When did you complete the PhD?
Yes it was January 1995.
How many years did it take?
It took three and a bit.
And how old were you when you started?
Very old. I was 36 I think, yeah I was 36. I came into education late. I was a mature undergraduate and they had a – they used to have I don't know if they've still got it – they had a mature student intake, you submit an essay then you get invited to do an exam. You write something in exam conditions and then you had an interview and I was recruited through there because I don't have any formal education, I've only got a few O Levels and GCSEs and an A Level in English. So I went to university in my 30s and graduated with a first class honours degree, was thinking about doing an MA and one of my supervisors, one of my tutors said well you've got a first class honours degree you don't need an MA. Start doing a PhD so I did. So I stayed.
Can you tell me a bit about what you were doing before you started as an undergraduate?
Yeah I left school at 16 with three O Levels as they were called and worked in the Civil Service for a while, got transferred to London and worked in London as a tax consultant. Moved to the City and worked in the City for a while. And then decided that I could use a change of direction. I'd been working for nearly 20 years by that stage and it was time for a change of direction. I didn't like the job I was in so I sold my house in London and bought a smaller one and went to university and stayed. I stayed in education.
Can you tell me a little bit about the kind of dilemmas that you faced in giving up a well paid job, security, to sell your house, move away and embark on something quite unknown?
It wasn't too difficult. I mean I'm kind of adventurous by nature really except that I was in very safe and secure employment. I had been for many years, very good pensionable civil service employment and things. But I was bored I mean I'd always intended going to university or going further with education and circumstances forced me to leave at 16. Personal circumstances. So when I had the opportunity I suddenly thought 'I'm single, I have a very nice expensive house in London with virtually no mortgage on it' because I was earning very well. And I knew I could purchase a house and not have a mortgage. My intention was just to spend three years indulging myself reading English and then thinking about what I would do afterwards and so I just, I got involved, and after meeting lots of post grad students, because I was older, and hanging out with one or two of the tutors who were about the same age as me anyway, I thought I quite like this, I'd quite like to be involved so I did a PhD, I got a British Academy grant for that at the time which were easier to get for humanities then and so making the decision wasn't difficult at all really. Being solvent helped, not only being solvent but a British Academy grant also helped a great deal because it was quite a lot of money really.
Did it mean then you didn't have to work through PhD?
Yeah but I did work, I did some teaching but I also worked one day a week for an accountancy firm.