What is one privilege you have that you often take for granted?

It’s been a while, so I thought I would do a morning journalling post (I am on day 11 of the prompts from this site)… I am just waiting for the banana pancakes my Dad made for me, to go down before I go on a run on the beach so this seems like a good a time as any 🙂

Well, I have a lot of privileges that I take for granted I am sure.

I guess one is the fact I have a job that provided me with a laptop, a laptop that I am writing this post on from my parents house by the sea in Wales. I can therefore work from anywhere which had been very useful through these lockdowns and doctors appointments in Wales.

Even though I have had to come back to Wales to have follow up appointments and MRI following the endometriosis surgery last month, and it’s not ideal having to keep leaving my ‘life’ in Southampton to come back and for – I am very privileged to not only have a GP in Southampton that I can access through the NHS but also a specialist in gynaecology in Wales that I can access through my private health insurance. These are both two, MASSIVE privileges. I have been able to access a psychiatrist through the NHS and get medication for ADHD in Southampton for free. Yes there was a waiting list – but still it’s amazing. And I am super privileged that I am going to be having an MRI next week to see inside my body and see where the rest of the endo is and if I need another surgery.

And all that aside I am privileged to be able-bodied…the fact I can just put my trainers on in a minute and run out the door – that’s amazing and I feel lucky and oh so privileged.

*Throughout this post I have realised I do not know how to spell ‘priveledge’ – that is not correct as it gets underlined with the red dashes – hopefully I will remember its 2 i’s and just the one e and no d- not all e’s !*

Countries I’ve travelled to…

My friend asked me yesterday how many countries I have actually been to; I didn’t know, so I made this list, and now I do. I am looking forward to when I can start adding to this list again 🙂

  1. Greece
  2. Japan 
  3. Spain 
  4. China
  5. Australia 
  6. Portugal 
  7. Germany 
  8. Austria 
  9. USA 
  10. Canada
  11. Costa Rica 
  12. Chile 
  13. Peru 
  14. Colombia 
  15. Scotland 
  16. England 
  17. Northern Ireland
  18. Ireland 
  19. Norway 
  20. Sweden 
  21. Denmark 
  22. Vietnam 
  23. Morocco 
  24. France 
  25. Belgium 
  26. Switzerland 
  27. Netherlands 
  28. Finland 
  29. Croatia 
  30. Italy
  31. Czech Republic 
  32. Poland 
  33. Russia 
  34. India 
  35. Wales
Cerro Tocco, Atacama, Chile.

and yes, I am counting Wales (‘cos it’s a country and I have been there) 😛

My Supernova Love

In the cold control room, blackout blinds are down.

Starting the observation, checking co-ordinates now.

Our first light curve, from the NT Telescope loads.

Screen showing Type 1a, a white dwarf’s dying throws.

My very first Supernova, light captured, successfully shown.

I am here to help, to research.

But also, to run away…

far from; the memories

of us together, him and me.

He left, so could you be

my Supernova Love?

Last Christmas he left, walked out, cheated.

So here I am this Christmas, can’t allow the cold.

How to get past the rejection; left me, for her.

Far away South America, I escape to find the warm.

Sunny days, nights observing Supernova, stars that can’t go on.

Stars from which, everything is born.

Everywhere, you are, this mountain,

here in Chile; new love.

Still, my heart mourns.

He left, so could you be

my Supernova Love?

My Supernova who are you, new life from just a star?

Zooming in a whole Universe, millions billions to see.

Unlocking the meaning of each emission, what can it be?

Trying to work out which source is yours, first we can’t be sure.

Run the code, check mass limit, observing your ionising core.

Neutrinos settling, mass condensing.

Every single being, born in you,

every atom; in my blood.

You are already, in my bones.

He left, so could you be

my Supernova Love?

Cold and grey England, empty house awaits me there.

On screen we’ve found you, a star once glowing bright.

Your curve is turning downwards, more throughout the night.

Sat here searching waiting, measuring spectra faded light.

