In the midst of all the advice and encouragement we’ve received over the last few days I’ve experienced a personal paradox. Like everyone else, I’m being advised to hurry up and get down to defining and refining and sharpening my research proposal, to produce plans and hone methods, in order to satisfy my supervisors and, with their help, successfully complete a seemingly-dreaded RD1 form and leap my PhD’s first bureaucratic hurdle.

But at the same time I’m wanting to immerse myself in what I’ve imagined to be a warm sea of serendipity, in which floats a dense plankton of knowledge and the flotsam and jetsam of university life. To stick close, Remora-like, to the big fish of academia. (OK, enough marine metaphors). To pick the brains of those around me. To be inspired and energised. After all, as Professor T.R.E. Southwood told us on my first day as a zoology undergraduate, the word “university” is derived from “universe,” and suggests that this is a place where one can study without bounds.

I have a sort of form dyslexia. I am incapable of completing a form, however simple, without making a mistake and having to cross something out. My handwriting becomes instantly  arthritic and tottering as soon as my pen meets the first form field. I even manage to make errors in online forms.

But writing this is diverting me from my research proposal! I must get on…