Heat and Humidity

The Canadian summer has been hot and humid. I have never enjoyed humidity and so wonder why I managed to do summers in South Africa and Canada. The UN held a Climate Summit in September and there is increasing recognition of the environmental crisis we are facing. Earlier, in mid-September, the running news bar on the BBC was that the bird population has fallen precipitously in North America. In Waterloo there was a climate strike day on the 27th and people marched from the Universities to the town square. There were thousands of participants and I was proud to be among them.

Another running news bar on the BBC has been that ‘flight shaming’ means the growth in airline travel is expected to fall. Looking back more than 40 years I was so excited to take my first flight. I got a ride from Mbabane to Johannesburg, and boarded a flight to Heathrow to go to University. At 19, this was the first time I had been on a plane. I have a record of all the flights I took on a computer file, it is a bit scary.

Today when I board a plane I feel somewhat guilty. It is my intention to drastically reduce the amount of air travel and increase the amount of train travel. From Norwich to London is two hours by rail, and from there it is easy to get to Brussels or Paris. Plans for 2020 including going to Ireland (Norwich, London, Fishguard and the ferry to Dublin), and, perhaps, Amsterdam (Norwich, Harwich and ferry to Rotterdam). The possibilities are numerous.

40 years ago

Alan in England, 40 years ago, with the mustard coloured hat


Alan in Canada with the mustard coloured hat.

Over the summer we were able to braai on the roof at the apartment block quite frequently. Mind you the last weekend of the month was decidedly damp. I include in this blog two photographs. The first was in England over 40 years ago, the second was taken at the braai. The commonality is the mustard coloured hat. This was proudly purchased as the ‘in thing’ when I went to Norwich as a student, and is still in my possession. Quite an achievement I think. At the weekend it kept the rain off my bald head and that was really all I cared about. Of course I must acknowledge the very much, and alarmingly, expanded waistline and lived in face that distinguish the two photographs.

The students have returned to Waterloo and I am three weeks into the teaching. They arrive full of enthusiasm, and part of what we have to do is ensure that enthusiasm it is curated and encouraged. One of my concerns, and it is not just for the students, is the quantity of material that is out there and finding ways to sort it. There is a place for good summaries of articles, one of my favourites is produced by the Institute for Tropical Medicine in Antwerp and mailed out every week. Along with this there is the weekly diatribe by Canadian Icon Steven Lewis. He limits it to about four minutes and it is well worth a look. You can find it here.

One of my courses is a ‘seminar’, this means an introduction from me, then it is over to the students to lead the discussion. They are exceptionally articulate. I am going to be interested to assess the quality of their written course work. The marking range is apparently 70 to 100 percent for the MA level, and this gives rise to a concern about the potential erosion of standards. At one of the braais my, mainly academic, friends had a long discussion about the problems of marking and expectations. We shall see.

There is a lot going on, but I have battled to write my blog this month. I try to do two pages so I can post it off to my relatives who do not have computers. That is not going to happen this month I am afraid. The second page is the two photographs of me and my hat. I am going to end off now and send it off to post, and at the same time put it in the post to the people who get the hard copy. Apologies for the fact that the photos are going to be in black and white.