June 25, 2021

Sometimes, I feel like a 32-bit man in a 64-bit world.

Thursday, May 24. 8.00 am: I was engaged in discussions with a representative of Postgraduate Admissions regarding certain anomalies in the decision making process. (The portal has been playing-up, of late.) We start work so much earlier when working from home. 8.15 am: Notifications regarding semester 2 module feedback and marks were posted. Turnitin, our assessment portal, was behaving oddly too. I posted out a report to all and sundry regarding the problem, to forestall being inundated by emails like the BBC Complaints Department. While waiting for the Blackboard bods to reply, I tested a hypothesis that involved rebooting the ‘release’ using an access time later than 00:00 am. Some modules had no problem with this time, and their students had no problem accessing the information. My hypothesis proved correct. So, now, I could feel rightly chuffed for the remainder of the day. And I’d also learned a great deal more about Blackboard in the meantime. But of course … there may have been other problems lurking beneath the facia. Being held responsible for what one cannot fully control is irksome.

11.00 am: An extended PhD fine art tutorial. A corner was turned. In terms of the metaphor of a jigsaw puzzle, we’d finally found all the pieces belonging to the picture’s edge. And, by implication, we could now see on the table all the pieces that will fit within that frame. Thus, the questions governing the development of the thesis element were rendered finite, for the first time. 12.30 pm: I returned to general admin from the inbox and the fallout of the morning’s mark and feedback release. ‘Holy f*cking sh*t’ was the considered expression of surprised delight from one of my tutees on receiving their results.

2.00 pm: A PhD Research Monitoring interview with one of our students. I take my hat off to those postgraduates who’ve had families and jobs to maintain while sustaining their studies over the periods of lockdown. That takes enormous reserves of dedication and energy. Such students do not let themselves off lightly on any count. That speaks so well of them, not only as students but also — and more importantly — as human beings and artists.

3.00 pm: There was examination resit admin to dispatch. Administratively, this had been such a messy day. But I got ‘by with a little help from my friends’. 4.15 pm I ventured out. It was unusual to see that the police had been summoned to the cemetery. No doubt either a bouquet war had broken out, or there’d been a dispute at the municipal tap over the use of non-eco-friendly water bottles, or the family interred in Plot 43 had once again complained about their neighbour, one William Thomas Alford’s (Master Mariner and skittles enthusiast, late of Tan-y-Bwlch, who fell asleep at the wheel) early-morning hollering underground.

7.30 pm: I returned to the last of the PhD Research Monitoring reports. 8.45 pm: Then it was back to the conference paper, via a perusal of a number of sound explorations and compositions (that had been rescued and spruced-up from deteriorated cassette and reel-to-reel tapes) — played on electric and acoustic guitar, mostly — that I’d made between 16 and 19 years of age. They’re like photographs of that period, in sound. I find hearing the sonority of my singing, now as then, quite unnerving. Not a forte in any respect. I was motivated to re-listen to these pieces on discovering a bootleg of a radio performance, recorded in 1970, that features John McLaughlin and his (then) wife Eve, who’re coyly and poorly singing spiritual songs accompanied by his acoustic guitar. He didn’t do much singing again after that, either. Never let your love for another (or religious enthusiasm, for that matter) becloud your judgement.

Friday, June 25. 7.30 am: A communion.

8.00 am: There were several admin tasks that needed to be dispatched before I could look to the meat of the day. 9.00 am: I had every intention of completing (more or less) the conference paper by the end of the day. The other contributions to the conference will be from literature studies, chiefly. So I’ve been invited onto territory that is neither about visual- or sound-art practice nor their histories. So, this will be something of a wildcard presentation. Nevertheless, I and the other contributors have subject and medium of text in common.

And (I console myself), I once got away with playing an electric guitar at a theology conference organised by Princeton Theological Seminary, USA, in 2011. If I can make that kind of interdisciplinary incursion, then, every other one is a snip. Princeton was the loveliest American small town that I’ve ever visited. The university was just down the road. I do wonder whether I’ll ever again do ‘gigs’ like that in the USA.

1.30 pm: There were a number postgraduate applications to process before I could move in on the paper’s final paragraph. Presently, the word count was coming-in at about one hundred ‘underweight’. Which is preferable to being the same number ‘overweight’. There’s nothing so galling for a conference-session chair than to have participants go woefully overtime. Therefore, I’ve always read my text verbatim; so that it can be rehearsed against the clock beforehand. Therefore, I’ve no excuse.

4.15 pm: A gap had opened up the weather. The rain had ceased, but it still felt like a day in October rather than in late June. There were few about. The cemetery is at its most poignant when under heavy clouds. The grass had grown up around the graves in one part, as it had done overall during the first lockdown.

6.30 pm: Practise session. 7.30 pm: I read through the paper for speech integrity — that’s to say, diction, rhythm, stresses, and concision. It may read well on the page, but how did it sound in the ear? I had written in order to speak in order to be heard and understood.

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