Don's diary: Farewell 'quality police'

September 12, 2003

Monday

No, not flying back from Kalamazoo in post-conference triumph.

Actually looking round room LW 119 wondering how best to gut it pre-retirement. The formal farewell was weeks ago - not a dry eye in the house - and it's been dead man walking ever since. Some of these books have been slumbering here since the 1960s. Is it my fault that publishers' Nasty Letters sections don't talk to their Sales/Inspection Copies crews?

Some Radio 4 Big-Gob is going on about media studiesI andI wait for itI yesI polytechnics. We can agree on that term at least, although the R4B-G uses it as an insult while I see it as a compliment. Start on bottom-right desk drawer. Find Lucky Jim under a hole-punch. Kingsley Amis was pontificating that "more means worse" when I was a schoolboy, but if the punters and I had really been declining at the rate advertised between his time and R4B-G's, we would all be invertebrates by now.

Tuesday

Fill bin bags without visible reduction in room content despite one empty desk drawer. Nowadays, this is about the only fallow week, the one between clearing and the resits. That's why most people use it to write next year's study guides, if only to get them to the print room before they give priority to the paperwork generated by the shift from schools to faculties, or whichever way round it is this year. It's like that poor chap in 1984 who had to exchange all the official references to Oceania and Eurasia.

Once you start chucking stuff, it gets easier by the cubic metre. Witness Statements to the Quality Police... module descriptors... "to facilitate a contextual appreciation of..." What else did I get away with? As I never met a student who evinced the slightest... interest in an aim or an objective, I am happy not to know the difference.

Wednesday

Delete emails faster than a spin doctor summoned to a judicial inquiry. R4B-G suggests we get back to training plumbersI to touch their forelocks to him, I suspect.

Thursday

Try to find the site of my first-ever room. It accommodated six of us. So far as I can tell, it's now a corner of someone's executive assistant's PA's fitness trainer's anteroom. Ah, the last and first rule of happiness and commitment here, and elsewhere too no doubt: never confuse the management pro tem with the real spirit of the place.

LW 119 is beginning to look different. Knock-knock. A student.

Not just any old student. It's Helen. I have known dozens of Helens, and it has been an education and an honour. The first lot are now heads of chambers and the like. Most find lawyering a doddle compared with qualifying while working shifts and bringing up children. Meanwhile, in the Torygraph, there is an editorial eulogising some chap who got a degree at Oxford while working a whole two days a week - I bet he didn't have a family to look after.

Friday

Pictures, cups, bric-a-brac. Do not bring anything else home, my wife said last night. One more bin bag. One last incoming email, that regular Friday-night thing from the Institute of Teaching and Learning. I compose an auto-reply, eventually deleting the suggestion that ILT find another mug to rook in lieu of my annual subscription. Take my name off the door. Fading like HAL in 2001. Leave key at law school reception. Out.

Chris Barton was professor of family law and director of the Centre for the Study of the Family, Law and Social Policy at Staffordshire University. Now he isn't.

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