Laurie Taylor Column

August 19, 2005

Out-of-office reply

I am afraid that I am currently on holiday and will not be able to reply to your recent e-mail communication until I return to my office on August 29.

Well, I say "on holiday" but, quite honestly, three miserable weeks is hardly what we used to mean by holiday in the good old days.

I mean, back then, we would start thinking about "the long vacation" half an hour after the final examiners' meeting.

And that "long vacation" was in effect three glorious months from roughly the end of the second week in July up to the end of the second week of October.

Just imagine that. Twelve weeks of freedom. Of course, there was the vague notion that we might just spend part of that time on a bit of research or some lecture revision.

But no one ever met up with a colleague after the long break and asked how their research had gone or how much revision they'd done on their lectures while they were away.

Oh, no. The presumption was that we'd all had a bloody good holiday and - what's more - we'd all thoroughly deserved it. Every single month.

But nowadays the summer holiday isn't a long leisurely break. It's a tightly structured fully accountable three-week interlude squashed between 49 weeks of unremitting grind.

And another thing. In the good old days, we never had to tell anyone where we were going to be during the long vacation. We were footloose and fancy-free.

But now I have to write my holiday details on a big chart in Maureen's office for all to see. Put a big "H" against each of the days when I will I not be at my desk.

And then underneath write Quimper, Brittany, not forgetting to write the telephone number of the local boulangerie below in case someone at the university should decide to call an emergency meeting on strategic goals at some time in mid-August.

So, as I was saying, I am afraid that I am currently away on holiday and will not be able to reply to your recent e-mail communication until after I have returned to my office on August 29.

Now, please leave me alone.

Gordon Lapping

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