November 5th: “baby you’re a firework…”

…perhaps a Catherine Wheel attached to a garden fence that stutters at first but gets going properly if you give it time, usually after the other fireworks have already gone off. Remember: never return to a lit firework, it most likely will go off in its own time.

Hopefully that sets the scene for a less academic and more personal blog post. It is almost two months since PhD enrolment and there has been a noticeable lull in blog posts, which is not without a run of legitimate reasons. Having managed to actually start, despite the lingering effects of Bell’s Palsy (recent news of a previous series winner of XFactor having it means people understand better why I went into hiding for a month), the Bolger household has been repeatedly struck down with various germs (onslaughts of fresher’s flu in both directions as my husband also works for a university) plus the smallest member of the family picking them up wherever he crawls and popping out new teeth at the most inconvenient moments. What else could happen within the first months of a PhD to keep the harvest-time apple cart well and truly upset? Let’s buy a house! That’ll do it!

Buying a house is an outright faff from start to finish. At one point I applied for us to go on Location,Location, Location. We were very close to being on it, at which point we realised we really needed to just find a house ourselves and didn't want to go on the telly (never mind that I was still very self-conscious about my Bell's Palsy). We found a house. We bought it. We moved in. See those ten words I just wrote? To get from the first “we” to the “in” involves more angst, upheaval, meeting of people, going to places, things not happening, then happening, then stalling, then more stop-start-will-it-won’t-it-has-the-bank-just-lost-our-deposit than I thought was imaginable. Then add an incompetent telecommunications provider creating an issue with your account closure so unfathomable that even they can’t work out why it’s gone wrong and charging you for the pleasure of not fixing it and you get the picture. Moving house is not easy.

House move complete, I have an “office” at home to work from. We’ve also got a downstairs w.c./ cloakroom so I am quite beside myself and convinced I have moved up a social class. A friend commented to me when I was offered a PhD scholarship: “Take it, these things don’t happen to the likes of us.” That’s how I feel about the toilet and vanity basin by the front door.

My PhD has been rumbling on in the background, with just the one workshop missed throughout it all caused by an inexplicably spotty eleven month old who came and sat in my office on campus for the afternoon instead. Without a reliable internet connection at home, it’s been “old school.” Books! Offline resources! Remember those? I found them, many of them, during the unpacking of boxes.

A new routine is emerging out of a higgledy-piggledy few months. There is even a part-time childcare place on the horizon, once a slot becomes available, which comes in at just under the cost of a daily flight to Sweden and putting my child in nursery there. IPPR research translated into a tidy BBC article on why the UK needs more affordable childcare here. Yes, those figures are right. It is over £100 a week for a part-time nursery place. In Sweden you pay a maximum of £113 per month for a full-time place. 

In summary: soon I have the potential to get back to business with a seasonal bang and maybe even an internet connection at home from Friday. For now, I'm in a McDonalds car park (other car parks are available, most recently Asda) using their WiFi to do some work and write this blog, while my son sleeps in the back seat. That's what this particular working/studying mummy looks like in today's Britain, where appropriate, flexible childcare, essential to enable working parents live a less stressful, less guilt-ridden life, and boost the economy, is not only expensive but is also very thin on the ground.


  1. Thanks for the update. I still mourn the loss of your Location, Location, Location (House prices correct as of November 2014).

    You paint an amusing and bizarre picture, sat in the car park of McDonald’s and Asda, just don’t turn out like the last girl I went on a date with. I looked her up recently to see angry people tearing strips off her on twitter after she kicked up a fuss in a coffee shop because the sound of the coffee machine was inconveniently interfering with the conference call she was trying to carry out in there... Just wow.


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