Lines converging, super heating core, but why am I so cold?

Life emerging, Supernova you made it all.

Elements, you created, oxygen carbon gold,

you are; in everything.

Still, you are not home.  

He left, yet still it’s him. He is

my Supernova Love.

You were supposed to #followme – my supernova love

This is the final poem I wrote for the poetic science event. This poem was in response to the concept of using the language of my science to write a love poem. I went kinda deep into my heart for this one, and to be honest reading it back makes me quite sad, especially since this is about a relationship which ended four years ago.

I guess it just takes as long as it takes.

Penguinology. Part 2

This is my third creative writing assignment where I had to write an opening to my Penguinologist story idea from a first and third person view point. Each opening could only be a maximum of 300 words.

First person style:

It’s about time! I thought to myself. It was a Sunday morning; I’d just sat down in my office chair with a black coffee and opened up my emails. I always work on Sundays. I have an email from Dr Andrew Moore at Natural Environment Research Council. He’s a bit of an asshole but I’m glad to get this email from him as he’s finally informed me that I get to go back to the Antarctica research base at the Brunt Ice Shelf in July to do my field work. I’ve done field work there before but I was always there as part of someone else’s research, and it was only ever been for a maximum of three weeks. Now I have been awarded funding to do six weeks purely in my own field of research, bliss! Hopefully, the other scientists who are at the base will stay out of my way and leave me alone to do my important work observing the Male Emperor Penguins.

I’ve been a Penguinlogist for over nine years now. Most of my academic career has been in Oxbridge; PhD in Biology at Cambridge University and a two-year Post Doc at the Department of Zoology at Oxbridge, but now, disappointedly, I’m based at the University of Southampton. This city has about as much culture as a nat! The National Oceanography Centre has a good reputation, but not for Penguins. So, this has meant it’s been harder these last two years in Southampton for me to get my research funded. At least I have Matt, he was at Oxbridge too, but is now stuck in this dump with me, begging for scraps from the British Antarctic Survey. He’s going to be so jealous when I tell him I’m going to Antarctica; bet he would have loved six weeks away from his boring wife Julia.

Third person style:

Dr Tom Hodges is at his happiest when he is observing penguins. Some say he’s obsessed with them; he’s regularly in his office hyper focused on trying to understand their behaviour. As Tom sits on a small prop plane, destination Antarctica, his mind wanders thinking about the male emperor penguin; he’s specifically interested in doing more work on his hypothesis that the males exhibit psychopathic tendencies. He’s observed that some of the penguins suddenly kill their own babies and eat them; and others seem to kill fellow penguins without being provoked. Tom is eager to collect more evidence of the penguin’s behaviour on this expedition.

Tom doesn’t want to wrongly diagnose these penguins as ‘psychopaths’, he actually hates the term ‘psychopath’, especially after several unqualified people throughout his life have told him that he, Tom is a psychopath. He, of course, disagrees.

Tom’s father left when he was just 10 years old, Tom’s mother Sandra took out her heartbreak on Tom. By the time Tom was 11 he was obsessed with the idea that his mother wished he was dead, and he thought she would try to poison his meals. She wouldn’t let him go out after school and play with children of his age, this resulted in Tom inventing an imaginary friend. Only it wasn’t a human friend that he had ‘imaginary’ conversations with, it was a Penguin called Jonny. Soon Tom and Jonny were getting into a lot of trouble in school. Tom was often accused of biting other children or hitting them with a ruler if he didn’t get his way, and he would just blame Jonny, the Penguin. One of Tom’s teachers suggested he be referred to a psychiatrist. Sandra hated Doctors of any kind, especially because her lying, cheating ex- husband had been a Doctor (not a medical Doctor, but still!); but the sessions were offered for free and the clinic was in walking distance from her house so she let Tom go. After having three, hour long sessions with Tom, Dr Lisa James diagnosed him with Autism and a suspected borderline personality disorder. Dr James then met with Sandra alone to explain to her diagnosis. She made the suggestion of medication and told Sandra that he should be placed in a school for children with special needs. While in the office, Sandra nodded and said all the right things to the Dr, she even took the prescription off her. But as soon as she was out in the street Sandra ripped up the script and exclaimed ‘What a load of rubbish! I hate Doctors!’. Tom never did find out his diagnosis.

