Tuesday, 29 June 2010

Horticultural achievements

When I invented the word "hortotherapy" some years ago, I didn't know it existed. Seems to be a well-established idea. My interpretation is simple: gardening is good for your mind. This spring was full of surprises because everything I had done last autumn gave results. My tulips - at least those that survived the deer (or perhaps rabbit) attacks - bloomed beautifully. By mid-April I had flowers in the flower-beds, and by early May I had roses. The pear tree, which I last year thought was a cherry tree, bloomed beautifully as well. The frogs came back to the pond. Ivy and brambles came back too, but now I know how to fight them. The hedge is recuperating. I am planting and replanting, cleaning and weeding, and I am very pleased with what I see. My raspberry plants are huge. Regrettably, the birds like raspberries almost as much as Staffan.

I have been playing in the greenhouse a lot. The cucumber seedlings gave me much joy, and at some point it looked as if we would get tons of strawberries, but somehow they vanished - and I can't even blame rabbits or birds. Right now the greenhouse is fully occupied by beans. If you think that Jack and the beanstalk is a fairy tale, come and have a look at my beans. I suspect that the beans killed the strawberries in some secret nocturnal war. Plants are cunning, I've read some clever books about them.

We have scarified the lawn again. Not sacrificed. In a couple of weeks it will look like the lawn at King's College (which, frankly, looks awful right now). Last week I bought a sprinkler.

I have harvested the first courgettes. They are gratifying, just need plenty of water.

The perennial flowers I have grown from seeds will perhaps not bloom this year, but at least I see that they thrive. And I am still working on my Japanese garden.

One beautiful evening we had a visit from a hedgehog.

For pictures, have a look at my Facebook album.

Academic update

So what has been going on in academic life since April? April is, as I have mentioned, a bit of a dead season, and it didn't get better when half of the students couldn't get back to Cambridge because of a dumb volcano in Iceland! I had to cancel a class, and it all felt weird.

Morag went on study leave, and we had a lengthy induction session on what I had to do and when and how, and which of the zillions of admin people were doing what. By now I have a significantly better knowledge of the Faculty. Morag was anxious about leaving it all to me. She thinks the world will stop if she isn't around. Well, it hasn't, although it has been close sometimes. Allocating thesis marking is like making a jigsaw puzzle of 20 thousand pieces with most of the picture either sea or sky.

There have been some heated meetings around the undergrad degree. Cambridge has UK's best undergrad degree in Education, therefore someone up there decided it should be discontinued. I thought for a long time that it was a joke until it became serious. The trouble is that the rules change every day. Hours would be spent in meetings, good (and occasionally bad) decisions made, and two days later it would all become irrelevant because someone up there had decided differently. It's very frustrating. After months of discussions we still don't know.

There have also been some deliberations because we are going to have a new Head of Faculty. I will miss Mike, he has been so supportive in every possible way. You know what you have, but not what you are getting. I was asked whether I was going to apply. I said I was just about getting set with my chair job. To myself, I said I'd probably not have applied for my present job if I knew how much admin it implied. On the other hand, I definitely have learned to enjoy the admin. It's just as much fun as you make it. Well, most of the time. I managed a crisis meeting of the Undergrad Committee quite elegantly.

I hosted the end-of-year party for our masters students. I think everybody enjoyed it.

I survived another round of essay and exam marking. The supervisions are almost finished. It's almost vacation... um, research period. My second year in Cambridge is over.

A question of audience

I haven't blogged for a long, long time. I should have written: This blog is finished, thank you for your attention.

My youngest son claims that I have stopped blogging because I have discovered Facebook. He is wrong. Facebook is great to stay in touch with friends and colleagues and get suggestions about events and books and things. But in terms of self-expression Facebook is somewhat limited. It is a punchline without the story.

I have stopped blogging because I feel that my blog has served its purpose. I started it because so many friends were curious about our new life. It is not new any more. It has become routine.

But suddenly I get an email from someone I don't even know asking: Why have you stopped blogging? This is a bit like getting a message from the other side of the grave: Hey, someone out there is actually reading!

Yuri Lotman, one of the greatest thinkers of the 20th century and my idol, if I have one, was said to give a whole year of lectures to one single student. I don't know whether it's true, but I heard it from the student. Apparently he thought one listener was worth while. So if I have one reader out there, perhaps it's worth while to resume. It will take some time to catch up because a lot has happened (there you are, it's not ALL routine).

But you, reader out there, if you leave a comment every now and then, I promise to write regularly.