Changes. 16th September

“Now it is the autumn again; the people are all coming back. The recess of summer is over, when holidays are taken, newspapers shrink, history itself seems momentarily to falter and stop. But the papers are thickening and filling again; things seem to be happening; … Everywhere there are new developments, new indignities; the intelligent people survey the autumn world, and liberal and radical hackles rise, and fresh faces are about, and the sun shines fitfully, and the telephones ring.”

The History Man – Malcolm Bradbury

Just over a year ago I began ‘work notes‘ as a means of reflecting on the rhythm of academic life. The indignities of my year meant that it did not last – exhaustion got the better of me. I hope to resume work notes with some periodic reflections on what ‘work’ might mean for ‘knowledge workers’ like us in academia. As I said last year:

Some perform their indignities, some have them thrust upon them. While many labour under increasing pressures and are forced into indignities, there remains a, privileged, few in the loftier perches of the ivory tower that seem to habitually perform indignation from positions of relative comfort. Just as Bradbury observed through the acerbic whit of his “campus” novels.

Perhaps I have over-egged my performance of indignities. I am perhaps closer to those in the loftier perches now. We are, all of us, working through our issues. Time may change me but I can’t trace time. I confess, as this medium almost dictates, that mine overwhelmed me this summer. However, I was helped and for that I am truly grateful.

A new academic year sometimes feels like a new start. Capturing some of that energy, and the energy of the new and returning students can, sometimes, be helpful. Nevertheless, it can also feel somewhat like Groundhog Day. Except, of course, the students remain young and I get older. I watch the ripples change their size
but never leave the stream
still the days seem the same.

The rhythm begins to shift. Ch-ch-ch-ch-changes. Self-determined schedules give way to institutional timetables – even in advance of official term-time. For me, the big shin-dig of (UK) geographyland, the RGS-IBG conference, marks the end of summer. My attention turns (even more) to teaching.

Like many colleagues, I must surpress a sigh as non-academic friends persist in the misconception that I have had three months off and must be marvellously rested. In the cooling air and faintly lengthening shadows, term awaits with new beginnings for staff and students alike. Turn and face the strange.

Changes – David Bowie.

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