Don's Diary

February 10, 1995

MONDAY. Early start - a colleague picks me up from home in Crewe at 6.15am to give me a lift to work in Manchester. We discuss Crewe Alexandra's magnificent 4-0 win over Brighton, the week's work ahead and conclude with departmental gossip.

Behind my desk at 7.15 and make good progress on the seemingly endless, if varied, "paperwork". Good news in the post - papers accepted by two geography journals (wonder, yet again, what my retail and marketing colleagues make of a simple geographer?) Fairly routine day - then meet ten Carlsberg Tetley executives and managers for dinner as a prelude to next days mentors' workshop for the postgraduate diploma in retail management that the department runs for the company. The Italian meal is a bit disappointing but the wine is good and flows very freely. Escape to bed in the Piccadilly Hotel at 9.30pm. The last company delegate is reported to leave the bar at 3.30am.

TUESDAY. Mild hangover - I run the mentors' course very ably assisted by one of the company's personnel managers. Course goes well but raises many of the issues which must be "managed" in running university award-bearing courses for companies and their employees.

The company's executive commitment is first class and while "the devil is often in the detail", the "fun is surely in the challenge"? Tell myself I am playing a (very?) small part in the university's strong mission commitment to work with industry and commerce on the drive down to the brewery at Burton on Trent. There for 5pm meeting to plan the second half of senior executive short course for Allied Domecq Retail.

A pleasantly good and productive meeting followed by a couple of pints and a chance encounter with a former student who is doing well. I am staying with a mate in Burton and go to a team quiz night at his golf club. We trail in a poor sixth. As captain he played the joker on geography - a disaster. What is the capital of Chad? Bed late.

WEDNESDAY. Return to Manchester for a meeting of the university working group preparing for the Higher Education Funding Council for England. Visit on the university's external collaborative links scheduled for June. The devil will surely be in the detail here.

Return to the faculty to brief my dean and commission the necessary documentation from my department re: the open learning undergraduate degree we run for J. Sainsbury. In the evening watch Blackburn Rovers unexpectedly lose 2-1 to Newcastle United in the FA cup at Ewood Park. Return to colleague's house in Darwen at 11pm to learn that my best friend from Crewe, Dave, has had a serious heart attack that day on holiday in Malta with his wife who is recovering from major surgery. A worrying end to the day - I sleep fitfully.

THURSDAY. Up at 6am and behind my desk at 7.15am. Try to gather more news from Malta. See my dean to ask if I can have a few days leave of absence to fly to Malta. He is very helpful - I value his support.

I welcome the new graduate intake from Allied Domecq Retail at their induction course prior to their embarking on another of the department's "company" postgraduate diploma courses. I tell them we are a department that works hard but likes to enjoy life and has a sense of humour. Sort out travel options. Sleep at home - for a change.

FRIDAY. Train to work - runs to time. Book flight to Malta and sort out some currency. Try to tidy up some loose ends. Revise articles for two planning periodicals, complete my reports on two MA dissertations I start "marking" on Monday and discuss two student "appeals" with the faculty secretary. Home to pack at 4pm. Catch a flight from a virtually deserted Manchester Airport at 9pm.

SATURDAY. Arrive in Malta at 2am for a taxi to the hotel. Have breakfast with Dave's wife and we catch the bus to the St Luke's hospital in Valetta. Dave is "wired up" for sound and vision but tells a good story. Pat and I spend the day at the hospital and "retail" a few rude stories as my way of keeping people smiling. Ted, from Nottingham, in the next bed tells a true tale from the previous day. He was awoken by a nurse with a hypodermic needle who said: "I'm going to give you a small prick at the bottom of your stomach." Ted's reply: "I've got one." We leave Dave in good heart.

SUNDAY. Bad news. We arrive at the hospital at 9am to learn Dave has had a second heart attack in the early hours of the morning. He is back on all wires and monitors. By 4pm things look a bit brighter.

We must keep our fingers crossed. I am not a cinema-goer but I've heard the Forest Gump line "Life is like a box of chocolates - you do not know what you're going to get next". It seems to hold for work, for football and our personal lives.

Professor and head of the department of retailing and marketing at the Manchester Metropolitan University.

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