Thursday, 16 September 2010

(just for the record)

The academic who dreamed of golf courses
is dressed in the suit that he wears to weddings
with the tie that he keeps for special occasions.

He whispers that he did not sleep last night
because he was so worried about his speech.
I whisper back that I did not sleep either
because I wanted everything to be perfect for him.

He asks who is coming.
I tell him that all his friends will be there
He shrugs and suggests that it will a quiet event.
I tell him to expect a room full.

The Head of the Academic Services Review is there
He can remember getting phone calls
when he skipped lectures as an undergraduate.

The Head of Department reminisces about the time
that they were stuck in the African sands together.

The Deputy Principal teases him about his office
which was archaeological in appearance
with layer upon layer of paperwork and books
carefully stacked and undisturbed.

He starts his speech nervously
and immediately turns to his beautiful wife
who was a student when he was a young lecturer.
"Meeting my wife was the turning point of my life" he says,
they smile at each other and the nerves vanish.

He flourishes his briefcase,
a veteran of 40 years service,
battered and unpolished,
and walking boots of similar vintage.

Stories of exotic illnesses around the globe
cause his audience, who have just eaten lunch,
to wince and look out of the windows.

He mentions the famous cricket match
in which a Professor was out in ignominious circumstances
The Professor confesses afterwards that he didn't know
whether to laugh or cry at the memory.

After the presentation of the formal gifts
he opens the unusually heavy gift.
"Surely it is not a theodolite" he says.
But it is a theodolite
with a message from his friends on a brass plaque.

We raise our glasses to this modest man,
friend and colleague to us all,
who has given forty years of service to the Department
and wish him happiness in his retirement.

And then the academic who dreamed of golf courses
gives me a hug, gets into his car
and sets off to improve his handicap.


  1. What, stop to golf? Not to use his theodolite??

    I recall a few years ago when two of my mentors - one academic, one professional - both retired, and were given celebratory dinners on the very same evening, in towns three hours apart.

    In a strange twist of fate, I had already booked a trip to Portugal long before learning of either party, and was therefore forced to miss BOTH. To this day, I don't know how I could have chosen. I truly don't.

  2. Beautiful. I'm so glad to see "(just for the record)" once again.

  3. I hope he sees this, Alice. Just to help him remember. Is 'Moments archivist' one of your unofficial job titles? Because you are doing it well.

  4. Not often I get to read something about someone I don't know, and an event which can often be quite ordinary, and find tears in my eyes.... Such a beautiful account, Alice, of a memorable moment.

  5. Even a retirement party becomes a poetic moment chez Alice.

  6. What everyone else said

  7. This has just become one of my very favourite posts from you. Absolutely perfect.

  8. Wonderful, Alice. A lovely tribute to someone who is obviously such a nice man.

  9. Such a wonderful tribute Alice. I do hope he sees it and that he has a long and happy retirement. It's good to have a dream completely different to your professional life. My husband had never played golf until he retired and fifteen years later he is still loving it.
    Bobby x

  10. I want to call and wish him well!

  11. Alice, such magical words, you paint the moment so beautifully and once again I am drawn into a different world.

  12. With such a distinguished academic life behind him, I hope the retirement is the start of something else for him. I'm worried.
    You painted such a clear picture I feel I know him and hope they will be happy.

  13. Wonderful commentary. Enjoy your film premiere.

  14. I love how you told this story ... captures the moment(s) beautifully.


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