Seizing Today

Last night, we went to the pub as is usual on a Friday.

(I realise this might not be the most riveting intro to a blog but if you can bear with me, it might just get a bit better as the paragraphs go on – or at least I might get to the point.)

Anyway, Nick had just got home from being away for a bit just as I was going out of the door to walk down to the local hostelry with my female neighbours and our dogs. Women and dogs walk, men take the cars.

So, we had a nice time, sat outside, dogs running about – our dog has a habit of networking the whole pub garden, offering her business cards to anyone and everyone and offering herself up for adoption, but we get her back in the end.

So, we women later gently weaved home across the fields with the dogs, and some god was in some sort of heaven and all was well. ( Yes, the men went home in the car.)

Then, at home, Nick and I got talking – was we hadn’t had time to catch up – and opened a bottle of wine. Now, it was nice to talk about what he had told the House of Lords committee etc  (as well as the meltdown in the Oxfam shop caused by the introduction of a new till) but it would probably have been better to do it with a cup of tea – but then that is not us.

Suffice it to say, that by the end of the evening we had decided to write a paper together on the comparisons between current Chinese foreign policy and the Mongol empire of the 1200s.

No, of course we won’t. Despite the fact that I love Mongol history and he is really interested in what the Chinese are up to, we could never write a paper together – divorce would be the easy option.

But, to get nearer to the point. We woke up with a hangover, I went to Oxfam and did some stuff and then we went to meet some old friends of his for lunch – well, getting eventually to the point….

So, hangovers akimbo, we went to meet them in a pub halfway between where they live and where we live.

I had organised it in a moment of realising that you don’t have infinite time to catch up with friends, you think you do, but one day you find out you haven’t.

(It happened to me – I had this brilliant, amazing friend and even though she was geographically just over the hill, I didn’t see enough of her  – and now she is gone.)

So, we seized the day and spent it having lunch in a country pub, chatting swapping notes on charity shop shopping, ebay bargains, whether the state has any right to snoop, what to do when you are not working, guns in America, how much we use sailing phrases in everyday language, family news…..

And do you know what? that is enough seizing the day for me.

I am not going to leap out of planes, camp in the Sahara, learn to speak Chinese, run a marathon – all good things, but not for me. I am happy seizing a day with lovely people and a lazy lunch – nothing could be better.

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A brief un-banal moment

There are times when writing banal stuff about an easy life seems not quite to the point.

This week an agreement (of sorts) has been made with the Greeks – and you should listen to Tim Hartford’s More or Less Greece Special on Radio 4 for good stuff about the numbers and allegations. I have to say I feel for the Greek people but definitely not their political class – and if I was Lithuanian or Irish, I would not be that sympathetic to their current government. And I am not. I agree with Guy Verhofstadt and you can see a great video of his arguments on Facebook.

And then, there is an agreement with the Iranians – which will please the Israeli young woman and Iranian young man in my group of international PhDs last week (they were wary of swapping email addresses in case their governments found out) – and which pleases any right minded thinking person, so that won’t apply to the US Congress or Israeli government.

Meanwhile, our government plans to make any trade union member opt in to paying a levy to the Labour Party but does not feel the need to make every shareholder or staff member vote as to whether their big boss should donate to the Tories.

And in a continuing saga of misery, more than three million Syrian refugees are in Turkey, Lebanon, Jordan, Egypt and Iraq – I understand by February this year we had taken 187. Another six million are internally displaced which is a nice way of saying they are not in any sense at home and safe.

So, I just wanted you to know that even here in Deepest Sussex, we do get the news and we do care about it.

But, as any reader will have gathered by now, we don’t talk about it much.

If you feel that banal stuff about an easy life should not be on the same page as serious issues, don’t worry you can stop here.

I am hoping that you are doing great stuff with refugees or politics and have better things to do, and there is a lot of me that wishes I was too – but I am not, so back to banal.

But for those of us in Deepest Sussex who are not doing anything amazingly useful with our lives, three issues this week – a new laptop, some alarming dog-sitting and the new computer till at Oxfam – you get the point.

So, anyone who has not got better things to do can read on for the next blog in which all will be revealed.

Knee-Deep in PhDs

I have a week every year when I am knee-seep in PhD students – and it is this week.

They are bright, funny, insecure, knowledgeable, starting out, shy, too loud and all the rest of it – and our job (us tutors at their summer school) is to give them some stuff which might help them get through the arduous business of finishing a PhD and then a few bits and pieces of advice to help them join the rest of us in the big wide world.

Last night some of the group of PhDs decided it would be ideal to sit on the benches outside my bedroom window and get to know each other by chatting, laughing, singing and having a few heated discussions about, among other things, whether war is inevitable and what it means to be racist.

This took from about midnight to about 3am.

In my role as tutor, I was tempted to open the window and say, ‘ OK, let’s just pause for a moment.

‘Its brilliant you care to have such a discussion and the topics are really important – though the rendition of the Canadian national anthem was really not a high point – but here are a few things I need to say to you.

‘You (I would be pointing to the young man with the loudest voice,) need to hone your listening skills and perhaps have a pause before you say instantly what you are thinking.

‘You (pointing to another young man,) need to find another way of saying what you have just been repeating several times.

‘And you, young women, are not getting a hearing. I am guessing that because you are not being listened to, you have decided to leave that discussion and talk amongst yourselves – but that won’t work when you all need to pull together as a team and achieve the tasks we have set you.

‘Now, think on, as my grandmother would have said, and you had better think on in your own beds, you have a busy day tomorrow.’

(The last bit would have been less tutor and more, grousy middle-aged woman mode.)

Of course I didn’t.

But as I was wide awake at 2 am and had finished my current book, I did search of my bedroom for a feedback form for the venue.

(I am a fan of filling in questionnaires and feedback – if anyone asks my opinion, in any format, I have no trouble at all in giving it to them.)

Anyway, I thought I would mention that if you, as conference venue, have a wine list at the bar you should have more than one white wine from the list of five, available to drink.

And if your customer then opts for a rose wine instead, you really should charge the price on the wine list.

I was told that the prices had all gone up but they hadn’t got round to changing the price list – I don’t think that is how it should work!

I might have mentioned one or two other ‘areas for improvement’ seeing as they had asked for my feedback and I am in tutor-speak mode, but of course they hadn’t.

To be fair, I would also have said that the food is fine and the staff are very helpful and friendly.

This has been a short break in my day and now I need to go back and improve my knowledge of the energy sector – and yes indeed, that can be very interesting.