Which opening do you prefer?

Penguinology

For my second creative writing module assessment I had to write a character summary for a story idea, followed by additional notes on the character and finally two passages in the third person/narrated style of writing including some ‘show and tell’.

Initially I was really excited about writing this up as an actual book, I was really excited to discover a Penguinologist was a thing. And also I wanted to explore how Penguins could have sociopathic tendencies…but I think writing about a sociopathic male academic has taken me to a dark place so now I don’t really want to write this up as an actual book haha.

Also, I have recently read an amazing book called ‘Away with the Penguins by Hazel Prior’ which is a lovely piece of fiction heavily featuring Penguinologists – so yes, I got my Penguinlogist fix from that 😀

Create an in-depth character profile

Name: Dr Tom Hodges

Age: 37

Height: 5ft 11

Nationality: White British – English

Appearance: Brown hair, un-styled, about 2 inches long (he just brushes it once in the morning and that’s it). Has an unkempt beard, not overweight per se; but definitely not toned or muscular. Grey eyes. Average looking. Usually only wears jeans/dark trousers and a grey or black T-shirt.

Personality: Narcissistic, Antisocial, Talkative when it comes to his research but see’s little point in making small talk etc. Spends a lot of time on his own. Has been known to have angry outbursts in the past but the most extreme thing he has done is throw a fellow student’s phone at a wall.

Lives: in Southampton, in a two-bed flat which he owns. No pets.

Health: Tom drinks more alcohol than the average person and he never works out but he does walk to work each day which is a 5k round trip, he has no health concerns.

Occupation: Currently Penguinologist at University of Southampton, based at the National Oceanography Centre. Post Doc completed in Department of Zoology at Oxford University and Undergraduate studies and PhD in Biology completed at Cambridge University.

Habits: Tom doesn’t have any real hobbies, he certainly doesn’t play any sports. When he is not working at the University doing his research, he enjoys playing PlayStation Games like Call of Duty and PC games like The Elder Scrolls: Morrowind. But he sporadically deletes Morrowind off his computer as he gets too involved in it and then forgets to eat and go to work. Tom is currently on a sabbatical so he doesn’t have any teaching duties at the moment or tutorials with students, so he isn’t really missed by his colleagues if he doesn’t go into work. He doesn’t have any real friends apart from a colleague in Oceanography called Matt (36) who also completed his Zoology work at Oxbridge. But Matt has a wife (Julia, 35) and he’s definitely ‘under the thumb’, so Tom and Matt never hang out outside work.

Family: Mother is Sandra Hodges (65 years old) they had a very close relationship as a child but not particularly healthy one. Sandra has mousy blonde hair and glasses and doesn’t really look after her appearance. She is overweight and very bitter and never got a new partner after Tom’s father left. Sandra lives in Surrey in England with her blonde Labrador, Duke. Sandra is a retired dinner lady, she worked in the same secondary school that Tom attended as a child.

Father is John Hodges (66 year’s old) cheated on Tom’s mother Sandra when Tom was 10 years old. John has a similar appearance to Tom, brown hair and grey eyes and his personality is also very similar to his son, narcissistic and selfish.  John was also an academic, he worked in the Chemistry department at University of Kent up until his retirement.  John lives with his second wife (the one he cheated on Sandra with) in Canterbury. His wife is called Lucia and she was a PhD student when they met, John was a Postdoc at the time. Lucia (44 years old) is originally from Spain and has very dark brown hair. John and Lucia have a son who is 27, he’s called James and he’s an Engineer for AIRBUS.

