Wednesday, 28 August 2013

on pencil sharpening and swimming

Along with the definite whiff of autumn in the air comes that 'back to school' feeling as September approaches.  I'm tidying my desk and sharpening my pencils in readiness for my second year as a PhD student.  In fact, pencils really have become an important part of my toolkit - during my first year of doctoral study I rediscovered my love of stationery: pens, pencils, notebooks.  By the end of these three years there will be a stack of once beautiful but dogeared notebooks full of lists, ideas and scribbled references, tracing the halting and haphazard journey through my PhD.  

During my first year, those physical tools of writing offered a welcome alternative to the sea of virtual wordage which seeped onto my screen on a daily basis, threatening sometimes, to overwhelm me. Earlier this summer Charlie Booker wrote a Guardian article entitled 'Too much talk for one planet' in which he bemoaned the 'vast cloud of blah ... events and noise, events and noise' to which he had been contributing and from which he had decided to take a break. I was ready for a break myself  - from the 'events and noise' associated with PhD study (journals, papers, books, updates, alerts, blogs, twitter...).  I spent two weeks living in minimalist fashion in a tent in the South of France.  It took twenty minutes to make a cup of tea (I'm British, of course I make tea in the South of France!) and I developed a new appreciation for the minor miracle that is a chair.  

Since my return, it's taken almost two weeks to reluctantly dip a toe back into that sea of words.  But the new year is upon me and I need to get swimming again. On that note, enough of this reflective blah, time to dive in..!