strange_complex: (Leela Ooh)
The other day while taking money out at a cash-point, I noticed that there was rather more money in my bank account than I'd been expecting. The next time I had a spare moment, I went online to find out why, and saw that a payment of £477.34 had been made into my account by Queen's University Belfast.

This worried me for a few days. I've finished working there, and my last pay-cheque came in at the end of September. So why were they suddenly sending me more money? Was it a mistake? Or some kind of tax rebate based on the erroneous assumption that I was now unemployed?

Either way, my future looked likely to involve hassle and having to pay it back.

Until, that is, I actually got a pay-slip from them yesterday, where the money was described as a redundancy payment. Now, to be fair, I did get a letter from the Personnel department shortly before I left saying that staff who'd been employed by the University for a year or less were due a week's worth of their salary as a redundancy payment if their contract was terminated. But I got a lot of other rather nonsensical letters that were obviously being generated automatically by some sort of 'system' around the same time, and assumed that it didn't really apply to me, since I'd been on a fixed-term contract and had always known it was going to end when it did.

It seems, though, that this particular letter really was true. So, to celebrate, I popped round to Richer Sounds this afternoon, and bought something I've been meaning to buy for some time, and especially since I was in there the other day buying a coaxial cable and saw it there, winking at me on the shelf: a combination VCR / DVD player / recorder. This one, to be precise.

Is this machine teh sechs? Oh gods, yes! These are some of the benefits it has brought into my life:Combi lust )Suffice it to say that I am feeling more than satisfied with my purchase. And kinda warm and gooey towards Queen's, of course.

Meanwhile, in a somewhat-related vein, I also feel that the world should know about the bill I got the other day from BT:

What do you mean, not worth the paper it's written on? )

Now I'm going out. I look forward immensely to my DVD recording of this evening's episode of A Bit of Fry & Laurie when I return. Let's just hope I managed to set the timer correctly...
strange_complex: (Saturnalian Santa)
Ooh, how nice! Warwick have the heating on. And I hadn't even thought about it until my subsconscious registered how particularly pleasant and toasty my office was feeling.

Have the powers that be at Queen's cracked yet?

EDIT: And, in other news, I have just turned my work calendar over to the month of October, and I am treated to a picture of a guinea-pig nibbling apprehensively at a pumpkin. Meanwhile, outside, trees are displaying a mix of green and shocking red. Oh yes, it's Autumn. :(

Café Milano

Monday, 29 August 2005 22:34
strange_complex: (Roast duck)
Have just come back from dinner with my two Masters' students and three Ancient History colleagues at Café Milano. We were all very impressed by the décor: not only Domus Aurea-style trickling fountains in the background, but a tessera-for-tessera copy of the Alexandery bit of the Alexander mosaic on the floor. You couldn't get much more appropriate for a bunch of Ancient Historians, really.

The food wasn't quite up to the same standard - the duck I had was a bit rubbery, and the meringues which formed part of my dessert had a somewhat silicone texture. But no matter - it's the people that count on these occasions, and they were fine indeed. I shall miss them. Yes, all of them.

*sigh*

Fame at last!

Tuesday, 5 July 2005 09:35
strange_complex: (Daria star)
Apparently, I enjoyed fifteen seconds of fame yesterday evening. The award of Gloria Hunniford's honorary degree was covered on UTV (Ulster Television, the local equivalent of ITV), and I'm told that footage showing her standing on the platform during the ceremony featured me sitting in the background. A good thing I'd realised at the time that I was on show, then (even if I didn't know the event was being covered for the news), and had resolved to Sit Up Straight and Not Pick My Nose.

The evening ceremony last night, meanwhile, was much as the morning one, except without Gloria Hunniford, David Whitehead, or, I'm sorry to say, anyone doing a victory leap on the stage. One poor fellow I chatted to in the academic procession had a whopping seven ceremonies to do over the course of the week. He was in fact a chaplain, whose role seemed to be to support his flock as part of a rota which ensured that the University chaplaincy was represented at all of the week's ceremonies. I don't envy him having to do it all seven times, anyway.

I had a lovely time at both the garden party and the evening reception (which was exactly the same as the garden party, except in the evening), chatting to students, and feeling nostalgic about the fact that it will probably be the last time I see them. The weather was fine, the strawberries were good and the achievements being celebrated were important. And now this morning a fresh batch of proud parents and slightly embarrassed students are pouring in to do it all again. Gah, maybe that chaplain isn't so unlucky after all.

One down

Monday, 4 July 2005 12:32
strange_complex: (Lee as M.R. James)
That's one graduation ceremony done, then. I could actually have attended three today, but I decided limits had to be drawn, so I'm just doing this morning and this evening, plus a garden party (= free strawberries) and an evening reception (= free wine).

The processing part of it all was lots of fun. There's a picture of a Queen's academic procession under the link, which gives an idea of the sort of thing involved. (And I note from that page that anyone mad enough to want to do so could actually watch me process in at the beginning of this evening's ceremony via a live web-cast). Walking across from the main University building to the graduation hall just felt like a jolly stroll, which I passed in chatting to a member of the Institute of Theology, but then we were filing into the hall itself, and suddenly there was an organ playing, and hundreds of people standing up to honour us, and we changed from ordinary people to symbolic representatives of the University bestowing the degrees. I shifted my posture from the customary sideways slouch to a suitably proud and erect bearing, and took up my institutional role.

As a graduate of Oxford University, I of course should be representing my alma mater as well by wearing the gown of the degree which they bestowed on me. Unfortunately, this proved to be impossible, since I don't own such a gown myself, and Queen's didn't have them available for hire either. Instead, then, I mounted the platform in a generic alternative: a standard black, billowy academic gown (think Snape, although it isn't actually floor-length like his). I am doing my bit to represent Oxford, however, by unnecessarily wearing sub-fusc. Here, I could wear anything I liked under the black gown, but I've elected to wear the black trousers, white blouse and black length of ribbon around my neck which I would be required to wear in a formal academic context in Oxford. So my gown may be generic, but my under-clothes are fully in keeping with Oxford requirements.

The ceremony itself was of course much like any other. Oxford ceremonies do stand out, and I presume Cambridge ones likewise, by dint of being in Latin, in a rather special setting (the Sheldonian Theatre) and having students presented in small groups by college, rather than in one long stream. But I've also attended ceremonies now at Bristol, Birmingham, Queen Mary University of London and now Queen's University Belfast, and I can tell you that they are all the same. A name is read, a person walks across the stage, you clap - again, and again, and again.

The interest lies in the occasional student who does or wears something to draw attention to themselves - like the chap today who leaped up and punched the air after he'd shaken the Vice-Chancellor's hand, winning himself a much longer than usual round of laughter and applause. And of course the people you know: the ones whom you're there to support. Four of my actual students graduated this morning, and I beamed proudly for each one and gave them a special clap. Gloria Hunniford also received a degree honoris causa, which I intended to be terribly cynical about, but was in fact rather sweet to witness.

But, best of all, my head of department, Professor David Whitehead, was graduating today as a Doctor of Literature. He had no real need to do this of course - he's already been a Doctor of Philosophy for 30 years, and is also now a Professor and head of an academic department (OK, a very small one, but he is). But he found out that he could present himself for the degree by offering a portfolio of work to be assessed by the University, so he did, and was accepted for it. This meant for me that I sat on the stage, symbolically playing my part in bestowing an academic qualification on my boss. It's not often that you get to do that.

After the ceremony, I was waylaid by [livejournal.com profile] davesangel, who is just fresh back from Live 8. She had some work to do in the library, but shortly we will go for lunch together so I can hear all about it and see pictures. Then follows a hard afternoon of strawberries, sunshine and congratulating people who deserve it. Pity me! ;)

*Shiver*

Wednesday, 15 June 2005 10:06
strange_complex: (Snape writing)
Damn, I wish this University would turn the heating on! It's freezing here today, and they're not even saving any money by withholding my radiator, because I've had to put my electric heater on instead.

*puts on fingerless gloves and pokes the lone coal in the stove*
strange_complex: (Christ Church Mercury)
I'm having one of those moments where half of me feels suddenly enlightened, but the other half is more struck by how utterly ignorant I've been for years.

A set of guest lectures are coming up this week in Belfast at the School of History. They're called the Wiles Lectures, and this year they are being given by a man named Christopher Haigh, from one of my several almae matres: Christ Church, Oxford.

Dr. Haigh will be discussing a text from 1601 entitled The Plain Man's Pathway to Heaven, over a series of four lectures. Its author? One Arthur Dent, a preacher from Essex.

Now I'm not saying that knowing about this text suddenly reveals vast depths of meaning in The Hitch-Hiker's Guide to the Galaxy of which I was previously unaware. It takes the form of a fictional debate between four stereotyped characters about how to live a properly 'Christian' life (outline details here), and doesn't therefore seem to stand up very closely to any search for parallels with the plot of Hitch-Hiker's.

But, on a simpler level, if Arthur Dent in H2G2 isn't a Plain Man who's taken up to see the Heavens, I'd like to know what he is. And since Douglas Adams studied English at Cambridge, I'm guessing he came across this author and his work at some point, and considered his name suitable for his lost and bemused traveller in space. Either that, or it's a very pleasing coincidence.

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