The X61 (Nottingham-Leicester-Oxford)

Here’s an email saved in the archive from August 2005 that was sent to my best friends Anna, Jason and Sam. I was on the verge of leaving a good job for a year back at university…

Every school day for seven years I walked along a small section of the X61 bus route with my friends. And so the well-laid timetable of the bus proved a useful guide to the following seven years. First stop in moving from my small sleepy market town was Nottingham for my first taste of university. Then Leicester for my first proper job. Finally I move to the third city served by the bus; its southern terminus, Oxford.

From October I’ll be among the first students starting a new M.Sc. in African studies, and I can’t wait. For me 12 months is about right at Anglia. I’ve learnt a bit about how television news works and I have to say it’s been the most enjoyable job I’ve ever done. But, I’ve come to realise that two of the goals important to me, being a good overseas journalist, and being a good husband / father, are likely to be incompatible. And so, I’m keen to waste no time in doing the former before beginning the latter.

That having been said, going to Oxford is really about experiencing something new and intellectually challenging. St. Antony’s college will give me some great contacts, a good knowledge base in African affairs, and an important boost to my credibility-lacking bid to work in Africa. While I’m single, un-mortgaged and youngish it’s an offer I can hardly refuse. And although it’s always easier to do something that you pay for, rather than that pays you, I’d rather tell my children about a year in Oxford than a second year in Norwich.

In Congo there are some bridges which consist of only a metal structure and four planks. The idea is to drive from one set of planks to the other, and then take the flooring from behind to put in front. There’s a certain insecurity from having no way back and no clear way forward.



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