Just back from a lovely afternoon spent in Oxford with The Fellow. While London may be a wonderful place to live, it is in many ways a very poor place to do a PhD. There's no real sense of community in any of the London Unis and I sometimes go for weeks without stepping foot into King's. This is no inherently bad thing, but sometimes you just want to talk to someone who understands academic research and the academic community. It doesn't so much matter whether they understand your particular research (for who does, really?), sometimes all you need is a chat with a like minded colleague to revive flagging enthusiasm.
So a marvellous afternoon spent mostly gossiping about personal life and a little about academic life in general. It's funny that the closer I get to finishing my doctorate, the less sure I am of my wanting a career in academia. I've always been one of those people who wants and wants to do too many things, too many interests to settle on just one. I enjoy academic research, but I've always wanted to do something creative. The problem with doing something creative as a career is that I don't really know if I want to do that either. I love working with people, being around people - I need stimulation from external sources. I couldn't possibly sit in my study all day writing novels or poetry or painting or whatever: the solitary life is not for me. I like the idea of literary salons. Maybe I'll make like Gertrude Stein and just collect other creatives. Can that be a career though? Also I've realised that I tend to be most productive in the strangest of spaces and places: trains, airport lounges, waiting rooms - confined spaces where passing time is really all there is to do. I don't know why I find so much inspiration in these places, maybe it's because it's unexpected. Who knows. So a literary salon in the first class BA lounge at Terminal 5...it could work.
So, for me who perhaps above all things, loves reading and dare I say, loves people (in all their horrific, miserable, agonisingly annoying glory) what career options are there? I want never to be bored (kiss of death in anything), always to be stimulated, I want that buzz which comes from collaborating with other people, I want something creative, yet intellectually rigorous (I don't think I could design clothes, for example - unless I went all Hussein Chalayan I think it would feel too frivolous). I suppose that since at the very least I have committed myself to finishing my doctorate, I don't really have to make any "life-altering" decisions for another year or so. After that, it's anyone's guess...
And before I say adieu, I'll leave you with something else. Apologies to my poetry-loathing friends.
For someone who hates routine and boredom, I have created some quite bizarre rituals. One of which is that every time I go to Oxford I head to the Borders, which has a much better selection of poetry than most bookshops in London, and pick up one or two volumes of poetry. I do my usual cultural roulette thing, leafing through the books until something catches my eye, open it up and read through a few poems to see if it suits. I make my judgements instantly and instinctively (not that I'm advocating this method) and am either gripped or not. Today I got The Insistence of Beauty by Stephen Dunn and Third Wish Wasted by Roddy Lumsden. I haven't read work by either of these authors before though I understand they are both established poets, but that's what I like about my random little system - they're both new to me. I haven't read the Dunn yet but read all of the Lumsden on my way home and found it absolutely enchanting.
So. A little Lumsden to leave you with. This is called "The Young"
You bastards! It's all sherbet, and folly
makes you laugh like mules. Chances
dance off your wrists, each day ready,
sprites in your bones and spite not yet
swollen, not yet set. You gather handful
after miracle handful, seeing straight,
reaching the lighthouse in record time,
pockets brim with scimitar things. Now
is not a pinpoint but a sprawling realm.
Bewilderment and thrill are whip-quick
twins, carried on your backs, each vow
new to touch and each mistake a broken
biscuit. I was you. Sea robber boarding
the won galleon. Roaring trees. Machine
without levers, easy in bowel and lung.
One cartwheel over the quicksand curve
of Tuesday to Tuesday and you're gone,
summering, a ship on the farthest wave.