Thursday, 27 November 2008

An Inaugural Address

The action takes place in a single evening.


My Office
Time : 5pm

The Professor of whom we speak is handing me a scrawled expense claim for a James Bond DVD. There are many gaps in the form – as usual. He has a young academic with him and within minutes we are all gasping with laughter as the Professor of whom we speak tells stories of his wicked childhood.

He leaves, shirt tail adrift.


A Large Lecture Theatre
Time : 6pm

The Professor of whom we speak is standing in front of several hundred people. There is an expectant buzz because this is an Inaugural Address. It is the moment that marks the promotion of a Professor. His family are there in the front row, his mentors from his meteoric rise through Academia, the Management, his colleagues from the Department, his students. It will not be a standard academic lecture – it will be a review of his subject to which he is a leading contributor and a look back at the people and places that have inspired him. We lean back in our seats – we know this will be a bravura performance.

His wife has obviously persuaded him to wear a more appropriate jacket.


The Foyer
Time : 7pm

The Professor of whom we speak is surrounded by a crowd of people congratulating him. He has spoken for exactly an hour without notes. He has checked his watch only once. He has entertained his audience and communicated his enthusiasm for a subject which takes him to areas of international conflict. He has acknowledged his mentors and thanked his colleagues. It is just as well he was not sacked for the false fire alarm caused by riotous living in his first month in the Department because he is a huge asset.

Even if he is incapable of completing an expense form.

Wednesday, 19 November 2008

the world outside my office

A phone call overheard
“…that and hedgehogs are his abiding passions”

I authorise an expense claim for waders.
They did not need waders in my previous Department.

Much chatter and laughter
near the poster requesting volunteers for
the Traditional Naked Calendar.

A field trip discussed
“ was great...
a whole week digging
into the back wall of a cave with a teaspoon...
and now I get to go to Spain to analyse the samples...”

An interview candidate with wild professorial hair
and a collar half up, half down.
I wonder if it is deliberate.

My friend the Catering Delivery Man smiles broadly
to see me in my new office.
I smile to see him...
nobody lays out a buffet lunch as beautifully as he does.

A colleague who cannot attend the Christmas lunch apologises.
He has to go to Venice.
He is very regretful.
He would rather go to the lunch

An unexpected gift from China
in packaging pretty enough to frame.

A student with slender fuschia pink legs
like an escaped flamingo

New vistas opening up
through the leafless branches of trees
outside my office.

I did not buy the gilet.
But I should have.
I am too easily intimidated.

I have finally found some Christmas Cards that I like.
It was hard this year.
Now I can start shopping for presents.