Another sticky, but only partly frustrating day. Lots and lots of marking, plus toweringly angry emails from students who tell me that their grades are 'wrong' and 'unfair', despite not collecting their work to find out why the grades have been awarded. I've done my best to explain that we can only mark the work, not the effort that's gone into it, and that doing a re-sit doesn't guarantee a better grade. Being kind, I didn't employ the first analogy that came to mind: that Hitler worked hard to establish the Third Reich but that didn't mean he deserved praise. (The less offensive version of this analogy is to point at Channel 4's output).
I've also tried to work out how to extraordinarily render a student to the United States as quickly as possible. (He wants to go, just didn't get round to it early enough and now it's a bit difficult). Having despatched him to High Chaparral U or wherever, I'm still hopeful of getting an exchange semester for me with the University of the Faroe Islands, or perhaps Greenland U. Anywhere cold and Scandinavian, basically.
I did have a very enjoyable morning though. One of my MA students came in for a tutorial. I'm getting a bit twitchy about time running out, but she's writing some really interesting things about country houses in late-1920s/early-30s middlebrow and popular novels: Waugh, Green, Wodehouse, Christie and various others. We talked about readers, women, characterisation, why mothers are almost entirely absent and a host of very interesting things. It's always good to talk about ideas and books to motivated students (a big cheer here too for those dissertation students I've already talked to ahead of their final academic year), but I particularly enjoyed today because her interests are close to mine. We don't work on the same material, but her stuff is close enough for me simply to enjoy and learn from what she's doing.
So despite the pitiless scorching heat and the sheer misery of marking, I'm feeling rather serene. Amazing what a bit of an old chat will do. That, and sneakily following both the Ashes and the Tour de France on the Guardian's minute-by-minute coverage. The regular habitués are like old friends, and the discussions are often more interesting than the regular commentary, where available - and perhaps more exciting than the action in places. The idea of watching a TV feed with Boycott, Gower or any of those pompous buffoons droning on now seems unbearable compared with the wit generated by one hack watching a TV in the newspaper office and the other learned, enthusiastic readers. If the dreaded New Media kills off the cult of Fat Matey Former Players Complacently Talking Bollocks In The Studio For Massive Cheques (as I gather the format is known), it can't come too soon for me.
OK, here's a little treat for you: the funny, erudite and humane Stewart Lee talking to students about 'Not Writing'. And lots of other things.