Wednesday, 27 January 2016

Out and about

The end of last week was both sad and joyful: it mainly consisted of self-anaesthetising myself at a party to mark the departure of one of my many bosses, who is off to extend his reign of terror to the staff and students of Oxford Brookes University. They are very lucky people. I applied to fill his shoes (and my boots) but wisdom prevailed and one of my friends got it to general rejoicing. I shall remain an humble droid, the Wall-E of the English and Cultural Studies departments. This delightful CIA document shall be my Bible in the years ahead, though I fear that the higher echelons of management have mining the same seam for aeons.

Anyway, I rose the morning after the party with a clear memory of the night before, which is better than some colleagues, but a slight headache and a guilty sense that it was much later than I planned to be up and out. Having done the majority of my marking and attended more meetings than any human should, I needed to blow away the cobwebs with a decent bike ride. The rain eased off as I got off the train at Wellington and headed (as I thought) to Ludlow. Sadly between the electronic map in my phone and the hastily jotted list of villages in my pocket conspired against me and I discovered that my route took me up every hill in Shropshire – some of them twice as I retraced my steps. 

Despite the pain, it was glorious. The sun was out, Shropshire's rolling hills looked beautiful and the back roads were empty as I headed very, very slowly around the Wrekin 

to Little Wenlock, Dawley (wrong way), Buildwas, Much Wenlock, 

Brockton, Aston Munslow and all sorts of tiny villages the length of the county. It was cold, sunny and deserted - absolutely perfect for a fat git hauling his weary bones across the landscape. Nobody needs to see me in head-to-toe lycra (yes, I may be a MAMIL but I'm not a full pro kit wanker because I don't want to be mistaken for an habitual, professional drugs cheat).

I finally creaked into Ludlow three hours later and scarfed two chocolate bars down before getting on a train home because I'm not a proper cyclist and couldn't face the return journey at all, let alone in the dark. A day's recovery later and I was off walking in the Pennines with my friends: we scrambled up to a cluster of the very biggest inland wind turbines they make – deeply uncanny as well as majestic. Despite being way off the ground, when the blades come towards you it's hard not to flinch. The sound is wonderful too: a deep hum overlaid with a slicing noise as they cut through the air. 
And now here I am, back at my desk with more marking and admin to do than your average junior employee at Das Schloss… Woe is me. Still, at least my Hungarian colleague has brought me some fine paprika to snort. That should keep me awake during meetings…

Oh yes, I also read Llewellyn Powys's Ebony and Ivory: very much the minor one amongst the three Powys brothers who were writers – he was one of eleven –  I would suggest (I have yet to read his sister Philippa's novel or see his sister Gertrude's art), and Jonathan Coe's new novel Number 11, which has many good moments but doesn't quite hang together. 

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