The essential Cambridge in spite of Cambridge

There is an ancient tradition at the University of Cambridge amongst art students, which I honour here today: taking a cool-sounding quotation from an intellectual source, and repurposing without context. My title for this post is taken from F.R. Leavis in Two Cultures (no, I haven’t checked the citation, on the principle that I’ve graduated.) …

Zoom and bust: Back to the Future #3

Just as the cockroach is adapted to survive nuclear apocalypse, so my blog limps on through this third lockdown. Yes, it’s been a few months of silence for my fans* on our isolated patch of the web. In agricultural terms a fallow period has passed. But now we can rejoice and plant turnips once more, …

Online exams, offline zest.

I’ve been cooking with citrus and lemon a lot recently. A quick squeeze added green vegetables, oven-cooked fish, yoghurt dips: will it do add anything good? we don’t know, but let’s do it anyway, as it makes me feel like a freewheeling tv chef. The squeezing and saut√©-ing and chopping has made up large, salted …

Unproductive worrying about privilege. (‘Privilege disclaimer’)

Yes, I’ve opened and closed and reopened this draft most days – without managing to write anything. All the usual anxieties of blog-writing (will people think I’m a narcissist? illiterate? boring? will future employers condemn me on the basis of total foolishness?) have combined with the self-consciousness of pleasing others. A good deal of lockdown …

It’s fine, fun is overrated anyway

Greetings from the Year Abroad I am now conducting from my bedroom: a year abroad insofar that it is no longer a Year, but a strange, shapeless vortex of timey wimey stuff, and abroad in the sense that it’s not abroad, but is in fact a suburb in North Yorkshire. What have I been doing, …

Questions of travel, by Elizabeth Bishop

Since we’ve all been temporarily prevented from travelling further than ‘another government-mandated walk around the block? Well, it’s not as if I’ve got much else on…’ , I thought this would be quite a useful poem to think about. It plays with the excitement of travelling, at the same time as it questions its necessity, …

We escape lockdown corona crisis in France

And so we enter the event I am calling ‘The Second Fucking Time I’ve Had To Flee A Country On The Year Abroad.’ (TSFTIHTFACOTYA for short?). It’s all happened pretty quickly. On Friday I sent an e-mail to the company I was supposed to work for in Beaune, in which I (oh, innocence) wondered whether …

Corona-vacances : she may be small, but she’s shut down France

You’ve probably noticed by now how it’s all gone a bit Exodus, that the newspapers have become great harbingers of doom, and that the world’s generally on an off-day. Coronavirus (for it is she) has spread to France, which is now the 2nd most infected country in Europe, and the ENS has closed. Plus no …