Tag Archives: Fail

Special Delivery


I’ve been playing a new game recently.

It’s called “When Will My Package Arrive?” and, for almost three weeks, I remained locked in battle with a deliveryperson from MyHermes in a conflict as old as time. But, after a rollercoaster of emotion and a tidal wave of confusion, the battle is finally over.


The game had been going on for over three weeks, ever since I ordered a package from Ebay not long after Christmas from a very pleasant Man in The North. However, despite the best efforts of The Man in The North, my beautiful parcel-child seemed destined never to materialise at my doorstep due to an array of factors that I’m still yet to comprehend. Like many of the problems that exist in my life, the source of bother was board game-related; although, unlike most of said board game-based problems (i.e. that I don’t have enough), it was one caused mainly by the wrath of the Gods themselves.

This all started on Christmas Day 2014, when I decided to try and remedy the ailment of ‘Not Receiving Any New Board Games For Xmas’-itis by picking up a copy of the third expansion to Dirk Henn’s Alhambra from Ebay because, by happy coincidence, someone (the aforementioned ‘The Man in The North’) was selling a German copy of the expansion and I need a version of it in German so that it fits in with my German copy of the original Alhambra game. So far, so straightforward.

Fast-forward a few days, and it’s New Year’s Eve 2014 and I’ve popped out at lunchtime to go and grab some food and coffee. Upon my return, I discover a ‘Sorry I Missed You’ card from the MyHermes person waiting for me, jammed in the metal shrouding surrounding the buzzer system to my block of flats. The truth is, I wasn’t expecting my package to arrive so soon (estimated delivery placed it at around the 4th-10th of January), and so had I known there was a chance of it arriving then I would’ve probably stayed in to receive it. Never mind, though; surely they would try again on the next working day to bring me my package, and I’d soon be whisking myself to Gametown to build my Alhambra with a few friends.

Alas, the next working day was New Year’s Day 2015; a national holiday in the UK. Friday came and went without an appearance from my package [snigger], and the weekend proved equally fruitless. With the coming of Monday, though, I felt sure that the days of my package being neglected [snigger] were numbered and that I would soon be fondling my package [snigger] in the comfort of my own home.

However, Monsieur/Madame Hermés seemed to have a difficult time in finding my house. Despite the fact that they had found it successfully once, I discovered that they had a penchant for listing the parcel as ‘Out for Delivery’ on the MyHermes tracking facility, but never coming to my flat to attempt delivery. Quite naturally, I took to social media to express my frustration, in an open letter:

Dear MyHermes delivery person,

I don’t wish to tell you how to do your job or nothin’, but I think you’ll find that the easiest way of actually delivering my package is to just come to my house and give it to me, rather than listing it as ‘Out for Delivery’ each day and then not bothering to come anywhere near my flat.

I know that it’s likely not that big or bulky, but it’s still going to get pretty boring to see that same package in the back of your van every day. Plus, think of the pennies of fuel consumption and tyre wear you’ll save by it not being in there and having a van that’s 250g lighter.

I appreciate that my package probably hasn’t seen enough of the world, and that you’re doing a sterling job of driving it around and letting it see the sights of Southampton – I imagine the postcards of its exciting trips to St. Mary’s, Millbrook and perhaps even Chandler’s Ford will be something to show the grandchildren.

Perhaps it is simply that you have forgotten where I live, and can’t remember where you were supposed to be bringing my package to after it’d been on its round-the-world adventures. An easy mistake, we all do it sometimes. If that was the case, if you look on the back of my package, there should be – somewhere – a little tracking device called ‘An Address’ that you pop into this thing called ‘A Map’ and where it tells you where my flat is.

I know that that’s not as fun as playing ‘Hot or Cold’ with my package as you drive around Southampton for days on end, trying to get closer to ‘Warm’, but my package is late for his tea and he’s got school in the morning so it’s probably best that he come home now and do all his homework and everything. If you’re having trouble convincing him, tell him his mum said that if he comes home now then he can stay up for another hour and watch another episode of “Monsoon Poultry Hospital” as a special treat.

