…and oranges and yellows and reds. There is never a dull sky in St. Andrews.
Three months ago today, I moved north, to try my luck on the (other) Scottish Riviera. And I’m proper north this time, for a southerner. I’ve been gifted a post-doctoral research fellowship at Cambridge-on-Sea: a role I’d been working towards for five years and wasn’t sure would ever come my way. I’m eternally grateful to my new boss for trying her luck with me. Having made it back into the academy, my experience suggests that several years out of an academic setting can be surmountable at worst, and at best, a hugely valuable opportunity to gain a broader range of skills and an exposure to quite different working environments, which, despite my recurrent concerns, are of course of use in a university setting. I write this to reassure the many early career researchers out there who are facing a “break” from academia, be it through choice, or more often, a lack of it. I’ve realised, through conversations with several of my new, inspiring colleagues (over several pints), that the common characteristic amongst the ‘successful’ researchers I know is passion for their subject, and for learning and experiencing in general; not working under a torrent of “should”s and feelings of obligation to the ‘industry’. I feel very lucky to be back alongside my beloved peat, and in such a beautiful setting….for however long the ££ lasts.
One particularly wonderful aspect of my new home is how close my bed is to a beach. Within 10 minutes* I can be at one of three stretches of sand. Dreamy, yes. So I’ve also realised my latent passion for sea-dipping. (I now understand that what I do is not really swimming – refer to below.) Less accessible an activity in London-town, and a little death-defying to attempt in Liverpool. But the seas of St Andrews are so inviting, even in February (the least scorchio month, apparently). I am now in ‘training’ for the second-ever Scottish Winter Swimming Championships. I attended the inaugural event a month ago, accompanied by my new, self-appointed coach, Anna. We only attended as observers, partly because I wasn’t confident Anna would come if she thought competing was on the cards. The greater part was that I was too late to register us! Moments after arriving, I was quite thankful for that fact, comparing myself to the real “winter swimmers” popping in and out of the icy (sub 5oC) water with smiles on their faces and no sign of a shiver. These swimmers actually swam, 50m or more. Some were flying through the water in butterfly, of all strokes. I was in awe, as I shivered on the bank with my Patagonia and my cup of tea. Next year, she says.
Turns out there’s way more than just Tunnocks to be enjoyed in Scotland. It’s an honour to be here.
*not including two minutes of “snooze” + 3.4 mins of tying the laces on my trainers