Things have been interesting enough, not always in the way I would've hoped.
Not long after coming back from the Corsica school/conference, and hence just after my last post, I went crying to my (medical) doctor and my supervisors about some ongoing health issues, and as a result changed my PhD registration to part-time. The health problems in question have been going on, at some level, for more than a year but have escalated a bit over the past few months. I'm not sure how to describe them - call it chronic fatigue if you will; it's basically frequent (sometimes near-constant) bouts of slight illness, some cold symptoms but not so much sneezing, more headaches, dizziness, tiredness. There's no official diagnosis, and to be honest I don't think I'll pursue one. There's nothing obviously physical behind all this, so as I see it, it falls into the category of diseases modern medicine can't really get a grip on. In other words, as I said above, I'm starting to call it chronic fatigue just to avoid having to give this lengthy, waffly explanation each time, but I'm not too bothered personally about having a label. This isn't meant to be a whiny post - no pity, please. My supervisors and the university have been great and agreed to put me on part-time for health reasons without an official diagnosis (easy for them of course - it's not like I get any extra money!), my parents are completely supportive, it could all be a lot worse and though I haven't settled into a proper rhythm yet, I certainly don't mind working part-time... The symptoms have been pretty bad for much of late November and December, but I'm fairly confident I'll find a workable balance over the next few months, and possibly work my way back up to working at a 'normal' full-time level eventually.
But enough of that. The last few months haven't been that boring, but really the only thing I can be bothered to go into now is that I found myself in the middle of something you probably heard about on the news. As one of 70 000 people affected. Yes, I spent three days stuck in London due to the Great Eurostar Fuck-Up of 2009 (originally meant to travel on Dec 19th; made it home on the 22nd). And I resurrected my Twitter account to try and engage in a bit of shit-stirring, hoping to contribute to the disastrously negative PR Eurostar received. Yes, I was pretty fucking angry about the whole thing - not just about the breakdowns as such, but about their communications policy. They simply didn't seem to give a fuck about those of us stuck as a result of this, desperately trying to get home to our families before Christmas. In the end, I had to book a last-minute plane ticket to get across the channel, and they've pretty much explicitly said they won't reimburse anyone for air travel. OK, I probably would've made it across by Eurostar before Christmas - by standing in a queue for up to 10 hours in the freezing cold main concourse of St Pancras station. Eurostar's crisis management, in terms of communicating with and helping those affected and in terms of actually dealing with the failure, was pretty much an unmitigated disaster, and I tried my bit of shit-stirring on Twitter not only out of anger, but in the hope that some heads will roll over this and the company will genuinely learn its lesson. Maybe other companies will too, it's not like this level of #fail
(ahem) is rare in the transport industry.
But my thoughts on the matter aren't terribly interesting - look around for the Tweets and blog posts by various PR/social media types and other pundits that have weighed in on the matter. I'll certainly be keeping half an eye on the fallout from this for a while. I'm just really, really disappointed, as normally Eurostar is a great way of travelling on the routes it covers, and I really resent having to fly - I both object to short-haul flights as a matter of principle (environmental issues and more) and personally dislike flying for a number of reasons (main one being the largely pointless security theatre at airports). I was incredibly lucky to have a friend in London who was able to put me up for three days*, and having an internet-enabled phone was also pretty helpful in terms of keeping up with the (very small) trickle of information coming out of Eurostar.
Having spent Christmas itself at my grandmother's, with the extended family, one point came up quite a few times - imagine someone who doesn't speak English as well as I do, or doesn't have a friend in town or the spare cash/credit card spending limit to afford a hotel and/or plane ticket on short notice, and a number of other things. They'd have been fucked, to put it mildly. And Eurostar did pretty much bugger-all to help them out. I really, really hope they learn their lessons.
* yes, it seems that Eurostar will reimburse hotel costs for those who were stranded, but they've not been clear on how much, and at best it'd probably take several weeks to get the cash back; besides, I'd probably have been stuck somewhere pretty shit given that there were several thousand other people snapping up any vacant room at the same time.
But enough rambling for now. Happy new year everyone. More interesting and cheerful posts to resume at some point.