A year ago today I started this blog. I had no idea what I was doing or indeed what this blog would be about. I started in prose and wrote about Esther’s challenges and (small) triumphs working within higher education in the UK. These accounts are largely autobiographical, with nods to anonymity through pseudonyms of places and people (though anyone who knows me is aware of where and of whom I speak). The writing, whilst humorous in parts, paints a bleak picture of my continuing precarious journey in and through higher education (HE). My struggles are by no means unique or even all that surprising. They are symptomatic of an ongoing and systemic pattern of exploitative labour practices that are embedded within a HE environment that demands more and more from its staff in terms of outputs, research funding, student engagement and support; whilst simultaneously eroding pay, pensions, job security and entrenching gendered, racialised and class-based inequalities (Bhambra et al, 2018; Reay, 2017; Taylor & Lahad, 2018). Many of us who continue to try and work in these conditions end up off sick, alcoholics or chronically depressed. Often those who seem to thrive in HE do so at the expense of others; having learnt that ‘success’ requires them to be indifferent and unavailable to meet the needs of their students, or by avoiding administrative and teaching responsibilities then undertaken by their colleagues. Put bluntly: it is more than a bit shit.
After depressing the few readers I had with these accounts, a very dear friend sent me a plea that maybe, just maybe, I could write something that made me happy? It was from this plea that Lipstick was born.
Much has been written about a muse (usually a woman) who provides inspiration (usually for a man), whereas my muse is equally gendered. She is funny, witty, irreverent and really does give zero fucks about anything. She visited me that grey morning in the middle of November as I sat at my kitchen table, not feeling the least bit happy or even remotely inspired. I am not sure what surprised me more, that the writing came so easily or that my muse turned out to be a poet. She prefers rhyming poetry and preferably poems about small, everyday things that often seem trivial and mundane but carry within them beauty, grief and laughter. That muse of mine has saved me more than once this past year and I thank her for turning up when she did and I thank her from the bottom of my heart for staying. She is with me now, seated on my shoulder and rolling her eyes at my sappy thank you drivel. But given this is my one-year blogaversary, I will carry on with the thank yous:
A huge thank you to Siobhan McAndrew who has been quietly insisting (for several years now) that I start a blog and that I would be ‘good at it.’ I am not sure about the latter, but you were right about the blog. I love it. It has been a creative space for me to rant, whine, be daft, swear profusely and generally have fun when life has been spectacularly grim and I have felt utterly bollocks.
To my most faithful readers, those of you who have been there from the beginning and those who joined later – thank you for reading, for commenting and for liking the writing. You are my glowing talisman against indifference and inertia. Knowing you are there, all 66 of you, keeps me writing and posting.
I give the final word to my muse (she can be quite pushy at times):
One-year old today!
Rhyming verse is my forte
This haiku is crap.
Bhambra, G. K., Gebrial, D. & Nişancıoğlu, K. (Eds.) (2018) Decolonising the University London: Pluto Press
Reay, D. (2017) Miseducation: Inequality, Education and the Working Classes Bristol: Policy Press
Taylor, Y. & Lahad, K. (Eds.) (2018) Feeling Academic in the Neoliberal University: Feminist Fights, Flights and Failures London: Palgrave Macmillan.