Fireworks crackle in the darkness: yesterday’s Bonfire Night stretching to fill the entire weekend. The torrential rains have given way to an almost full moon, glowing cold-silver in the eastern sky. November is always a positive month, with the cosiness of a warm home as nights close in, various celebrations to anticipate and the frenzy of Term 1 lecturing having somewhat peaked as we start our downhill crash towards Christmas.
I have not written in a long time because work has been ruthless and all-encompassing, filling up every hour, even when I rise too early and retire too late in a vain attempt to wrest back control. Burning at both ends, my middle feels exhausted and sometimes only partially present. I scribble in my journal when I get a spare moment – a few swaying stops on the Underground, or a decadent five-minute break over coffee – but there is time for little else. A couple of snatched chapters of a novel, cuddles with my son, the 30 minutes of cardio exercise I prioritise over sleep each morning, my daily Duolingo lessons, half-hearted attempts to tame the feral garden before winter sets in. This weekend I managed to cook a hearty stew, bake a pie, play a Chopin Nocturne for fifteen minutes at the piano and put some narcissus bulbs into containers for forcing, but I worked many hours on various academic chores and face a soberingly long list come tomorrow morning. The clamour for my time never ceases; I just grimly slice off heads as ten more sprout back to take their places.
But things are exciting in the lab: I’ve recently got a few new grants, with some others submitted; we also have a number of papers in press, in revision, pending or in the final throes of preparation. Many people are asking to collaborate with us, from great labs all over the world, and that opens up new intriguing possibilities for the research. It’s stimulating and it propels everything forward. On the other side of my portfolio, the small cohort of medical students I’m teaching this year on my course are honestly a joy, and I feel very privileged to be able to work with such bright young people. So life is good, even if sometimes it borders on unbearably stressful.
I just have to keep going.