A (relatively) mild Winter

As the month of February drew to a close, we experienced some heavy snowfall in Waterloo. The temperature was not too dreadful, only just above freezing. It was pleasurable to walk through gently falling snow but not feel absolutely frozen. At the end of the month, it warmed up a little so that all the snow on the grass and roads melted, to leave the piles from the roads and paths. The way it works, (for non-Canadian readers), is that snowploughs push all the snow off the public places: parking areas, roads, and pavements into large heaps. These sit and gradually melt over the course of the first few months of spring. Of course, they are not pristine mountains of white, becoming rather dirty grey.

Perversely, I have to admit to enjoying snow; it still feels new to me even after three years of Waterloo winters. My positive view of the white stuff is not the norm. I do not have a drive to shovel or a commute to make. I have noticed people start to go slightly stir crazy in February, talking longingly of Spring. What has become clear to me over the past three years is that climate change feels very real and possibly happening even faster than expected. I have experienced some extremes already. The last Sunday of February saw temperatures of 13ᵒC, and that led to very some rapid melting. It also meant, for the first time this year, there were people on the streets wearing t-shirts. The shift from frigid to mild feels liberating, but it also feels wrong.

I still greatly enjoy the Seagram lofts, the apartment is fantastic. Recently video screens have been fitted in the lobby and both the elevators. These are designed to bring the residents news, weather, sports information, and notices. The screens are rather tacky. They have a bizarre message at the moment which I have photographed and will have posted. Essentially the screen says this is brought to you by “MAXTV MEDIA TEAM” and asks us to: “please enjoy responsibly”. This is either Canadian irony as the same message appears on liquor or… well I am not sure. My question which I may put to the company in an email is: “how to enjoy ‘irresponsibly’?” This would lead to an exchange of emails though.

A few Saturdays ago I had a yoga lesson with Asia Nelson one of the local teachers. She has a huge amount of experience and suggested to me in one of her classes that I might benefit from a ‘remedial’ lesson. It was great because we went through most of the postures and actually filmed some of them on my phone. I don’t know how people are meant to learn yoga in the big classes because there is little time for the teachers to change or adjust people’s postures if they are not good. My main problem was that, as I went to review the footage later I found myself wondering who the fat, old bald man was. On the other hand perhaps it is to be celebrated that I can still do yoga despite my weight and age.

I spent most of the last weekend of the month in the office. My desire is always to try to have a nap on Saturday and Sunday, something which I managed on Saturday but not on Sunday. Instead I managed to accomplish a great deal including a lot of article reviewing. Doing reviews is probably the best way to stay up to date in the field; although it does mean that some of the reading is of sub-standard articles. I would like to have money to develop promising academics, that means finding someone to patiently take them through the process of writing and editing. The journal I am the managing editor of, The African Journal of AIDS Research, used to have money to for this, but sadly no longer do. One of the projects I am trying to get funding for is to reinstate this service. If we can’t we will end up limiting the authors to ones from countries where they have support. In the case of AJAR, this will be mainly South Africans and people from the developed world particularly North America and the UK.

I went to the University in Guelph, a town about 40 minutes away from Waterloo to listen to an excellent presentation by Simon Maxwell, the former director of the Overseas Development Institute in London. This was the ‘Hopper Lecture’ and Simon’s talk was “Finding a place of one’s own: development agency choices in a new landscape.” He reflected some of the stark choices we face in development. I had a sense of pride and closing of circles as someone who had both been an ODI Fellow and who had later employed three Fellows over a number of years in Durban. Simon spoke mainly about European experiences but was very generous about the comparative advantage of Canada. Still the UK, under the Conservative government, is providing 0.7% of GDP in development assistance: more than most.

For many years, I have bought the Weekly Telegraph as my source of UK news. The Telegraph is considered, correctly, rather a right wing paper in the UK. When I buy a Sunday paper in the UK, it is usually the Sunday Independent, which has smaller pages and is therefore easier to read at the gym, as well as being of a more balanced political persuasion. The Weekly Telegraph, which published for decades, was not as blatantly right wing as the rest of the stable, and always had good and interesting British news. Sadly, a few weeks ago, its paper publication ended. Here in Waterloo it is possible to get the British Sunday paper as early as Monday. It is first copy I bought was dominated by news on the referendum on whether the UK should stay in the European Union, which is not riveting, and the commentary is both very right wing and biased. Unfortunately there seems to be no other option at the moment. I am going to try to get my flat entertainment system adapted so I can get the BBC – which I think will be possible over the internet.

I have had a slight niggle in my ankle for some time now, just bad enough to make me think I should not run, although I have been able to use most of the equipment at the gym. X-ray services are provided at various locations in the region and I finally had the requisition from the doctor in my hand (I managed to lose it once) and a bit of time to go and do the deed. I punched in the address of the branch I thought was closest in to my GPS, and it turned out to be one of the furthest away! Oh well. When I got there I did not have to wait at all, no queue, so I am grateful for small mercies.

The next posting will be longer as there will be more to report, not least a significant birthday. I will also be posting student blogs. Their first assignment was to write a blog and I told them I would put it on my website once it was marked, provided I was happy with it, and if they wanted it to be posted. We will see how many actually do want this exposure.