So, so many ways to begin.
I could say: a week ago, when last I blogged, I’d only just bought the computer that I’m writing this on, a Microsoft Surface 3 which I’ve been delightedly playing around with all week.
I could say: a week ago, when last I blogged, I hadn’t seen the Royal Opera House’s production of A Winter’s Tale or the rather less poker-faced Shitfaced Shakespeare production of A Midsummer Night’s Dream, and now I have.
I could say, a week ago, when last I blogged, I hadn’t had official confirmation that my contract in London was being extended and changed to full-time, and now it has.
I could say, a week ago, when last I blogged, I didn’t have a fully-funded offer to do a PhD at the University of Edinburgh, and now I do.
I could say, a week ago, when last I blogged, I wasn’t in Torquay stuffed full of scones and tea, and now I am.
All of these are true. There’s no way that I can reflect on this week with enough clarity to write a coherent and well-rounded blog about it, so let’s just take some of those things in no very particular order.
The computer probably seems like the least exciting piece of news here and it probably is. But I love new toys, and this new toy is very pleasing indeed. I think I might write up a sort of end-user, non-techy review of it at some point. I bought it because I wanted a writing device which I could carry around casually. My main laptop is quite large and a bit heavy to take with me unless I know that I definitely want to. With the 10.8″ Surface (which is a tablet, but with a very good keyboard attachment), I can stick it in my bag on the offchance – and then, if the muse does strike when I’m at Róisín’s or after work or whatever, I know that I have all of my writing projects with me all the time. And yes, I could have got the same result from a £113 Lenovo Miix, but I was seduced by the extra functionality of the Surface, especially the doodling potential of the Surface Pen. The images below were drawn on the Surface, using the app Fresh Paint.
Besides, I could justify the extra cost because I’m going full-time, starting Tuesday. This has been in the works for a few weeks but I only got the contract through this week. Because someone else at SAS whose duties overlap with mine has left, they’ve decided to extend my contract and have me in five days a week instead of three. Weirdly enough, this is the first time in my life I’ll have a single full-time job. I’ve worked all kinds of jobs, from supermarket shelf-stacking to convenience store shelf-stacking to garden centre shelf-stacking to writing restaurant profiles to working in a public library to co-ordinating social media for an online florist to various kinds of freelance writing to academic web editing and my current role. Sometimes I’ve had two or three part-time roles simultaneously, with study commitments to boot, so I’ve certainly worked full-time hours many times; but this is the first time I’ll be a proper Mon-Fri 9-to-5er. I suspect it may also be the first time that I make any repayments on my undergraduate student loan, a mere 8 years after I started uni at Edinburgh.
Which I’m going to do again, this autumn.
Christ I still haven’t processed this.
Here’s some background, very briefly: last year I applied to the PhD programmes at Edinburgh, Cambridge and UCL. I was accepted by Edinburgh (who know me very well), and had interviews with the other two. I got into Cambridge but not UCL. However I couldn’t take up my Ed or Cam offers because my various applications for funding back back with rejections.
This year, I reapplied with a different (to my mind much stronger) project based on my MSc thesis. I applied to Ed, Cam, Oxford and Goldsmiths. I didn’t get Goldsmith’s (who said they didn’t have a supervisor suited to my project) or Cambridge (no reason given). I did get into Oxford – but no funding. I also got into Edinburgh.
At Edinburgh, I applied to four main funding sources: the university itself, the Carnegie trust, the AHRC and the Wolfson foundation. I didn’t get nominated (the first stage of approval) for Carnegie. I was offered a fee waiver by the uni itself, but no living allowance. I paid my way through my part-time Master’s and it was difficult enough; I didn’t much fancy the notion of supporting myself through a full-time PhD. So that left the Wolfson and the AHRC.
On Monday morning, I was sitting at work. My phone buzzed with an email from the Wolfson award – the most lucrative of the scholarships I’d applied to. I scanned the email preview: found the magic words:
We regret to inform you.
I wasn’t surprised. If anything I was surprised by how surprised I wasn’t. I told Ro about it and she asked me how I felt. My reply said: “Resigned? It says ‘your have been chosen as reserve candidate’ so maybe I’m first in line if there’s a dropout … don’t expect there would be though as this seems to be the most lucrative scholarship around. Still got the ahrc to hear back from but that is supposed to be by today and I don’t feel like hearing back late is a promising sign [unsure emoticon]”
At some point, it seems I’d come to terms with the PhD just not happening again this year – and I can’t say that two years of near-but-so-far had given me much stomach for entering into the fight for a third year running. So when and email from the AHRC landed later that same day, I scanned it for the magic words: we regret to inform you.
They weren’t there.
Where they should be, it said:
I’m delighted to be able to inform you.
Not regret: Delighted.
I’m going back to Edinburgh. I’m going to do – or at least, begin – a PhD. With a living stipend from the Arts and Humanities Research Council. I don’t know exactly when – it’s supposed to start September but I’m exploring the possibility of deferring that slightly so that I can see out my aforementioned recently-extended work contract. I have time to figure all of that out. But I’m genuinely nervous (writing this blog is bringing it back!) above anything else. I’m really really happy but I’m really really scared and when I got the news I didn’t know what to DO.
So I went to Torquay.
Me and Ro have had this trip booked for a while and it couldn’t have fallen at a better time than at the end of a frantic week of life-changing offers. I’m running out of steam and I’m sure all of you are running out of time, so I’ll just sign off with some photographs from an outstanding couple of days on the English Riviera. Everything’s moving so fast that I have no idea what is going on (except that most of it’s good). I haven’t even mentioned the work we’ve been doing on the crowdfunding campaign for Parachute Dance. I haven’t even mentioned that I think I’ve finished the novel I’ve been writing for more than two years. So some slow walks with my girlfriend along some beautiful cliffs, and some no-rush bank holiday weekend meanderings along the north coast of the English Channel? Perfect. I hope you all are feeling just as gripped by the breathless flow of existence as I am right now. I’m off to wander the harbour walls, and I’ll speak to you soon. Thank you for reading!