The Canterbury Tales – Chapter 1

ICYA2009, phd, rantings, travel

I can’t quite believe quite how quickly time seems to have passed by. Now it’s 2010; a new year, a new decade, end of the International Year of Astronomy, and for me onto new things – starting a PhD in Canterbury, Kent, doing something I’ve dreamed of doing for a long time to further my career in astronomy. I feel I’ve been given a great opportunity and I can’t wait for what lies ahead. I know it will mean a lot of hard work over these next few years, but good things don’t come for nothing!

First of all, Happy New year to all my friends and colleagues. The reason I haven’t blogged is for good reason really. The last time I ‘meaningfully’ blogged was back in September, about the International Conference of Young Astronomers I attended in Krakow, and that was only just as I moved to Canterbury. I gave you ‘The very start of the ‘Canterbury Tales’, telling of my recent move and the very briefest of first impressions. A few months on, as you can imagine a lot has happened. I’m now over 3 months into my PhD (very scary!!!) but still I am very much settling into most things. Where I feel nicely settled in the house, and that I am starting to get into some sort of routine with my PhD, it’s still not ‘Leicester’. I don’t mean that as a bad thing to Canterbury or anyone here, but the change of environment is just far greater than I expected.

Returning home for Christmas was a good time to reflect on the last few months, in particular the lessons to be learnt from my PhD so far, and how to ensure a much more effective use of my time. My main focus over these months has been my PhD, and as such, my life has slowly been crumbling to make way for it. I’ve realised the demands of teaching, which I’ve gotten used to; the expectations of my PhD; and having absorbed the last three months I have learnt to block-book my time to ensure I make the most of this experience.

It’s been quite tough to keep up with real life activities. I’ve managed to fit in some comedy evenings at the Gulbenkian Theatre which have been quite good, including an evening with comedienne Sarah Millican (who has appeared on ‘Mock The Week’ and ‘Live on the Apollo’). These are very different to anything I’ve ever experienced in Leicester. I look forward to more of these. Some of the highlights this term are Chris Addison (from the ‘Thick of It’ and ‘Lab Rats’), Stewart Francis (‘Mock the Week’, ‘Michael McIntyre’s Comedy Roadshow’), Jo Caulfield (‘Mock The Week’, ‘Have I Got News For You’, ‘Never Mind The Buzzcocks’), Zoe Lyons (‘Mock The Week’ and ‘4 Stands Up’ (BBC Radio 4)). I feel in this way Canterbury appeals to my taste of comedy more, having a circle of people in many of the few TV programmes I really enjoy. In fact I have applied for ‘Mock The Week’ tickets, so fingers crossed! I also enjoy the jazz evenings at the Gulbenkian, quite soon after work once a month, as they make a good change of environment. Plus, you can sit back an relax over a glass of wine listening to jazz, finishing of work if necessary due to free wi-fi across campus. I’ve found a good few things here, though slowly perhaps I feel I’m turning into a bit of an old man :-p.

Saying that, I’ve been listening to BBC Radio 4 a lot more recently :). I’ve always liked the Friday Night comedy shows, such as ‘The News Quiz’, but in particular ‘The Now Show’. Now, I’m starting to listen more to shows like ‘The Today Programme’. Maybe I am turning into a bit of an old man :-p. I got a DAB (and FM) radio for Christmas. I quite enjoy that I have well over 40 radio channels. It’s amazing. I’ve started listening to BBC World Service which can be quite good, and more of BBC Radio 2. In keeping with ‘the fashion’ I listen to NME UK and Absolute Radio. For my love of rock/indie/metal, as well as 80s they serve quite well. As with any music on the radio, you just can get fed up of listening to the same tracks over and over, day-by-day.

It’s the people that made it at Leicester, but I’m sure I’ll feel much the same after 3 years in Canterbury. It’s still very early days. Whereas I am still ‘settling’, I feel as though I’m finding my place with certain things such as the aforementioned. The fact also is that the nature of a PhD is very different to an undergraduate degree. It requires far more self-motivation, often also a good conceptualisation of tasks to be completed, so a need for good planning – perhaps something I have learnt at my cost a little. Now is a good time to reflect, to ensure a good start the new year and new term, and to ensure also that I make good progress throughout my PhD. I wouldn’t trade it for the world! I just wish I had more hours in the day. I guess a point here really, for anyone wanting to do a PhD is to make sure they are willing to put the required effort into it, and to be prepared to sacrifice a lot for it!

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