Final stage of the doctorate and a change, of pace and place. The last 9 months have been a whirlwind of practical work. Casting mortars, curing them, crushing them, then exploring their microstructure in a multitude of ways. And, in parallel, a second flood cycle out at the BRP Hive: monitoring drying, dissembling walls and sorting retrieved samples.
But then it stopped. This month I’ve gone from days dashing between labs to sitting at a desk: Working back through data, updating analyses, linking the various findings and drawing out themes for the thesis. And with the change of pace, comes an opportunity – and a need – to find other activities. Perhaps an advantage of doing a doctorate as a mature student with children is that they don't just let you sit at your desk. Each year, I have watched the Bath Children’s Literature Festival come and go. But this year we actually went – my son stepping up to the mark to select his preferred events, and ensure I booked them; making sure that I took a break and thought about something different – or at least that is what we assumed the day would do!
First up was Abi Elphinstone, talking about her adventure books: how she researches them by travelling and meeting people, pulling together disparate threads to weave a tale. She was full of advice for her young audience; an audience visibly growing in confidence as she talked to them not just as her current readers but as future writers in their own right. And there were a fair few tips in there that I’ll be using too – starting with drawing out a map to complete the journey from thoughts to thesis.
A gap between sessions allowed us time to check out the recently reopened Sky Blue Café beneath the Chapel Arts Centre - highly recommended and you really can see blue skies despite the basement setting 🙂 Then there was a quick canter up to campus to transfer data files before returning to The Guildhall. I think last time I was there was to be presented with my Duke of Edinburgh Gold Award sometime last century!
For his second talk, my son had chosen Chris Riddell on illustrating The Tales of Beedle the Bard. Well I say “talk” but it was more an hour of drawing with auditory annotation! And, again, here was a speaker taking their audience seriously; not just introducing them to the characters but to the process of writing, sharing recollections from his childhood along with more recent anecdotes about the publishing process and how he set about producing his work. He explained how he mapped out the required illustrations as thumbnails for every page. Scheduling production of pages to match his images to J K Rowling’s text and his illustrating to the publisher's programme. So that will be the next step after the map: marshalling my content to fit figures to description.
As we left the hall, we were handed a useful book. A particularly useful book, with empty pages and no words. Except the title. Dare to Write? So yes, I’m taking that dare, drawing to a close. Kept company by the cat and a heap of books: Writing away.