Knee-Deep in PhDs

I have a week every year when I am knee-seep in PhD students – and it is this week.

They are bright, funny, insecure, knowledgeable, starting out, shy, too loud and all the rest of it – and our job (us tutors at their summer school) is to give them some stuff which might help them get through the arduous business of finishing a PhD and then a few bits and pieces of advice to help them join the rest of us in the big wide world.

Last night some of the group of PhDs decided it would be ideal to sit on the benches outside my bedroom window and get to know each other by chatting, laughing, singing and having a few heated discussions about, among other things, whether war is inevitable and what it means to be racist.

This took from about midnight to about 3am.

In my role as tutor, I was tempted to open the window and say, ‘ OK, let’s just pause for a moment.

‘Its brilliant you care to have such a discussion and the topics are really important – though the rendition of the Canadian national anthem was really not a high point – but here are a few things I need to say to you.

‘You (I would be pointing to the young man with the loudest voice,) need to hone your listening skills and perhaps have a pause before you say instantly what you are thinking.

‘You (pointing to another young man,) need to find another way of saying what you have just been repeating several times.

‘And you, young women, are not getting a hearing. I am guessing that because you are not being listened to, you have decided to leave that discussion and talk amongst yourselves – but that won’t work when you all need to pull together as a team and achieve the tasks we have set you.

‘Now, think on, as my grandmother would have said, and you had better think on in your own beds, you have a busy day tomorrow.’

(The last bit would have been less tutor and more, grousy middle-aged woman mode.)

Of course I didn’t.

But as I was wide awake at 2 am and had finished my current book, I did search of my bedroom for a feedback form for the venue.

(I am a fan of filling in questionnaires and feedback – if anyone asks my opinion, in any format, I have no trouble at all in giving it to them.)

Anyway, I thought I would mention that if you, as conference venue, have a wine list at the bar you should have more than one white wine from the list of five, available to drink.

And if your customer then opts for a rose wine instead, you really should charge the price on the wine list.

I was told that the prices had all gone up but they hadn’t got round to changing the price list – I don’t think that is how it should work!

I might have mentioned one or two other ‘areas for improvement’ seeing as they had asked for my feedback and I am in tutor-speak mode, but of course they hadn’t.

To be fair, I would also have said that the food is fine and the staff are very helpful and friendly.

This has been a short break in my day and now I need to go back and improve my knowledge of the energy sector – and yes indeed, that can be very interesting.


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