08 October 2013

Back south for Dr. Rob

Plymouth University, Friday at 6PM. A gaggle of girls is sitting in a corridor, taking in hushed voices. Every now and then one comes up with an excuse to walk past the nearest door, and sneak a look in. They have been in that corridor for two hours already. Another fifteen minutes pass. And another fifteen.

Then, at 6.30, finally the door opens, and a well-dressed man emerges. The waiting is over! The well-dressed man will soon be a doctor. It’s Rob, my dearly beloved PhD student. His viva is now over. A few minutes later he is called back in. In spite of the fears that have been growing among the girls in the corridor, he only has to do minor corrections. So now it’s time to raise a glass!

Rob had advised me to not come over for the viva, but for the celebration. Much more fun! But he couldn’t tell me when that would be, even though it looked like it would be in a weekend in which I would be unavailable. So in the end I came for the viva anyway! And I would catch up with lots of other friends too.

On a Thursday I did the 6 hour journey south. Jon whisked me away from the railway station, and too me to the Clovelly Bay Inn for dinner with Simon and Tim, Rob’s internal examiner. Jon and Simon would be away the rest of the weekend, and this was my chance to see them. And afterwards I knocked on Pete and Sabrina’s door; they would be my hosts for the weekend.

The next day I retrieved Jon’s bike, which I could borrow, pottered around a bit, and then went to campus. I had coffee with my old office mate, saw Rob, caught up with a few more of the PhD students and other staff, went for lunch with Rupert, got some cash out, and then saw Rob in. Somewhere between the two times I saw him he changed from shorts and a faded T-shirt to a suit. I gave him a hug, and he went in! And then the waiting had started.

As the viva started at 14.30 I figured it would last some two, two and a half hours; by about five the examiners would get thirsty. So I made sure I was ready near the door by 4PM. And it turned out I would have plenty of time catching up with the other ladies (occasionally a man joined, but they never stayed long) before, at 18.30, Rob finally emerged, and it all was over.

Happy supervisor and new doctor after the viva!

By the time Rob came out, two contingents of people had already decided to not wait but go to the pub. To two different pubs. And after he'd gone back in and received the "minor corrections" verdict, Rob decided to go to a third one. He hadn’t intended it to be a big thing, but word got around, and people flocked in from all directions to celebrate with him. He wouldn’t stay long, though; his life didn’t stop at the viva and he had something planned for the night. I decided to accompany the examiners for dinner.

The next day was for accompanying Pete and Sabrina on some errands, catching up with Rob, and popping by at Rupert’s. And then a social gathering. Not all went well; Rob said he’d phone me when he was near, but when my phone finally beeped it was to announce a text message saying he had found nobody home. We had been sitting in the garden, and hadn’t heard the knocking! I was very disappointed; I’d not had much time to speak with him the day before. But the pottering around with my hosts was fun, and so was the meeting Rupert’s sprog; she kindly refrained from vomiting all over me.

The social gathering was a modest one; Jon was exchanging his car in the midlands, Simon was at a wedding, Marta was preparing for fieldwork with the geologists, Hoayda was writing a chapter of her thesis, Rich and Vince were decorating the house, and so on. Not many people made it! But Paul, Lou, and Jessie did, and that was enough for a nice night, with updates on houses, jobs, children, sport, and food, drinks and a fire. Lovely!

Tea lights in Pete and Sabrina's garden. And Rob's gift!

The last morning, Pete and Sabrina dragged me to Bovisand for breakfast. Dave, who had come home too late from a mine exploration trip in St Just the day before to join the gathering, completed the quartet. It was a lovely day, and the view was stunning! I think the southwest is showing me what I’ve lost, and is beckoning me back!

 The bay seen from Bovisand

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