Monday, 29 October 2012


My friend and colleague Professor Paul Scott has just opened a blog at Cufflink Catholic.

Paul has been displaying a series of cufflink shots on Facebook for some months now, and it was only a matter of time before this extravagant procession of aesthetic cufflinkery broke forth in search of a new platform. The narrative of his initiation to cufflinks is a veritable rebirth story, told with a waft of fine incense and the respectable echo of memory. I recommend it to you.

Meanwhile, I stagger from pillar to post, but mostly from lesson planning to admin task, in search of research time, illumination and copy. Notable achievements of the last few weeks include an almost perfect tarte tatin which collapsed only when it was being extracted from the pan, a new, key insight which might provide the start of my next book, and another birthday. By way of a present, Mrs Sudlow finally gave way to my incessant pleading and bought me a kitchen blowtorch. I cannot tell you how happy this has made me!

So, go over to Cufflink Catholic and say hello (both of you). 

With Professor Scott's cufflinks and my new incendiary prowess, I'm reminded of Chesterton's famous dictum: give us the luxuries in life and we will dispense with the necessities. Like all Chesterton's sayings - such as 'If a thing's worth doing, it's worth doing badly (even if you do it badly, in other words) - it is a paradox. What he means - says the blogger, indulging in a shameful act of overbearing glossaria - is that if we revel in the celebratory side of life, those things we consider necessary in the prosaic quotidian will be seen for what they are: frequently unimportant.

Monday, 15 October 2012

A fragment and a ruin

The last three weeks have been spent in a blur of work. It has been what we call preciously la rentrée (it sounds so much better that 'back to school'). I've been something of a fragment and ruin myself, staggering back home after lengthy days in dementedly boring meetings, or being spun in the hurricane of contemporary university bureaucracy.

These are heady days for higher education in the UK. While we have not a penny more to fund us, the students find themselves now paying anything up to £9,000 for a year's tuition, and so expectation seems racheted up several notches, even though we're still paddling the same somewhat leaky canoe.

It was with great delight that a few weeks ago I was asked to serve on something known as the Wellbeing Committee. The paradigms that prevail in this august assembly will be apparent even to the casual reader when you consider that their version of improving staff wellbeing involves free yoga classes, eye tests, blood pressure checks, etc. I confess to being thrilled to learn that they were planning to have a 'wellbeing bus' on campus in due course! What could be better? I am planning to launch my own suggestions at the next meeting: that staff wellbeing would be immesurably improved by regular 'bring a cake to work' days, flowers in the corridors, and quarterly carnivals (during which, for example, wet sponges can be flung at an 'enstocked' Vice Chancellor).

Meanwhile, life goes on in other ways. We enjoyed our local monthly farmers' market on Saturday and visited our new culinary discoveries: the Kitchen Garden Café for lunch and La Banca for supper. For our afternoon stroll on Sunday we took off to Evesham where Simon de Montfort met his end in 1265, all in the service of 'justice and truth', according to the celebrated Robert Grosseteste of Lincoln (but he was a big head, so what would he know?).

Yes, the bits are coming back together, the ruin is improving, and hopefully, I'll get blogging a bit more regularly now the dust is settled. No promises of course :-)