I’ve been having many, many issues with the previous WordPress theme (Twenty Fourteen) – see here for just one of the problems I found with it. It was just so inflexible, and there weren’t any easy ways to do the things I wanted to do with it.  I needed to make changes to individual .php and .css files, and even using plugins wasn’t as successful as it should have been.  It just wasn’t compatible with anything, and I haven’t quite got my head around using child themes yet (I will get there but for now I’m something of a WordPress Learner).

I want a theme that I can manipulate easily through the default menus and any simple and suitable plugins.  So I’ve moved to GeneratePress.  Occasionally I will find a function that I might need to manipulate the code for, but the GeneratePress developers offer a series of (paid-for) add-ins that will do most things, and I find this theme works well with the plugins I want to use.  I’ve moved over to this theme on a professional blog that I write for, and it seems to be a better fit with the look I’m aiming for.  I hope you like it!


PubhD is a public-speaking event for postgraduate students and early-career researchers to present their work to an audience in the pub.  This is great because:

1. It’s an opportunity to gain experience away from conferences and departmental posters days.

2. It’s in the pub! So it’s a bit more relaxed and friendly, plus you can have a beer while doing your presentation.

The first one was in Nottingham in January 2014, and since then students at other universities have been setting them up, not just in the UK, but all over the world.  And now me and a co-organiser have brought it to Manchester! The summary of our first event (which took place on 23rd February 2015) is here. We’ll be doing one a month, and I’m scheduled to talk at the March event.  Eeek!


The UK is less of a class-based society than it once was, but remnants of it do still exist.  Broadly speaking, we all know what working class, middle class and upper class mean to us.

But nowadays social class is often used by public bodies, businesses and universities to categorise people.  You sometimes hear about these classes in passing, e.g. the ubiquitous ABC1 male, but what does this actually mean?

The classes are summarised as follows:

 A upper middle class Higher managerial, administrative or professional
 B  middle class Intermediate managerial, administrative or professional
 C1  lower middle class Supervisory or clerical and junior managerial, administrative or professional
 C2  skilled working class Skilled manual workers
 D  working class Semi and unskilled manual workers
 E  non working Casual or lowest grade workers, pensioners, and others who depend on the welfare state for their income

More information available at


There’s a bloke in my office who has a mild obsession with the theory that the number of deaths in Manchester’s canals over the six years could be down to an undiscovered serial killer. I was a little sceptical of the idea – 61 deaths in canals over a six-year period sounds a lot, and it’s certainly 61 too many – but it’s not such a huge number that I might think it remarkable.

Here’s the original story, from The Independent.

And in this article from the Manchester Evening News, GM Police are quick to rubbish the notion – and maybe they have a point.

In the 23rd January 2015 episode of More or Less on Radio4 (it’s about two-thirds of the way through, at minutes 18:13 to 23.22), Tim Harford covers the actual likelihood of this being the case – compared to the number of bodies you might expect to fish out of the canal during a typical period of time.

So is there a serial killer at work? Only if they’re also a damn good statistician, it seems.


Recently, I’ve been a bit ranty about things that really piss me off about working in engineering, and my critical comments might imply to some that I don’t enjoy my work and that I wouldn’t want to encourage other women (or anyone) into the profession. Well, it’s true that there are times in which I get frustrated with crappy attitudes and ingrained biases, sure. In terms of where the industry is going, my experience has showed me that those making the big decisions (perhaps company owners, senior staff and leaders in the field generally) DO want to encourage more women and people from a diverse range of backgrounds into the profession, and support initiatives to make this happen. Even during the mere 15 years I’ve spent in the industry, there has been a noticeable increase in moves to recruit from non-traditional parts of society. The problem is dealing with individuals. There’s no way to legislate for individual prejudices (quite literally – if you face discrimination at work from an individual, you take the company to court – but then, the company really should have done something about it), and a combination of the message not filtering down from the top, and bad behaviour not being communicated to those higher up the chain, leads to a disjoint between the message and the reality.

It’s not all awful, all the time, everywhere, but there are still problems. And the fact that a big deal is being made about the industry becoming more inclusive can lead some people to believe that we’ve fixed everything already and that there is no such thing as prejudice anymore. Which just ain’t so. We’ve come a long way, but we still have a distance to go. I love the work I do, it’s just that when I encounter outdated ideas about my role and capabilities that I feel it prevents me from getting things done.

And would I recommend that women go into engineering as a career? Well, a friend asked me what I would say to encourage his daughter to be an engineer. And I said, “I wouldn’t”. But not for the reasons you think. She needs to make her own mind up. There are so many worthwhile careers she could pursue and engineering is just one of them. Even within engineering, there are a vast range of jobs, places to go, things to see, achieve and dream of. What we need to do is sell engineering as a great career choice, on a par with other highly regarded professions (which it is!). Then engineering can shine on its own merits and recruit not only the numbers it needs to survive, but the best.


“Hurrah! Finally a post about something interesting!” I hear you cry.  Well, steady on because there is a serious point to this one (booooooo!).

For some reason there’s a bit of an odd dichotomy between things that can be said in the workplace, and things that can be said in the workplace in front of delicate ladies.

I find this, frankly,  hilarious.

Watching people stop mid-sentence and dance around what they were actually going to say before they caught themselves provides me with a perverse pleasure. And I suppose I am a little bit offended that people think they can’t be themselves around me, or even that women are so appalled by filthy language that they have to censor themselves for our benefit.

A couple of great examples spring to mind.  I was inspecting a site, and a joiner was in the corner of a room I had just walked into, talking to someone just beyond the doorway on the other side of the room.  He was effing and jeffing in spectacular fashion, and then he noticed me behind him, stopped talking and apologised.  I said “no, say what you like, mate”, and he said “I f*cking well will, then!”.  In that instant, he gained a whole lot of respect from me.

Another, in a meeting, someone paused what they were saying to just check that it was ok to swear in front of me (???).  I said, “Yeah” and the person sat next to me said “You should have said ‘F*ck, yeah!”.  Tee hee.

And the person who sits behind me at work has the sickest, dirtiest mind I ever thought i could imagine (apart from my own, of course).  This is bloody brilliant.  Hours of entertainment.  Keep it up!  Even try and out-do yourselves! Really, I have such a high offence threshold I consider this a challenge.


I was discussing relationships with a good friend of mine (let’s face it, we were having a good old gossip), and we spoke about the concept of “The One”. My friend asked me if I thought there was such a thing, and my answer was…. Sort Of.

You see, I think that there are many possible Ones. I’m currently with someone who I think qualifies for that title, and I’ve gone out with people who I previously thought were The One. Maybe if things had worked out differently I might still have been with one of them now. But life isn’t a fairytale, and it doesn’t make our feelings any less real or valid, or some relationships worth more than others.

I’m in love now, and I was in love before. There’s no mystical secret behind finding love, and we’re only predestined in that our past experiences and upbringing shape our future lives. Most people end up with somebody (or somebodies) similar to them, and statistically speaking, there are thousands of people similar to me, and the same goes for you. Out of those there might be hundreds who are truly special in some way. And one of those, for me, was there in the right place at the right time. It’s not fate; it’s probability.

Tim Minchin expresses the concept far more eloquently than I, in the song “If I Didn’t Have You”: