Wednesday, 11 January 2017

The holiday is over

Tomorrow morning I go back to work. Feeling oddly unready for it. There have been times over the last three weeks when I've longed to be at work (ie the morning I took Len on the inflatable water slide at Federation Square, thus breaking a lifelong rule not to wear my bathers in a place where most people aren't wearing their bathers) but now that the day has almost arrived I see it'll take a bit of effort to reinsert myself into the daily rhythms, remember people's names etc.

A little worrying this, because there's only about a week before biggish things need to start happening, and so I don't have much time to reacclimatise. I do know that it'll be ok. It's just tedious to embark on a new stage feeling already behindhand with things. Also, not so much worrying but interesting, after many months of being obsessively preoccupied with the new workplace every waking moment, and seeing it as a rich and absorbing environment in a variety of ways, it's quite a surprise to find that its vividness has faded in my mind after a only a very short period of absence.

I wonder why this is. It's not as if I've found something else to be preoccupied by. Perhaps there has been a kind of illusory interestingness lent to the place for me by how completely it was and is unlike anything else in my experience. I hope that's not all that's at the bottom of the fascination. Admittedly it was seriously exhausting to be always in cognitive overdrive - puzzling out every little detail of the place, its cultures, its functions, its weirdnesses, its saids and unsaids, its depths, its vulnerabilities etc - and for the first six months I would come home from work and just mentally crash. I'm happy not to carry on in that mode. But nearing the end of last year, with a view to working towards beginning to research and publish again, I came to some provisional conclusions about what it was that I was finding so fascinating about the place. In large part it's to do with the ambivalences and tensions in the way the content of the place is conceptualised and acted upon by those who are involved with it. So far so good, and so susceptible to scholarship. But along with this I also had a sense of being an observer, not an insider just yet, gazing upon a situation like the one which is supposed to have inspired Kingsley Amis to write Lucky Jim. Amis was visiting Phillip Larkin at Leicester and accompanied him onto campus and into the university common room. 
I looked round a couple of times and said to myself, “Christ, somebody ought to do something with this.” Not that it was awful - well, only a bit; it was strange and sort of developed, a whole mode of existence no one had got on to from outside. 
Now, I certainly didn't think I'd do anything so foolish, unethical and self-sabotaging as to try to write about the culture of the place, in a satirical vein or any other. But I did decide it had that peculiar quality of being developed, indeed possessed it to a much greater degree than the actual modern universities I've worked in and known intimately. And this is why I am a little perturbed to find that I've largely forgotten the specifics. Well, it'll be interesting to see what tomorrow is like. As it always is. 

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