If you don't want my book thoughts, what do you want? Here's this week's topics:
- In response to a query about their sustainability plan, my university tells me that the security staff needed a brand new SUV because a)
an electric vehicle was not suitable due to limitations on battery life versus mileage and the times required to recharge
'MPV' is a weaselly way to ignore the problems with SUVs, which include their heightened danger to pedestrians, found quite often on urban university campuses. We had a sustainability coordinator but she was only seconded for a few weeks and has now got another job. So that's how pressing climate change, pollution and congestion is taken here. This kind of response isn't serious - it's openly trolling anyone who's concerned. I suggest that their next vehicle be chosen from one of these options to ensure that the epidemic of violent crime sweeping our estate is stamped out:
Security personnel wear bulky PPE clothing and as a result required a MPV to accommodate their physical needs.
- My teeth hurt. A lot. The dentist is very clear about whose fault this is (mine), and brooks no arguments about structural disempowerment. The next few weeks will be filled with a lot of pain, physical and financial.
- I went to a concert: the CBSO playing Foulds' April, England, Vaughan Williams' London Symphony and Lise Berthaud playing William Walton's Viola Concerto. The Foulds was an enjoyable short blast, the London was very familiar and yet more stuffed with ideas and interesting figures than I remember, and the Walton was a revelation. I'm a sucker for the viola anyway, and Berthaud's tone was astonishingly rich, while the CBSO played with more precision and balance than I've heard in ages. Truly it was as a balm.
- I've been obsessed with Hamlet all week - I'm teaching the second class on it on Monday, and we're focusing on its sexual and gendered dynamics, having taken a New Historicist approach last week. The more time I spend with it, the more complex I find it.
- I hosted the regular meeting of the West Midlands Region Fencing committee. It was every bit as exciting as you might imagine (no decisions are made by trial by combat, something of a missed opportunity, I feel).
- I've done a lot of union casework, almost all representing senior figures. All I'll say is that representatives don't get to choose their cases, and intellectual brilliance is not always inextricably linked to emotional intelligence or indeed accurate understanding of what life is like for everybody else. More seriously, it's solid proof that even a professorship is now an insecure and temporary post subject to the whims of a management that finds it hard to look beyond a spreadsheet.
- I was more saddened by the death of David Roback than I expected. I'm not particularly sentimental, and I'm not sure I'd have been able to name him spontaneously, but I've loved the music of Mazzy Star since their first album back in 1993 and hoped they would record more albums. 'Into Dust' is my alarm clock music, and familiarity has never degraded my admiration for how much emotion can be packed into such a skeletal arrangement.
I hope that's the kind of 'content' you're looking for, because there's plenty more where that came from. However, in case you are the individual who'd like to know what I've read this week:
- Sally Nicholls, Season of Secrets. A very moving book about a young girl whose bereavement is assuaged by becoming enmeshed in the myths of the Green Man and the Holly King. The writing is limpid, the plot simple and the effect deeply emotional. A bit of a gem.
- Country Girls by Edna O'Brien. I can see why the censors hated it in 1950s/60s Ireland but it's every bit as good as everyone says – the first in a trilogy about a pair of Irish girls moving from country isolation into adulthood, urban sophistication and their own sexual identity.
- Sarah Davis-Goff's Last Ones Left Alive was a very enjoyable Irish feminist take on the zombie apocalypse novel. More horrific than my usual tastes but a bracing read.
- Richmal Crompton's Family Roundabout. Famous for her William novels (which my grandmother bought as they came out in the 1920s - I still have her collection), she regretted that her novels for adults were overshadowed by the juvenile writing, but this one is a delight – a very sharp, ironic and wry tale of contrasting matriarchs and their families: a mix of EM Forster, Trollope and Compton-Burnett. Highly recommended.
Here's the Walton:
and some Mazzy Star:
Try not to catch
coronavirus racist paranoia this weekend. It's quite catching, I notice.