Interesting Times Forever

It’s two years since my world changed, just before the first pandemic lockdown in the UK. Two years ago today I shared Interesting Times, thoughts on where I was and where I might be going in the weeks that would follow. A year ago, things had changed and were continuing to change, in ways that a year earlier I couldn’t have predicted. I wrote and shared Still Interesting Times.

And now it is 2022.

In the last year I’ve continued to work from home. I’ve been jabbed three times. I’ve seen my work and life continue to be impacted. I’ve avoided COVID but cared for my wife and daughter while they were poorly with it a few months ago. I’ve been fortunate to keep serving PhD candidates via their universities and sometimes through webinars I’ve set up myself. I’ve been fortunate to keep writing, keep helping and keep responding whenever anyone gets in touch.


What stands out to me when I think about the last two years?

Everyone needs help. Helping others helps us to grow too. So when you can: help. When I think about the viva it reminds me that there are lots of people who need help and lots of people who could help.

  • Candidates should reflect on their needs. What do you need to feel confident? What do you need to know to have a good picture of the viva?
  • Candidates should know they are not alone. Who can you turn to for support? Ask early and be honest. Work to get what you need from supervisors, colleagues, friends and family.
  • PhD graduates can help friends who are finishing. Can you tell your friends how much time you have for them and what you can offer to help? Can you tell your story to help set good expectations?
  • Supervisors should help set expectations with candidates about what is expected in the viva now. Supervisors can guide candidates past doubts and help them to focus on what really matters.
  • Graduate schools, doctoral colleges and doctoral training programmes can support PGRs by offering resources of all kinds that help to emphasise personal development. Share things and do things that help candidates feel stronger as a result.

I’m here too! This blog is updated every day, but you can email me or tweet me if you have questions. There’s almost five years of posts on the blog. There are over sixty viva stories in the podcast archive.


We live in “interesting” times. We always did, of course, but they’ve become even more interesting. More challenging. More surprising. Sometimes, more upsetting.

If you’re reading this though then, like me, you’re still here. Still learning. Still growing. Still making mistakes and persevering. So far, you have managed to keep going in difficult circumstances – and difficult might be an understatement in the last two years.

Get help if you need it, offer it to others if you can, but keep going.