Friday, December 08, 2006

The University Jordanhill Staff Christmas Party

Entry for 8 December 2006:

Most of our colleagues scoffed at the idea, but Mick was intent on going to the annual (free) holiday party put on by the Education Faculty for the Jordanhill faculty and staff. I had forgotten about it until yesterday, when I finally noticed the poster in the hall, read it, and decided that it was too late to do anything about it. A couple of hours later, Mick phoned me up to tell me that he had picked up tickets for Diane and I, and would we like to meet them there at 8 or 8:30. After a quick briefing and consultation, Diane agreed to join Mick and Helen, uncertain about what we were letting ourselves in for. After all, we had stopped going to Department Christmas parties several years ago, mostly because we weren’t getting along with the people who might be there.

After a harrowing driving over to Mick and Helen’s due to an ill-advised attempt on my part to show Diane the clever backway to their house, we picked them up and took them to the University Refectory, where the party was.

At first, it appeared that I didn’t know anybody there but Mick and Helen; however, gradually, I realized that many key players I have run into over the past 3 months were there: Rachel, one of the secretaries at the Counselling Unit; Bill, the head of the Human Resources Office, hanging out with what looked like a collection of old buddies; Iain, the Dean, who has been so helpful in orienting me over these past months; Margaret, who organizes a monthly discussion group for department faculty, which I have attended a couple of time, and many others whom I found that I recognized from different contexts.

So it became a kind of reprise of my time here so far, and Diane got to meet people that I’d been talking about. Bill and I complained about the music, which was mostly Karaoke-style versions of 1970’s California-style pop rock; and he said supportive, nice things to Diane, which she appreciated. Iain told stories about Dave and hearing Amazing Grace in Tashkent. I talked about my blog. Mick bought us all drinks, and smiled a lot, genuinely happy to see all the different kinds of people from the University talking and dancing together. Helen danced a lot, sometimes by herself when the rest of us got tired, enjoying herself in that unreserved, free way she has. Mostly, we shouted ourselves hoarse trying to make ourselves heard over the din, getting deafer as the evening progressed.

By about 11, we had hit the wall. It had been a very long day, much of it taken up looking at 3 flats and trying to figure out whether and where we are going to move. So we were exhausted, and after dancing a final set, we said goodbye and walked out into the moonlit night, tired but happy.

In retrospect, the party stood in sharp contrast to the Faculty Senate meeting I attended earlier this week: fluidly intermingled vs. rigidly hierarchical, loud vs. subdued, and so on. As Mick says, this is basically a nice place to work, and people know how to enjoy themselves and how to relate outside of externally-given structures and walls that separate them from one another. This unlikely party that we hadn’t really intended to attend came to stand for so much of what I like so much at the University of Strathclyde and about the best parts of our life here in Scotland.

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