Laurie Taylor Column

September 8, 2006

What are you reading this holiday?

We conclude our investigation by making another surprise mobile call to a member of university staff.

This week: The Departmental Secretary, Department of Media and Cultural Studies, University of Poppleton (Maureen) Holiday venue: A well-restored farm cottage in a group of buildings close to the ever-popular beach at Dinard, Brittany.

Times Higher : Bonjour . Is that Maureen?

Maureen: Oui .

Higher : This is The Times Higher . You're not too busy to talk?

Maureen: Non, non. J'écrivais une lettre à Professor Lapping. Mais ce n'est pas important .

Higher : Erm. Could we speak in English? We wanted to know what you were reading at the moment.

Maureen: I'm reading Mary Barton by Mrs Gaskell.

Higher : And you're enjoying it?

Maureen: I'd hardly say that. It's a terrible story of exploitation.

Higher : Really?

Maureen: Oh yes. It's about women being required to work long hours in poor conditions for very little pay and absolutely no appreciation.

Higher : Really?

Maureen: And despite all that they're still expected to be polite and deferential to their masters who live in big houses and constantly complain about their own predicament.

Higher : It does sound a trifle depressing. Do you read anything other than fiction such as this on holiday?

Maureen: Never. That's the great thing about such fiction. It really takes you out of yourself.

Higher : Well, Maureen. Thank you very much. I think we have enough there.

Maureen: Bon, alors, bonne chance ou comme on dit en anglais "good luck".

Higher : And "good luck" to you, Maureen.

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