Additional Notes on character:

Tom was diagnosed as having autism when he was 17 and after having a breakdown during his PhD an NHS counsellor suggested he should ‘go private’ and see a Psychiatrist as they suspected that he is likely to have Borderline personality disorder (BPD) but Tom never did arrange this appointment and he never told anyone about this potential diagnosis, he has looked into BPD a lot online and he goes between being sure he has it to being appalled that it was even suggested by the NHS Doctor. Tom has a had a few girlfriends through his PhD and Postdoc, his only serious girlfriend was Sally who was a Biology Undergraduate when he had just started his PhD, they were together for 1 year and then she cheated on him with a guy she met in a club on a night out…he never really got over this rejection and all the girlfriends thereafter he got very jealous and pushed them away after only a few months because he feared they would leave him too. He once had a drunken fumble with a male Post Doc, Jerry, from the US following a Conference Dinner where a lot of wine was involved. Tom has never really dealt with the fact he may actually be bisexual and every time he thinks about Jerry he feels very panicked and usually starts drinking something alcoholic. But he does think about Jerry quite a lot and check’s Jerry’s social media posts daily. Jerry is currently in an open relationship with a man named Gareth, who he lives with and he now works for a Data Science company in Michigan. Tom is currently on match.com at the moment and is talking with three different women on and off he is yet to arrange a date with any of them.

2 passages in narrated style of writing and then a show and tell:

For the last fifteen years Tom has dedicated his life to researching the social habits of the male Emperor penguins of Antarctica. His role involves regular field work, where he is away from his home in the South of England for months at a time. Tom regularly goes to one of the most isolating and extreme places on the Earth. This trip will be the longest he has even spent there, however, Tom has no one in England who will miss him. He has no time for other people’s feelings and opinions, and definitely no time for listening to their research ideas or their theories about penguin’s behaviour. As Tom sits on the third flight of five to his destination in Antarctica all he can think about is his getting started with his important research. He’s so tired and he really should get some sleep so he is well rested to start his research straight away tomorrow morning.

Dr Tom Hart is at his happiest when he is observing penguins. Now, a lot of people like penguins, sure, but penguins are Tom’s life work. Some might say he’s obsessed with them; he’s regularly in his office till late into the night, hyper focused on trying to understand their behaviour. He definitely finds penguins more interesting than humans. As Tom sits on a small prop plane, destination Antarctica, his mind wanders thinking about the sociopathic tendencies of the male emperor penguin; he’s hoping to collect more evidence of these tendencies on this very expedition. A nurse once suggested to him that he too might have sociopathic tendencies; but what did she know. Most women were sluts, even the ones who worked at the University; they couldn’t be trusted with a man’s heart or with serious academic research.

Would you read this book?

What if?

I started a Creative Writing course online in the first lockdown, and I haven’t really worked on the modules in a few months but I thought uploading some of my assessments here as individual blog posts may hopefully spur me on to finish it the course and then start on my first novel… I still can’t decide if I want to write children’s fiction or adult fiction…hmmm 🙂

Below is the final part of the first assignment where you had to write three story summaries inspired by the image below:

Summary 1

Sarah has just escaped from a religious cult and this road is significant because it is a road to a world that she was led to believe did not even exist; she thought the only world was in the confines of the gated community where she has lived all her life. The cult leader who is also her father is very unhappy that she has escaped and he has sent seven of his disciples to find her. Sarah ends up walking through the forest where this path ends and comes out into a village. In the village Sarah is panicked and very overwhelmed by her sudden change in surroundings; all the cars and all the people walking around who appear to be looking down at small metal mirrored objects, totally oblivious of her.

Summary 2

Sandra is in an abusive relationship and the only joy in her life is walking her dog on the gravel path which is just 100m from her house. Her abusive husband Paul permits her to walk outside without him each day for 10 minutes but she must stay to the path, because he can see most of it from their upstairs window. However, there is a blind spot on this path behind a tree, with a bench underneath it and unknown to Paul, Sandra sits there every day and chats to an old man, who recently lost his wife to cancer. Every day the unlikely pair tell their sad life stories to each other. After a year of Sandra and the old man meeting secretly the old man finally reveals to Sandra that he is an ex mafia boss and his wife was actually killed as a result of his dodgy dealings in Italy. It was all his fault, her death and the deaths of many others and he came to Wales to start a new life but he still has his mafia contacts and they can help her get away from her husband and get her a new identity and new life in Southern Italy or they could simply have him killed and make it look like an accident.

