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.