7.30 am: A communion. There’re periods in our lives when the future appears to taper, as opportunities are either lost or denied us, and hopes and anticipations prove groundless. The best in life lies behind, or so it seems. The monotonous predictability of the present acts like a drag upon our motivations, and sullies what little optimism remains. Our prayers are met with either an indifferent silence or a defiant and unalterable ‘No!’ The windows of heaven are sealed against us. Questions go unanswered. Answers are questionable. Little things cause great anxiety. Confidence seeps away. Nothing is in focus. Our passions no longer engage us; our achievements seem hollow and unimpressive. The forward motion of the ship cannot be sensed; the vessel has come to rest in mid ocean, and is drifting. Counsellors and kindness are debarred: ‘Lover and friend hast thou put far from me, and mine acquaintance into darkness’ (Psalm 88.18). Solitude turns to loneliness. We shrivel like a neglected plant. The dread of more bad news paralyses. Temptations assail; doubts prevail. Problems drop like rain into our lap. It’s not the intensity but, rather, the longevity of these periods that unsettles us most.
9.00 am: I conducted a discussion with a prospective PhD student about their proposed project. After which, I worked on postgraduate admin and prepared for the 11.00 am Non-Finalist Board Meeting:
This was comeuppance time for those students who didn’t wake up early enough (if at all) during the year. There’re, of course, many other reasons for failure. (I’m an advocate of the word.) Some students have fought with insuperable personal difficulties and lost. The transition from school to university for first year students can be a bumpy ride too. They encounter a very different experience of learning and teaching here. Phoebe was still present on ‘Confirmation of Marks’ sheet. That felt right. It honoured her year with us.
12.00 pm: I took an early lunch and I wrote up a response to an overview of modules for which I’m responsible, prior to the Management Committee at 1.00 pm. A substantial agenda:
Great to hear a younger member of staff on fire for their subject, and passionate about learning and teaching. I was impressed, even if I felt a bit of a dinosaur. A new pair of eyes and a good mind are invaluable. ‘We’re damned good teachers, here!’, one staff member exclaimed. ‘Too right!’ I feel privileged to be working with such a dedicated and gifted bunch.
3.30 pm: A moment’s respite, followed by a trip to the Samuel Graham Laboratory to discuss the work of one of our finalising PhD Fine Art students:
7.15 pm: A finalisation of the Postgraduate Research Monitoring reports and administration, along with other bibs and bobs that needed putting to bed before the business end of the academic year could be concluded.