on a bike and like had my computer and took off.

Amalie: Oh my God, that could have gone so wrong.

Julia: I know, it really could have.

Amalie: Did you get your stuff back?

Julia: No and all my data was on that computer.

[collective groans.]

Amalie: Wait all your research?

Julia: All my research but I had a copy because I would take hard-copy notes but they were sort of like chicken scratch so I had to go back and make sure that I could read my notes really.

It wasn't as good as having the original data where I had transcribed the interviews while it was fresh and I could remember everything and the points that I wanted to raise but you know it was enough to write my thesis.

[Sharing things theme music]

Amalie: I've one last question for you guys. If you could associate your object with one word what would it be?

Julia: Cheesy I would say. Canadian walking around with maple syrup is cheesy I think, and the memory behind it is kind of also cheesy, but I still love it.

Amalie: Yeah.

Martha: I feel like I need to know the answer to whether you think it's better or not.

[Laughter and murmured chat]

Julia: Next time I go home to Canada I will try to find some some American maple syrup bring it back and I'll let you guys know.

Amalie: I think the listeners will want an update.

Julia: A special episode yes, just dedicated to [tails off.]

Amalie: Yep, 100 percent.

Julia: Makes sense.

Amalie: What about you Martha?

Martha: I want to say something like nostalgia, comfort maybe.

[someone whispers.]

Martha: I want to get it out there that Twilight is not the reason why [inaudible]!

[Sharing things theme music]

Amalie: Thank you for listening to Sharing things. Make sure to subscribe to our podcast on iTunes, Spotify or Google Play to catch our next episode. Be sure to visit our website to read more about our guests and other episodes at

You can let us know what you think on the website or by using the hashtag #SharingThingsPodcast. See you next time!


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