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These are some of the things I have learned during the recent industrial action taken by my union, the UCU, against UUK, over pensions.

  1. I could have predicted this, but it still surprised me: I met some amazing colleagues from across the university, in departments I have never dared to set foot in. Closer to home, I met people from the same campus I had not even laid eyes on before. For every conversation, every teach-out talk, every book recommendation, every joke, every bit of friendly advice and support, every placard, every coffee, every flapjack: thank you. As a human and humanising cross-department CPD exercise, it was brilliant.
  2. The strike reminded me how much I prefer to be out of doors, talking, walking, cycling, standing, learning, listening, looking.
  3. People are generous. I lost count of the times I was passed a tin of brownies or given a cup of coffee from a flask brought by a stranger.
  4. Academics are really, really funny. I am not going to name names (I think they know who they are), but I can’t remember the last time I spent so much time laughing with my head thrown back, in sheer delight at the merriment of being alive.
  5. Academics can also be really, really creative. I read papers on self care written as poems; I saw a team of yarn bombers make a beautiful blanket of resistance; I even began to see the point of using GIFs. Creativity theorists call this ‘transforming the conceptual space‘. Thanks to these brilliant people, my concept of the workplace has been well and truly transformed.
  6. I got to know colleagues I thought I knew really well even better. The ones I hardly knew at all I now consider lifelong friends.
  7. Liz Morrish is a prophet. We should listen to her.
  8. Geographers have the best tunes.
  9. English and Film: you have stolen my heart. And Arabic and Islamic Studies. And Medicine. And Politics. Yes, even Geography.
  10. But now I am shattered. And I need to pull away for a bit. As a colleague said to me, the strike has been hard for the mental health of a few of us. This is not a criticism, and does not mitigate an ounce of what I have said so far. But I’d be lying if I said it has been easy. Some days it has been a right royal laugh. But not always. So I am stepping away for a bit, including following every last nuance of responses to the recent UUK proposal.
  11. Now I know where to find you all, I can, on the picket line (if I have to), virtually, or in real life, which, surely, is the point of all this?