11 April, 2016

Academic Year, I - VIII

on my bicycle
from classroom to lab
eating my lunch

winter rain
running past another don
our gowns tangle

the New Year's eve
college quads are silent -
except for my boys

governing body -
fifty gowns flapping
fifty opinions

on easter sunday
one does not simply walk
into Balliol

teapot for two
beneath the old buttery
pear tree

under the table
in my college office
we play hide-and-seek

singing responses
in the college chapel
to my sons


Hobbes said...

These little collections are tremendous fun for me - they include haiku written over the span of some 5-6 years, on a theme; here, academic life in my city, approximately arranged in the order of the academic year (autumn, through winter, to spring, Easter, then a long summer). Most of these involve "life" in the sense of living it with my dear sons.

My dear wife would certainly not approve of such cavalier behaviour, and rightly so! However, there have been several occasions on which lunch had to be eaten in transit, between classroom (approx. 10% of my academic career) and my lab (the remaining 90%). Unwrapping sandwiches on a bicycle is fraught with danger, but outmatched by the danger of turning up to the lab with an empty tummy.

We almost took each other out; the rain slammed into the empty quad, as he and I ran in opposite directions, our comedy academic gowns flowing in the strong wind - they were sodden, then locked in a twisted couplet. Suddenly, one is a little too close to a senior mathematics professor than one would like to be.

Desertion is an Oxford college on New Year's Day. My boys are and I went to explore the town, and ended up calling in to eat lunch in a peaceful part of the gardens - the entire place was their playground for the afternoon, as they discovered hidden parts of the college that an otherwise-populated part of the year would prevent. The sound of three- and five-year-old voices sounding from the ancient walls remains an unusual and charming memory.

"Governing Body" is the name that most colleges give to the gaggle of dons who are "trustees" of the college, which is to say the committee by which all decisions are taken. (Colleges have a "Master", but he is elected by and responsible to the Fellows.) It will be unsurprising to learn that, if you get fifty of us into a single room, and expect us to reach consensus on almost anything, then you have a long task ahead. Sometimes tedious, sometimes heated, mostly amusing, the three afternoons of term spent in "Governing Body" are part of the job. It has been happening, more or less, for 750 years and the notion of continuity of duty is enough to stop me fidgeting.

Getting into college on Easter Sunday is harder even than Christmas or New Year. Security measures seem to be tripled, and there is absolutely no-one around - not even a porter (approx. gatekeeper). After daddy's fourth attempt, he found the right key to open a tiny door within the huge oaken door, and my boys and I escaped to the silent interior. One step away from the busy bustle of Broad Street, it is as if you have stepped through a curtain that excludes all sound. Except the yell of two boys as they rush to pick flowers...

The summer is nearly with us when I can sit under the pear tree, with a teapot of very reasonable Darjeeling, waiting for my dear wife to arrive. The "Buttery" is the traditional name for the place that fellows would once have bought basic supplies (such as butter), but which now acts as a cafe or small pub - with the advantage that it sits in the rear quad of the college, looking out onto the gardens.

My favourite hiding-place was under my sofa; my boys hid (in plain sight!) under the large, heavy table that sits in the centre of the room. As with III, there is something magical about a place of daily work being transformed by one's children.

...or, indeed, being asked (by them) to sing responses in the college chapel. My eldest son has just started school, in a neighbouring college. (There are thirty colleges in the university, but three have schools - primarily for the purpose of providing boys for their choirs.) When you send your son to a school that teaches them as a choir, being the "dec" to their "can" is part of the deal. Little, not-quite-trained voices sound very sweet in the chapel. "Again, Daddy!"

Bill said...

Hobbes! This is Hop! I am not sure if you remember me at all but we used to be online tea chums. Hope all is well! Just wanted to say hello.

Hobbes said...

G'day ;D