Afternoon everybody! How are you all? We're in the funny period of the year between holidays and the academic year properly starting. Our graduation ceremonies fill the last three days of the week (some students have decided that this is the ideal time to phone up and question grades or mention that there's a problem with a module they took a year ago), dreaded meetings are starting and we're getting to grips with all the administration that goes with teaching these days. Not helped, of course, by myriad forms, all of which change yearly even when the information on them doesn't.
So between filling in said forms, we pop in and out of each other's offices to sympathise, compare workloads, catch up on our holiday tales, speculate, plan hospital visits (my boss has recovered enough to be moved to the intensive unit at the local hospital and can now speak short sentences) and gossip. Core subjects this time include the pointless new card entry system for getting into the offices (see Voles passim), placing bets on how long this year's restructure will last, the sore subject of admissions, comparing teaching workloads, and how old everybody is. After many years, I'm not the youngest person (at 38 or as my family would put it, 38-and-still-no-proper-job) in the English department. There's life here after all!
We also compare summer reading. WG Sebald's The Rings of Saturn were mentioned: a non-fiction rambling account of a long-distance, er, ramble around Suffolk which is spoken of in hushed tones as a new form of writing. I must confess that I haven't successfully come to grips with it, which probably says more about me than it does about Sebald. But I know that if I want to read about the East, I'd go for Graham Swift's superb, disturbing, meditative Waterland any time.
What am I doing? I've got so many small bits of admin to do that I'm defeated even trying to work out where to start. The desk is an appalling mess mostly due to the books that have arrived recently (today: Rebecca West's The Meaning of Treason in a beautiful propagandistic pulp cover, Atwood's MaddAdam and Sayers' Murder Must Advertise, primarily for the Bright Young Thing aspect – I'm not really a crime fan though Gaudy Night was interesting). Foucault on Literature is glowering at me: it's been on the desk ready to read for a few days now but I keep getting distracted.
I'm keeping an eye on the proposed Lobbying Bill, which the government published on the last day of the previous Parliament and is trying to rush through on the first day of the new one. As you might expect from this lot, it does exactly the opposite of what it says on the tin. It doesn't regulate, control or open up lobbying to oversight. It regulates less than 1% of lobbyists while making political campaigning effectively illegal for everybody from trades unions to donkey sanctuaries to cottage hospital campaigners to your local youth club. It does so by massively widening the definition of 'political campaigning' to mean pretty much anything, and sharply reducing the amount of money organisations are allowed to spend. There's even a special section in the Bill dedicated to trades unions' memberships. Why? Not because there's a problem, but because Cameron and Clegg don't like trades unions.
Why? Because the Tories want to smash the trades unions and the Lib Dems are terrified that the National Union of Students will remind voters that many of their MPs 'signed in blood' as one of them put it, to reject £9000 student fees.
Will it stop lobbying such as that conducted by Lynton Crosby and Co, who advises the Prime Minister while taking money from tobacco firms? Or the very shadowy organisations who fund Tory campaigns, such as the Midlands Industrial Council? It is in fact so awful that Conservative MPs and lobbyists are queuing up to denounce it as a load of rubbish. Hard-right Tory Douglas Carswell calls it less well-thought out than a dog's breakfast, and never before have those liars at the Taxpayers' Alliance and 38 Degrees been united, until now.
Still, at least there's cricket on today: Ireland v England in a one-day international. Ireland have welcomed back Ed Joyce, who played for Ireland, then played for England, and has now decided he's Irish again. England, on the other hand, are playing Boyd Rankin, who used to play for Ireland, and Eoin Morgan, who also used to play for Ireland. Which just goes to show that the post-modernists are right. Identity isn't fixed and is largely a matter of performance. Especially when there's money and glory in the offing. So far, Ireland appear to be winning.
I'm also loving Vinnie Jones the mediocre footballer turned awful Shakespearian actor, who has announced that 'England' is far too European for his taste, because of immigration. His wisdom is delivered from, er, Los Angeles where he has lived for many years. I'm firmly convinced that celebrity culture will destroy itself thanks to the stupidity of the celebrities involved.