Tuesday, April 24, 2012


It had to come: one day, I'd walk onto campus and the Reflecting Pool would fail to give back.  I suspect that something Bad happened at the Book Festival - an author hurled himself in, after not a single member of the public wanted to buy a signed copy of his chapbook?  An incensed reader tore up page after page that she found repellent, or boring, or wrong?  Too many children paddled and peed in it?  Whatever happened, it's been left slightly smelly, full of puddles, and having, I hope, its drains pumped.

I spent a chunk in the middle of the day at a committee where we were discussing the mentoring of post-docs, and the ethos of Self-reflection was much lauded and promoted.  That seemed to mean sitting down with one's mentor at the beginning and end of a year (yes, indeed, with all kinds of other contact in between), and setting out what one hopes to achieve, and how far one's managed to fulfill one's expectations.  Academe is so very, very different from when I started out - a mentor?  I certainly never had one of those.  I barely had a dissertation director - at least, not a very functional one, even if he was a lovely and charming and intelligent person - and I'm sure that the concept of mentoring never crossed his mind, although he did once or twice give me a glass of very good claret in his classical music filled room before taking me in to college lunch - and I counted myself extremely fortunate.  There was, first, another, tougher director for a year, until he retired, who saw me at his home in the evenings, and berated me for calling the middle classes the middle class, and poured me three glasses of whiskey, one after the other, so I can't remember whatever else he might have said.  All the same, I'm sure it didn't include the word "mentor." Certainly, the concept of self-reflection never remotely crossed my mind, except in the ordered form of a to-do list.

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