The next stage

lighteningThis has been quite a big week in my life. With a view to oft considered retirement, I finally gave notice of intention to leave my place of employment. Having received this shocking news, I fielded a number of questions. One or two of them were, frankly, silly if taken literally i.e. ‘but what will you do?’ I think we only need to look back at some of the weasels on this blog to answer that one: reading, writing, walking, crafts, foraging, visiting and so forth. For a start, four chickens and a cat called Poodle, who reside close to Avignon, are expecting me to rock up and look after their needs for a while at the end of November.

Further, there is stuff I don’t generally write about. For example, a new and long awaited grandchild arriving imminently in the Bromley environs. If I make an extra special effort to behave ‘normally’ for metropolitan parents, I might be allowed to visit and lend an eager hand or two. Further, I do quite a lot of proofreading for all sorts of people. For the last year, I’ve worked from a grand distance with an academic in Venice. To be fair, I once met Francesco in real life so I know how our links were forged. On the other hand, random and varied requests drop into my Hotmail account from folk I’ve never met and I’m left wondering how they ever found an eccentric in Dorset.

Not long ago, I proofed a piece of research sponsored by Microsoft on a virtual hand to be used in micro-surgery. How did that happen? And for two or three years, I was very big in Indonesia: it seemed that no-one could publish anything over there that hadn’t been overseen by yours truly. There was a ghastly incident when a couple of them came to Bournemouth and wanted to meet. Being a friendly type, I invited them to dinner chez moi. I wrote beforehand to enquire whether chicken was suitable and, on them replying in the affirmative, I added a touch of the old French cuisine by means of a coq au vin. I’d invested in some really good wine to drink which was subsequently turned down owing to the fact it was booze. No worries – all the more for mine host. The cooking wine was deemed ok as the alcohol had been baked away. However, I’d made the culinary mistake of adding bacon. Omelettes all round then.

So when people ask ‘what will you do?’ perhaps that’s not the end of the sentence. Perhaps they really mean, ‘what will you do for money?’ Good point. Panic? The better questions have been, ‘are you having a party?’ Or, for folk that know the answer to that, ‘where will the party be?’ I’ve worked in my current place of employment for sixteen years and I’ve already had two leaving parties. About nine years ago, I took the sabbatical year which, in truth, changed my life for ‘twas then that I found France and all my friends who still live there; or who, like dear Beverley, came home to remain important to me. On another occasion, they sacked me and I was forced into hateful exile on the road between Redruth and Penryn. Fortunately, I escaped back to Provence after six dreadful months. And even more fortuitously, my lovely current manager invited me back into the academic fold from whence I will soon depart.

And now there is news of a flood. Following Brexit, I awoke to an interminable beating in my right ear: pulsatile tinnitus. They say it’s due to a mobile blood vessel and advise ‘mindfulness’. I say it’s the result of an unexpected shock: the shock of discovering that, having spent years supporting people with ‘differences’, and maintaining an ethos of equality with all, discovering that at least half of the population are inordinately stupid. Last night, lightening lit up the house. Thunder crashed causing distress to anyone who doesn’t welcome a new sort of noise in the middle of the night. And there was quite a bit of rain.

My place of employment has been flooded to the extent that I must meet the last of new students in a long career in the boiler room. Doubtless, we will conduct our business by pencil and paper if not slate and chalk. Who cares – their needs remain paramount


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