Summa: diary (October 9-16, 2022)

The land of gloom and deep darkness, the land of gloom and chaos, where light is like darkness (Job 10.22).

October 9. Borth. I’m always struck by the flatness, extent, and continuity of the beach and sea: a level plain stretching from my feet to the horizon and, beyond, to Tinnaberna Beach (or thereabouts), Ireland. I’d timed my arrival to coincide with low tide. The sand hadn’t yet fully absorbed the retreating water; it reflected the clouded sky and cold sun like a subfusc, emulsioned glass-plate negative — retaining an impression of fluidity, while remaining motionless.

October 11. Today I read of the passing of Jan Marshall. She was my age, and a former MA student at the School of Art. Jan and I would always hug when we met, and then go on to rib one another mercilessly. She was one of those women who’d given me a licence to tease them. I fondly recall her unparalleled response to a MA Vocational Practice teaching project. She and her co-worker has baked a nauseatingly green (but eminently edible and delicious) cake, to serve as an illustrative aid. Unforgettable.

October 12. I know of a remarkable women of great faith who lost a son, a few years ago. Recently, she’d lost another. Now, only one son remains to her. I recalled Job. He lost all those who were most precious to him. The imagination reels. (What if her tragedy had befallen my boys? How would I even begin to climb out of that pit?) There’re some people in this world who suffer more than their fair share of grief. There’re others who appear to live a charmed life. They’re strangers to sickness, disability, and death (for now), and lack nothing. But, more often than not, it’s those who’ve endured most that impress me most. Perseverance against insuperable odds has shaped and strengthened their character in ways that wouldn’t otherwise have been possible.

It is better to go to the house of mourning than to go to the house of feasting

Ecclesiastes 7.2

3.00 pm: My final clinical consultation following my sinus operation in early August. The plumbing fixed; now my attention turns to my nose-lining’s over-production of histamines, and mitigating the impact that a prolonged sinus infection has had on my hearing.

October 14. 9.00 am: I combined a run to Llanbadarn Fawr (the village immediately south of Aberystwyth), via the churchyard, and a tutorial with one of my former PhD Fine Art students. (Now that my status has returned, I can be of some use again.) Next month, they’ll be undergoing (enduring) a viva voce. My policy has been to rehearse with each of my charge a set of generic and student-specific questions that they’re likely to be asked in the course of the examination. Rather than post them to the student in advance, I took a list of twenty questions with me. This way, the student didn’t have time to prepare — which is the scenario that they’ll face in the viva. The aims of the exercise are to: practise thinking on their feet; discern what they do and don’t know about their research (with time enough prior to the big day to remedy any lack); and get them used to hearing their own voice, confidently.

Chancellor of the month, Kwasi Kwarteng, has been sacked, while the Prime Minister of the season, Liz Truss (whose ill-conceived economic plan he’d implemented), retains her position — but neither her integrity nor the support of most parliamentarians. Failing football managers act more honourably.

October 15. In a TV interview, the new Chancellor, Jeremy Hunt spoke of ‘compassionate Conservatism’. Never has that phrase rung more hollow. 9.15 am: Flu jab drop-in. There was a queue at the GP surgery; which was heartening. I struck-up a conversation with a university student who was undertaking a foundation course in astrophysics. (I’m just like my dad, in this respect: talk to anyone.) ‘My elder son began studying for an astrophysics degree, then changed to a physics degree, afterwards undertook a law-conversion degree, and is now a practising lawyer’, I told her. (Momentary silence.)

A morning spent testing the pedalboards and switch mechanisms on the studio floor, piece by piece, while ensuring that all the monaural effectors were delivering a stereo signal. The rig’s construction will accommodate a range of ‘instrument’ inputs, other than from a guitar. For example, a turntable, cassette-tape recorder, and reel-to-reel tape recorder could also serve as a source.

October 16. I reviewed my ‘The Life to Come’ list of objectives to be achieved during early retirement. Developing (and sustaining) a network of functional friendships will be the most challenging to achieve. The support of, and interaction with, friends, lovers, and family (so I’ve learned) contribute more to health and longevity than any other aspect of one’s life. Retirement can be short-lived for some, because the retiree has been cut off from the exchanges and conversations with their colleagues that made working life so fulfilling. Whether in-person or online, those connections have, for me, become far more precious during the past few months. While I’ve no problem filling my time, busyness and creative endeavour doth not a life make.

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