September 25, 2020

8.00 am: A prevailing gustiness. ‘Blow wind, blow.’ 8.15 am: A communion. 8.45 am: The inbox was tamer this morning. I let forth my own volley in retaliation for the previous day’s attack. On, then, with arranging next week’s roster of tutorials, and generally touching base with my own postgraduate tutees. (In the background: Mahavishnu Orchestra’s Between Nothingness and Eternity (1973).) This year will be fulsome. Maintaining any semblance of balance between teaching, research, and admin will be an art in itself. But balance must prevail, as must my sanity and bodily wellbeing.

12.00 pm: While I’d moved most of the morning’s admin mountain, I’d not got as far as I’d wished. To effeciency, speed and urgency were added. The push towards lunchtime resumed. In times of unrest, fear, and uncertainty, the temptation is to slow down — to sucuumb to torpor. Thus forward momentum now requires a far greater effort to secure. But pace and peace are of the essence too. Otherwise we risk burning ourselves out before we’re half way through the semester. By 1.00 pm, my week ahead had been established. The other tasks were those that could be acquitted during the normal run of semester life.

1.45 am: I was now down to individuals — checking-in on students who’re on temporary withdrawal. Under normal circumstances, being on the periphery of the School can be unsettling and lonely experience for the ‘departed’. Under the present circumstances, doubly so I imagine. They may be absent, but remain a part of the community. That relationship needs to be affirmed, periodically and practically. Caring is more than notion. I’ve specific pastoral responsibility for not only all the postgraduates but also thirty undergraduates. Reminders of my availability were posted. I’m conscious of the challenge that the pandemic will present to the wellbeing of many. We’re none of us pre-prepared for this catastrophe. (And this ill-wind is nothing short of that.)

3.00 pm: A period of respite. Relistening to my recent compositions was a necessity. There’s a danger in distancing oneself from the creative work for too long. The connection between the artist and artefact can weaken. There was a darkness and a dread in the sounds that, now, seemed to resonate with world outside. Having a period away from the suite has helped me see beyond the problems (the matters that still require a resolution) to the virtues. Too often we spy the deficits of our efforts writ large, and little else. (‘Survey the whole, nor seek slight faults to find’, wrote Alexander Pope.) We need to close our eyes and stop our ears for a time in order to see and hear again. In the background, emails landed and were dispatched immediately.

4.30 pm: In between the rain showers, I walked …. returning home just in time:

7.30 pm: In Aberystwyth, we rightly extol the beauty of the Summer sunsets. But it was the wind- and rain-swept Autumnal skies at dusk that first impressed me when I arrived in September 1982. The clouds then, as tonight, were an indanthrene blue. The scene summoned a broody nineteenth-century French Romantic landscape painting. I’d not seen anything like it in South Wales:

There were further emails waiting. I returned to one of the compositions, in order to improve the balance of its unfolding phases.

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