Summary 3

Julia has been blind all her life; but she has been part of a drug trial for the past 3 months. As she walks along this path with her guide dog, a path she walks along every day, she suddenly starts to realise that her vision is coming back. First it is very blurry but as she continues to walk she starts to distinguish some colours. She thinks she can see the outline of the path and the green of the grass on either side. She returns to the research centre that day where they give her some eye tests and confirm that the drug is indeed working. Julia returns to her home where she lives with her girlfriend Fiona, she is understandably extremely excited and so is Fiona, especially when Julia declares she can see the blue of Fiona’s eyes. As the days go on Julia is able to see more and more and her vision is becoming clearer each day. The only puzzling thing for Julia and the scientists is that as well as being able to see the real colours, outlines and shapes of people and items in this world Julia also seems to be able to see brightly coloured glowing white figures. No one else can see them, but Julia insists that they are there, and they are real. They seem to follow around the real people; at least the blurry outlines of those people. She doesn’t feel scared of the glowing figures that she sees, but what is disturbing her is that the figure that seems to follow Fiona around, it doesn’t glow white like all the others, it’s very grey in colour and it seems more menacing somehow. Julia doesn’t know how to tell Fiona about the figures she sees, and she’s especially worried because her guide dog never seemed to like Fiona, it’s always barked at her for no apparent reason, maybe this is the reason. She hopes the drug will continue to improve her eyesight, and she hopes she will understand what these figures are. Julia starts to research the drug company who run the trial and realises that this drug isn’t just for helping people with vision impairments, and she sets off to try find anyone else that might be taking part in the trial to find out what they are experiencing.

Which of my story ideas is your favourite?

Lockdown Hobbies

Hobbies taken up during lockdown, and subsequently got bored of/given up on:

  1. Playing piano 
  2. Chin ups 
  3. Push ups 
  4. Punch bag workouts 
  5. Body combat workouts
  6. Mandala Drawing 
  7. Creative Writing 
  8. Chess 
  9. Knitting 
  10. Online dating 
  11. Meditation 
  12. Yoga
  13. Barre workouts 
  14. Dance workouts
  15. Free writing 
  16. Positive Wellness Journalling 
  17. Playing Sims 
  18. Playing Lemmings 
  19. Rowing
  20. Resistance band workouts  
  21. Cross stitch
me feat. cross stitch … I did this for about 2 hours before I got bored…

Hobbies I’ve taken up/rediscovered during the lockdown and still going strong with : 

  1. Zwifting on the Turbo 
  2. Cycling with a club outdoors 
  3. Running by the sea 
  4. Poetry (writing and reading of)
  5. Reading fantasy/thriller/fiction
  6. Paddle Boarding 
  7. Swimming in pools/open water
  8. Bullet Journalling 
  9. Calligraphy
  10. Audiobooks to sleep 
  11. Embracing curly hair 
  12. Facial skin care routine 
  13. Paint by numbers 
  14. Fidget toys 
  15. Playing Two Dots 
  16. Playing Spider Solitaire 

We need help

We have thousands of hours of aurorae video,

most of which has never been looked at.

We need help from Citizen Scientists. 

         Dazzling, coloured light

aligned with the magnetic zenith.

          Roman goddess of the dawn.

                      Shapes and forms,

                           with arcs and rays.

                          Shimmering curtains, bands, waves.

                   Changing shape.

               Light moves across the sky,

brighten and fade.

             Charged particles in the solar wind,

toward north and south,

                           polar regions.

                                              Crash.

Gases in the atmosphere,

            oxygen and nitrogen.

Collisions give off light.

