Thursday, 12 June 2008

How it started

When I tell this incredible story to my friends and colleagues they almost cannot believe that such serenditipies can govern our fates. But I have seen this before, so, while I am overwhelmed myself, I know that such things do not only happen in bad movies.

I was at a professional conference in Barcelona last September (a wonderful city by the way). Now, in Spain they have perverse, from my Scandinavian point of view, eating habits, so they have dinner at ten pm which can extend far beyond midnight. That day I had a bad cold and was tired after the sessions, so I decided to skip the conference dinner, to which we had to travel half an hour by underground, and get a sandwich in a shop around the corner. Three more colleagues had arrived at the same decision, and we ended up in a nice restaurant nearby which turned out to have excellent kitchen. Over a glass of wine we talked about this and that, and I happened to mention that I wasn't quite content with my present situation at Stockholm University (the Understatement of the Year). Whereupon my dear colleague Morag Styles uttered a statement that I have quoted zillions of times ever since: "You wouldn't by any chance consider Cambridge?"

Well, an academic with any position given a chance to consider Cambridge does not need much time for consideration. In fact, after we returned from a two-year sejour in California (which was extremely enjoyable) I told my husband that the only places I would ever consider again were Oxford, Cambridge, Harvard and Yale. It was a joke. Yet any joke has a drop of truth behind it. Every academic with self-respect has a secret dream of being invited to Oxford, Cambridge, Harvard or Yale, the most prestigeous universities in the world. Most academics are never given a chance to consider it.

I said: "Yes indeed, I would", and we forgot it all when our food arrived.

(to be continued)

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