I was sitting at a table in a studio of a student who was not physically present. We were trying to connect and converse across the ether. The endeavour felt like a séance (January 29, 2020). When I was young, the word ‘Corona’ had a very different resonance than it does at this present time. Corona was a local brand in South Wales. The ‘Corona Pop Man’ would pull up outside my parental grandparents’ home on High Street, Blaina every Thursday (February 20, 2020).
Thursday, June 10. 7.45 am: A communion. 8.15 am: I reviewed the mark range, preponderance, and extremities given to those modules for which I was co-ordinator. This is an annual (irksome) exercise. There’s been a remarkable degree of consistency in all these dimensions over the years. 10.00 am: I returned to the diary revisions in the hope of clearing the deck as soon as possible. Then, I could look over the ‘Intersections’ site and, once that is completed, embark on my new conference paper. 11.00 am: A partial-solar eclipse toned-down the morning’s greyness to a degree:
Annual Leave needed to be booked. Human Resources had been leaning on me to use up a large backlog of unclaimed leave before I leave full-time and enter part-time employment at the beginning of August. 1.30 pm: (In the background: BBC Radio 3’s Choral Evensong.) I was curious to discover when the diary would first make a reference to the Corona virus (see above). Who could’ve known how widespread, invasive, and disruptive this ‘evil’ would become eventually. I remember washing my hands more often than I was want at the UCCAS Fayre in Manchester in early March 2020. On March 11, the university began to draw up contingency plans should a lockdown be required. On March 12, I wrote: ‘I sense that the Coronavirus crisis has unsettled some students. Their expectations about how the third year of education will conclude are no longer reasonably predictable … How hard it is just to be, these days. The foundations of the world are shaking: a pestilence stalks the land; the world burns, and there are ‘wars and rumours of war’, famine, flooding, and a failure of leadership’. As I travelled to London, on what would prove to be my last outing to that city and by train, I reflected:
I sensed a strange and unsettling spirit in the air. An invisible miasma pervaded the land. Anxiety, foreboding, and suspicion were conspicuous: potentially, each of us could infect the other. The smell of antibacterial hand-wash permeated the train. This was a global, national, and, ultimately, a familial and personal crisis. A matter of life and death. Perhaps, there’re lessons to be learned about what truly constitutes the ‘good life’, what doesn’t really matter in the end, and how dangerous uncritical compliance may turn out to be (diary, March 15, 2020).
Chinatown, London, March 14, 2020: ‘The Last Lunch’ together, as sons and father, before lockdown:
4.15 pm: ‘Walkies’/daisies:
Friday, June 11. 7.00 am: A communion. 8.15 am: GP-ology. Keep on top of my ailments is a job in itself. 8.30 am: I was gradually closing-in on the end of the diary review.
10.30 am: Off to School to deposit and retrieve. My office feels abandoned and forlorn. I heard the echoes of tutorials gone-by. It was good to ‘bump-into’ (at a social distance) Mr Croft on my return.
10.45 am: The overcast day had been dispiriting. Some weathers are inherently downcast by temperament. I pressed on towards my goal, and engaged this dairy’s account of the first lockdown. What an equally horrid, challenging, and astonishing period to have taught through. But, as staff and students together, we did it … magnificently.
2.00 pm: The School convened an Exam Board Meeting for undergraduate finalists and MA students:
I do miss the physical presence of staff and External Examiners around a long table bearing a feast of sandwiches, crisps, cakes, and fruit juice. This was my last undergraduate board meeting. The Examiners commended the students on their high attainment.
4.15 pm: I took to the hill, picked up several sample wallets from my GP surgery and returned home via a once oft-trodden bath. It starts at the boundary of the National Library of Wales and winds down to the Gorwelion — the building which formerly housed the Visual Art Department. On the ground floor and the right-hand side, I shared an office as one of two newbie lecturers, in 1992:
7.00 pm: I pressed on with the diary revisions.