A Dream Job?

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So, the telephone rings. It’s the Head of School of my old university. “Would I like to come back and take up a research position as the Technical Manager for the University’s new research vessel?” Would I? The dream job lands in my lap out of the blue.

Of course life’s never quite so kind as to make things simple, so the ‘dream job’ becomes a little degraded as the realities of moving back north hit home. We can’t leave West Yorkshire because that’s now our home. Roots have been rooted, deeply, as I’ll explain.

After leaving Newcastle the first time with a Marine Technology degree in 1998 I did some work and had some fun before going back to do my PhD in 1999. I left again in 2003 and did some more work and had some more fun, some of which included getting married. The direct consequence of having fun whilst married was, predictably, the arrival of children, in our case George and Charlie. After getting married we were in the fortunate position of being able to move into a vacant small holding which has been the family home since my Grandfather’s time. The place is run down but spacious and stunningly beautiful when the orchard is in blossom in the spring. One feels the clock is ticking for the old place though; there was a time when it was just part of a rural village where all the buildings were similarly ancient. Those buildings have now all gone, demolished and replaced by modern charmless developments and the village has become just a name that represents a particular part of a larger suburban sprawl. Our plot is a time-locked oasis of green within this sprawl but it now sits incongruously out of place and I’m sure that it’s lined up in more than one developer’s cross hairs.

What does the fledgling family do with all this privilege and rent free space? Easy! They fill it with more of life’s chattels than could ever be moved to Newcastle, including a dog, a horse and some hens. Another complication is that our second child Charlie, has a rare disorder called Poland Moebius Syndrome and needs frequent medical appointments which all take place locally. Still, we’re an adaptable family and we’re sure we’ll find a solution because things usually have a way of sorting themselves out.

There’s one thing that we both agree on. I have to go for this job. My career has been stagnating of late and this is an exciting opportunity to dive back into the cutting edge of Marine Technology with a prestigious institution. In the first instance it’s decided that I’ll commute twice a week. I’ll drive up on Monday morning, stay in Newcastle for two nights and drive back down on Wednesday evening. On Thursday morning I’ll drive back up for another night in Newcastle and then back down for the weekend on Friday. So that’s just three nights away from home: how hard can that be? Boy! Were we about to find out.

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2 thoughts on “A Dream Job?

    Rachael Roberts said:
    13/05/2010 at 4:03 pm

    Great to have you blogging James – life certainly sounds interesting for you. Hope you manage to find the odd spare minute to keep us up to date. Looking forward to hearing how life is going as a commuting researcher with a lot of other responsibilities!

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    annrooke said:
    19/05/2010 at 11:41 am

    It’s tough making these life decisions, but I’m a great believer that change opens up horizons – so, you never know what other opportunities may arise which would fit better with your family commitments.

    I had a couple of thoughts around your blog ..

    Firstly is there anything the University could do to support staff with their life-work balance? (by the way, don’t forget to fill in the Employee Opinion Survey).
    I know we do have a carer’s network http://www.ncl.ac.uk/hr/support/carers/ – this may be a starting point for support.

    Secondly, do you think a woman would have made the same career choice? or is it just too difficult for women researchers to be mobile with a family. Perhaps this is one reason why there is underrepresention of women in research and especially at higher levels.

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