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Thursday, 2 October 2014

A job................

In some senses the job of this blog is almost done - started when we 'returned' to the UK and documenting my efforts to get a job and the sense of frustration amazement and dismay at the overall state of Good Old Blighty. While a lot of our circumstances have changed, a lot of our sentiments have remained the same (and I say 'our' in the collective sense to include the cats who I know think the same but cant be bothered to blog). These include that when living in the UK you continually have to remind your self that you live in the eight richest economy in history in a era of untold glittering prizes. As humans we've walked on the moon, we're exploring Mars, medical science is phenomenal, and the dissemination of music, literature, information (real information not media)  has never been wider. Yet as it was when we arrived, England is a miserable place. Not, I hasten to add that we (and in this I include RHB as well as me and the cats) are unhappy. Far from it, for one thing, our relatively new found hobby of Lindy Hop/Swing dancing keeps us laughing. And secondly, I have finally found a job that I like. More of this in a bit, but what I mean by miserable is the public domain, or perhaps public demense would be more appropriate. Recent party political conferences have repeated the message (all of them!) that austerity will continue. The argument seems to be that England is on the brink of a disaster and being on this brink is what is keeping us all from being happy. However, the reason we arrived at this brink  was by being quite happy with the way everything was going. So we got too happy and this led us to the edge  of the chasm of happiness and we were in danger of falling in and becoming something like a Scandanavian country - permanently happy. This is bad because ...... actually there is never a reason given why its bad to be happy, it just is.  The argument continues that the only way to make us really  happy (in a non-Scandanavian way - remember, SCandanavian happiness is bad)  is to make everyone miserable for quite a bit longer. Furthermore, the argument goes, once we've been miserable for quite a bit longer, the only way to keep us away from the brink that is preventing our unhappiness, is to continue being miserable for ever so that we dont ever feel comfortable enough to return to the edge of the chasm of happiness. The problem with this - and something that makes me deeply unhappy, is that this mantra has been the pervading mantra in England ever since I can remember. Everything is always a problem, there's always been a disaster looming somewhere. Its all very well for outside observers to say "Well just ignore the politics" but you cant . At this point I will have to refer you to Polyani and leave it there except to note that at some point - and this is a long term plan - we will escape.

Its therefore fortunate that I have finally got a job, and it also provides some credence to my claims to be the UK's  joint second best academic. Indeed, I was getting a little concerned about the validity of these claims seeing as I dodnt have either an academic job or a PhD. Well now, one of those aims has been obtained, albeit that the job is 0.4 Lecturer and includes delivering some lectures about things I actively hate - children. Perhaps that's unfair and overstating the case - I actually quite like the children I know, I just dont see the point in knowing anything about them in the academic sense because usually they grow up and ruin everything good about being children by becoming adults. Still the job is paid, I have 1/3 of an office sometimes and I am now invited to lots and lots of meetings. I have to admit that the number and scale and subject matter of meetings deemed relevant to my job is somewhat a surprise. Indeed you could almost be forgiven for two assumptions based on a quick scan of   meetings since my appointment (the job started on Sept 12th). I am teaching on two programmes:

1: General Induction ( all new staff meet Head of Department). Half an hour of chat. crap coffee and biscuits.
2. New Staff meet established staff for Programme A.
3. New Staff meet established staff for Programme B.
4. Meet Dean of the Faculty
5. Meet Vice Chancellor of the University
6. Meet the Students (twice - A and B)
7. Meet the administrative staff
8. Departmental Meeting for the  start of a new semester
9. Meet my mentor
10. meet the head of International engagement

all the above  are the kind of half an hour of chat, crap coffee and biscuits meetings that take up two hours. Then I have had the following substantive meetings about details of the modules....


Then I have had a number of administrative tasks, all of which I have been told, by administrators I must do:

1. Get photo taken
2. collect name badge ( I dont do name badges)
3. collect office key
4. small amusing personal bio for 'getting to know you staff circular'
5. formal bio for web page
6. health and safety briefing
7. donate to Angela's charity run (I dont regard this as optional based on tone)
8. Sign a leaving card for someone I dont know
9. Re-register with the payroll office for pay, tax, etc. This means filling in basic details forms such as name and address, where you want your money paid, tax declarations etc etc. I should add that this is particularly puzzling because the job is at the same University I have worked at on a 'sessional' basis for three years and when this re-registration was complete I had the same payroll number as I had before. Then when I received my first pay, it was wrong.
10. Re-register with human resources for criminal record check, proof of identity and proof of accreditation. See above except it was slightly easier because my original documents were still with Human Resources because I'd forgotten to pick them up last time I was asked for this information (for the sessional work). SO HR just re-scanned the same documents again and all was set.
11. Start thinking about the Christmas Party including whether I will be a vegetarian by then ( I dont know) , where I might like to eat on the last day before Christmas (very democratic but the answer is 'in my house, alone') and an amusing question for the quiz.

The two conclusions its possible to reach from the above are both quite far-fetched. The first is that I am extremely important. This conclusion is reached mostly because of the calibre of people who want to meet me - Vice-Chancellors, Dean, HOD's and students. In fact the only people I havent met is the bar staff in the students union. The second conclusion to be reached is that it would be possible, if one was extremely sceptical, to come to the conclusion that the purpose of a University is to fulfil administrative requirements. Of course, nothing could be further from the truth.

 and the other day in a meeting I was asked my opinion on the basis that I was an expert. This was terrifying, so I put on my best expert voice and said "I agree with Ian". Ian is one of those very

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