My mother sent me an advent calendar last week. She does this every year, without fail. No matter that I am old enough to enter places which sell advent calendars on my own, or that thanks to the generous funding of the Economic and Social Research Council, I can just about scrape together the cash to purchase my own collections of novelty chocolate: she has done it every year since I arrived at university. I ain’t complaining.
This year the advent calendar has a Power Rangers theme. I’m not too sure how many people remember the Power Rangers, but when I was younger I was obsessed, with a capital U for unhealthy. When green/white ranger Tommy arrived on the scene, I was so smitten that I decided that, like him, I had to have a ponytail. However, my hair was nowhere near long enough (it tends to grow out rather than down), so I was forced to settle for what the hair-dresser affectionately referred to as a rat’s tail (I can vouch from experience that the chat-up line, y’know, I used to have a rat’s tail because of the Power Rangers does not go down well, especially in conservative market towns). Anyway, my mother sent me a Power Rangers advent calendar, although not, I should stress, the old skool version, but rather the new and slightly crass samurai version. I was not happy.
As a sign of passive resistance, I decided to leave the calendar untouched through the early days of December. Through marking, secondary reading and late-night sessions on the Playstation, the calendar sat on a shelf, glaring at me, daring me to peel away the first few doors. But I remained steadfast until last night. In what can only be described as a Dionysian orgy, I scoffed without remorse the first few chocolates (by which I mean the first ten [by which I mean the first twenty-four]). Ten days into December, and I had seen off a month’s worth of fun in about twelve minutes.
Coincidentally, I am just priming myself to write a very difficult chapter. I have done the research, made the notes; in short, I have gone out and bought the advent calendar. But for a few weeks now, through marking, secondary reading, and late-night sessions on the Playstation, the chapter itself has been metaphorically staring at me, teasing and taunting me. I know what I must do. I must begin, I must dare myself to open the first door, see if I like what’s behind it. I suspect that once I start, I will not be able to stop. It won’t be easy, I know, but if I can eat one chocolate of slightly suspect quality every thirty seconds for twelve minutes (don’t let anyone tell you that Arts students are innumerate!), then I can find the wherewithal, the energy, the sheer nerve, to bash out a draft over the holidays. It may be more Apollonian than Dionysian (hello all you classicists!), but it will be, in its own strange way, fun.
However, if the advent calendar experience is anything to go by, I will feel slightly nauseous afterwards. Is it possible to overdose on writing? Come the New Year, I shall be sated, my body wreaked by PhD abuse. The sofa shall creak under the weight of my frame, and I shall fall asleep in front of re-runs of lacklustre holiday television. But in my hand, or, more accurately, on my laptop, will be the spoils of a holiday spent gorging myself on interpretations baked with analysis, feasting on assertions smothered in references.
And then, at the end, lying under the academic Christmas tree, will be a chapter. And I will give it to my supervisor, and he will stroke his beard and rub his belly (neither of which he actually has), and chuckle, Have you been a good student this year? Cause on the twelfth day of Christmas, my true love gave to me, a chapter in a PhD.
Post was originally published in 2012/3