As I write this, I’m speeding through the countryside on the train to London again for another Historical Association committee meeting. I’m armed with an enormous cup of tea, a book about sound in the early modern world, some paper and my ipod. If the meeting finishes early, I will pop into the British Museum to visit Noggin the Nog and his friends the Lewis chess men, or maybe walk through a bit of the National Gallery. All being well, I will be home before the children go to bed.

This week, I have spent a lot of time considering something which has, so far, been conspicuous by its absence from this blog: the future. Consequently, I haven’t done as much work as I hoped to when on Monday evening I was looking forward to a completely clear four days. I had intended to break the back of the last chapter of my thesis, but I haven’t. Instead I did some reading, a lot of worrying, catalogued a few ballads and made a complete mess of the page of writing that I did attempt. It will probably take me as long to undo the damage I’ve done as it would just to start again. The current working title of the chapter, ‘I Never Felt More Like Singing the News’, has never felt more apt.

When I spend time in Manchester, I am reminded constantly that I did not go into my doctorate for the reasons that most of my colleagues did. Coming back to Manchester 17 years after my first freshers’ week, I applied to do my PhD because I wanted to see whether I could do it, to give me some personal satisfaction, not because I wanted to work in a university. In fact, in an early, exploratory discussion with a Fiend before I even applied, he uttered the unforgettable words “As for a career in academe, I’d say forget it”. Rather than a damning comment on my abilities, this was, I think, intended to remind me that jobs in universities are hard to get at the best of times, and especially so for people like me who are not prepared to commute long distances or uproot their family and move them half-way across the country. Not that I have a problem with anyone else doing that. If it works for you, great. My family are settled in Longridge, we all love it, and that’s where we want to stay.

Two weeks ago, I was surprised to hear one of the students who started with me in 2011 comment that I was the only person she’d ever heard who said that they didn’t want to finish their thesis. My response? “Of course I don’t, I’m having too much fun.” That made her laugh in amazement. That, she said, was almost unbelievable, considering the troubled gestation of my thesis. ‘Mid-Tudor Ballads: Music, Words and Context’ is thesis number 3, and I’ve seen off more supervisors than most people have hot dinners (and one of them twice!). But prior to starting my PhD, I’d been at home for 8 years looking after my children. As my Fiend said earlier this week, without the thesis I’d have gone round the twist. Let me repeat what I said earlier: I’M HAVING TOO MUCH FUN.

And so to the future. I want the thesis to go on forever, but come September, I will start to share the burden of financial responsibility for our family. The thesis will be submitted and I have to find some form of work. I was surprised to discover that I had this level of passion for my subject. The obvious solution is to apply for a research grant to continue my project, so a little corner of my brain is constantly mulling over possible ways to extend the scope of my research. Research grants are’t easy to get, but they are impossible to get if you don’t apply, so it has to be worth a shot. Part time university teaching is another possibility that I’m looking into. I suspect that I will end up doing a combination of several jobs, but if that’s what pays the way, then so be it. As for the more immediate future, none of that will be possible if I don’t get this final chapter written!

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