They’re constructing a something or other at work on the place where the car park used to be. This year’s new cohort of students, having chosen their place of learning based on promises of beautiful beaches and sexy nightclubs, as opposed to the site of potential literary and academic achievement, must be even more confused than those from previous years: not only do they have to find their way around the campus, they have to do so via a building site. The poor, temporarily friendless things sit in the sun glued to their phones; their sympathetic parents listen to the cries of distress emanating from offspring who have only just discovered that independent living is not all that it’s cracked up to be.
Meanwhile, staff who, selfishly, want to abandon their cars within reasonable walking distance of their office, now have to arrive at work about ten minutes after they left it the previous afternoon. There is a replacement car-park. The fact that it’s called a ‘park and stride’ gives the reader an inkling of its proximity to the university. It’s in a place that used to be a field with a herd of white cows. Still, good for those who want to become or stay fit. It won’t be a good start to the day when it’s cold and raining and windy and snowing.
Talking of snow, the sports department have emailed their latest offers to non-healthy staff. At reduced rates, we can learn how to snowboard or ski. Could be useful when we’re trying to negotiate a path from the ‘park and slide’ in November. Alternatively, we can practise cycling as long as we don’t mind going somewhere else to do so and be segregated by gender.
Two days into the new term and sickness, directly or indirectly, is rife in our department. Some of it’s serious stuff. Some of it’s just about doing repair jobs. Back from hotter climes, and having had head and facial hair dealt with as a matter of some urgency in order to distinguish myself from Star Trek characters, I’ve been to get my feet seen to. Flip Flops should be acknowledged as a health hazard. My unattractive plates have been exfoliated, washed, scraped, moisturised and placed in enormous white heated boots. I looked down on them and thought I could quite easily pass for a Smurf.
Others arrive back from holidays looking fresh and ready for anything. By lunchtime – or what would pass for lunchtime were there an opportunity to escape and have lunch – they look as frazzled as they did last June. In the paperless offices, paperwork has formed mountain ranges that zig-zag across desks and the ladies’ loo has already, at record-breaking speed, been designated as ‘out of order’. Groups of the disconsolate begin to form amid rumours of yet another restructuring, reconfiguration, rethinking etc. etc. We console ourselves with the knowledge that, at least, we have a job. I’ve been in this educational game for 25 years and I can tell you, rien ne change. Bring on the pension.