Don's Diary

June 2, 2000

Sunday Enjoy catching up on the week's newspapers - they are full of scandal on the selling of exam scripts in the law faculty at Charles. As a colleague points out, on an average salary of Pounds 150 a month this is hardly surprising. She quotes a saying from before the 1989 Velvet Revolution: "Whoever doesn't steal cheats their family."

Monday Gloom at the term's first staff meeting. The British Council has ended its funding for a lecturer in British studies. A promised 20 per cent pay rise has been transformed into a 20 per cent cut. Luncheon vouchers and the "13th month" (a quaint but valuable Czech tradition of an extra month's salary) will be abolished and bonuses will fall. My suggestion of strike action is met with consternation, might as well have proposed swimming naked in the Vltava. Oh for the Association of University Teachers!

Tuesday A colleague commissioned to dub Zabriskie Point for commercial television asks me to go through scenes he does not understand. I point out that I am probably not that good at American-English from the 1970s. We enjoy watching it anyway. Other colleagues are editing programmes for the National Opera House and translating for Reader's Digest. No one is selling exam scripts - yet. Later I invigilate for three students resitting British studies. It is hard to stop them copying and I move them apart.

Wednesday Sit down with an enthusiastic Irish colleague to plan a campaign to attract sponsorship and to contact the alumni of the past 20 years. We consider various booksellers, computer firms, travel companies and other services that might like to be "proud suppliers to the Charles University". Idea for a money-raising open day?

Enjoy a drink with colleagues in honour of the 90th birthday of Professor Nosek, a leading light from the Prague Linguistic Circle. By statute, alcohol is only permitted in the faculty for toasts, so glasses are raised to a photograph of Nosek's mentor, Mathesius.

Thursday Pay day! Payments in cash have been phased out since the woman carrying the cash was mugged and relieved of it. Problems with university accounting procedures mean that no one can be clear as to how much was taken, but at least it has resulted in everyone getting a bank account.

Friday Some progress with the arrangements for the open day. We cannot choose between the deputy head of department's translation of Antony and Cleopatra and the head's pungent exercise in literary theory: Shopping by Bardcard: A Postmodernist Tour of Shakespeare's Stratford. Eventually we decide on both.

Saturday Escape to Brnky, a charming Czech village reached by a small ferry acoss the Vltava. The only pub has been closed because the owner is unable to pay the electricity bill. There is speculation that he might be a colleague...

Mark Corner is lecturer in British studies, Charles University, Prague.

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