I’m being packed away to a conference in Oxford for the majority of the week. I really didn’t want to go, and did my best to try and wriggle out of it. And I thought my plaintive bleating about not being able to afford the accommodation or the rail fare had done the trick, only to receive a letter from the chief executive of the association hosting the conference granting me a £200 bursary to cover my costs. It seemed a little churlish to still try and engineer a way out of it after that, so now I’m packing my bag and heading to Paddington.
I think the thing I resent about a conference is that it takes up the whole day. Once the baffling lectures which go right over your head finish, and you finally get to escape the inferno of a lecture hall where for the last 7 hours you’ve been desperately trying to stop your head violently lurching back and forth as heavy eyelided slumber tries to take hold, it isn’t over. No, you then have to spend your evening making conversation with people you don’t know, and these people want to discuss either the baffling lecture from earlier or the mind numbing work you spend your days in the office working on and really prefer not to talk about outside work hours. This you have to endure until the earliest possible moment you think you can legitimately claim to need to go to bed.
......And then the next day it starts all over again. Knowing that I’m leaving my job soon hardly helps strengthen my commitment to the cause.
Once I’d begrudgingly confirmed that I’d be attending, I opened the conference pack which appeared surprisingly swiftly in my pigeon hole and looked over the exhaustingly looking full schedules.
“Bah,” I grumbled, “No dreaming spires and cloisters for me: we’re to be housed in one of the newer colleges, the one built on an old rubbish tip. So dour 1960s architecture it’ll be with maybe an occasional daring dash of concrete, I dare say.”
“Well actually,” a nearby know it all told me, “the college in question has a much heralded innovative modernist design, so much so it has Grade 1 listed status, I believe.”
“Harumph,” I told them, mindful in the face of such fanfare that the underwhelming Royal Festival Hall fits the bill of a modernist listed building.
Looking over all the titles of all the other presentations being made, I think I can conclude that mine is both more interesting and a lot more accessible than most. This is not a good thing though: a dull and complicated presentation makes most people switch off, whereas a simple and engaging one means lots of people will ask questions and – much much worse – there will be an inevitable few who want to argue about it. I lack the intellect and the passion to deal with such people.
On a positive note, the schedule tells me that there’s a number of simultaneous symposia taking place, meaning no-one could ever be sure exactly where I was which in turn presents opportunities for sneaking off to do some sightseeing. What to do on stiflingly hot days in Oxford, reader? I’d like to see the Ashmolean, but I think I can safely say that lone punting would be liable to end in disaster. What else?
5 weeks ago