Tuesday, 24 March 2009

The Department Board Meeting

It is nearly the end of term.
Everyone is tired and scratchy.

The smell of onion soup
drifts across the room.

The Head of Department
has a vivid orange and red waistcoat.
With matching socks.

The business of the department is discussed.
Everyone is there apart from
the Professor who has meetings in Sierra Leone.

The tiny American academic
is wearing a beautifully cut
short suede skirt
with long black boots.

The Admissions Tutor thanks everyone
for their hard work
supporting the admissions process.
Evening Lectures, Open Days, School Visits.
Applications are up.

The academic who dreams of golf courses says
"I am worried that soil is slipping off the agenda."

The enthusiastic academic
is not happy about a proposal.
It has not been properly presented.
The air sparkles.

I am distracted by the sight of a heron
in the blue sky outside the window.
That part of the meeting will not be recorded.

The person next to me is eating
curried chicken in a ciabatta.
It is in imminent danger
of cascading all over his notebook.

The Professor of whom we spoke
requests information about manual handling
with a mischievous glint in his eye.

The Libyan expert is congratulated
on his forthcoming marriage.
Everyone applauds.
He blushes.

Outside, the Magnolia stellata is in full bloom.
In another life I would have been in the garden.

Thursday, 12 March 2009

Academic Progression

A young finalist breezes into my office.
As she leaves I notice her well organised backpack.
With a pocket for a water bottle.
Students in my previous Department
did not use backpacks.
Which might explain why
they were always losing things.

This Professor can't stop to chat
because he has a conference call to Alaska.
It is a telephone-interview
for the Masters course.
I wonder if the candidate is smartly dressed
as they try to impress him from afar.

I discuss the arrangements with a PhD student
for a research trip to Vietnam.
We agree that it is unlikely that
rickshaw drivers will write receipts.

There is champagne in my office fridge
for the next PhD student
to celebrate a successful defence of their thesis.

It is such a pleasure to write an email which starts
Dear Dr....

Four of the best Post doctorate students in the Department
have come to the end of their research grants.
It is so difficult to say goodbye.

Waiting to hear if a grant application
has been successful
is nerve-wracking.
Grey skin and bags under the eyes
kind of nerve-wracking.
A young academic career hangs in the balance.

This young academic has just got his first job.
He shakes hands in a calm, courteous manner.
But as soon as he steps out of my office
he is surrounded by friends
rushing out of offices,
cheering, hugging him and each other
and hurrying him off to celebrate.

The Libyan expert is getting married next month.
He will be spending his honeymoon in Namibia
because he has 'always wanted to go there'.
I hope his wife-to-be enjoys travelling.

Little Rosa comes to see her daddy in his office.
I tell her about the little girl cousin
- also called Rosa -
who is very, very,very naughty.
Little Rosa's eyes grow large with delight.

I receive a special request for
next year's timetable.
I am delighted to be able to help.
I like to think that two children
can take it for granted that their father,
an eminent Professor,
will be home in time to supervise splashes and bubbles.

It is the people that you work with
that make the work worthwhile.