The next stages

It’s been a while since I last posted anything on here, not for any other reason that life has conspired to keep me rather busy. A combination of putting our home on the market, dealing with viewings and the constant cleaning they involve, agreeing a deal just before Christmas and finally moving out at the end of January has meant a lot of time away from the research, and also this site.

That said, since the last post I’ve taken care of most of the housekeeping that resulted from the interviewing I did in late summer / early Autumn in 2013 and interviewed another 6 people. Those interviews have all been transcribed by the wonderful Marian at Sound Words; can’t recommend her enough! One final interview was carried out at the end of January with a former motorcycle racer who was world champion several times in the 1950s (any guesses?). Alas, he went on holiday straight after the interview so I’m still waiting for clearance to use the transcript. If that comes through I’ll write a separate post about him and the very kind Mel Johnson from SERV Kent who made it happen.

The next stage is coding the interviews, a long, laborious yet necessary part of the process. Each transcript is loaded into a software package that allows sections of the text to be highlighted according to certain themes that arose in a discussion. If someone talks about having coming off a bike, that gets highlighted according to themes of accidents. If they talk about their parents being worried about them coming off a bike because they were riding recklessly, that might be coded with themes of family, safety concerns, attitudes to danger and so on. The process is a lengthy one that involves detailed analysis but will let me run some very clever reports: responses to questions on certain subjects, how multiple themes are connected, and how individuals’ responses vary in each area. All a bit complex and not something I know a lot about but learning about these processes is part of the PhD study, and an important part of building the structure for the final thesis.

The most recent thing I’ve done is to give a short presentation about my research at the University. I’m a student at the London College of Fashion which is part of the University of the Arts London, and research degrees are the responsibility of a specific section of the latter organisation. Everyone doing a PhD has to attend mandatory events and present about their work at various stages through the course. These presentations are effectively marked and successful completion allows students to progress to the next stage of the research degree through a process called Confirmation. College and University staff confirm that a student’s research project is progressing satisfactorily and they can continue to the final write-up. The presentation is followed by a big chunk of written work and an interview process. I’m hoping to go through those stages in around 3-4 months, then spend the next year writing 80,000 words. They don’t just give these qualifications away you know… (although if you’re a certain TV presenter there may be easier ways to get a PhD, but I don’t recommend them). I enjoyed the questions I was asked yesterday; they’re always interesting and thought provoking. I showed a short video by Belstaff that features David Beckham and was asked by a fellow student how the video related to my subject. I’d missed something simple and obvious, an easy thing to do when deeply involved with a subject, which was explaining that whilst Belstaff is seen nowadays as a high end fashion brand owned by an Italian luxury brands conglomerate, its origins are in highly functional “waterproof” waxed cotton clothing for adventurous outdoor pursuits and motorcycling. Waxed cotton popularity in the post-War period continued until more technical fabrics started to be developed and become affordable – GoreTex¬†being a wonderful, more recent example that has transformed motorcycling. I’ve already written about how much I like my tailored, imitation “Belstaff-style”¬†Claymore jacket and I’m wearing it almost daily at the moment.

So the next few months are to be spent with two objectives in mind: finding somewhere to live so that my in-laws, with whom we’re staying temporarily, don’t end up hating us, and getting some serious reading and writing done for the next stage of the PhD.

We aren’t yet entirely sure to where we’re moving, though we do have some interesting ideas. My wife and I decided over a year ago that we needed a little more excitement in our lives than rural Kent could offer, but didn’t fancy going back to living in the centre of another British city. Been there, bought the tshirt, cleaned the faeces off the front door etc etc. City centre living in the UK is certainly not for the faint hearted given that’s where one finds the more extreme ends of the drinking culture that exists here: fine to dip into it when you feel that way inclined but hell to live amongst it. We both have fairly mobile businesses that can function independently of location so, providing we can make the odd trip back to the UK every few weeks / months, we’re good to go anywhere that’s a reasonable journey time from our previous base in SE England. And our definition of reasonable is a dozen hours on a plane, so that gives us a lot of options. No decisions have been made as yet, and whilst we’ve some ideas about where we’d like to go, the how part is still in progress.

Any UK readers will know how crap the weather has been here recently Unfortunately all my cold weather motorcycle gear has gone into storage, so it’s a few weeks since a I last rode a bike. Admittedly this is a minor personal problem when compared to the fact that gale force wind and torrential rain has put large parts of the southern half of England underwater. Let’s hope things improve soon and that those affected are keeping safe.