... feminist, atheist, autistic academic and historic narrowboater ...
Likes snooker, beer, tea, rivets and solitude, and is strangely fascinated by the cinema organ.
And there might be something about railways.

Thursday, 4 August 2011

Time to move on...

I've been thinking about this post for a long time, but I still haven't really planned it; as I start to write it I still don't know what I'm going to say... So where to start?

There have been many times I've been asked 'Do you live on your boat', to which I usually reply, 'No, but I wish I did', or 'No, but I hope I will one day' (or even, if I want to look flash, 'no, but I did live on a boat once' - albeit part time, Monday to Thursday only).

I have a lovely job. Nice office, incredible flexibility, great colleagues, doing what I've loved ever since I first went to university as a mature student back in 1994. I liked it so much I didn't want to leave. A BA in Politics led to an MA in Social and Political Thought, which led to a PhD, which led (via a hundred applications and more) to a one year contract at Portsmouth, lecturing in Political Theory and History of Political Thought (my first love as a subject area, to which I've never managed to return). Then, serendipitously, to a job at Huddersfield (hence the part time boat living), managing a project developing problem based learning for Politics. Because the resources I was developing were being used for students studying local government management, and I got involved in developing the first higher education programme in the UK for elected councillors (having once been one myself), when a job was advertised at Birkbeck for someone to develop a range of new programmes in local government, it was perfect for me, and I got it.

That was five years ago. I developed some wonderful programmes, foundation degrees for people already working in local government, and who needed a degree to progress up the career ladder (or who wanted to move into the field from other areas of the public sector); another programme for councillors (which also became a subject for research), and latterly a new foundation degree in housing - the first in the country to be aimed at tenants rather than existing housing professionals. Useful, innovative programmes which I was proud of, and loved teaching on. Programmes that had real effects on the lives and careers of the people who took them. Programmes which were almost entirely dependent on funding from the public sector.

Two students from my very first cohort will be graduating this year with a BSc Honours in Public Sector and Local Government Management. One of them left school at sixteen and went straight into a job with a London borough council. I remember interviewing him, an incredibly nervous youth with a clammy handshake. He is now a confident manager with a 2:2 honours degree from the University of London. There will be no new students starting the programme this autumn. Likewise for the housing programme, even though it was only launched last year. The elected members programme has already been axed.

I decided that my job security was looking decidely shaky, and when a generous severance package was offered, I decided to apply for it. My application was approved and I leave in September. I don't have another job to go to. I've applied for a couple, and been shortlisted both times (hence the Durham trip) but so far to no avail. That was never the plan anyway; these were jobs that just leapt out at me as ones I had to apply for. The plan was to pay off most of the mortgage, let the house, and go boating for a year or two. Before I get too old, and before the system runs dry.

We are now in the midst of preparing for this. I feel I must apologise publicly to Jim for thrusting this on him (rather like the purchase of Chertsey) with very litle consultation, and thank him for the stoicism with which he has, by and large, borne it. To me it's a great adventure, a marvellous journey into the unknown; for him perhaps more of a terrible uprooting and a snatching away of precious security. So sorry Jim, and thank you for coming along for the ride.


  1. It sounds like the sort of combination of circumstances which, when it presents itself, is too good to turn down -- and leaves the rest of us feeling a bit jealous! Looking forward to hearing more details...

  2. Wow! You've gone and done it.
    Hope you manage more than a tent in the hold for Jim
    Good luck
    Kath (nb Herbie)

  3. I have just asked and Sarah has said that I can say is all absolute madness and I don't believe that I will ever live comfortably again but I shall be totally loyal and supportive to Sarah just as she has been totally loyal and supportive to me in the past, doesn't mean that I like it though, in fact I bloody hate the idea.

  4. Brave, I have respect for you in this decision. I also have a little bit of envy. I also think you have the timing perfect, the circumstances presented it and get that itch scratched while you can and it gives you the time to extend it indefinitely or drop back to something more secure. H.E. is going to get shaken up, there is far too much comfort out there in uni land, I just hope if and when it comes to me I have your courage and the support of my first mate as you have(ish)


    PS - regretting selling Warrior ??

  5. I'm not; I know we can make Chertsey a wonderfully warm and comfortable boat. I think Jim is yet to be convinced but I hope he will be pleasantly surprised.

  6. I'm sorry you're losing your job, Sarah, but what an opportunity it's giving you. May it all go well, and may you and Jim continue to support each other. And may you find another job at the right time in due course.

    From another envious part-time boater!

  7. Sarah & Jim,
    As you know, I've always thought you a 'couple of nutters' and now you've proved it! No really, all the very best for the future, whatever that may hold. I have always been a firm believer that, when you do eventually come to the end of your life, you should be able to look back on your life and have no regrets like I wish I'd have done this or done that so go for it girl and enjoy, and Jim, take it from me' you will enjoy it I promise you. The only thing you really need now, before you go off on your tour of the cut, is a nice big Woolwich butty for you to live on. All the best, see you both soon.

  8. Good for you, and hope that Jim enjoys it more than he thinks he will! We are envious. What a great opportunity.

    The Ducks

  9. We were wondering about job applications, but I kind of got the feel that you were ready to move on, and wouldn't be too upset if you didn't get offered. I hope that's right.

    Not sure what to say about the rest, as I truly hope it works out for you both. That said, whilst I love our boat with just a back cabin, I think a few days is the most I would currently want to spend there consecutively, and I have yet to try it when conditions are foul.

    So, yes, I can understand both your enthusiasm, and Jim's concerns!

    (Not very helpful, am I ?!?).

  10. Oh Wow. I wish both you and Jim all the luck in the world and you will not regret it. Keith took early retirement after being offered a wonderful package. Once we had worked out whether we could live off of his pension, we were able to fulfil his dream of having Hadar built and as they say the rest is history. Neither of us has ever regretted the decision to love on the boat. Life loves to throw curve balls at us all and this is your one. I am a huge believer that things always happen for a reason and for you it is a whole new life adventure.
    I do of course understand Jim's concerns, but I would also say this is a great opportunity for you both, so sit back and enjoy the ride and we look forward to seeing you both out on the water. Congratulations on joining the semi-retired. xxx

  11. Woo-hoo! Fantastic news. I reckon that's lucky. I suppose it means we'll miss you down here in Sussex, but maybe you'll want occasional landlubber company?
    Don't worry Jim'll fix it.
    I think it's brave and exciting to (Oh dear, I'm going to be American) follow your dream.

  12. Just done the same, worst bit was clearing out 40 years of "treasures", got to know the chaps at the local tip & scrap mearchant by their first names tho !! (good price on scrap at the moment by the way) Best wishes, it'll be fun !

  13. Love. A good and strong emotion that binds people together in trust and adventure.

    That is what I love about you both, the love.

    I look forward to hearing about this next stage and seeing you a long the way as the dreams unfold and mature.