Sunday, 31 October 2010

Masters and Slaves

Five weeks ago I started my masters degree, and so far so good. As a research degree I don’t have that many classes; two lectures and two seminars per week. They certainly believe in throwing people in at the deep end! I only now realise how much work is involved. For the seminars I have to do a load of reading because students need to present on and take part in discussion about their reading. It’s actually a very clever way of making sure that we do the work!

The next thing is to start on my essays. I have two due in December, but with careful planning I should be OK – I’ve taken leave from work and (a huge advance since I was an undergraduate) most of the learning resources, books etc are online; it saves on time consuming trips to the library. All in all I enjoy it and am learning a lot, and I’m glad of the support the university helpfully provides.

Being a research degree, one thing I must do is my dissertation – and that means identifying a topic. I’m not quite sure what to research yet; that’s quite understandable given I’m five weeks into a two year course. But, one initial idea I am taken with is combining my work in healthcare strategy with my interest in sexuality. Say, exploring heterosexism in the commissioning of health and social care.

One thing I do know already is the importance of reflexivity in research. That means reviewing my research and my research proposal continually, as my data and findings should lead me to refine my area of enquiry. And part of that means keeping a research journal.

That led me to consider this: instead of having a private journal I wondered if I should perhaps keep my journal as another blog. I don’t know if it’s appropriate when conducting research – perhaps you will have some insight into that, gentle reader?

I know what you’re thinking – two blogs? No-one, not even in Strumpetville, can live at that speed! But it would be time limited to the period of my dissertation; while this blog continues indefinitely. And as I’d have to write a journal anyway, on or offline makes no difference.

It’s just an idea at the moment, but I’m taken with it. Unless I discover it’s a total no-no in the field of academic research then I intend to start it as soon as I begin to seriously think of my topic and research design.

As for this blog – new look, new determination to post at least weekly. So plenty to read about, I hope.

Friday, 29 October 2010

The Line of Beauty

I posted a while ago that I wanted to get more into gay culture. Having consciously avoided it before I came out then skirted around it since then I thought it time to jump in and begin to explore that area of culture.

The first thing I got to grips with was The Line of Beauty by Alan Hollinghurst. It is set in the 1980s and the main protagonist is Nick, a young gay guy who is out to his friends and family, but at the start of the story a virgin. A strong background to the story is Nick exploring his sexuality, from dating to cruising to drugs and group sex – but the book isn’t overly sexual or overly focussed on sexuality. It deals nicely with hypocrisy and how homophobia can linger under a veneer of acceptance. For instance, when one of the other main characters is exposed as an adulterer he accuses Nick of sabotaging his family with a “typical gay trick” – because gays can’t have families of their own they spoil other people’s. In another scene a couple of openly-homophobic upper-class people welcome HIV as a lesson to teach gays to be more careful.

At the end of the book Nick is alone, but has made some progress in the world; the two main love interests of his have died of AIDS, and he has lost his home but he is not resourceless. Because he has never been fully involved in family or social life because of his sexuality there is a nice underlying metaphor for the hypocrisy and materialism of the Thatcher years. He is surrounded by beautiful things and people, but ultimately they elude him.

In other news, I have joined the LGBT network at my workplace. It was/is nice to meet colleagues in the context of being gay rather than colleagues who happen to be gay and surrounded by people who aren’t. On the serious side we are the forum to test our employer’s policies and actions under the brand-spanking-new equality legislation that covers sexuality; and to try and get them onto the Stonewall Employers Equality Index. On the fun side there is the opportunity to socialise. I hope to make a valuable contribution...

So there we have it, gentle reader, a wee bit of culture, and a bit of getting-involvedness. Square one done and dusted!

Sunday, 17 October 2010

Keeping it going...

At the beginning of October I started my masters degree course. It is actually very interesting and absorbing, and in many ways I’m only just beginning to realise how much work is involved in the course. It’s each Monday and Wednesday evening after work; and involves lectures and seminars – and of course there’s the background reading, studying, essay writing and project work that supports passing the course. I’m determined to get much more than a pass though, so I really have my work cut out.

It means being somewhat ruthless with my working hours though I’ve settled into my role well enough that the immediate problems have been solved and I can concentrate on the cultural changes I feel are needed to move away from drama and toward Getting Things Done. It’s not easy given the background of transforming the service into a completely different set of institutions, which is certainly keeping everyone on their toes! Things remain very busy.

Obviously between work and study there is the need to Live Live Liiiive!! Fella and I have a busy social life and are usually out with friends once or twice a week. Last weekend we saw Pam Ann at the Vaudeville Theatre (hilarious), had dinner with friends in the week and yesterday we celebrated Fella’s mother’s 62nd birthday, went to the Museum of London, and the national gallery.

Finally, there is the need to keep Hogzilla at bay. I suppose all this frenetic activity should be keeping me trim and I’m certainly not putting on weight but being enfianced to a world class cook; and not being a stickler when it comes to the grape and the grain means I need to keep up with my regime of running (Tuesdays and Thursdays after work) the gym (three times a week before work) and swimming (weekends).

Am I writing this post to boast, gentle reader? No – the fact the cheerful fairy is a much beloved tower of rippling gorgeousness supporting a brain the size of a planet should not have escaped anyone by now *ahem*!

The one thing you won’t have spotted in all of this is talk of my relationship. Perhaps you were relieved to have got this far without yet another angst ridden attempt to dissect my love with inexpert tools. Well, fear not – I don’t propose to do that here.

Relationships obviously need work to keep going – and I know (just) enough to realise that isn’t easy even if there weren’t so many calls on my time. To keep this going Fella and I are doing two things – firstly, making sure we have Us time; at least one quiet night in a week where we can enjoy doing nothing, together. And also making sure we go out and do things, together. Next Saturday we’re reserving just for quality time, activities to be decided.

The second thing is of course Fella’s time. I am keen for him to take up something for the time when I’m not around. He does his yoga, for example [hurrah] and that’s a start. I’d like him to take up an evening course; he was considering learning German for example. I know when I’m alone at home without him it can feel very lonely in this flat – it’s very much our home and on my own it feels different.

That written, I do want him to enjoy some quiet time, and relax at home as he sees fit when I’m not around (just as I like to do from time to time – I’m still an introvert!). I don’t want him to resent my busyness or slip into a routine where his life revolves around my schedule; that wouldn’t be fair.

We’re holding the line pretty well right now I think. Of course we’re only a few weeks into a two year course and who knows where our respective careers and interests might lead us? Any tips would be most welcome when it comes to balancing the needs of a relationship with the all of the wider world...