My new academic year: day one

Emma Rees offers a time-sensitive account of the start of term

October 3, 2013

Source: Albiberon

Alarm sounds. Try to turn it off. End up knocking it on floor; cat streaks in panic across bed, waking husband, making dog bark. Close eyes. Just five more minutes.

Wake up. Hang over edge of bed, looking underneath to find alarm clock. Nearly land on head. Find alarm clock. Swear. Try to blame husband for having overslept.

Leave house.

Remember that diary is on kitchen table. Remember that it is lifeline. Return home.

Arrive at department. Immediately confronted by puzzled-looking Very Young Person in foyer, flourishing glossy booklet. VYP peers out from under long fringe. Note that VYP is probably wearing more make-up than I have ever done. Cumulatively. Wonder what time VYP got up in order to apply it all. Completely miss VYP’s question.

Skilfully answer unheard question (realise now it is too late to ask VYP to repeat it) by fixing benign smile and enthusiastically remarking: “I’m afraid I don’t know.” Direct VYP to departmental office.

Turn on laptop in office. VYP knocks on door. Turns out question was: “Where is your office?” Reply of seven minutes ago immediately consigned to “Excruciatingly embarrassing moments in workplace” file. Fix smile again. Invite VYP to sit down.

VYP’s furtive glances from under fringe slightly alarming until realisation dawns: she’s looking over my shoulder at laptop. It is still stuck on Ocado homepage from previous evening. Mid-sentence, gracefully swing chair round to turn it off. Forget about big pile of papers stacked on table.

Finish picking up papers off floor.

VYP departs. Take five minutes to deal with work emails.

Finish checking emails.

Attend first departmental meeting of new academic year. Scrupulously ignore Tanned Colleague and sit next to Novelist Colleague instead. Head of department begins meeting with humorous anecdote about owl. Laugh politely. Discussion turns briefly to research excellence framework.

REF talk continues. Wonder what it would be like to have owl as pet.

REF discussion continues. Realise I’ve no idea about owl life expectancy. Who would care for owl if I went first? Dwell deeply on mortality until coffee and biscuits arrive.

Coffee and biscuits arrive.

Meeting focus shifts from REF to revalidation of undergraduate programme. Short talk from happy Registry people about revalidation. Wonder how they can be so happy. Look thoughtfully at colleagues to see how happy they look. Catch Tanned Colleague’s eye. He has chewed pen and has blue Dracula line oozing from mouth. Signal surreptitiously to him.

Happy Registry people resume talk. Turns out I don’t do surreptitious.

Think about lunch. Happy Registry people invite questions.

Meeting ends.

Eat lunch. Check emails. Realise have no desire to “request a complimentary copy of A Synoptic History of Classical Rhetoric”. Disappointed by my clear lack of scholarly rigour. Request complimentary copy to make up for it. Wonder how friend in Florida is getting on. Check Facebook. Admire video of large orange cat bursting balloon. Wonder how to teach our cat to do so. Resolve to try later.

Give self five minutes to watch video of cat in cardboard box, emailed as link by friend who clearly has little better to do than watch cat videos. Very unscholarly. Forward her Synoptic link.

Dissertation meeting with final-year student. Ask her to tell me what reading she’s done over summer.

Suggest she needs to do more reading. Unsuccessfully attempt to steer her away from Twilight. Resist urge to ask her if she’s considered classical rhetoric instead.

Pastoral meeting with new student. Hope to snap her out of homesickness by asking where she’s from.

New student starts to cry. Offer her last tissue from box. Must buy more tissues for pastoral meetings. Begin to make mental shopping list.
Wonder about spelling of “hummus”.

Student stops crying. Ask her to tell me a little bit about herself and her family.

Student stops crying. Leaves.

Make cup of tea in departmental office. Previous colleague has emptied kettle. Assume tight-lipped, tensed-jaw unimpressed demeanour en route to refilling kettle. Bump into same colleague in corridor. He asks me if I’ve got toothache. I lie.

Colleague finishes telling me about his root canal surgery. Fill kettle.

Back in office with tea. Decide to do teaching planning. Allow myself to read for 10 minutes first. Pick up new book on body politics.

Realise it’s getting dark. Put book down, turn off laptop, head home.

Sit on sofa with husband. Promise to make dinner.

Woken by husband with dinner.

Remember that must reply to urgent work emails. Lift laptop lid. Promise husband it will only take 10 minutes.

Husband closes laptop lid.

Report hilarity of cat-v-balloon internet sensation. Husband assumes stern “It’ll only end in tears” face.

Joke about toothache falls disappointingly flat.

Anecdote about joke about toothache also falls flat. Owl anecdote likewise.

Pick up last bit of shredded balloon. Pour large glass of wine. Resolve to set alarm.

Get into bed. Turn out lights.

Remember to set alarm.

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Reader's comments (1)

No love making whatsoever? It makes for a good start for the week, regardless of the grilling routine...

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