Don's Diary

April 20, 2001

Having managed (somehow) to complete my thesis on the Spanish revolutionary syndicalist movement pre-1930s on time, I have waited the customary five months or so for the viva. Now I am making some minor corrections to finish the thesis and regain control of my life. The corrections, my tutor assures me, will not take long. In theory he is right, but life is not that simple.

Frantic attempt to cram in extra reading - space allowing on Victoria line. I am temping (in the spirit of Bridget Jones) for a local government body. After eight years of student life, not to mention the expenses involved in visiting archives in Spain, Paris and Amsterdam and surviving in London on a studentship, I need money. This explains why I dedicate my time to answering the phone and stuffing envelopes - I think I must have done 10,000 since Christmas. My record is 35 a minute, but my initial enthusiasm is waning and I now average about 25.

V. anxious about being detached from the research world, a feeling strengthened by friendly jibes about me staying for the rest of my life. No way. I will succeed, by the age of 35... Sorry, too much Popstars. If only there were more programmes on Spanish history... I sent my CV to the BBC's history unit. No response yet. Feel desperate. Dedicate evening to finding a microfilm machine for an old PhD. After traipsing round central London I find one - but it is out of order.

Job day. Scan newspapers looking, more in hope than expectation, for posts as researchers or lecturers in Spanish history. Recently there have been some openings for junior lecturers - so the evening is spent brushing up my CV (again) and worrying about the competition.

At last, my place of work has allocated me a task to which I can bring the full weight of my intellectual prowess - re-organising the pigeonholes.

After a consultation period with other members of staff, I adopt the time-honoured system of imposing my own idea. One colleague praises my "bold initiative". Steeling the others to embrace the new plan, they comment: "History will be the judge."

My speciality, honed through five years of dedicated study, is 20th-century European and Spanish history, but as a visiting lecturer you have to take what you get. My first lecture on the development of the steam engine was little more than hot air. This week we have progressed to canals. After desperately looking for a Spanish libertarian angle to 18th-century lock design, I eventually settle for some songs and poetry dedicated to canals. This, I hope, will awake the students' interest - or simply wake them up.

My sense of intellectual stagnation is growing, a feeling not helped when my friend asks when am I going to find a "proper job" - apparently, stuffing envelopes is, but being an aspiring academic is not.

Jason Garner is a prospective don who is completing his PhD at the University of Kent at Canterbury.

Register to continue

Why register?

  • Registration is free and only takes a moment
  • Once registered, you can read 3 articles a month
  • Sign up for our newsletter
Please Login or Register to read this article.


Featured jobs