Monday, 5 September 2011


I've just been watching University Challenge and there was a set of questions  about dinosaur skeletons - which (unlike the team)  I got completely right.

Anyway, this sparked a memory from when I was about 5.  Like every small boy, I was obsessed with dinosaurs and had a particular fondness for the stegosaurus.   I had many models and pictures of the stegosaurus and desperately wanted to meet one, imagining them to be gentle creatures sort of like elephants in temperament.

When, one day, my folks took us to London Zoo, I was unbearably excited and couldn't wait to go because I would at last see a stegosaurus!

When my folks finally told me I'd never see a stegosaurus and why, it was far more traumatic than, say, learning that Santa didn't exist.   At least stegosauruses had existed.  I was inconsolable for days and completely ruined the visit to the zoo, screaming and demanding to see a stegosaurus!

In principle, I'm not against a 'Jurassic Park' like scenario. . .

Thursday, 1 September 2011

They're singing songs . . .

Mostly, my job has been rubbish. The people are fine, but I'm simply not given enough to do and most of what I am given to do is of little consequence.
I'm actually relieved that it my last day on 16th and I look forward to whatever the temp bank throw at me next.

However, throughout all of the boredom and erosion of confidence that this job has caused, there have been moments that I've really enjoyed.

I seem to work well with people in distress; show me a student in trouble and I"ll move heaven and earth to help them out. Even if it's actually kind of their fault - I'm thinking specifically of people who don't sort Council Tax out and find bailiffs knocking at their door. The point is, the helping out is the thing.

Sometimes, students that I've helped write and say thanks, and this is great. Sometimes, I'll be given thank you gifts. Chocolate has been especially welcomed!

Mostly, the stuff I do is sort of invisible and relevant to one person only but recent, the situation in Libya has thrown up a lot of distress for some of our students. Many have vanished - temporarily - only to come back and tell tales of helping family escape from the troubles which is amazing. Such courage and resolve.

Turns out, I played a part in this. A few of my students have requested letters proving their status as students and where some staff have put things on the back burner as not important, when ever Libyan student came in, I made sure that the letter for the Embassy were done straight away and that the students got them, preferably by the end of the day they requested them, but definitely within 24 hours. This appears to have been a major act of kindness, as far as the students were concerned - it shouldn't be, it should have been something done automatically but many requests to other staff members fell on deaf ears - and allowed them to leave the UK and return with parents. Some couldn't get their parents here and have found themselves in the USA, France, etc., although the students will be returning to University here soon.

Today, I bumped into one of my Libyan students who told me that my actions and kindness had actually managed to get a not unsubstantial number of students back into Libya and out again. Moreover, they'd all met up in a club in Tripoli, my name had come up and they had saluted, toasted and sang songs about me.

I had songs sung about me in Tripoli like I was some kind of folk hero.

This is a sentence I never thought I'd ever write, or speak!

I feel humbled but proud, not because of the folk hero status, but because I did something that mattered in a very real way.

Days don't get better than this.