Don's Diary

February 4, 2000

Monday. Ended the last century with chronic fatigue: 1999 saw the birth of my son Max, a move to a bigger house and the publication of my life of Lord Goodman.

Began new century with flu when the millennium bug hit me. Now a bit better. Colleagues return to work. I am a believer in the old notion of convalescence, preferably in Sicily, but home will do. Not quite up to marking.


Realise how tight marking deadlines are because of the accursed semesterisation and modularity. Bring back year-long courses.

Begin marking. Usual surprise at the overall quality of the work. Still the odd howler. Britain was, apparently, the workhouse of the world in the mid-19th century.


Feeling better and decide to venture out. Take Max to gym babes. Only Dad with 14 mums and au pairs. Where are the new men?

Chair meeting of the 20th-century British history seminar at Institute of Historical Research - under David Cannadine's dynamic leadership the place has a deeply uncharacteristic buzz.


Colleagues who went back to work on Monday have relapse millennial flu - apparently worse than the initial virus. Despite the chance of reinfection, venture into work. Collect posters for our spring lecture series. This year's theme is evil. Spend two hours putting them up around campus. My wife's words ringing in my ears: "Isn't that someone else's job?" Too tired to explain that everyone else has relapse millennial flu. Just after finishing my flyposting someone points out that they have the wrong room on them.


Sleep. Baby. Mark. Sleep. Baby. Mark.


To LSE for launch of Sydney Webb biography by Royden Harrison. Michael Foot is speaking and is funny and moving - a messenger from another age. He does not speak for too long, so his wife Jill, who died just before Christmas, would have approved. Thursday

To House of Commons to give lecture on "The impact of Blair" to a group of chain-smoking Romanian parliamentarians. They listen politely and then come to life when I talk about public-private partnerships. Am grilled on privatised industries. How can there be competition in the supply of water? Take refuge in generalities.


Begin second marking. Draft module report. Collate student questionnaire findings. Our universities are the most assessed and bureaucratised in the world. We stand, like Tony Banks when he took an oath of allegiance to the Queen, with our fingers crossed behind our backs, swearing on our Gods of quality assessment-assurance-grade inflation-committee regulations and hiding our judgements behind mountains of statistics. Teaching starts next week. I start hoping for a relapse.

Brian Brivati is reader in history at Kingston University.

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