An Update

I started this blog back in the distant days of my early career as a Ph.D student.

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I say “career” because for me it was the equivalent of a full time job with the added disadvantage of being able to organise my working hours around a growing family. As a single parent I remember thinking how ‘ideal’ this arrangement was, and to a certain extent it was. However it also meant for some very stressful times, when work life and home life seemed destined to collide and the debris was not pretty!

I started out on blogger and moved to WordPress roughly around the time I was planning my nervous break-down. I think most doctoral candidates suffer at least one of these at one point or another , some endure several ( I think I may have had more than my fair share, what with me being so damned wound up most of the time so laid back and all … )

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It has been a test of endurance, physically and mentally. I have gained more weight than I care to admit through excessive sitting … I laugh in the face of the physiotherapist who “advised” me to read whilst on a treadmill … oh yes that way accidents lie, I can tell you from experience!

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In the course of the years I have been studying I have been hospitalised for major surgery twice, once for a broken limb and several times for Biliary colic, caused by gallstones, resulting in one of the surgeries!

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I started this whole journey whilst going through a painful divorce, I think it was my way of rediscovering who I was and where I wanted to go with my life … back in 2002.

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What started as a one-day-a-week access course led to 1o years of full-time study.

And finally on September the 25th 2013, I submitted my doctoral thesis.

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On November 15th 2013, I passed my viva with minor corrections … to become the first Doctor in our family history.

I PASSED – YOU MAY BOW DOWN TO ME CALL ME, (FANFARE PLEASE)

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DR PIMPERNEL ….

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I am Ph.D Pimpernel, MA(hons), M.Litt, Ph.D … there are more letters after my name than there are actually in my (real) name!

Has it been worth it?  I am not entirely sure yet. On a personal level I am a different person to the one that started out. I am more confident and assured in my own abilities, but very aware that the more I learn the less I seem to know. I sometimes wake in the night sweating with panic at the thought of all the books I haven’t read … I think this is what’s commonly known as an occupational hazard of long-term study!

By necessity this blog must evolve – like myself – from the caterpillar into the butterfly … or in my case maybe more of a moth …

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The search has begun in earnest for an academic posting and the reality that all this entails is hitting me quite hard. The Ph.D has been like a huge, iridescent bubble, shielding me from the harsh realities of the real world … and now that bubble has been popped, in a spectacular way and I am left, once more, exposed ….

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I am not sure whether I shall continue blogging. I can’t say I am a natural at it and it has been sporadic at best, usually whole months between posts and then a clumpy flurry of not a lot, so maybe as a form it isn’t my bag?

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But who knows what 2014 may bring. Thank you for following my  erratic progress. I raise a glass to all of you who are still treading the minefield that is postgraduate research and wish you every success in 2014 and for years to come.

So,  it’s a fond farewell from me … for now at least!

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Christmas is a Feminist Issue.

And the prize for the BAH HUMBUG blog entry in Christmas Week goes to The PhD PIMPERNEL *applause*

 

I am probably not the first woman,nor will I be the last, to feel that the pressure on the female of the species at this supposedly ‘Festive’ time of year is just incomparable.

I feel as though my head is going to explode and work is just not happening due to the constant demands for other things to get done.

I’d like to share with you an adaptation of the poem ‘IF” by Rudyard Kipling adapted by a fellow Blipper and friend, which for me sums up ( a little too kindly) the current situation for many women.

If You can Keep Your Head when all At Work and all around You
Are Screaming down the phone, and Shouting At You,
If You can trust yourself, to Run past Boots,
Without Buying up half the No 17 counter,
But Still remember to Buy Essentials.
If You can wait, On the 13 Minutes Past,
Even when it comes at 42 minutes Past,
And Not Be Fed up to the Back Teeth,
If They Lie to You, Don’t Accept their Guarantees,
You are better than that.

If You Can Dream, and Live Happily in them.
If You can Think, and Be Pleasantly Surprised,
If you can meet with Dolce & Gabba, and DKYN
And Know Fakes from Genuine and still be
Quite happy to buy the Cheapest Version.
If you can hear what you’ve said to someone
Spoken back and it sounds like utter drivel;
But see you Children fall and be hurt,
STOP and put them back together with your heart.

If you can take everything you have,
And Risk it on the Last Minutes Sales, 48 Hours before Christmas Day
And Find they aren’t Starting til Boxing day.
And Not Cry with Frustration, knowing the Prices will
Be So much better on 28th.
If you can Force a Smile, and Grit Your Teeth
And be nice to Everyone who Says “I’ve done all mine?”.
Go forth and buy everything required at Exorbitant Prices
Even tho your will says ?”Hold On”.

