Monday, November 08, 2010


Well, I've been tempted back to the blog by a news item about filth. It's something in the Wellcome Trust e-newsletter about artist Serena Korda's forthcoming work that will be part of a spring 2011 exhibition called ‘Dirt: The filthy reality of everyday life’. She is asking the public to donate dust, collected from their houses, workplaces or other locations. She will use it to make an artwork called 'Laid to Rest' which will consist of 500 commemorative bricks made from dust given to the artist by the public. Anyone can contribute and each brick will carry an inscription with details about the dust from which it is made. The project will culminate in the burial of the bricks, returning them to the earth.  Lots of events as part of their 'Dirt' season are planned too - sounds fascinating!!

The press release says "Korda's work is inspired by the commercialisation of waste in Victorian London, particularly the vast dust heaps which dominated the skylines at the top of Gray's Inn Road. Immortalised by Charles Dickens in 'Our Mutual Friend', the dust heaps supported a wide range of industries, including the making of bricks. Mud from the brick fields of Somers Town was mixed with the ash, cinders and rubbish from the dust heaps, and transformed the discarded, detritus and dirt of London into the material from which the expanding city was built."

There's loads of balls of fluff and assorted debris on the stairs at college. They're so big they look like mini tumbleweeds. I was only marvelling the other day at how infrequently the cleaners sweep those stairs - probably not more than once a year - so it becomes sort of self-cleaning, I suppose... we clear the stairs by using them and kicking the muck away with our feet. Ah well, saves money on the Estates budget and cleaning is so boring anyway, surely even for people who do it professionally? I'm not sure how dignified it would be for students to see their tutor grovelling about on the stairs scrabbling for dirt, but I may give it a go. It's a tower block so a LOT of stairs. And potentially a LOT of dirt.

Her blog doesn't tell you what to do with your debris, but perhaps if one bags it up in readiness then more details will appear soon... Something thought-provoking to look foward to next year.

Image: London: The great dust-heap. Credit: E. H. Dixon, 1837. Wellcome Images.

Sunday, July 04, 2010

The Procrastinator Returns

Haven't fancied writing anything for ages as all the stuff that's been preoccupying me wasn't really appropriate, given my rather half-hearted occasional attempts at anonymity and trying to be sensible about what I stick on the internet.

I have been offered a different job (part time) as my other one disappeared. It should be more interesting than the old one and will pay the bills (just about), plus it gives me time to carry on teaching in the same institution and to decide what to do with my PhD material. I wish my colleagues weren't going to be leaving though. I like working with people who make me laugh and I will miss their take on the peculiarities of daily life. Perhaps some of the new lot will have the same sense of humour.... I do hope so.

I've got to finish writing a conference paper today, which is presumably why I'm on here, obviously old habits die hard and all that. It's rather out of my academic comfort zone (different discipline) and I keep worrying that it will be regarded as flaky crap, though that's more likely if I don't get on with the flipping thing right now, I guess. But at least my trousers aren't likely to fall down while I'm presenting the paper, as happened to the Lord Mayor of Leicester when he stood up to do a talk for a bunch of schoolkids. Poor things, though it presumably made the occasion more memorable for them. He was a bit fat (it appears) and wasn't wearing a belt. Dearie me, trousers round the ankles... how undignified. Mental note to myself to select a good sturdy belt for Tuesday's outfit, as well as finishing the damn paper before dinner. Maybe the one with the horse's head buckle.... hhmm, it's amazing what you can waste time on when there's stuff to do....strange pink fingers in the pic though!

Sunday, January 24, 2010

Marge Monroe

I suppose I'm doing the proud auntie thing here, but it was really nice to hear that my niece's drawing of Marge Monroe won her an (apparently nasty) plastic spider pig object and is star letter of the week in The Simpsons comic. That, and her getting a prize from her MP for winning a drawing competition recently, are the best things to happen this week. Thank goodness for the odd nice bit of news amongst all this redundancy crap. Life goes on...

Thursday, January 21, 2010

to cheer myself up...

This is completely self indulgent on my part, posting a video to cheer myself up a bit rather than writing anything vaguely interesting, but this is such an aimless blog anyway that it's ok. This version of House of the Rising Sun is one of my favourite Animals ones on YouTube because I like it when Eric goes a bit out of tune at 0:43 and his and Chas Chandler's expressions. I also like the way he sings the phrase about spending your lives in sin and misery and the accompanying facial expression. He's got a slightly fuck off attitude about him, which I find rather attractive. I prefer this video to the colour in-tune studio version where they're wearing the same suits wandering around a tiny set, obviously miming, under what look like christmas baubles dangling sparsely around their heads.

A few minutes of cheering up, courtesy of YouTube, is essential right now because everything has kicked off at work over the past week in a rather stressful and unpleasant way. My department is now in the middle of a drastic restructuring that leaves our jobs 'at risk' - ie they won't exist any more in their present form. It's an early stage in a much bigger cross-university thing, so we're spending our lives in uncertainty, waiting to receive letters about our jobs and to see what happens next. Maybe the email will arrive tomorrow at the end of the day, when it's too late for us to respond in person with any questions, with a hardcopy in the post on Saturday. It's quite difficult to muster much enthusiasm to get on with day to day stuff right now, alongside going to meetings with management and the union, plus talking to colleagues in the same situation (far better information than through the official channels). It's a relief to be able to go to the pub to talk about it after work, as it could be so much worse if we were really isolated in our jobs. It was interesting to see who avoided us at a private view the other night, creeping away from us around the exhibits and not making eye contact - it wasn't paranoia on our part as we all noticed it, but presumably just a consequence of those who knew what was going to happen to us the next day not wanting to face any awkward questions from us.

Ah well, this is just the beginning unfortunately. I think it's probably realistic to blame the bankers for the economic mess and Mandleson's massive cuts in HE funding. One wonders what the state of the sector will be in a year's time after this meltdown predicted by academics. It's not the best time in the world to be trying to build an academic career after finishing a PhD.