At Close of Play

Monday

And so starts the last week of year one of my PhD process.  That feels quite shocking to type when I think of how it seems almost like yesterday that I didn’t feel like I knew what I was doing and wasn’t quite sure what the year would bring.  Wait.  That WAS yesterday.  Here’s hoping by the end of year two that things start to feel less like climbing a crumbling mountain blindfolded without a map.  Or a safety harness.

Also had a few minutes today where I wished I could get going on my interview analysis.  Then I remembered that while I was doing the interviews all I wanted to do was get going on the chapter writing or background reading.  I always have had difficulties doing one thing at a time to the exclusion of everything else, so it really is taking all of my self discipline to keep my teeth gritted and focussed in on the writing process.  I sense it’s not going to get any easier in this respect as the degree process wears on.

Spent today hammering away full speed on section 3 (academic capitalism and HE marketisation) of the chapter, although I did stop for a while to restructure the whole chapter, trying to streamline it a little and draw some of the scattered ideas back together.  Also decided I wanted a bit of input from my supervisors so sent them an outline of the chapter for comment.  Suspect they may be happy enough, but I wanted to see if there was anything for them that stood out that needed emphasis or perhaps needed removing/sidelining a bit 90more.

Tuesday

Made myself get going by 8.30am this morning.  Hell, when I worked for a living I’d generally be at work before this time of a morning so there’s no excuse.  Kinda slipped into a start at 9.30am pattern over the summer but since we’re past the equinox now decided it was time to make the switch to try and capture as many hours working in the light as I can.  Going to be really sorry to say goodbye to BST – the shift always seems such a bad idea personally, as all of sudden post working day there’s NO time to do jobs outside.  On the other hand I have enjoyed many a country walk in the dark of autumn, so I might start that up again.

Today I decided to crack on with merging my notes for another two sections of the chapter.  I was going to finish off part three first and give it a first polish, but as I’m stuck on a train Thursday afternoon it’ll probably be easier if I have plenty on paper to work on for editing.  That way when I’m back at my keyboard come Friday I’ll be able to write up material with gusto.

For the record the themes today were commodification of knowledge production and the educational experience.  Although I did keep finding titbits of information to go into the earlier sections.  Which is why I didn’t polish any of them, as I suspected that might happen.

Could have done without LibreOffice having a fit and crashing every time I opened a document today though.  Ended up switching the document back to a .odt file from a .docx and that seemed to resolve matters.  Annoying though, as as far as I can remember Open Office never crashed on me.  But then as I was only working on it for an hour or so today (and the rest of the day typing notes straight into EverNote) it didn’t slow me up too much.  A good days work that I’m happy to walk away from now.

Oh, amused in related news to see that my old university (which never met a benchmark it didn’t love) has got a degree in performance management up and running.  Clearly still chasing after the desire to be the new University of Warwick Plc…

Wednesday

I’m beginning to wonder if the title I picked for this week’s post is not more prophetic than I realised.  Heard today from my 3rd Stepmother (yes, I’ve had three of them) that my father’s taken a turn for the worse.  He’s been going through radio and chemo-therapy for the past month, and by the sounds of it has been essentially hospitalised for the past two weeks.  Not quite sure what to do, given we’re not what you call close but all the same it’s not been the best of news for the day.

Meanwhile back in nice mundane academia I’ve finally finished typing all my chapter notes up.  The chapter now is about three times too long, and is about as well structured as chopped noodles.  (Mmmmmn, chopped noodles).  However, as Mrs Llama said to be “At least now you have a block of text to go at”.  That I do, and it will probably take me the rest of this week and next to bring it into order.  There is I know a lot of duplication and bringing the disparate authors’ points together together is probably going to be the first task.  That and spotting which bits are complete and utter bilge, though no doubt Andreas and David will happily point those out later too.

Have been amused watching and reading all the various things on the news and my social media streams about freshers week.  Way back when I was a u/g my freshers week was pretty quiet – I didn’t drink or party, and liked to be in bed by 10pm (yeah, that’s changed a little over the years) but damn I don’t miss that week when I felt like I knew nobody  and didn’t know quite how the experience would be!

Totally different to how my first week as a PhD student…no wait, totally identical!  Wonder how the new PhDs will get on at their induction day tomorrow.  For me last year that was the kick off of the whole ball of wax, though the real start was the meeting with my supervisors on the following week.

Thursday

Interesting start to the day as I heard via a PhD colleague and also my supervisor that they’re looking for people to run some teaching in my dept.  Sounds simple enough, except we have to formally apply and be interviewed.  Doesn’t pay what you’d call big money (hell, this is academia we’re talking about) but it’d be relevant experience.  And even if I don’t get it this time (since I know my colleagues a bit more informed in the fields they’re looking for) it all helps to put my face on the departmental map a bit more.  Which is something I’ve been keen to do ever since I started.  Hence I spent the first couple of hours of the day filling in the application form (deadline being Sunday! Not a lot of warning).  It would be so much easier filling in these online forms if my career wasn’t so long/distinguished!  Interviews are next week – so at least I won’t be out of the loop for long.

And there I was thinking that I’d got a three year break from filling in application forms – whilst attempting to depart my previous employer I must have written about a dozen or so last year, so I am at least oh so very familiar with the process!

Did some light editing after that, but couldn’t really get my headspace right as I’d decided to go see my dad in hospital mid-afternoon.  There are 6 people on his ward.  He was easily the sickest, and least aware of where he was.  When I saw him just a few weeks ago before the chemo and radio therapy he wasn’t great, but he was 80-90% there.  Now there’s barely 10% of him left.  How his poor wife and family must be feeling I can’t comprehend, cos it’s left me pretty emotionally shell-shocked and I barely know him.

Living on my own without Mrs Llama has never been tougher than right now.

Friday

Not the best of workdays as I had to catch a series of trains in the morning to get to something with Mrs Llama.  However, i did take the time to do some on paper editing so it wasn’t a total loss.  One thing is sure, next week between my multiple commitments of life and work, is not shaping up to be a whole lot of fun.  If I can just get through it sane I’ll be a happy llama.

Not quite the end to my first year of PhD studies I’d hoped for, but an end all the same.  I’ll be having a look back over the highs and lows of the year in the next week or so.

Saturday

Ha! Surprise extra day working on the job application.  Not the finest application I’ve written, and to be honest not that sure they’ll interview me so haven’t flogged myself to death.  But I was happy enough with what I wrote in my supporting statement.  I’ll just have to let it ride for now.

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