Anyone who denies climate change, and more specifically, global warming, is seriously wrong. At the end of August we had record temperatures in Norwich. Fortunately it cooled down in the evenings so sleeping has not been too difficult. However, this summer the rowan tree in the front garden died from a mixture of disease and heat stress. Ailsa has been using the water from the rain butts to keep some of her favourite plants alive, but it is an uphill battle. It presents a dismal picture and I really wonder what the next 10 to 20 years will hold. I am increasingly aware of my contribution to this crisis, particularly through flying, but I do not consider myself to be a flamboyant consumer of other things.
Having said that, I have to begin this blog by reflecting on my travelling over the past month. My final class in Waterloo was on 30th July. I had to complete the marking and submit the marks by 8th August. I was able to do this, and almost all of the students should have been pleased with the outcome. The temperatures and humidity gradually rose in Waterloo, and I was glad to be heading for Norwich. I did not realise how hot Norwich was going to be.
I travelled over on Sunday 11th August, flying via Amsterdam. Toronto to Amsterdam is not all that long, just 7½ hours. This is not long enough to take a sleeping pill, so I sat and watched the film ‘Red Joan’. This was about a British woman who became a Soviet spy in the 1940s and 50s. Oddly I was reading a book called ‘And Is There Honey Still For Tea?’, by Peter Murphy, set in the same time period and covering the same topics. It is hard to believe how much skullduggery there was going on then. I guess it is still happening, with electronic surveillance playing an ever-increasing role.
Rowan went up to the Edinburgh Festival Fringe on the day that I arrived back. She and Douglas probably passed each other on the trains, he went up as she came back. He watched comedies. Rowan, on the other hand, saw some very depressing and earnest performances. On the day Doug returned to Norwich, Ailsa and I headed for Stockholm. This careful travel planning meant the dog was barely alone.
In Sweden I had two days of meetings with various government officials in the Foreign Ministry and Sida, the development cooperation agency. It was not a particularly onerous schedule, although I saw everyone I needed to. I was able to meet Ailsa one lunchtime and spent Saturday ‘recreating’ with her. She had two days wandering around the city and really enjoyed it.
The hotel recommended was reasonably close to the Sida headquarters. It is a ‘concept’ hotel, part of the Clarion chain. The room was small but comfortable. Breakfast and dinner were included in the price. All the meals were buffets and the food was exceptional and plentiful. I do wonder what happens to the leftovers. Ailsa remarked on how pleasant the beds were, and as she had pulled some muscles in her back this mattered. She was in pain for most of the trip but did not complain, I don’t think that I could have done that.
We had a Saturday brunch with Ellen Girerd-Barclay and her husband Claude at the Museum of Modern Art. We spent nearly 3 hours at the table enjoying excellent food and deeply interesting conversation, in a superb setting overlooking the harbour. It was a brilliantly clear and warm day, and the city was beautiful, clean and unpolluted.
Ellen and her brother Bill lived in Swaziland in the early 1970s. Her father was a Peace Corps volunteer teaching at the College of Technology. She went to Waterford, so I knew her from school, however they also got involved in our church and youth group. She brought a number of pictures to share with us. It reminded me that we were a very blessed group of young people in Mbabane (and not just because we were involved in the church). Of course Facebook means that many of us are still in contact, the blessing and the curse of the Internet.
On the journey back to Norwich from Canada I did not sleep. The plane left Toronto at 5.30 in the afternoon and arrived at 6 am (local time) in Amsterdam. I walked down to the boarding gate for the hop across the North Sea to Norwich and sat down close to it. I glanced down and there on the floor there was a sign saying the seats were ‘reserved for the elderly and the disabled’. That is not me, I thought, and leapt up and wandered around the lounge. Sadly I have to recognise any observer seeing me sitting on that seat would probably, on appearances, have considered that I had every right to be there.
I travel back to Waterloo in early September and teach courses during the autumn term. I then have a year of sabbatical which will last from January 2020 to December 2020. I turn 65 in March 2021 and had always considered that a possible date for retirement. As it gets closer I am less than enthusiastic about it. The question is what would I do?
More importantly and immediately is what should I do during my sabbatical. I have invitations to a number of universities. I hope to tackle the “Political Economy of Eswatini (Swaziland)”, the book that I have wanted to write for a decade. I know what I want to say, have an outline and need to sit down and make sense of it.
Norwich is such a nice city with so many amenities that I will be quite happy to be here for a year. I do realise though that one has to go into the centre, about a 15-minute drive, in order to access some of the facilities. For example, we have a very pleasant little branch library and if one orders books using the catalogue and the Internet they will be delivered to it. On the other hand the Central library in town has a superb collection of books of all types.
The city is quite progressive and unusual in many ways. For example there was a helter-skelter erected in our Cathedral. The reason given for doing this was to provide a different view of the cathedral. I think it was great fun, and that alone makes it worthwhile. The Bishop gave a sermon from halfway up and said that he thought that God would approve. I tended to agree with him. My younger sister Gill was visiting for the weekend so we went down to look at it on the last day it was open to the public.
There was a queue to ride on it outside the cathedral that must have been 100 people long. The heavens opened and everyone got soaked until the staff realised what was going on and brought the queue into the shelter of the cloisters. We had no intention of riding it, but there were actually two queues for it, one for people who had bought tickets and the second called, delightfully, “that queue of hope”. Somehow Rowan managed to get pulled into that by a small vicar, did not have to wait very long, and we watched her come down the slide. She loved it and had a broad grin on her face.
I have mentioned the films and books I have read in the text of this blog and so have nothing to add at the end as I normally do. August was a very good month for us and has been hugely enjoyable. I have also had the opportunity to learn. One of Ailsa’s elderly friends has been in the local hospital for two months now, having had a fall. It is absolutely bizarre that a hospital for acute cases can send him for rehabilitation. This is a perfect example of expensive ‘bed blocking’. I will try to write about Brexit in the September blog. Be warned, it is a complete mess, and hugely depressing.