If you can walk down the High Street, and not Loose your head
Or walk through Malmasion, with your pants tucked in your skirt,
If No Evil Shop Assistant, or Vicious Conductor can hurt you,
If your daughter can count on you, to get exactly what she needs,
If you can fill the unforgiving Advent
With 12 Days of Bloody Shopping,
Yours will be Christmas and Everything it brings,
And, which is more, You will be A Mother, You will!

I find this time if year an incredible strain as despite the fact I am meant to be working FULL-TIME on a Ph.D come Christmas I am suddenly expected to make the holiday perfect for everyone else – if I delegate the job simply doesn’t get done the way it should be done, because it seems no one else is really that bothered; well until it isn’t done and then they wonder why!

My tree still isn’t up! My house is still not ready and I am taking a leaf out of the Man’s Handbook to Christmas – and I’m not bothering!

After a long rant to my mother (yes my MOTHER) she enquired if I was ‘on the change’ …

Christmas is most certainly a feminist issue!

The Night Owl

Things that have change during the course of my academic life are innumerable but one thing that I have noticed that has been quite drastic is my body clock.

I couldn't put it better myself!

I have never been a ‘morning person’ as such but since I have been studying this has become ridiculously exacerbated! As I had fairly young children at home when I started out almost ten years ago I found the only quiet time I had to work was when the small things were in bed – usually this meant I got some peace from about 9pm onwards (they went to bed about seven but the nonsense never ended until gone nine!) 

I would use their time in school to do the lectures, tutorials, the library trips etc,  then when I should have been consolidating my days efforts I would be cooking, cleaning and organising two children for school the next day; meaning that come deadline time I was pulling almost constant one nighters ( which resulted in great marks on the papers and not so great black bags under my eyes).

This situation could have ended some time ago as now both my children are teens and you would think that their growing self-sufficiency would equal a growing amount of time for me to indulge my latest research whims work. But alas, no! The manuals do not tell you that children become more demanding of your attention the older they get. They also hold you to account more; they store up missed football matches, school recitals and days out  and write them down in the Catalogue of Motherly Guilt, which they will pull out at any opportunity that will see a benefit for them and be torture for you!

Emotionally they become less secure. Once their whole world revolved around getting a decent night’s sleep, but the complications that come with the teen years seem unfathomable and endless. Peer relationships, school pressures, exams, girl/boyfriends you name it you need to be there to steer them past all the pitfalls, and when they eventually fall into one of the pits, to pull them out!  It takes its toll on a mother who is a sole parent and an academic (without the perks of a salary and a finishing time!)

YUP - Calvin - you and me both!

My internal body clock is well and truly FCUk’d these days – I am at my most alert when everyone else seems to be winding down!

A Plan was concocted!

As a consequence the only real peace I get is after 9 am in the morning when they leave for school, and then again – much later than the 9pm watershed of their childhoods – late at night. And try as I might I cannot seem to take advantage of the early mornings. So I have devised a plan that works for me and was inspired by a novelist, who was featured on Sky Arts ‘The Book Show’. She wrote all her novels sat in bed!  I was awestruck! (I cannot remember her name – she didn’t write ‘my sort of books’ so she was consigned to the space in my head that is entitled ‘not interested enough to pursue’ )

It got me to thinking!

Am I alone in wanting this duvet cover?

Whilst I can’t write in bed what I can do exceptionally well in bed (and keeping it clean) is read! I’ve been reading in bed for years! So my current situation is this – the dog wakes me usually around the 6:30 mark, I go back to bed and get re-awoken by children getting ready for school (they sort themselves out – my presence usually invites squabbles, so I stay well out the way). Once the front door slams shut ( never quietly always slammed) I crawl sluggishly  down to the kitchen and brew up a cup of tea, returning with it to my warm bed. I then reach over and read whatever current text I have on the go. I have post-its, notebook, pencils, and sticky markers on hand to facilitate note-taking as well. It seems to work for me… though I think many folks who know I am a late riser as such must think I am the laziest sod they know as I do spend all morning in bed – most days! Even the lovely delivery lady has noticed I am not an early riser and has offered to leave parcels for me rather than ring the doorbell. I declined thinking that would just make matters worse … 

The other benefit to indulging my reluctance to become alert with the dawn chorus is that I think more effectively. I am in a half dreamlike state, not fully aware of the day and all its complication – it is a liminal space in which thoughts can wander untethered to the mundane or the practical or the word processor! I have found my best ideas have emerged from this ‘slow period’ of the day. Only this morning, as aI was reading Writing For Their Lives The Modernist Women 1910-1940′ the whole purpose of my thesis suddenly became clearer, including why I had chosen to study the texts I had. It is a relatively small breakthrough but it should benefit the coherence of the work enormously.

Sometimes I think you need to work they way you work best, regardless of how unorthodox that may seem to you and others, and very much regardless what others may think …

Am I alone in being a real night owl at odds with normal society and it’s 9-5 mentality? Or are we all fighting this urge to curl up until about 10 am when they day really starts?