My parents told me that their wartime childhoods were punctuated by the expression: ‘Don’t you know there’s a war on?’ It was used as an excuse for not attending to something urgent. The modern equivalent is the phrase ‘climate emergency’ (leading to ‘extreme weather events’). This emergency is supposedly so great that billions have to be spent on it annually, leaving little time and money for actual emergencies, e.g. floods.
The stupidity of XR digging up the lawn outside the gate of Trinity College, Cambridge, needs no further comment. The event does bring home our cultural change. Shortly before I went up to Trinity in the mid-1970s, a few young bloods drove some ducks up from the Backs at dawn. Then they put them up and shot them as they flew above the roofs of Great Court. None of the culprits was sent down. Nowadays, such an event would cause global viral outrage. Cambridge Police, so lethargic with XR, would be inside Great Court with Swat teams before you could say ‘Greta Thunberg’.
A source passes me a recent missive from a Research Management System Implementation Manager within a well-known university:
Dear ADRs, HoDs & DoRs, I hope you are aware that a new research management system (RMS) has recently been procured by the university. The RMS will provide a digital interface to support the research lifecycle and allow our research community to progress to active research more smoothly. The RMS project Business lead… is in the process of attending scheduled CEG meetings… to provide you with an update on the project overall. The project team are working with our suppliers over the coming months to configure the system for our use. Whilst this is an ‘out of the box’ solution which has been tried, tested and is in use by many other Russell Group universities, we need to make decisions around how certain elements will be configured for use in line with our University practices. One of the elements that needs to be discussed and agreed very soon is how the approvals process for submission of funding proposals will be managed within the system. Our current suggestion mirrors the approach that we understand is taken by most institutions who are using this system. This involves a 3-tier approval process, routing initially to Directors of Research who provide quality approval, and then on to Heads of Department who provide approval of resources (including staff time allocation). A third level of approval will be triggered, escalating to Associate Dean of Research / College Business Partner, where defined financial parameters are met/exceeded for different proposal types (based on HESA category logic). To mitigate the risk of overburdening you with further administrative duties, the system includes functionality for ‘Approval Groups’ to be created, thus providing an avenue for the delegation of approval administrative activity to suitably-qualified and experienced colleagues (either academic and/or within professional services) in line with existing formally approved procedures and within established limits.
There are times, one feels, when almost any job in the world would be preferable to working under the rule of Big Uni.
As I write, I have before me the online catalogue of Burstow and Hewett, our local auctioneers in Battle, Sussex. I am looking at something described as ‘A Second War Period Bakelite erotic toy, depicting Hitler and Goring [sic], 5.5cm’. It is a remarkable object. Both men are naked except for black boots and — in Goering’s case — his Reichsmarschall’s cap. Goering adopts the passive position, and is wearing lipstick and a look of surprise. Hitler is effecting entry, and has a face of grim determination. Due to ingenious hinges more clearly visible on the obverse, the possessor can squeeze the toy so that the Führer’s slightly pink moving part goes into action. The whole is brilliant, funny and truly disgusting. The auctioneers’ estimate is £50-70, which is surely on the low side. I have decided not to bid myself: the successful buyer might be open to two lines of attack at once, and could defend oneself from one or the other, but not both. Either he is a creep who collects ‘Nazi memorabilia’ or he enjoys linking gay sex with the Nazis and is therefore ‘homophobic’. By the time you read this, the object will have been sold.
From last Saturday, the Catholic dioceses of Singapore and Hong Kong suspended all public masses — in the case of Singapore, indefinitely. The cause was the coronavirus, or Covid-19. Archbishop Goh, of Singapore, asked the faithful to keep the Lord’s day by watching masses broadcast on YouTube, and Cardinal Tong, of Hong Kong, said mass would be live-streamed so that the sacrament could be administered ‘“spiritually” rather than physically’. But of course such broadcasts cannot give watchers the sacrament itself. One wonders if such a drastic measure is necessary. In Hong Kong, only two have died of the virus; in Singapore, none, although there are 75 known infections. Probably the Catholics are being super-careful for presentational reasons. In Singapore, two of the five ‘infection clusters’ have been non-Catholic evangelical churches. In Hong Kong, the power of Beijing, increasingly hostile to Christianity, casts a long shadow. It would be a propaganda victory for totalitarians if churches could be shut down on health grounds and bishops could be accused of spreading disease. On the other hand, too great a church readiness to shut could be exploited by the authorities in future. I notice that Singapore’s mosques are still functioning, though members of the congregation are urged to bring their own prayer mats.
I cannot help enjoying the bad figures reported by HSBC this week. Last year, the bank tormented Leave supporters by running a series of filmed advertisements proclaiming: ‘We are not an island.’ These told you literally nothing about banking and asserted something so blatantly untrue about this country that I am surprised it got past the Advertising Standards Authority. Not surprisingly, HSBC’s UK business is in trouble.
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