How time flies…

My favourite journalling app, DayOne, reminded me this morning that it was four years ago today that I graduated from my doctoral programme in Occupational Psychology. It flagged up my photos from the day (including the one of me in my ridiculous graduation robes, below).

But really interestingly, it noted that it was five years ago today that I sat my viva exam. I had no idea until today that graduate was exactly one year after I passed my viva. How funny.

What’s less funny is that I still remember just how stressful the run-up to that exam was. Of course, I’d caused all my own stress, playing out various disasters in my mind. Including, naturally, the scenario that the examiners would laugh in my face, through my dissertation at me and order me off campus for crimes against the science of psychology.

Of course, they didn’t. I got a grilling alright, but somehow I was able to answer their questions with sufficient fluency. Sufficient to pass with just minor edits to my submitted thesis.

And that is all a long-winded way of pointing out just how useful an app like DayOne is.

The automated reminders of what I’ve been up to in the past, along with the associated photos, give me interesting (and sometimes amusing) insights into how life is going and how my perception of events changes with time.

Today was just one example of many, but it stands out as a major life milestone for me. One I couldn’t have achieved without the support and love of my family and friends. Especially @FrankDJS.

And it got me thinking of how I’ll look back on today in four or five years’ time.

Photo library memories…

So, the great photo upload of 2015 continues – we’re down to about 12,000 photos remaining – and I’m struck by just how many excellent and happy memories are contained in these pictures.

It’s underlined for me how important it is to back up these photos in more than one place. And maybe it’s age, but I’m enjoying looking at old photos more than ever right now! Last night, I lay on the couch and scrolled through our travels through Portugal and Spain, Canada and California and some really enjoyable Queen’s Day weekends in Amsterdam.

And then there were the photos of babies who are now toddlers and older. Seeing how they’ve developed and grown is amazing. That, and the various faces they’ll pull when they know someone is trying to take a photo.

And the faces of those people who are no longer here.

I also stumbled across a ton of photos I actually forgot I had; taken on the day of my doctoral graduation. At the time, I thought I’d never forget the details, but it took a wander through he photos to remind me of what happened (including the fact that I was announced among the class of educational psychologists, not occupational psychologists… the horror!).

I’m thinking an occasional dip into the library might give me the inspiration for memory-related blog posts. “This reminds me of the time when…” So many specific memories – food, flights, conversations, sunshine – came flooding back as I flipped through the photos that it would be crazy not to use them as a writing resource.

I can definitely recommend Google Photos. It’s now completely separate from Google+ (if that was an issue for you previously) and allows you to upload unlimited numbers of photos. It also occasionally automatically creates some really creative panoramas and ‘movies’ for you. It backs up photos from your iPhone or iPad (or, of course, the Android device of your choice!) so you never lose an image.

Anyway, I’m checking in on progress every so often, and regularly getting dragged down memory lane. And it’s very, very enjoyable.

Thanks, Google!

Catching up on life

As I’m “home alone” this weekend for the first time in a while, I restarted the long-held tradition of staying up far too late watching crap TV, having made poor meal choices.

I fended off the strong urge to order take-away and instead enjoyed some pulled pork in a baguette, made at home. Stunning. I then descended into a bit of a food coma (there were mince pies involved) and sloped off to bed to watch TV.

Once I’d finished watching “Dawn of the Planet of the Apes” (more on that soon), it was already after midnight. I then channel-surfed for a bit and settled on a crap horror flick featuring Starbuck from Battlestar and the captain from Firefly.

Meanwhile, on an impulse, I thought Id try to resurrect the year’s content from this blog that went AWOL when I neglected to back up. Somehow, I found a bunch of content on various internet archive sites and spent an interesting couple of hours copying and pasting old blog posts from 2011 and 2010 into this blog.

Interesting in that I got to read several posts that were meaningful to me, including my first ever half-marathon (seems like an age ago!) and the slow but steady progress I made that year towards completing my Doctorate. And I got there in the end.

But as there was no quick and easy way to import this bucket of memories, I manually copied, pasted and tidied up the content. And sadly, no way to carry over the many comments that accompanied those posts. But still – better than a complete gap for 12 months.

All completed while watching terrible TV. I then settled down to read some of this week’s top comics and fell asleep to the soothing sounds of Andy Ihnatko and Dan Benjamin on a podcast.

Honestly? It was far more enjoyable than it sounds.

