What was that gentle plomping sound on my doormat? Ah… Yes… It’s my annual reminder that I’m a serial underachiever who still hasn’t managed to find a real job.
I went into Uni having zero idea what I wanted to be if/when I should eventually grow up. I came out of Uni having even less of an idea though firmly ruling out that one thing I would not be doing was spending day after day in a laboratory. Jeez… Nope… On the one hand it threw up all kind of ethical dilemmas for me… On the other hand, it felt no more than a glorified factory line with more prestige but less money than a fast piece worker can turn over. Admittedly I did come dangerously close to working in a hospital lab. I went for a preliminary interview and guided tour and was urged to get my application in ASAP. I never submitted the paperwork as by then I’d been working in a casino for a year and although the hours were unsociable, they were considerably less than the sensible job plus I couldn’t afford to take the pay cut alongside the double whammy of having to pay for childcare as juggling shifts with Mr S to cover 24/7 between us, would no longer be a viable option. In fact, adding all the sums, I’d be earning minus figures just to say I had a sensible, respectable job.
Every year this magazine lands and every year I flick through the showcases of students made good. Pages and pages of interviews about how wonderful post Swansea life is! How Uni launched their glittering careers… I mostly sink my chin to my chest and think… Blimey… Good job no one is going to ask me…
Today, I think fuck it! Let’s play and write my own alumni interview.
Why did you choose to study at Swansea University and why Genetics and Statistics?
Originally I was looking at going to Sheffield or Queens College London. Both offered me places, as did Leeds and Newcastle. Swansea also offered me a place without even interviewing me and even though I’d never been there, I placed it in first choice because it was the furthest I could get away from home. An overbearing mother saying that at other places, I’d only be an hour or so journey on the train away and that she’d be able to check up on me with surprise visits, was enough to make me plump for the 4hr/200mile away destination. Then of course there was the added bonus of beaches, which hold massive appeal when you’ve grown up in most inland part of the country. So, yeah… No surprise visits from the mother and sand and surf on my doorstep! Why Genetics & Statistics? I seriously have no fucking idea… I’d gone into 6th form studying Sciences to silence the mother’s hysteria and threats of what she’d do if I went into the arts. Plus, I had very little idea of what options were available and zero career guidance, so it wasn’t until I was half a semester in that I realised that I could have studied Psychology, or Philosophy, or Logic, or Russian, or pretty much anything. I also discovered too late that you could actually swap onto any course you pleased once through the door.
What are your defining memories of being a student at Swansea?
Cinderella’s nightclub on the end of the pier. Racing down the Mumbles Mile doing the 3-legged pubcrawl. More freedom than I knew what to do with… Magic mushrooms, Gower peninsula, psychedelic sunsets, live gigs, cycling accidents, skipping lectures, flirting with engineering students to get gullible boys to do my maths homework then outing myself as brainy by beating them at chess and so then having to do my own sums… Posh kids with presence and shiny new cars, surfboards and trustfunds. Daytime drinking becoming legal, red marlboro cigarettes and zippo lighters, leather jackets and cowboy boots, weed… Lots of weed… Photocopiers! Such magic! Never went to a lecture again after I discovered photocopiers. Hanging out with arts students, staying up all night talking with strangers and eccentrics… Pretending to be political so I could hitch a free ride on the bus to London for the poll tax riots, then skipping off to the West End to check out Harrods food Hall… Walking home at sunrise… Spending entire days watching the tides coming in and going out…
Did your time in University influence your career?
Absolutely! The first year, I lived in Clyne Halls which looked like a castle. Evening meals were a formal affair where you were only allowed entry if wearing your black undergrad gown. We were invited on rotation to sit on the top table with the lecturers. You received an invite in your pigeon hole and before dinner, you went into an ante room to drink sherry. I was not too keen on Sherry, though this whole set up means I’m a whizz at looking the part when reading tarot at Harry Potter events even though I’ve never watched any of the films nor read the books… Then of course, my favourite tutor in my first year who would up me a grade based on my ‘elaborate and flowery language’ and my beautiful handwriting laid down in ink by fountain pen. My handwriting if written is dreadful unreadable scrawl so if I have to write for others to read, then it’s a painstaking effort of drawing out pleasing shapes. I’m glad he appreciated my aesthetics. He taught me that most people don’t pay attention to facts and details and are easily swayed by initial impression given by presentation… Gift of the gab and talking about Science you like rather than what’s on the syllabus can score good points without having to learn boring stuff. Also, sometimes just being honest and confessing I didn’t do the homework because it’s boring, is met with yes, you’re right, it’s very dull, the day is beautiful! Class dismissed! Go enjoy the sun! So yeah… I guess all of this played into me turning into a speed reading rent a Gypsy ad libbing fortunes on the hoof!
What is the highlight of your career?
Not staying in jobs that don’t bring joy! Often I’m asked if I enjoy my work and I say of course! It would be some kind of bizarre self-harm to set up business in something you hate! Also, reading at Oxford and Cambridge. One of my 6th form tutors told me I would never fit in there. She was right! I don’t fit in there. The several times I’ve been there to read Tarot, I’ve been treated like a Queen and the super-bright elite queue around the block to bow down and take in my wisdom! And to gasp in awe at how the quirky irreverent psychic lady channels Science jargon… (Shhh… They don’t need to know. Muggles more than anyone need a little magic in their lives even if it is a polished illusion).
What is your biggest success?
My next one… And then the one after… Etc. Come back in another 30 years, I just might have grown up by then and picked a sensible career.