We have thousands of hours of aurorae video,

most of which has never been looked at.

We need help from Citizen Scientists. 

Me observing the Aurora in real life in Svalbard, Norway

This is another poem I wrote for the ‘Poetic Science’ event. This is an example of a found poem. The majority of text used here was from a website designed to explain the aurora to young children (see here) and the other text was found in the IMPACT case study document which I helped to write describing the impact of our Aurora Zoo citizen science platform. I also tried to make the shape of the words on the page reflect the dancing, waveforms of the aurora and how it looks overhead when you observe it 🙂

The Journey

This is the first of three poems that I wrote and performed at the ‘Poetic Science’ event which was part of the Southampton Science and Engineering Festival Goes Digital in March 2021. The idea of the event was that a group of academics would write poetry about their research, I was one of the academics. Our first task from Dr Helen Eastman, who ran the workshops, was to write a poem about how we ended up doing our research, an origin poem, so this is mine, and it’s called ‘The Journey’.

So,

super

massive

black

holes

exist.

An actual thing,

at the very centre,

of every galaxy:

remarkable, colossal.

One hundred million suns,

squashed beyond physics.

Wheeled into the classroom, the large TV, the creaky wheels, our teacher, she pushes it and smiles.

I’m sat up front, first wooden bench, high on rickety wooden stool. Everyone is fixated in wonder.

The pure excitement of watching television in a science class. This is today’s lesson, watching TV.

Energy grows in all of us, the expectation, the theatre of it. Trolley wheels stop creaking, centre stage.

The show, Horizon, recorded by the teacher last night, she just had to show it to us all. Today.

The room is silent, brown wooden and cold – outside grey. Here we learn about Biology, normally, nature

but these blackholes on the screen, so big. They are nature too. Apparently,

so the screen says. How can they be? Our very own galaxy,

all the 100 billion galaxies, they all have one. A super massive black hole.

Sarah shouts ‘Is this right Miss? Is this really science?’ Miss responds ‘Yes’.

I’m totally transfixed. Behind me Kelly and Alex are giggling, some gossip,

but I don’t care. This new information, immense. My mind sparked. I didn’t know!

Could our Milky Way galaxy really be the host of something so enormous?

The scale and mass of it. It’s all so vast. Yet, it is… real.

The centre of everything.

You can do it. You. Make maps of active galactic nuclei A.K.A supermassive black holes.

See, examine. Be the first. You know, some have jets that extend for hundreds of light years.

Some don’t. It’s a mystery. You’ll get paid – to look at space, explore, travel to big telescopes.

Be the first to unravel it all, analyse data – this puzzling light.

You will be the centre. No-one else. No-one before you,

not this galaxy anyway, not in this way. It’s an enigma,

this science,

a dark art.

Radio waves

extending,

tracing jets.

X-rays too,

mapping

the swirl.

Become

an artist,

a witch.

Interpret

EM light.

The secrets.

The event

horizon.

Singularity.

It will be you.

You, the centre.

Image credit: here

This poem is also a ‘concrete poem’ in that I have tried to reflect the shape of the region around a supermassive blackhole in the shape of the words on the page so the middle section, the block of text represents the accretion disc around the black hole and then the longer stanzas either side represent the jets that are launched from near the edge of the blackhole and are linked to strong magnetic fields. You could also think of the final stanza’s shape as the path of material inside the blackhole to the singularity – which links well with me being at the centre of the research at the end of my PhD journey.

Found Poems

Next month I am taking part in an online live event for Science Week, where academics write and perform poetry linked to their research.

I’ve currently in the process of writing 3 poems ; about Supernova, Black Holes and Aurora. I hope to perform all of these at the event on Thur 11th March at 6pm. Link here to register for your free tickets.

Anyway, as part of this ‘Poetic Science’ event I am taking part in 3 online workshops run by the wonderful Helen Eastman. And in the 2nd workshop we had to make found poems by cutting up text and rearranging it.

My 3 found poems are shown below: