Sunday, 20 December 2009

A Tale of Five Dinners and Cello Discovers Snow

It has been another busy week and a week that has added to my already expanding waste band. One downside of my job is the numerous lunch time meetings I attend at which sandwiches and other similar convenience foods are provided. I have stopped eating these, partly out of boredom and partly as a silent protest against the institutional promotion of such unhealthiness. This week, has also seen me out every night on University related business. On Monday I was a guest at the University of Leeds annual meal to celebrate all those members of staff that had retired in the last academic year. I was there with two colleagues who had decided to put their chalk in the desk draw for the last time.

The meal was hosted by the VC, and we ate in wonderful hall at the University House. There were cabinets full of silverware, wooden paneled walls and a graceful air of elegance. Whatever happened to those days of the Senior Common Room? The meal was served by immaculately dressed waiters in a highly coordinated approach to getting all the diners fed at the same time. I had a wonderful goat’s cheese, pear and spinach starter, followed by a equally delicious leek and cheese strudel. Outside, the rain lashed down and I got soaked getting the train station. However, unlike the previous occasion I was a guest at Leeds, I did manage to stay awake on the train home and got off in Manchester and not somewhere in the wilds of Merseyside.

Tuesday I attended the first of a revised University of Salford professoriate. I have made my feelings known about this professoriate before. It was an interesting experience. I have to say that whilst the vast majority of participants were male, and over 50, there was not much danger of being overwhelmed by a testosterone fuelled debate! The meal was an evening variation of the usual lunch time offerings, so I left early and was home by 9pm.

Wednesday was hectic from 7am. Much of the day was given over to working with the School Executive – and it was good to see so much excellent work emerging from the Whole School Project work groups. As a School we are developing a robust evidence base upon which to improve our approach to enhancing the student experience. In the evening, the School Executive went out for a Christmas meal. Smiths in Eccles. The food was good, a cauliflower cheese starter, with a delightful leek and cheese strudel as the main course. The conversation around the table was a mixture of funny nostalgic stories of times past (we were just across the way from Peel House) and good humored commentaries on the changes we and our university had gone through in the last year.

Thursday was a colder day. There was sleet at lunchtime and by the time we were all making our way to the VC’s house for an informal cocktail party, it was snowing heavily. The VC had invited about 60 colleagues from the School to attend what he described as ‘our house’ for an evening of conversation, drinks and nibbles (some would say canap├ęs). About 40 colleagues were able to make the evening. The house was quickly filled with people eating, talking and occasionally having a glass of wine. As at the Leeds event however the service was impressive and unobtrusive.

There was much speculation around ‘that painting’. Some colleagues recalled that ‘our house’ had in times past, been a nurse’s home for those nurses working in nearby Pendlbury Hospital.

Oh and George, in response to your email about missing the last train home, I don’t think the VC meant you could kip down on the sofa when he was talking about it being ‘our house’. By the time we left it was well below freezing and the roads were treacherous. I abandoned all thought of continuing the celebrations in Manchester city centre. The finger food had left me feeling full but not with the sense I had actually eaten anything substantial.

Friday morning revealed the snow that had fallen during the night. Cello who has never seen snow before, reveled in the experience as he rushed around outside.

I on the other hand, was less impressed, it was 05.30, dark and still well below freezing. The day included the judging of the best decorated office. I thought the ‘Credit Crunch Christmas’ theme was a good one, but perhaps not as well designed and executed as the ‘Black Forest’. The results are to be declared next week.

That evening many of us were at the Faculty Christmas Party at the VA Hotel in Manchester. Despite the freezing temperature outside, there was more naked flesh on display than can be seen on a Newquay beach on a hot bank holiday weekend. Perhaps I am just getting old. I should have had a goat’s cheese, pear and spinach starter, but it never arrived. The main course was what by now had become the ubiquitous leek and cheese strudel. As the DJ turned up the music even louder, and the bright young things got up to dance I knew it was time to go home.

I had baked beans on toast when I got in, and boy did they taste good!