A crisis of confidence

view from Basildon Park

stableyard clock



Basildon Park





I have always envied people who have gone their own way and done their own thing. Now ‘the plan’ this year has taken a diversion, I have been handed an amazing opportunity to have a go at it for myself. It is thrilling, all consuming and ultimately terrifying. Every once in a while I am slightly overtaken by a crisis in confidence – is it all going to turn out ok? Am I doing the right thing? Is this what I’m meant to be doing?

The solution I have found is to take myself off for an hour and quite literally air everything. I’m also really lucky that around here, there are so many beautiful places to go.

Basildon Park, my second most favourite place on earth. I am having an affair with the copper beech on the front lawn. In the war when the house was commandeered as an Officers Station, a nurse would meet her true love underneath the tree, and later read his letters there when he was posted to Lyon. When sadly he didn’t return home, she stayed on at the house as a domestic servant to begin with, and then as a volunteer steward for the National Trust, never wanting to let go of what she had left of her fella. I met her in the grand hall where she shared her memories with me. She died last year.

You see, apart from being exquisitely beautiful, it’s not just a tree.

When I go, I’ve decided I want to come back as a bench. They always seem to get the best views.

Eyes closed, deep breath, head down…GO!

As you may have gathered from the rather desperate plea below to Mr Savile, I have been approaching the start of the new academic year with enormous trepidation. Indeed, there is nothing like having 4 months of your own free time given back to you to remind you what it is like to lead a normal life again – where the only scary deadline involves using up the roasted vegetable humous in time, and reading books can once again be a leisure pursuit (although I still found myself desperate to make notes in the margin and reference the publisher in ‘Havard Format’).

First day back at ‘Brookes’ however and all was better than I had anticipated.

I would even go so far as saying enjoyable.

It was of course great to see my friends and catch up on who has a new hair do/tan/diet/house/car/mrs/job/kitchen, and Claire reported some very anti-social behaviour in the dorms of an Edinburgh youth hostel (unfortunately I can not divulge such information in case of pre-watershed reading).  I must also admit to being very pleased with my choice of ‘elective’ this year, being the only one to have a field trip (to Birmingham) thus indulging several of my interests; journeys, new places and people that can’t speak properly and wear shell suits*. 

I just know they’re going to love me.

So, although the word ‘dissertation’ still scares the bejesus out of me, I’m terrified of the amount of work I have to do, I have no idea how I’m ever going to give a presentation that is half an hour long and not on a subject related to tractors or Colin Firth….I have to remember I’m on the final straight now, there really isn’t that long left of my course, and there is even potential for it to be fun!

I will therefore adopt the same philosophy to completing my degree that got Claire and I on the Oxford bound train yesterday (we stood shaking with nerves on the platform!):

“Eyes closed, deep breath, head down….GO!”

Thank goodness the door was open.

* Disclaimer: This blog has not been censored for political correctness and does not intend to cause any offence to people who live in Birmingham (or its surrounding districts), have relatives from or originate from Birmingham, or have none/any of the above and still own a shell suit. Shell suits are flammable when exposed to a naked flame and can cause serious injury to ones sense of style. Jim did used to wear a shell suit in ‘Jim’ll fix it’. Jim’s ‘magic chair’ was actually made in Reading! I’ve lost sight of why I’m writing this now…. 

Apathy in the ranks

It has been on my summer break from university (I am studying part time for a Masters Degree in Spatial Planning) that I have really begun to really take stock of where I am and what I’m doing. The constant day to day pressures of my course and the copious assignments we are required to churn out on an almost weekly basis have occupied the majority of my thoughts over the past year, and previous to that my rollercoaster of a private life had been somewhat all consuming. It is now however that things have slowed down and home life is happy that ‘what I want to be’ has once again reared its ugly head and is questioning my current career choice.

Two years ago I thought I had it sorted. With a Geography Degree to my name, contacts in the field, a level of inherited knowledge and a naturally nosey nature, ‘Planning’ seemed the obvious choice of career. Lately however, its rigidity, its formality and its unyeilding bureaucracy has started to temper with my opinions as to where ‘Planning’ will take me and what it has to offer.

For two years now I have sat in this cold office counting housing completions and writing consultation reports. I read letters written by the same people about the same things and regurgitate what they have said with an official title. My chances of progressing from this broken record of a job is to finish my masters degree and attempt to move on to what else planning has to offer.

Whats worries me is that even this prospect does little to excite me.

For the past few months a need for originality, for creativity, for a chance to excercise the extent of my imagination has been eating away at my sense of reason. I tried to satisfy this unexpected hunger in a small way by giving myself this space in which I can write – a desperate measure to try and keep alive the bit inside me that still ‘thinks’ before the procedure of my professional life diminishes all.

I have really started to crave a job I feel a passion for, a career that accentuates and is an extension of me, a way of making money that doesn’t have me glued to the clock from 9am until 5pm.

If I could ever get a job like this is questionable.

What this job may be is another matter entirely….

So I will sit tight and do the sensible thing, finish my degree and see how far my horizons can be expanded by this one, not so simple task.

I hope it takes me further than here. This blog just isn’t big enough.