The undergrad thing is quietly clocking away - it's basically on hold until I get my A level result (hmm, singular sounds odd there) through, although I'll withdraw before then if I get a postgrad place sorted out.
No word back on the PhD emails yet, so I might send out a couple more (to different people) soon.
On the MSc front, heard back from the Kings admin person again. She recommended that I should just submit an employer reference for now, since the academic ones aren't that relevant. I can then explain what I've done, and they'll be in touch if they need an academic reference. Now, in theory there's a complex procedure to keep references anonymous. I give an instruction sheet to the relevant person, with an envelope addressed to me. He/she then writes the reference, seals it in the envelope, then signs the envelope across the seal before posting it. I then send the sealed envelope in to Kings with my application form - the referees don't post it to the university directly. That way, I collate the info, but I can't open the envelope without revealing that I've done it.
Last time I got a reference like this (for one of my previous MSc applications), the partner at work got me to proof-read it before he sent it, which gives you an idea of the real-life situation here. I have to say, PMSI have always been very supportive of my academic ambitions, which I really appreciate. So, I figured the same thing would apply this time round - they'd show me the reference, so that it would be what I need. More than that, the partners at work are obviously busy people, so I don't want to impose on their time too much. So, I spent about an hour at home drafting the reference for them :) I know this sounds presumptious, but I figured that they wouldn't mind, and they could always ignore it/amend it/whatever before actually signing it. The trick was trying to get the right balance - I need to make myself sound good, but I tried to avoid comments like "John can walk on water - choirs of angels sing his name!" And, I was right - Patrick was quite happy for me to give him the draft. We then spent about another half hour going over it in the office, fine tuning it a bit, so I have that here now.
I've filled out the basic info on the application form (name, address, etc.), but I've left the free-text sections alone for now. Besides the reference and the application form itself, I also need to include a transcript from Durham, i.e. a list of what courses I took, and what marks I got. I've sent off the form/cheque to Durham, and I'm waiting to hear back from them at the moment. They said they'd reply within ten working days, and I sent the form in last Tuesday (14th), so I'm hoping to get the transcript back any day now.
Thinking back, when I wrote the journal entry on 8th May, I said"I should be able to get the application all sorted out by the end of next week", i.e. by last Friday (17th May). At the time, I was aiming for a conservative estimate, although I suspected that it would sound like loads of time to people reading it. Looks like I underestimated it, as it turns out...
Anyway, when I get the transcript, I can read it for myself, and then send a copy to Kings (they don't need the original). That means that I'll know everything that they see, and it makes sense to take advantage of that by tailoring my application form to match the reference/transcript, which is why I'm waiting. In particular, I'm wondering whether the transcript will include results from my 1st year, since that didn't count towards my overall degree mark (only 2nd/3rd years directly relevant to that). I hope it does, because I got the equivalent of a 1st in my exams (77%). If so, I'll play off that in my form ("I have the ability to get a 1st, but I messed up my time management in later years, and I'm better at that now"). If not, I'll need to take a different angle. I think I did pretty well on my projects, and maybe I can comment on the courses, e.g. if I got good marks in the subjects that are relevant to the MSc course (e.g. AI), and bad marks in the ones that I wouldn't pursue further (e.g. micro-processor design). Lorna has volunteered to proof-read the form for me, which is very kind, so I'll have to take her up on that (once I've actually written the thing).
All in all, I'm feeling pretty optimistic about this. I'm particularly happy that the admin staff are being supportive, since I think that was where I got stone-walled at Imperial. If I do get through, I'll definitely send some flowers to the secretary!