December 2014


I am slightly afraid that I might be buried alive by a chocolate avalanche in the night. In an homage to BBC Radio 4’s ‘Fags, Mags and Bags’, I have built a Wall of Chocolate instead of a Wall of Crisps. What this Christmas lacked in books (not a single one, for the first time that I can remember), it made up for in chocolate and biscuits.

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As I haven’t yet managed to read John Elliott’s History in the Making, which I got for my birthday, I have been taking breaks from the chocolate to read that over the last couple of days.

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At the beginning of the year I commented that 2014 was a year of scary life changes, including my husband’s retirement, my need to get a job and that, all being well, I would be a doctor by the end of the year. Well, one out of three isn’t bad. Is it?

The retirement happened, but I haven’t got a job and I don’t have my viva until the end of January 2015. So it has to be said that 2014 is ending with a certain amount of disappointment. But as I think about preparing for my viva in the new year, I am hanging on to the fact that sitting on a shelf, in my study, is a copy of my thesis: something that I couldn’t even have imagined ten years ago.

As someone who is searching for any form of fulfilling paid employment and is struggling to find it, in academia or beyond, this really strikes a chord. Still awaiting my viva, by the way – it’s due at the end of January.

The Thesis Whisperer

This post was written Dr Kathy McKay,a Postdoctoral Research Fellow at the University of New England. Her work revolves around listening to stories of suicide, healing and resilience within communities and within literature. It’s a sobering reflection on this academic life – but I thought it articulated views and feelings that need an airing in the current climate of government cuts to higher education and research.

Screen Shot 2014-07-27 at 9.37.10 amIn January this year, Rachel L. Swarns wrote a piece for The New York Times that scared me so much, it’s taken until now to write about it.

‘Crowded Out of Ivory Tower, Adjuncts See a Life Less Lofty’ follows the employment trajectory of an early-career academic in America, James D. Hoff. Since being awarded his PhD, he’s had no fixed or full-time employment, rather relying on subject-by-subject contracts at more than one institution. There’s no certainty or security as subjects can be…

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Last week I was privileged to give a lecture on Mary, Queen of Scots, to a large group of A-level students in Manchester.  I thoroughly enjoyed myself, especially as it gave me the chance to sing a few verses of a ballad about the Babington Plot!

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