‘This is not a drill!’: countdown to the REF 2014

As the results of the research excellence framework approach, Emma Rees’ sleep-deprived imagination runs riot

December 11, 2014

Source: Miles Cole

Saturday 13 December 2014

Last weekend pre research excellence framework: time of positively halcyon innocence. Take day off. Mark two seminar presentations and answer 13 student emails. Wonder idly what algorithm could possibly have led email spammers to imagine am in market for “sexxxyRu$$ianBrides”.

Catch husband saying something about weekend, with puzzling, frankly undue, emphasis on second syllable. Close laptop. Promise Quality Time.

Snuggle on to sofa. Start watching Fellowship of the Ring DVD as prep for what’s become seemingly annual festive Tolkien cinema outing. Wake abruptly. Ask husband what Galadriel told Bilbo. “Frodo,” says husband. “Frodo.” Go to bed, perplexed by apparent hint of impatience in his voice.

Sunday 14 December 2014

Another day off. Review journal essay on legal status of trans women in Australian census returns. Realise how very much known about how very little. Ponder on chosen specialised subject, Mastermind-style. Narrow down choices: “Tottenham Hotspur: the Nicholson years”; “The vaginal art of Judy Chicago”; “Nancy Drew and the Hardy Boys”; “The Biblical apocrypha”. Get up to ask husband for opinion. Recall husband’s response to my 2005 draft list for Desert Island Discs. Hurriedly sit back down.

Close laptop. Go to feed cats. March through kitchen shouting: “OK, people! Listen up! This is not a drill! This is REFCON 5!” Equal measures of feline and familial bewilderment and pity. Go to living room. Sit and read quietly while husband watches Two Towers DVD. Ask where Sean Bean’s gone. Husband pauses DVD and looks at me. Take book to bed.

Miles Cole illustration (11 December 2014)

Monday 15 December 2014

Early morning text from electrician to say he can’t fix upstairs lighting today. Reconcile self to getting dressed quite literally in dark. Fear students believe fairly regular occurrence.

In between seminars, draft festive pleasure-reading list. No better time than Christmas to tackle unread classics. Write down: “Anything by Marcel Proust and Leo Tolstoy.” Go home. After dinner am furious with self for having opened all advent calendar doors up to and not excluding 22 December in frenzied moment of hunt-down-chocolate stress at weekend. Take glass of wine to living room; promise to stay awake for entirety of Return of the King. Husband’s expression suggests that “But where did the ring go?” question is misjudged. To bed, to muse on REFCON 4 (situation: not yet critical). Read same paragraph four times before turning off light.

Tuesday 16 December 2014

Tired, but not grumpy. Am rarely grumpy. Hit “send” on email to student. Glance over copy of email. Realise have praised student’s “precious wok”. Irritably type hasty follow-up email. Point out proximity of “c” to “v” on keyboard. Apologise that spellchecker did not know not to praise student’s kitchen equipment. Sign off with smiley face. Change mind. Want to keep casual but not inappropriate. Do not want to make Big Thing out of precious woks. Realise am making Big Thing out of precious woks. Sign off: “Regards, Emma.” Seems mite formal. Change to: “All best, E.” Try: “Best wishes, E.” Settle on: “Hope this helps! Emma.” Try not to look at fresh pile of essays delivered by print unit. Look at fresh pile of essays. Feel sullen. University has implemented programme-wide online submissions via plagiarism-hunting software called Stickemup. Log on to look at Stickemup reports. Initial panic quickly subsides when realise Stickemup can’t differentiate between quotations and student prose.

Wonder whether Stickemup software developers cut teeth spamming people with Ru$$ian brides. Replace “Marcel Proust” with “Game of Thrones boxset”. REFCON 3 (occasional apprehension; fall asleep wondering what being academic prepared to mobilise within 15 minutes would look like. Suspect it might involve Kensington presentation clicker. Fear for novelist office neighbour).

Miles Cole illustration (11 December 2014)

Wednesday 17 December 2014

Brisk lunchtime walk into town to order festive turkey for husband and cats. Cultivate disapproving vegetarian face to speak to butcher. Tell him am vegetarian and then order turkey. Butcher grins broadly. Full force of disapproval apparently not keenly enough felt. Walk slowly back to work. Coffee with departmental research coordinator. Try subtly, thinking “What would Nancy Drew do?”, to find out what she already knows about REF. She has been Briefed. She is Woman in the Know. Give up subtlety: ask outright. She smiles mysteriously. Once home, watch Newsnight. No mention of REF. No hint whatsoever. Replace “Leo Tolstoy” with “Lena Dunham”: drastic measures needed at REFCON 2 (high anxiety; stay awake on sofa until after 2am, watching shopping channel. Wonder (a) what “Diamonique” is; (b) how have managed to live so long without steam-mop; (c) where TV remote control is).

Thursday 18 December 2014

Early-doors staff meeting called. Head of department arrives: expression hard to read. This is it. This is no drill. THIS IS REFCON 1!

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Reader's comments (1)

This is so masochistic, it's terrifying