Tuesday, 30 January 2018

PhD-Ness Part 6 - New Focus, Narrowing Down Research Plan, MA/PhD Differences, Anniversaries

the last months blog notes, new weekly planner and opening hours notes so I can plan where I can work when not at home

snow photo - taken on phone camera (3.2mega pixel) and post processed to b+w and vignette added 

Just over a month since I last wrote and things are slowly but surely milling along - am getting better at some things - like reading electronic books though my heart still belongs to the physical kind rather than the virtual kind. Plus I am really pleased with how the some of the latest lot of film photographs I have taken have turned out - though that is a digital one pictured above, and I am really excited by the things I'm finding out about women like Ann Carr (1783-1841) who was Presidentess of the Female Revivalists and Friendly Sick Society and who was buried in St George's Field. I'm also looking forward to trying out some of the techniques described in the Experimental Photography Techniques book I got for xmas.

But and it can be quite a big but at times - I am still struggling with concentration and just generally getting my head round this whole PhD malarkey and exactly what it is I need to do and when by...plus I've had some hiccups with the uni email system (it's based on office 365 and has quirks that have taken me time to work out - like not always highlighting new emails if it's a reply in a conversation) but I am getting there and I do feel further on than I did last time I wrote and hopefully after my next meeting with my tutor that feeling will be completely consolidated and instead of having an overall and overarching idea of what it is I need to do and how to get there - I will have a much more concrete one broken down into much more manageable chunks.

One thing I do find though is that I seem to have extremely productive days where I've read a lot, got on top of admin type stuff, tidied round and washed up and managed to cook something decent for dinner, not spent too much time clicking refresh on twitter, been for a walk but then the next day is completely fallow in comparison. I'm hoping I can find a way to even things out a bit more so I feel a bit more productive overall and banish the guilty feeling that time not spent at my desk working or reading or doing a site visit is not time well spent as well. 

I am failing though in my plans to get out for at least a short walk every day - I really must work harder on this but I am in the process of getting my (outdoors) bike fixed up so fingers crossed once that is ready I'll be able to go for a quick bike ride round the bridlepath - which hopefully will help me both have a bit of exercise, clear my head and collate my thoughts more clearly.

I've done a bit of public speaking the last few weeks - I do find having to do a presentation helps me focus my thoughts as does the process of illustrating them with appropriate images on slides. On the 19th January I spoke to the 1152 Club at Abbey House Visitor Centre on the history of St George's Field its place in the overall history of cemetery creation in Leeds in the Victorian era and was very heartened that there were 45 people in the audience. It was a very cold morning and the paths were somewhat perilous so part of me was wondering whether or not people would come along, but they did and I got really lovely heartwarming feedback and then I spoke to a much smaller audience (maybe 10 or 12?) at Huddersfield Uni on Friday as part of a Postgraduate Research Symposium, when I also got good and useful feedback on how to develop my research further - both gave me a good fillip and I got to meet other postgraduate students which is always good.

One thing I am finding is that this PhD malarkey is a much lonelier and befuddling experience compared to my MA experience so far. Part of me still can't quite believe that I now volunteer to get up and talk in front of people - if you'd told me five years ago that I would end up doing this and not have a complete meltdown at the thought (still get a bit nervous but nothing like I used to and my knees don't shake like they did at one point) I would have laughed in your face and thought you were terribly misguided and mistaken.

I'm used to working on my own - be that directly on art projects or on archives so that aspect of things isn't especially different but as it was a partially taught MA there was much more classroom based time and so opportunity to talk things through with colleagues also wrestling with the same questions and concepts, plus the criteria for assignments was also much clearer. I miss the cosiness and artyness of the Art College - oh and the library (even if it was always eyeball meltingly hot) as the library at Huddersfield though good is not as art focused (obviously) and it's not as personable either as all the book dispensing is done by an impersonal machine that reads barcodes. Plus it has quirks like the main staircase not going to all the floors and it can feel a bit Kafka like when trying to find books - I always feel like I've won a prize when I find a book there - in fact I have to stop myself from shouting out 'Huzzah!!!' when I lay my mitts on what I'm looking for.

Plus it's a time of anniversaries - some happy like friendship ones, wedding ones - can't quite believe it's nine years as in some ways it feels like a lifetime ago and in others like a couple of months ago but also sad ones - the anniversaries of the death of much loved and much missed chums and relatives is always hard. I don't miss them any less the rest of the time but anniversaries are somehow especially hard. 

Well I can now tick 'blog update' off my to do list and get on with the rest of it....but first - it's time to put some washing on and have some lunch.


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