8.00 am: A communion. 8.30 am: I attended to emails before digging in for the final day on the conference presentation. 9.00 am: The morning after the snow fell:
I’ve known academics who, having been pressed for time, completed their papers on the train en route to the conference. I’ve seen academics correcting their script even as they delivered it. Me … I’m a coward. There are too many things that could go wrong, in situ, that lie outside of my control (for example, a poor projector, an inadequately darkened room, an insufficiently loud sound system, the lack of a lectern and reading light, and failed connectors) for me to add to the jeopardy. Whenever possible, I assume the worse and go over-prepared.
11.30 am: Slides were now assigned and tested. Only the sound samples needed to be added. A task for the afternoon. Next, the script required close reading and correction before a draft print out and a road test against the clock. Pare down! Pare down! I shaved off nearly 100 words. The paper had to be a lean machine.
After lunch I lurched towards the School to pick up some equipment that I would use tomorrow. There was a frozen turbulence above – appearing like a still shot of some calamitous and portentous churning of the sky. Something’s up:
Prof. JH is my teacher too. He can be an awkward cuss at times. His other students must despair too. This is a typical encounter with him: ‘You’ll need to do that bit again’. ‘I’m not sure I’ve got the time, though’. ‘It’s up to you, of course. But now I’ve told you about it, it’s difficult to ignore. Isn’t it?’ ‘You have a point’. He often does, and so I relent … even if I really don’t have the time.
Mid afternoon, I unravelled a redundant cassette tape in order to make a photographic illustration for the paper. (Wikicommons didn’t come up with the goods.):
My mind was taken back to the opening credits of Gerry and Sylvia Anderson’s marionette series Joe 90 (1968), (which I watched avidly as a pre-teen). The analogy between tape and memory, with all the implications of data transfer, storage, and erasure.
While taking a 10-minute period of recuperation in the study rocking chair, I experienced an emotional memory about a yearning that I associate with the time when, in my adolescence, I’d sit besides the ‘Little Feeder’ in Blaina (my material grandparents’ home), catching minnow and tadpoles, chase toads, and contemplate my future (that’s to say, no further than week to come):
The older I get, the more vivid my past becomes. Perhaps, such memories are subliminal consolations to either help me through a present trial or enrich a barren patch. (The present can sometimes appear rather pale.) Why some memories and not others return is a mystery to me. By 5.15 pm, I was ready to mark up the script.
7.30 pm: Mark up continued, and my equipment tested and made ready for the morning. Finally, I read through the text and played through the audio-visual presentation against the clock. 9.45 pm: Conclusion.
Some principles and observations derived from today’s reflections:
- Principles imply consequences.
- Observations imply responsibility.
- I’ve never before realised just how rare is the virtue of constancy.
- Some things are just too far away in all directions.
- Something must take place, very soon.
- Virtues and graces must be gripped tightly; they’re easily dropped when one is under duress.