Alexander Ewing is taking drastic measures as the end nears

If the sub-editor caught my intentions correctly, this column should appear under a pseudonym.

This is a trial run, but may turn out to be a permanent change.

Choosing a fitting name is beyond me at the time of writing. So that is up to the sub too.

Hoping for something better than ‘Your Columnist’.

If up to me, I remain torn between preferring a banal Mark Twain-style ‘Samuel Clemens’ or something like ‘Silence Dogood’, Benjamin Franklin’s sneaky cover when writing letters to the New England Current, which happened to be published by his brother.

Whilst in Britain, Franklin wrote letters in newspapers and magazines under the name of “Benevolus”. Maybe that will do.

Benevolus tried to defend the reputation of American colonists, whereas regular readers will recall that I have been less than kind.

Why go to all this trouble? I am in job application overdrive. And if by chance someone on a hiring committee comes across my grumbly reflections on academic life, it could finally scupper, I fear, any hope of finding stable employment.

Last year, some enterprising Merton first years found my scribblings in The Oxford Times while on a ‘who is our tutor?’ Google snoop. “We were a bit intimidated,” one admitted to me.

I have not fully recovered from the embarrassment. May I put on the record here that the Merton lot were a pleasure to teach, as are all of my students, in fact.

You see – finding a pseudonym would be much easier. If I’m honest, this column is a useful space to let off steam.

The pressure of simultaneously writing up my dissertation and being ‘on the job market’ has me rattled. The realities of the latter reinforce my premonition about the futility of the former.

Crawling towards the finish line has required some drastic measures. I now work in the most inhospitable, dimly-lit back corner of the Politics Department that one can find.

The quicker I type, the sooner my imprisonment will end. Noise dampening headphones do little to drown out voluble masters’ students and the constant rattle from a nearby ventilation duct.

As many readers will recall, a year or so ago, I left the quadrangle confines of central Oxford for leafier surroundings in Eynsham.

It was my intention to work mostly from home, in my humble Oxon version of Montaigne’s tower – perched up away from the crowds, surrounded by books and with a nice view of Wytham Woods.

Montaigne reminds us that a wise man can live anywhere contented, but if up to him, will always choose solitude.

But to take advantage, one must do more than remove themselves from a crowd. We must seek solitude within ourselves, and unburden the soul of the tasks and habits that take our attention elsewhere.

Alas, I’m hardly productive at home. So for now I continue to commute and prefer to write about others – perhaps with more anonymity from now on.