Archive for Hydref, 2010

                   This week I have been busy setting up my new workstation in the new building of my old place of study. Even trying to write it here in a sentence is confusing so it’s little wonder it’s been so difficult to explain during introductions! And there are so many new people in my department now at Limestone that the introductions have been many. To begin with I tried giving a summary of the situation, but this was long and rather complicated…and almost felt as though I was presenting people with my latest CV set forth as a griot style monologue!

                  Then, when one of the other PhD students (who had already heard the summary) introduced me to her work colleague, who then asked the perfectly sensible question: “So are you new here”, it was hard to know what to say. I didn’t want to bore my new PhD chum by subjecting her once more to my CV/ monologue, but I needed to give a sufficient answer to my new-new colleague. So I said: “Well, I’m sort of old and new…um, I’m a PhD student here and…it’s a bit of a long story…” and before I got into bumbling on any more, she smiled at me knowingly, and said wisely “Ah, it often is with PhDs”.

               This was like an epiphany. It was so simply put and yet so true, about so many people’s experiences that I realised my story is actually far more ‘average’ and ‘normal’ than I had realised. Reviewing the conversations I had had with those currently doing PhDs I found that most of them had stories which featured caveats and subplots of one kind or another, whether it was to do with pre or post viva activity; PhDs it seems are, more often than not, accompanied by their own ‘long stories.’

                 This of course means that I stand out far less like a sore thumb than I thought – in fact my ‘long story’ probably means that I blend in rather well – pale into the background even; making me ‘common place’. And, for a change, finding myself to be ‘ordinary’ is something that I don’t mind one bit!

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            Today was a momentous day: For it was the day that I, Alwen Jones, researcher and PhD student, drove all the way to Limestone city for the first time…and this all by myself…at the age of just 31!

            Now I’m guessing anyone reading this as an experienced driver will be wondering how this can possibly be something for me to be boasting about? But if you consider that just a year and a half ago a drive around the block (any block) was enough to have me breaking out in a cold sweat, then I think you’ll see that taking to the fast and furious roads of the city and making it back all in one piece is quite an achievement.

            It is also a shrewd move given my recent spate of job applications for Limestone University and I drove past the building of my job-of-choice today and felt pretty smug at how nice it all looked…to me from my car (how fabulous!)

            I can feel the anxiety gripping me regarding my ability (or not) to get this darned thesis done, but it is a kind of excited anxiety, the way I felt when I ran in the students’ union elections (many, many years ago, in what seems like a different lifetime!)

            I am also going back over the border at the weekend for my Mum’s birthday and so will get to see my beautiful nieces whilst being back in my spiritual home with its lovely soundtrack of steam trains and church bells and the bubbling of the river that runs through the valley.

           From a certain point of view my life completely fell apart two years ago. Now, it would seem, it is all coming together nicely – and being able to drive in this particular city is surely the final piece of the puzzle?

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           I love these sunny autumn mornings, before the weather turns cold. The light is so lovely and the colours are vibrant. It’s warm enough to be comfortable in just a cardigan, but not so warm as to preclude wearing one!

           As I drove with ease across Sandstone City this morning, effortlessly handling the morning traffic at the roundabout (which last year would have scared the living daylights out of me) I felt happy and glad that it had been necessary for me to drive in order to take this job.

          Then I turned off the main road into the new campus, which is situated at the prettiest end of Sandstone City and I parked in the little car park next to our building, without any need to scrum or prowl for a space. Wandering across the main car park towards our lovely sandstone building, surrounded by the old, sandstone walls and colourful autumn trees, I felt really and truly happy (which is a feeling I am beginning to get used to now after many years of despair and misery).

           It really is very nice here and I will be sad to leave if I have to – but then leaving might have been the reality even if I wasn’t applying for jobs. A Researcher’s existence is a transient one – just as you get settled somewhere your contract is up for renewal and your whole way of life is again hanging in the balance.

          Anyway, I have options and for that I am grateful…and at least I have this lovely autumn day to enjoy!

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Yosser girl

           After a marathon job-application session, which seemed to have lasted forever, I have finally filled out and sent all of the applications I felt I just couldn’t afford not to fill out; I have just counted the thick wodges of paper held together with industrial sized paperclips and I have a grand total of five! Four reasonably sensible (though star-aiming) ones, all based at Limestone University and all in line with my current career, and one wild card application which I made almost by accident whilst surfing the web looking for local FE colleges I might approach for lecturing work.

           All of a sudden I found myself reading a very vague, even rather cagey, description of a Health and Social Care lecturing post at an FE college somewhere in the vicinity of…A few clicks of the mouse later and it seemed I had submitted an application – just by uploading my CV to the site!  Then an email appeared in my inbox, copying me in on the email the recruitment website had sent to the college, informing them (and me as it turned out) that I had applied for the position of Social Science Lecturer…and that my CV was attached!

          It was all quite bewildering and I now appear to be getting an alarming volume of emails from all kinds of recruitment consultants telling me the good news that there are hundreds of jobs in accountancy and management (and all the other kinds of positions which I find completely unappealing) all right here in my local area – lucky me! I’ve emailed one of them to explain the situation in the hope they will take me off their mailing list, but I won’t hold my breath.

          And so the dye is cast and all I can do is sit tight and hope someone offers me a ticket to financial stability and security…and Radley handbags, Ugg boots, I-Pads, fancy suits and even fancier coats…and lunches in fancy restaurants…and not needing to worry about job hunting until at least after my thesis is done, dusted and handed well in!

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