30 April, 2014

Eight Chapters of an Academic Life, III-IV

Latin Grace
incorrect conjugation
after the sherry

the puddle grows
around my towel-wrapped feet -
the Master's phonecall

1 comment:

Hobbes said...

I realise that these two "chapters" probably need a little explanation. They are more senryu than haiku, and reflect the accidental comedies of academic life.

III: I recently held a large conference dinner at my college, for some 57 academics coming from 17 EU countries. It was a good event, with some occasionally decent science, but the highlight for most people seemed to be eating in the "Harry Potter dining room". The thing about conference dinners, as I learned to my disadvantage this time, is that the reception beforehand requires plenty of "toasts", and the sherry is plentiful. It would be wise for the host to dilute their toasts, I suspect, because at dinner time, the task of reciting the Latin grace comes down to whether or not you can remember it, and its conjugations, after a good hour of sherry-drinking.

My approach to the Latin grace was similar to that which I use for speaking Mandarin: I make up for precision with exuberance. It is, after all, mostly about "how you say it" (!). I have proven this to myself time and time again: when I cannot remember the tone for a word in Mandarin, I just blast through it with confidence. The listener seems to understand. It is only when I slow down and admit vulnerability that the listener fails to get my meaning. The same works with the grace: I may have changed tenses a few times within the course of the grace, but exuberance made up for the lack of precision, and I think it worked. :)

IV: This senryu marks the week-end in which I was expecting a telephone call from the Master of the college at which I had just had a recent interview. I was expecting news - without knowing if it would be good or bad news. That whole week-end, I carried my mobile 'phone around with me, making sure that I was contactable. Finally, last thing on Sunday evening, I figured that the Master had forgotten, and so I decided to have a bath. Just as I slipped into the water, the 'phone rang.

So, the senryu marks the moment in which the puddle expands around my feet, while I try my best to sound cogent as the Master gives me the news. (As it happened, the news turned out to be good.)