My name is Ian Pogson and I have volunteered to offer my humble services as a Mentor. As this piece of writing is not counted as ‘working’, or normal PhD labour, I have allowed myself the juicy, rare, luxury of listening to one of my favourite troubadours, Mr Steven Van Zandt. Little Steven is one of the E Street band who have played with a certain Mr Springsteen for decades. You see, I am a child of the 50‘s, so my tastes are a little rock music. He is singing in my ear of “Lying in a bed of Fire’ and this is what we as research students do.
We have chosen a path that is neither straight nor narrow. It is filled with pot-holes, criss-crossed with ditches full of malodorous waters in which to fall and has many junctions and diversions along the way. The route to a PhD is difficult, long (5 years for me part-time) and arduous. There have been some occasions when I have considered which window my dumb MacBook Pro (purchased solely upon which to write my thesis) should be thrown through. In truth, it is usually the same window, as my chosen study point is our son’s old room which looks out on our beautiful garden that needs my attention and the railway beyond that regularly reminds me of my love to travel. However, I must sit here and write this and then my thesis.
It is 21.00 on a Saturday night (usually my notional water-shed time for ceasing PhD activities) and here I am. At least I am not neglecting my wife of 32 years and soul-mate of 42 years, for she is otherwise occupied. This is the bed of fire; I apologised the other day for neglecting her and being a somewhat inattentive husband. She replied that I am always in ‘that study’. Sharon has a point, but she it was who started and encouraged me on the journey. When I suggested that I write a book on funny automotive stories from my career of nearly 40 years in the industry, she replied that I had already written one book and co-authored two more – why did I not take on a PhD, retire early from an all-consuming fast-paced, demanding business of engineering cars and shuffle up at the front of a lecture theatre occasionally, to be a guest lecturer? I could retire early from the car industry, don my lecturer’s tweed jacket and teach you?
What has all this got to do with you, dear reader – if indeed you are still there? Well, I know the trials and tribulations of a research degree student, I am one. I know that almost enveloping sense of guilt when one is not studying. I accept that to complete a PhD can take 3 years or less, I have the book “How to write a PhD in less than 3 years” by Steven Harrison. I realise that it can take 7, or in my case a planned 5. That is a long time to sit looking through a window as people have normal lives, go to the pub on a Saturday night, go for motorcycle rides, climb mountains and do all those things I will do when this is all over.
My job, as a PGR Mentor is to empathise, provide support, an ear and maybe the odd bit of sagacious advice, perchance a word on time management or discipline, how to organise your reading and paper critiques, or how to create your own ‘study place”, with or without great rock music. Your bed of fire.
BTW, he is now singing ‘Solidarity’. That too, brother/sister.