October 1: I hadn’t finished the embroidery for Godsbanen by the time I left so I’ve carried on working on it at home; this one’s about carrying on with lettering (and destroying a fingertip in the process).
October 2: The beginning of third year, with all that might entail.
October 3: Concerns about my intellectual capacity, and whether I actually have anything worth saying after all.
October 4: Skipton Puppet Festival is a biennial international festival of all things puppety, a three day event transforming my small rural market town into a place of mirth and imagination. I’ve worked on the event since 2013 as administrator, fixer and as one of the directors, but I chose to step away for this one because of university commitments, so only did some social media and press work. This meant that I actually got to see some puppetry for the first time since being involved; we saw ‘The Hit’ by Strangeface, all about a highly reflective hitman, and it was fantastic.
October 5: Adding bindings and finally finishing off the embroidery for Godsbanen.
October 6: I’ve been working on a timeline and revised chapter plan for my thesis, so this one’s about my ongoing struggle to visualise a shape for it. I don’t know quite why this should matter so much, and arguably a thesis is far too large to visualise as a single entity, like trying to take in the whole of an oil tanker in a single glance, but I’ve realised that having a sense of the shape of a thing helps me to take the necessary steps towards creating that thing.
October 7: I had a great conversation with a friend who’s just joined the department, about making one’s research one’s own – if one is a square peg in a round hole, arguably it’s easier to make the hole square than to make oneself a round peg. If that doesn’t labour the analogy too much.
October 8: A very pesky Max the kitten. He is relentless. He’s taken to chasing the cursor on the computer screen, which as habits go is endearing for perhaps thirty seconds and then intensely frustrating.
October 9: Today I mostly felt crackly, as I struggled with ideas. Some days are like this; other days will be better.
October 10: Two steps forward, one step back.
October 11: Another conversation with another friend, with some very sage advice. I’m fortunate in that I’ve been able to create my own research project rather than being recruited onto a project to deliver an objective as part of a larger programme, but this can sometimes leave me feeling overwhelmed and directionless. This was a useful reminder to embrace my privilege instead of squandering it.
October 12: I went to visit my parents; my mum had baked a particularly good fruit cake.
October 13: There’s someone at the periphery of my social circle, with whom I seem to have quite a lot in common – but we aren’t friends. This has troubled me for some time, because there’s no obvious reason for it, so in my mildly paranoid way I decided it was something to do with me being eminently dislikeable. A conversation with a mutual friend revealed that the problem is more that this potential friend perceives me to be hugely confident and that consequently she’s very intimidated by me. I was rather surprised by this, and spent much of the day thinking about the disparity between one’s interior and projected selves.
October 14: Drawing negative space at this evening’s life drawing session. A completely flipped around, disruptive way of looking.
October 15: Working late into the night, and thinking that it really doesn’t do me any good. I keep noticing small signs that I’m no longer in my twenties, for which (for the most part) I’m very grateful – one down side is that a lack of sleep really hits me.
October 16: WRoCAH, who provide my scholarship, offered a training session with Dr Nathan Ryder on navigating the third year of the PhD. It was an incredibly useful (and reassuring) session, with a lot to take away about how to travel safely though this trickiest of times. The image is from a suggestion from my good friend Emma about how she decides what to do next when all her tasks are in the ‘urgent/important’ quadrant – number things, then roll the dice and do (to a limited extent!) as the Diceman does.
October 17: A Scottish road trip for our wedding anniversary. This one is pylons on the A9 by Dalwhinnie, when the road starts to feel like a tiny path in a huge empty landscape.
October 18: Seaweed on Am Ploc, a lump of land sticking out from Fasaig village at the head of Loch Torridon. There’s an open air worship site on this protrusion, and it’s where we got married in a humanist ceremony in 2013.
October 19: A cottage reflected in Milltown Loch, Applecross, after a great night in the Applecross Inn, revisiting the scene of our wedding meal.
October 20: The Knoydart hills viewed from the Armadale-Mallaig Ferry, following a very wet – and brief – trip to Skye, complete with a very curious exchange with a mad waiter which has guaranteed that we’ll never describe salmon in normal tones again.
October 21: Rannoch Moor in the mist. We’d headed to Glencoe via Arisaig and Acharacle, and had an enjoyable evening in the Clachaig with two American blokes on a whisky tour. The temperature plummeted overnight to the point where when we woke in the morning the tent was covered in frost and the campsite owner told us that it had got down to -4°c. Despite having a decent sleeping bag, I’d made the foolish error of opening the bottom of the bag in case my feet got a bit warm in the night, then spent half of the next morning trying to defrost the blocks of ice at the end of my legs.
October 22: The brutalist masterpiece Roger Stevens building on the University of Leeds campus – scene, this morning, of a positive morning engaged in leading a reading group for a Research Methods module.
October 23: I picked up some sort of bug in Scotland and spent the day with my stomach feeling like a washing machine on a spin cycle.
October 24: The slasher makes his mark, yet again. While there are many positives to kitten ownership, I think there’s merit in sticking with one’s two senior pussycats and not succumbing to the lure of the new…
October 25: A clumsy image representing friendship. I met up with a friend who’d recently completed her PhD and found a great job outside academia which was still very relevant to her research area, and we had a great conversation about the benefits of life outside the academy; later, another conversation with another friend about teaching reassured me greatly. I think that if it wasn’t for these people, there’s no way I’d make it through.
October 26: A ‘meh’ day of rain and work.
October 27: Still wrestling with the article I’d drafted back in early September, my struggles somehow made worse through the knowledge that it was only 2,000 words, and how could I find something so short, so difficult? Where does the problem lie? Is it me, or is it the thing?
October 28: A supportive email from one of the academics in my department got me thinking about scaffolding, and how there are many ways in which one can be supported, and sometimes from surprising sources.
October 29: Autumnal plums.
October 30: I presented to the next WRoCAH cohort about my REP trip to Aarhus. The presentation may have involved pictures of cats… The image represents a lingering feeling of illness instead, as I couldn’t really think straight and just wanted to stay in bed.
October 31: Copy/paste – preparing a lecture for an undergraduate Festivals and Events Management module, all about teamwork. It’s fair to say that head scratching occurred, along with a significant amount of borrowing from a slide deck that has been circulating in the department for at least twelve years.