Tuesday, 11 February 2014

Golden Age

In Berkshire

Most of the time things are all right. Sometimes we are aware that they are getting worse. Nobody really thinks higher education as a profession is getting better, for example. More and more is being squeezed out of ever fewer resources. There are more students per staff, there is a greater struggle for rooms, there is less time for academics to teach, research and administer as well as to undertake the ever newer forms of outreach they are pressurised to do to show their institution is part of the community. The young are particularly under pressure because new junior appointments are given most of the extra work. If a well-respected, much-published professor is earning you research money by publishing, you keep him/her publishing so he or she becomes ever more occupied with his/her research. Younger staff are desperate to do research but, unless they are extraordinary or very lucky, they have to keep their noses to the grindstone until they have no noses. Many are anxious, depressed and exhausted.

Few are free of anxiety. But then something else sits down beside you, or, in the case of the floods, on top of you. It may be a very rare event (there may be more such rare events in the future) but it is your own special rare event if you're in it. It rains and rains and rains, the water rises ever further. This is not one of those times when things are more or less all right. Nor are they slowly eating away at you or grinding away your nose. Your nose is in the water.

Few of us would not feel deep sympathy for those whose houses and businesses are now under water. Those of us who live in another part of the country don't think it couldn't happen to us, that nothing could happen because most of the time things are all right. We all know that the law of things happening permits of anything happening at any time.

Granted the history of our families both Clarissa and I know that we are more than fortunate, that this is, as things go,  the Golden Age the ancients wrote about. That every age is both its own Golden Age and its Disaster Zone.  In the meantime, things here are all right.


Gwil W said...

Long ago I was in junior school and there was a swimming pool round the corner and one afternoon a week we were taken there in a long line a crocodile as it was called to learn to swim. In addition my brother and me went of our own accord at the weekend. On our way we passed old men on bowling greens. Being able to swim brings many advantages as I have discovered between then and now. I have never put my nose to anybody's grindstone however.

George S said...

I too remember such excursions to the local lido. They didn't help me much - I am a poor swimmer.

Your nose must be of an exceptionally fine shape and sharpness never having touched a grindstone. I have known a few grindstones in my time. I even made some for myself.

Gwil W said...

Fine nose? Afraid it's not so, George. I was in the ring a couple of times as a young pugilist and also played weekend rugby in the scrum for my school for several years. End result: better one blunt nose than two cauliflower ears (which I luckily avoided) I tend to think.

George S said...

Well then, fists were oyur grindstone. What I got out of rugby was one broken shoulder.

Gwil W said...

Rugby, as the old saying goes, is a game played by men with odd sHAPED BALLs. Still we appear to have survived more or less intact.