It seems like I’ve been away from here for ages, but I’ve just been at an academic conference for about a week. I was also pretty busy with preparation before that, so this weekend I have been mostly relaxing and decompressing a bit.
The conference — held in Newcastle upon Tyne — was great, and there were some very interesting talks. But as I’ve written about before, being an introvert makes these kinds of events difficult for me, and I now find myself completely exhausted after 5 days of trying my hardest to be sociable and interactive. One of my PhD students also attended, and one of your roles as a supervisor is supposed to be to introduce your students to the movers and shakers in your field so that they get a bit of help with networking. Well. For obvious reasons, I’m pretty rubbish at that, since I can’t even network for myself. Luckily my PhD students have all been very understanding of this weakness, and are actually pretty good networkers on their own, which is just as well.
I don’t think I did too badly. I talked to quite a few people (most of whom I already knew, admittedly), and I even went out for a couple of group dinners. At one point around the middle of the week, I did have to scoot off on my own and have a bit of quiet time, but I think that’s fairly reasonable considering the size and length of the conference. I do sometimes wish that I could get a badge (or perhaps a t-shirt) that says, “Hello, I’m an introvert. If I’m not talking to you, please don’t take it personally!”. It would save me a lot of angst.
I also wish that I’d had a bit more time to explore Newcastle and take some more photos. It’s an intriguing city — like a grittier1 Edinburgh — and I love the Tyne and all the wonderful bridges. I walked to the venue from the railway station and it was downhill most of the way, so I hadn’t appreciated how hilly the city is. That was rectified on the way back. I ended up climbing the ‘Long Stairs’ from the Quayside to the end of the High Level Bridge, and thought I was going to need an oxygen mask when I got to the top. They were really atmospheric, but a bit scary with lots of twists and turns and hidden doorways, even in daylight. I was thinking as I climbed with my large rucksack on my back that if anyone tried to grab me, I wouldn’t actually have the energy to run away. Anyway, I made it to the top completely unharmed, but in severe oxygen debt. There are lots of little bits like that in Newcastle: ancient alleyways and buildings crammed right up against modern, soulless office buildings. It’s fascinating.
I suppose that Edinburgh is literally grittier, being built out of sandstone, but Newcastle is socially grittier. Particularly if you’re in the town on Friday or Saturday night. ↩︎