The Doctor will see you now



Graduation day… at the O2 in London’s glittering Docklands. Wishing I’d kept the cap and gown. Perfect for a night out on the town…

And it only took me five years to get there. Five years of weekend and night reading, writing and procrastination. And lots of moaning about the doctorate to all who would listen. 

Thanks guys – we got there in the end!

Relieved isn’t the word!

This morning, I had my doctoral viva exam (or dissertation defence). To say I was nervous in advance is something of an understatement. I was, as they say in the London vernacular, “bricking it”.

Despite the nerves, the worries and the stress-related palpitations, I survived and was told, just 10min after leaving the exam that I’d passed, with minor amendments. This means I’m 99% a doctor of psychology and need to make a few minor updates to the dissertation before resubmitting for it all to be formalised.

It was an eye-opener of an experience on a number of levels:

  1. I got some quite surprising questions, despite all the prep I’d done.

  2. I was amazed at how much I remembered without having to open my dissertation or look at my notes

  3. It was definitely more of a dialogue than an interrogation

So we’re now counting down the weeks until I’m formally all done and putting this doctorate behind me. Most of my friends and family will be relieved never to hear about it again! It’s been a long slog, but I’ve learnt a tremendous amount and (mostly) enjoyed it along the way.

I have to wait a couple of weeks before I get formal confirmation of the amendments they want me to make, but I’m told they’re very minor. I should be able to knock it on the head over a weekend and then resubmit to get it off my hands.

Now… what to do with my weekends and evenings?

Job done!

Right. That’s it. 60,000 words later, the dissertation is complete.

I may go mad if I have to proof-read it again, but thankfully I’ve had help in that department. Lots of typos and minor errors caught. All formatting sorted and various appendices organised.

It’s time to get it printed so I can offload it at the University next week.

Relieved isn’t the word. This has been on my mind in one way or another for over four years now. Countless weekends and evening of thinking, analysis and writing (and not a little moaning about it all on Twitter) but now I have something to show for it.

All things going to plan, I’ll be defending it at a viva exam some time in November. Between now and then, some well-earned downtime. A weekend in Dublin, another in Mallorca and a few good meals will put me back on track.

Nearly there

I now have a firm deadline for submitting my dissertation.

It’s Tuesday.

Next Tuesday.

Written feedback from my supervisor on Thursday highlighted a handful of edits I need to make. I also need to change some formatting bits and pieces. Time-consuming, fiddly but nothing I can’t handle.

I’m almost there.

Predictably, arcane University rules have once again reared their ugly heads. So I need to take Tuesday afternoon off and spend it shuttling between two University campuses to get various things signed.


But then…that’s it until the viva exam, which will be some time in November.


Can’t wait to physically hand over the multiple bound copies (small forest of paper…but I don’t drive….don’t hate me) and move on. It will be a literal and metaphorical weight off. I may in fact be able to reclaim some of the precious work-life balance I’ve been writing about these past four years.

Watch this space.


Another landmark on my route to completing my doctorate: I submitted a completed draft of my dissertation for review. This is draft three, so why is it a landmark? Hopefully, it’s the last one before formal submission next month. I’ve just spent the last four days editing and re-writing much of my dissertation, based on feedback to date. And, as they say, third time’s the charm.

Then, it’s big boys’ school and I get to sit my viva exam, after which I’ll either a) cry with relief that it’s all over, b) cry at the number of significant re-writes and amendments I need to make or c) never speak of the doctorate again.

This has been hanging over me for years now. Everything I’ve read – and written – on this topic has been working towards this end goal of submitting my dissertation. Even after days of final proofing, I caught an error as soon as I emailed it to my supervisor. It’s no biggie and I’ll sort it out before formal submission. I just know there’ll be others even after more fine-tooth comb checking – that’s life.

At this stage, all I want is to avoid a situation where the external examiner throws the dissertation at me and asks me to stop calling myself a psychologist, as I’m such a disgrace to the profession.

Setting the bar quite low, then.

Watch this space.

The deadline approaches

This afternoon I met my doctorate supervisor and we agreed that I’d submit my dissertation in September.


That makes it official. I have some time – not a lot – to implement quite a few minor edits and reorganisation of content. A month ago, I wanted it off my hands. Now I feel quite protective of it and want to dedicate lots more time to smoothing the rough edges and making it…just right.

Time to block out a few weekends in the diary!