A professor’s Boxing Day diary

Emma Rees tackles work, the ultimate seasonal fun spoiler, and finalises her list of new year’s resolutions

December 24, 2015
Calendar showing 26 December/Boxing Day

Saturday 26 December 2015

Annual Boxing Day road trip to Kent to visit family. Husband insists on early start to avoid traffic.

All of Cheshire has made early start to avoid traffic. Tailback.

In attempt to raise spirits of husband and daughter, make observation that, like Nietzsche’s monsters, we’ve become the very traffic we set out to avoid. The A51 via Crewe is our abyss. Husband concentrating too hard on road to reply. Daughter concentrating too hard on phone to hear.

Husband asks daughter to pass mince pie from bag of snacks.

Daughter has put overnight bag, make-up case, spare boots, spare shoes, iPad, jacket, bag of presents and handbag on top of snacks bag. It is Bananageddon.

Finish wiping mushy banana from mince pie, but husband has changed mind. Tell him he’s childish. Eat it myself.

Husband asks if mince pie tastes of banana.


Mindful of needing to be mindful when at in-laws’ house, decide to spend rest of journey working. Open folder of third-year students’ dissertation abstracts.

Read abstract on Tolkien’s feminist sensibilities. V short. Twitter notification on phone. Mindfully ignore it.

Read Twitter notification. Twist round to check on daughter: slumped down on back seat, headphones on, nose pressed to window, staring dejectedly at stationary traffic like puppy, or Jo Johnson on Newsnight.

Have quick game of Candy Crush while regaining train of thought.

Check Facebook notifications.

Watch video of orang-utan laughing at magic trick. Offer to show husband, who pointedly reminds me he’s driving. Pointedly remind him that my role on annual Boxing Day trip used to be to navigate, but now, largely thanks to GPS, is to entertain and inform and, no, I can’t do that quietly, and, no, I haven’t got dissertation abstracts to read, actually.

Continue reading dissertation abstracts.

Wake up on arrival at in-laws’ house.

Forgo family outing to see new Star Wars film. Watch quick five minutes of television before starting work on abstracts again.

Start watching recorded episode of Gogglebox with cool academic irony and detachment.

Sob helplessly at footage of homeless man being told dog needs to be put to sleep.

Multitask: mentally draft academic paper on Gogglebox, neoliberal individualism and Baudrillardian simulacra.

Text husband to tell him about groundbreaking article, now called “‘The veracity of living phantoms’: towards an epistemology of Gogglebox”. Wait patiently for his delighted reply.

Husband replies. Asks how much I’ve written. Clearly misses importance of first perfecting title.

Turn off TV and check Facebook. Pop-up advert invites me to click link to calculate when I can retire. Clicking may dampen festive spirit. Text husband to ask if he’d consider retiring to seaside or whether he’d prefer modern conveniences of city.

Husband texts back asking if could please text only if it’s emergency as someone called Kylo Ren’s doing something important and vibrating text alert is distraction. (Kylo Ren probably on Starship Enterprise. Do not text for confirmation.)

Lie in bed after family supper. Draft new year’s resolutions on iPad:

1. Read for pleasure for min. one hour/day

2. Watch TV for max. one hour/day

3. Go to bed only once email inbox cleared

4. Answer no more than one Facebook quiz per day as don’t urgently need to decide which of Jane Austen’s characters I’d snog, marry or avoid

5. Read Luce Irigaray in original French

6. Learn at least one sonnet/week

7. Stop putting bananas in packed lunches

8. End global misogyny

9. Watch Question Time without commenting on audience members’ haircuts.

Pleased with list. Snuggle down to play one last game of Candy Crush.

Wake self by dropping iPad on to nose. Turn off light. Hope nose not bruised.

Emma Rees is professor of literature and gender studies at the University of Chester and author of The Vagina: A Literary and Cultural History.

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