Anyway, sorry to bother you, hope to see you soon,

Si x

A day or so then passes before I once again remember to check the MyHermes tracking service, and realise that the courier had apparently tried to come round earlier in the day whilst I was briefly out meeting a friend for lunch. Confusingly, the MyHermes tracker lists as being “Not Del’d – 3rd and Final Attempt” (despite it being only the second try) and, even more confusingly, neither did the courier leave a ‘Sorry I Missed You’ card (nor on the imaginary second delivery attempt) so there was no way of contacting the deliveryperson to re-arrange the delivery for a more convenient time or to arrange to collect it myself from somewhere.

Because it’s fairly usual in these circumstances (after, say, 3 deliveries have been attempted to no avail) for the parcel to be returned to the sender, I leapt onto Ebay to message The Man in The North in order to explain the problem and to let me know if/when it turned up at his house so that we could re-arrange a different way of delivery. Speaking to His People™, he was informed that the parcel was – once again – listed as ‘Out for Delivery’ that day, and that I should wait and see if it turned up that day.

I waited in all of that day. I did not leave the house.

Granted, at one point I put one foot outside of my back door to lean out to see if there was someone in the car park because I’d heard a van and wondered if Captain(ess) Hermes had appeared but the door buzzer hadn’t worked for some reason [SPOILERS: they hadn’t]. But no, I waited in all day; driving myself slightly mental and paranoid in the process. And no-one came.

Nor did they come the next day. Or the next day. Or the next day after that.

“This is it,” I thought. “All is Lost.” Gone forever. Swallowed into the void. Fallen over the precipice. I would never see my beautiful package again. I would never know its loving caress. With a tear dribbling down my cheek, I wrote to The Man in The North, explaining that the fruits of our union would never be savoured, and that it was likely that our charming offspring would probably be returned to his address. Since The Man in the North was a lovely man, he immediately refunded my PayPal payment, and promised that he would re-arrange another delivery (via a more reliable carrier) once it turned up with him again.

It was with immense surprise, then, that I returned from a brief shopping trip yesterday afternoon to find a “Sorry I Missed You” card from Hermes, apparently from a driver called ‘Andy’. Was I dreaming? Was this merely a hallucination? Was there going to be a happy ending after all?

Well: this lunchtime, ‘Andy’ dropped by again with a sparkling blue package nestled in his grasp. There was no fanfare; no chorus of angels. I looked to the sky, in case a beacon of light was deigned to shine down from the heavens, but I didn’t see one. Perhaps the Gods had forgotten to set their alarms. ‘Andy’ and I stood, staring at each other, in the rain outside my front door. Looking in each other’s eyes, we both knew that we had found each other. The harsh reality of the modern world may place many obstacles in the way of progress but, in the words of the great Dr. Ian Malcolm: “Life, uh, finds a way.”

Out of the darkness, my package had burst forth, bringing light and hope to hitherto black corners of existence. As I cradled my long-lost package in my arms, the tear once again materialised on my cheek and I felt my lips tremble like the legs of a baby deer as it struggles, hopelessly, to open the blister packaging of a new Black & Decker cordless drill.

“Thank you,” I whispered.

And, in that moment, we both knew that everything would now, forever, be all right. The game might now be over, but a spiritual connection would forever exist between the both of us; a product of our combined journey and our growth as people. With nary a parting word or goodbye embrace, we went our separate ways; destined for diverging paths but always retaining the memories of our beautiful game.

We entered the arena as but footsoldiers, but left as generals. Let’s hope we never have to do battle again.


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PhD Fraud #05: Crashing Around You


A few weeks back, before I went and had super-fun at Bestival 2012 (my review can be found here), I spent three days or so at Cumberland Lodge in the middle of Windsor Great Park discussing the prospects for a postgraduate-graduate and meeting with a whole slew of people from across the country and a whole bunch of PhD disciplines in a similar situation of pre- or post-thesis preparations. This post partly acts as a personal debrief for everything that I learnt at the event, but also explores a few of my continuing ‘PhD Fraud’ themes that have populated my other posts in this series thus far.

