Saturday, 19 May 2012

Report from the celebration marathon: day 2 and 3

Click for Introduction and Day 1

Day 2 was uneventful. I woke up as poorly as I went to bed. I had a supervision at ten and a meeting at eleven, neither of which I could cancel because they were among the ones I had to cancel the week before. The meeting took longer than I had anticipated, and finally I had to say: Sorry, gentlemen, I have a plane to catch. Which was almost true, because I just about had time to get home, pack the last things, have a quick lunch, and off we went. I had been living completely in the now and hadn't registered that our flight actually left at five, not at eight. The queuing at Stansted was as tedious as ever, and at security check I realised that I had my throat spray in my backpack and was too lazy to return and get a plastic bag. I was to regret it bitterly during the days to come.

We decided that we could just as well eat something on the plane. It wasn't a gourmet meal, but we were looking forward to a number of those, and at that point we just needed something in our stomachs. Getting our rental car was quick, and it didn't take us more than an hour to get to Stockholm (airport bus usually takes an hour and a half). I had to remind Staffan to drive on the right, and we kept telling each other what a pretty landscape we were driving through. Eventually we came to Clas på hörnet, and I had a cup of tea and went to bed.

I had not expected champagne breakfast in bed and fortunately didn't get it. The breakfast was nice, and after that Staffan went shopping (although he would characterise his action as “making purchases”), and I don't remember what I did. Probably was nervous. From an email that Staffan had sent to me by mistake I knew that the mystical lunch guests had multiplied and were now ten rather than two. It could only mean one thing, and I was right, but it didn't take away the joy. Promptly at noon I went down to the dining room, and there they were, my wonderful former students from Finland and a couple of former colleagues, and did they sing for me? And what did they give me?

Yes, I had anticipated a festschrift, but it was a wonderful surprise nevertheless, just to see who had contributed and who was on Tabula Gratulatoria, and how much thought and love there was behind this volume.

A festschrift is a very special kind of book. It is academic and occasionally contains truly ground-breaking scholarship. But it also allows light stuff. I once contributed to a festschrift for someone I knew collected hippos. I wrote a piece on the semiotics of hippos in children's literature. I had fun writing it. I hope the object of celebration had fun reading it.

There is no festschrift tradition in the UK (I actually had to explain to my Cambridge colleagues what it was), but in Germany and Scandinavia is it common to produce one for people's sixtieth, and it is a great honour, a recognition of your academic career. As I say, I half anticipated it, but actually didn't believe I would get one because I no longer had a Scandinavian academic affiliation. In fact, I remember saying to a Swedish colleague at a conference that I didn't expect a festschrift. And she was part of the conspiracy! But it was two former students, nowadays younger colleagues, who edited it, behind my back, tracking down people with whom I had lost touch, but who remembered me well enough to be willing to give me their precious time and energy for my birthday. There are four poems, and all articles are somehow connected to my academic work; one of them is a very rigorous critique of my PhD, and I haven't yet figured out whether it is a joke.

To be continued.

Here are my mystical guests: from the left (not counting Staffan) Janina Orlov, Elina Druker, (me), Ulf Stark, Mia Franck, Kin Hallberg, Mia Österlund, and sitting, Maria Lassen-Seger.

1 comment:

Aifos said...

Not only did you write a splendid essay on hippos for my Festschrift but you also gave me several picture books about this amazing animal - and of course I was happy and grateful for everything. Opposite from Claes på Hörnet resides a man who is also a collector and whose office window by the sidewalk contains several pieces - also some of my duplicates.