Tuesday, 20 August 2013


 We're on the pre-sessional, five weeks of academic square-bashing in which an intake of mostly Chinese kids is knocked into some sort of shape prior to entering their departments in October.

'Get them bloody conclusions polished, you orrible little oiks!'

'Call that a paraphrase, lad? That's fuckin plagiarism, is that, an I'll 'ave your bollocks for it!'    

That sort of thing.

Today we listened to part of a lecture, after I had drawn attention to the devices lecturers use to guide the listeners' attention: firstly, secondly, finally, crucially, in conclusion, and so on. Signposts, we call them. I drew one on the board.

'Anyone know what we call this in English?'

Usual Chinese reaction - silence. Then with tremulous timidity, one girl offers:

'An erection?'

Thursday, 15 August 2013

Happy Pills

Not blogged in a while, and 'ere's how come. A colleague told me the other day that I have over the last few months become rather uncommunicative, out of it, and that I 'look worried all the time'. I thought, well, of course I bloody do. Stands to reason: anybody who isn't worried all the time is not fully apprised of the utter desperateness of the situation. On more mature reflection, I realised that this must in fact mean that other people are not worried all the time and most likely don't feel under permanent threat. This is what I've accepted as the dominant state of my mind for a long time, as one who resigns himself to bad weather. After a while, you just stop noticing it. The same colleague suggested I might consider getting some anti-depressants. I ummed and ahhed over that. The last lot of anti-depressants I had 25 years ago did nothing but dehydrate me, and I slung them down the bog after two weeks of having a mouth like a woollen mitten and passing stool like broken glass. But I've had ten days of boiling anxiety that has prevented me sleeping and eating, and decided I'd better make an appointment.

'How are you?' the GP asks heartily as I enter the presence. This is his little iatric joke. You provide the knee-jerk rejoinder 'fine thanks' and he says 'well, what are you doing here, then? Arf arf.' I suppose it brightens up an evening looking at diseased bodies, if that's what he actually does. I've noticed that British GPs these days don't do physical examinations. I'd expected that he'd take my blood pressure and check on the heart, given the symptoms I'd described, but he ordered some blood tests to be done next week, gave me a prescription for some happy pills, and I left, feeling that my physical presence had not been strictly necessary. We could have done the whole thing by e-mail.

I read the leaflet in my new box of Mirtazapine. (Mirtaza Pine - sounds like incense.) Side effects include rapid weight gain, lethargy, dizziness, vivid dreams, desire to commit suicide, hives, desire to self-harm, confusion and anxiety - this last the very thing I'm taking them to assuage, and the most common side-effect. AND YOU CAN'T DRINK ALCOHOL!!! So I'm eyeing them, wondering whether to start taking them or not. I cannot afford to be confused, anxious, lethargic or dead, as we are maniacally busy at work, and I've been confused and lethargic enough lately. Maybe I'll leave them untouched until September, when there's time to see what they'll do to me without involving others.     


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