What may be surprising is that it was not the talks from interesting set of speakers, nor the discussions with other (confident) PhD students attending the conference that gave me the most food for thought, but a stimulating all-night conversation with someone who (in many ways) feels a lot like me, and in a similar position through her project, of feeling a complete Fraud at postgraduate research. Usually, I speak to students who’re still passionate and confident about their work, but rarely talk to those who’re happy to admit that they hate their PhD and just don’t want to do it any more. Perhaps we genuinely are the only people out there who are completely at odds with their research (and I don’t believe that for a second), but I was surprised just how much I didn’t feel able to connect with those who were perfectly satisfied (and passionate) about their work: I just couldn’t compute how that felt, to still enjoy what you’re doing, and to be excited each day to get back to work.

It’s no big secret that I’ve (kind of) fallen out of love with my PhD: I’ve misplaced the passion that I had for it, and now merely wish to see the process through and see the ink dry on the piece of paper saying that I’ve been passed and can finally move on to a different project, potentially at a different institution or field. I know for sure that it’s just a cocktail of coincedence: a combination of a topic that’s kept moving out of my grasp, a project that’s deviated considerably from its initial definition and the sheer amount of time I’ve spent concentrating on one, single thing. The chance to get started on something new is something that I will relish, and hopefully on a topic that I find more engaging than my current work. I’ve not lost my passion for all things space and satellites, but I’d prefer to move on from the miniscule little niche that I’ve chipping away at in one of the very lonely corners of that world.

I’m also just starting a course of mentoring to help me work better. A lot of the time, I find I have significant problems gaining the motivation to start work each day, that by the time I’ve raised the courage to really get started, it’s nearly the end of the day or I’m too tired to actually get anywhere. Maybe that’s the stress and frustration talking, but I kind of don’t really feel that there’s anything about my work/daily routine that gets me out of bed in the morning; nothing to motivate me to get working other than ‘it needs to be done’. Many of the other attendees of the conference were students from the humanities: for which they’ve chosen their research subject, presumably, because of some prior enthusiasm or interest for their chosen topic. I imagine this prior passion inspires armfuls of motivation to completely engross yourself in your subject, and pursue research out of both necessity (for awarding of degree) and personal interest. In the sciences, students largely move with the funding, occupying whatever task/project needs taken on at that time: often, passion for the field will reflect in the research, but perhaps less often: fr’instance, I wouldn’t dream of performing simulations of sea surface radar signatures in my spare time, but if I was doing a PhD on The Influence of Star Wars on Modern Science-Fiction Movies, I’d probably spend all my time in front of a DVD player and projector.

That being said, I’m still very aware of being switched ‘on’ all the time; always worried about my work, or that my whole life might come crashing down on me any minute – not necessarily about the work itself (I yearn for the night I bolt upright with some truly world-changing inspiration), but about its impact and on all that stuff I have to do tomorrow. It’s not so much that I’m kept awake at night over it (at least, not yet), but I can never seem to escape the Doubt nor switch on the Conviction to succeed. I’m desperately terrified that I’ll get “found out”, or that suddenly my supervisors/faculty will realise that I’m actually not a good enough student, and I’ll be kicked out into the street. Or worse, I’ll write up my thesis only for everyone involved to go: “Is that it?” and I’ll come out of this PhD journey with nothing; or worse, the ‘consolation prize’ of an MPhil or some other token degree that’s an acceptance that I definitely tried, but that I most definitely failed.

Heck, I even feel such a fraud that, should the stars align and I suddenly become the luckiest bastard alive and manage to pass my viva, I think I’ll probably feel guilty about calling myself ‘Doctor’; like I haven’t really earned it, I was just in the right place at the right time. Perhaps I’ll go the complete opposite way and change my name to ‘Dr. Thundersmash’, then at least my name will be about as credible as I feel.


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