Friday, 28 November 2008

Borrowed binoculars

On my way to uni this morning, other than the usual suspects, I saw goldfinches, greenfinches, chaffinches, what I think may have been a meadow pipit, and best of all goldcrests, which are tiny (smallest birds in Europe apparently) and incredibly cute!

Thursday, 27 November 2008

Towards the end of the week

It's Thursday evening and I came home from the office early. I haven't been getting much good quality sleep since I came back from my two-week reconnaissance expedition in Cyprus, so I've been waking up later than usual and feeling very drowsy. It's probably the anxiety. Anyway, I think tonight I'll be going to bed early to try and get some rest.

My birding activity has been disappointing. It seems that when I get into my office I just stay there, and, by the time I think to go birding, it's dark out. I should go birding in the mornings and then settle down at my desk.

I had a happy moment today. I think I may have been close to tears telling two of my office-mates how I just couldn't get my head around these things that my supervisor was trying to explain to me and how stupid I felt, when they went and did something amazing! They took from their shelves three books: How to Complete and Survive a Doctoral Dissertation, The Unwritten Rules of PhD Research, and How to Get a PhD: A Handbook for Students and their Supervisors.

They gave these to me and in a moment gave me the assurance that I'm not stupid; I'm just going through a hard time. And all other PhD students are going through it alongside me.
I'll read the books. But just the fact that my peers gave them to me makes me feel safer.

Wednesday, 26 November 2008


It is 8 o'clock in the morning and I'm preparing to begin what should be a productive day. The late start is not helping though.
Today I must go birding and I must finish a draft section for my project proposal. I also have a lunchtime meeting to go to on open-source GIS software.

My background to all of these tasks is zero, zilch, nada.
This is what it's been like for the last six or so weeks, since I began as a PhD student. The rug was pulled from under my feet and I'm still falling. I've been feeling progressively worse about the whole thing too. Those of you who know will have seen my overly dramatic displays of depression and dispair on my other blog, Gormenghast (turned out to be a very fitting title for it in the end - if you've read or tried to read the trilogy by Mervin Peak you'd know what I mean). Lets leave those sorts of sentiments over there. This blog is supposed to help me pick myself up a bit, so I'm going to force myself to give everything here a positive spin. If you pretend long enough...

First things first: birds. I used to say I didn't really like birds. I was a mammals fan. Now I'm doing a PhD on them, which means that I need tobe able to identify bird species when I see them and when I hear them. I don't even have a pair of binoculars yet (so expensive!). But, you know, it could be worse: I could be doing a PhD on fish.

When I finish my "birding" expedition today (a half hour walk around the campus with my supervisor's £700 bins *gulp*) I'll let you know what species I've managed to identify. So far on my walks to and from uni I can positively say that I've seen wood pigeons, starlings, magpie, crows, jackdaws, robins, great tits, gulls. It's a start.