Greetings from the West Country

12 Oct

‘Where’s yer blog post, Hawk?’, went the Facebook message that catapulted through cyber-space from Crellin’s computer to mine a week ago; ‘Why haven’t you written it yet?!’ she yapped but days later, as ruggedly persistent in her mission as some sort of mustardy terrier chasing a mustard rabbit down a mustard hole. As irritating as I found her interrogation, the knowledge that my literary delay could be transforming that cheery Manx face from its customary smile to a frown was as painful to me as the image of a crying baby seal (previously the saddest thing I could ever have imagined) – I knew I had to make it stop, and so I find myself in front of my computer, writing this message to you. And yet, if only Crellin knew what this upcoming post contained! If only she knew why it had taken me so long to gather the courage to type these words; how I am wringing my hands and letting fall gluts of tears as they appear on my screen! For what I am about to write will affect her more than she could ever have imagined – nay, it will affect ALL of you – speeding little black clouds across the interwebs to churn anxiety and despair over each of your respective heads, in each of your respective corners of the world!!!

Well, perhaps its not quite as bad all that, but what I am about to impart will certainly come as a shock to you, as it did to me. Gentlemen, I shall come to the point: I’m pretty sure that somewhere between leaving Newcastle, and entering the fourth year of the loveless marriage that is my PhD, I have managed to lose the invaluable, beautiful skill that is DISTRACTION! Since bidding adieu to the comforts of the PhD office, not once have I sniggered at Spiral Direct’s heinous offerings to the satanic god of Fashion – not once have I threatened to offend others’ delicate nosehairs with a bracing waft of horse tea, and the once-saintly hour of 15 o’clock passes with nary a noise!

‘She’s lying’ I hear you all say, embracing one another with reassuring pats on the back (apart from Brie who, like Gollum, loathes all human contact) as you attempt to prevent your teeth from chattering in uncontrollable fear – ‘our beloved Chief Executive of the Afternoon Slump could never lose a power that came so naturally to her; this confession is surely in itself an elaborate distraction that has stolen whole hours from her PhD!’ Look, I find your stunned disbelief incredibly flattering, but as my friends you’re just going to have to accept this news. I am writing this post to you in my FREE TIME – not a minute of the allocated time that my thesis greedily demands has been sacrificed, I kid you not.

…You still don’t believe me!? Well, lucky I saw this situation coming! So, please find below a list I have compiled of my recent ‘distracted’ activities, which I feel perfectly illustrate how pathetic my once awe-inspiring powers in this field have become:

Distraction Technique Number One: The Recycling Obsession

There is so little to distract me from my work in this quiet suburb of Bristol, that I find myself positively clinging to the few opportunities for distraction that the outside world affords. One of these is the weekly recycling collection. Every Thursday morning I sit in wait for the monstrous sound of the environmentally-friendly behemoth that is the recycling van. Once he reaches my street, I stick my head out of the window of my top floor flat to check that his human slaves have taken away all of the recycled sacrifices that I have offered for him on my doorstep altar. Sometimes he is satisfied with the treasures I leave him, and sometimes he is not, leaving the odd toilet roll or wine bottle discarded at the bottom of the recycling box as a sign of his divine displeasure. Either way, his arrival never fails to rouse me from my thesis, and leaves me in a state of enlightened awe for literally minutes.

Time wasted from my PhD by gawping at the recycling van: approximately 3 minutes per week.

Oh and yeah, that’s my Study Shrimp you can see in the foreground, watching the recycling in action. What of it? You’re just laughing because you want one.

Distraction Technique Number Two: Solitaire Solitude

Working in almost complete solitude – as I have for the past month-and-a-bit – can often leave one feeling a little bewildered by the simple sound of the human voice. For years I’ve found it impossible to work to any music other than the classical variety; an impediment for which I eventually found palliative relief in the form of the dulcet, middle-class tones of Classic FM. However, as a result of my recent self-imposed hermitude I now find the noise emitted by Classic FM’s presenters so utterly unseemly that I use their speech as an opportunity to indulge in one of my favourite distracting activities: Microsoft solitaire. Every time the news and weather report begins, I too begin my (often futile) attempt to make those little virtual cards jump across my screen in the dance of victory…    

Time wasted from my PhD: approximately 1 minute per hour

Win-loss ratio: 52-301

Distraction Technique Number Three: Mammoth Film Fun

Sometimes I like to waste a few minutes of my day arranging our three stuffed mammoths on the sofa so that when Matt comes home from work, it looks like they’ve been watching a film in his absence.

Time wasted from PhD: 1-5 minutes, depending on how artistic I’m feeling

Dignity lost by said exercise: Infinite amount


A sorry state of affairs, I’m sure you’ll all agree! Its truly amazing what creative damage the panic of the dreaded fourth year can inflict upon the unsuspecting brain. I fear there may be only one solution to my current predicament: a trip to the wilds of the North East, to gather inspiration from the sight of a new generation of happy, distracted academics in their natural habitat.


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