Don's Diary

June 9, 1995

Friday. After reading the most important sections of The THES - the job ads, Laurie Taylor, Antithesis - turn to Don's Diary, only to read yet another academic's account of his voyage abroad to some far-flung exotic destination. Become very cynical as befits my status as a lowly lecturer completing his first year on a temporary contract. Are we being given a fair representation of the typical lecturer's working week? Decide that it is time to redress the balance and submit my own diary for public scrutiny.

Saturday. Morning spent on routine Saturday morning things, like staying in bed as long as possible, shopping, cleaning the house and watching the funny bits on Live and Kicking. The afternoon is taken up with writing Tuesday's lecture for my Mass Media, War and Politics module, on the media during the Vietnam war, a vast subject which takes me the whole afternoon and a little of the evening to prepare in the "informative yet interesting and entertaining" way that students and staff training officers have come to expect.

After losing in the National Lottery yet again, my wife and I at last settle down to Inspector Morse and watch real dons at work in Oxford. Drink a glass of wine and pretend we're bourgeois.

Sunday. Morning spent on routine Sunday morning things, like staying in bed as long as possible, reading the newspapers and watching the funny bits on Breakfast with Frost. The afternoon is taken up with preparing Wednesday's lecture for my Chinese politics module, on "Taiwan: The Other China". I have to condense 100 years of history, politics and culture into an hour, and am not helped by the noticeable absence of English-language literature on this topic. It is therefore most convenient that I married a girl from Taiwan who can enlighten me on just how paternal and democratic Chiang Kai-Shek really was (not!).

Monday. Prepare seminar for tomorrow's media module. Given that the subject is the representation of the Vietnam war in the movies, the exercise turns out to be quite enjoyable. And it gives me yet another excuse to watch the funny bits in The Green Berets.

Write the handouts for the week's lectures and correct the 35 media essays and 15 Chinese politics essays which have landed with a gigantic thud on my desk. Recall Richard Gordon's story in Doctor in the House and consider throwing the essays over a staircase and rewarding their marks according to which step they land on. Decide against this on the grounds that I live in a bungalow.

Tuesday. Lecture at 10am, chair the seminar at 11am. As usual my questions are greeted by a stony silence and ten heads all bowed seeking inspiration from blank pieces of paper. I decide to show the video material "in order to clarify my arguments". Students enjoy the funny bits in The Green Berets but are disappointed I could not find any equally funny bits in Platoon. Start to wonder where I have gone wrong.

Lunch is followed by my two surgery hours, when the students are guaranteed to find me in my office and can approach me about anything. As essay deadlines approach and examinations loom the number of students parading into my office steadily grows.

Any hopes of dashing off a quality paper for a refereed journal to ensure our department gets a 5 in the next research exercise are quickly shattered by a troop of students all complaining they are unable to find any relevant books in the library.

Watch in horror as my own small collection of books gradually dwindles.

Teach the Vietnam seminar again at 4pm - a much more lively group and certainly improved by the presence of two American students who add their own perspectives.

Get home at about 5.30pm and after catching up on the news, dinner and a quick bath to wake myself up, begin preparing for tomorrow's Chinese politics seminars.

Wednesday. Last out, first in - a 9am lecture which is never attended in great numbers. I feel bleary eyed and try not to yawn in front of the students. Students look bleary eyed and yawn a lot. This is not reassuring. Is it my lecture or simply the early start? Carry on regardless. Two successive hours of class teaching, a quick lunch and then another class, before going home to prepare for my seminar on Thursday. Will this never end?

Thursday. I like Thursday. Since I do not have any teaching commitments on Friday, Thursday always feels like Friday and every week manages to create that much appreciated end of work. Colleagues do their best to reassure me that the first year is always the worst, but right now I am too tired to worry about it.

Friday. Theoretically, Friday is set aside for research and writing. In reality, Friday is usually let's-catch-up-on-all-those-other-things day: essays to correct, book reviews to finish, etc.

Re-read my Don's Diary, confident that I have provided a plausible portrait of life which is much nearer to reality than the pieces we read every week penned by all those jet-setters. Dream of the coming summer conference on the early history of film.

Now, where was it again? Hollywood? Paris? Barbados? Oh yes, that's right. . . . Bradford!

Gary D. Rawnsley

Lecturer in politics at the University of Nottingham.

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