Friday, 6 September 2013


The best definition of home: “Home is where your device automatically picks up internet”.

The other day, after a strenuous train journey I posted on Facebook: “So good to be home”. Yesterday, a student greeted me: “I thought you had gone home... to Sweden”.

After five years, people keep asking me whether I had been home over summer. Yes, I say, I stayed at home all summer, I have such a beautiful garden, and the weather in Cambridge has been perfect.

People ask me whether I plan to move home when I retire. I don't think they mean old people's home.

I am going to Sweden next week, but I am not going home. I am going away. My device will not pick up internet automatically, I'll have to get a password. People assume that we have kept a place to return to, but why would we? We don't even know whether we will return. Does this reaction imply that most people don't burn their bridges? That most people can point to a place on a map, real or imaginary, and say with confidence: this is my home. Or rather: this is where I come from, which is not the same. I envy them. I cannot even go a generation back to say: this is where I come from.

I define home egocentrically, in an embodied present tense.

Sunday, 1 September 2013

Hard facts

Today I have been employed by the University of Cambridge for five years.

My email software claims that I have since then sent 5,704 emails. That's less than three messages a day. And I always complain that I get at least a hundred emails every day and spend two hours replying to them.

I have taught 200 undergraduates and 100 masters. I have supervised 30 masters. Some of them progressed to doctoral studies. I have supervised seven PhD students two of whom have successfully completed and three more are almost there.

Because of our marking system I have marked twice as many assignments as I have supervised. (Occasionally I had to mark essays and theses on school leadership in Uganda, innovative mathematical education or second-language teaching in Indonesia).

I have sat on a score of various committees and chaired two. I have attended hundreds of meetings (although if I am as wrong in my perception as with emails, maybe there weren't really that many).

I have spent a lot of money on a successful research project and failed with a number of external bids. Many colleagues have left and many new colleagues have arrived. Half of the people in my academic group have been promoted. I have worked under two Heads of Faculty.

I have visited the University library twice. (Everything I need is available in the Faculty Library). 

I have been to two hundred formal dinners. (I haven't been to all the 31 colleges).

I have had two research leaves.

My university card expires this month. I am no longer a newcomer.