Tuesday, 5 January 2016

Today is my first lecture in the Great Unravelling summer school. Politics not knitting. All over Christchurch the self chosen ones are sharpening their pencils while I try to sharpen up my brain to make a success of Canterbury's Geriatric Employment Programme to put former lecturers back to useful work. In my case there's a 53 year gap since I first arrived, one of the three musketeers who started the Political Science Department in the year of our Lord Erskine1963, Jim Flynn who's a brain rather than a person and now a world figure, John Pocock a NZer who managed to be more English than the English who took up a major chair in the US, and me who having taught the political theoreticals went on to fail the practicals at Westminster.

Frantic days with me reading the books only days ahead of the students so that everything they wanted out of the library was in my office and the department moving out of the History Department in the old university building (now an Arts Centre) into a long shed behind the old peoples home. None of whom did Pol Sci having lived through it.

Sunday we made a second visit to Akaroa for lunch with Bronwyn Hayward who's my new boss and is preparing the lectures and printing all the fact sheets I've drawn up. She has a Bach out there which has an old Austin seven dating from 1937 in the garden. Last visit was sunny. This time it poured all day though that didn't stop Akaroa being parked up and crowded out with the hordes walking up and down in raincoats looking miserable. No trips to swim with the dolphins who're presumably having a rest day. Bet they wish they'd swum for us. Bronwyn invited Fionna Farrell,brilliant writer to lunch with us. Fiona is pissed off with what they're doing to the country

More kids are drowning because they're closing school swimming pools and the pools in the rivers that people used to swim in have dried up because the farmers have taken all the water for irrigation while the burgeoning cow population pollutes it.So fewer kids can swim.More drown. Everything is being changed by commercialisation and the Labour Party has no answers and no ideology so it doesn't know what to do. 

She and her husband have cabins in another bay which they rent out for six months of the year and try to get away for the winter months so she's amazingly well read and informed another Kiwi autodidact who's just written another book on Christchurch and the earthquake. She gave me a copy and I read it over night. It's brilliant,poetic almost but bringing out the blundering incompetence of ministers and the cruel evasions of the insurance companies . 

"The villa at the edge of the empire" is ChCh which she compares with a fourth century Roman villa the ruins of which were uncovered while she was there. It's history written as poetry and tinged with despair at the society which has dealt with the problem so badly the insurance companies who ratted and the government which took control away from local people. 

Neo-liberalism isn't designed to deal with acts of God like earthquakes. It believes people should stand on their own two feet and make their own decisions in their own wreckage so they don't fall victims to the compensation culture,an appalling and infectious disease which fortunately only hits the poor.

Indeed since free marketeers believe in creative destruction one might ask why they didn't welcome an earthquake or two! (Joke) Immediately put Fiona's book on the reading list for my lectures. Next day she appears in the Listener lamenting the effect of the rising sea on her little bay. She's like many intellectuals;as green as she's red,which makes them equivocate politically. But not her. A straightforward Labour lamenter.

Monday Helen Clark and Peter drop in for lunch on their way to Timaru then Brief visit to the Routeburn track. Helen reinforces my argument that a lot of the flooding in Yorkshire is due to draining the run off from the hills and the grouse moors  into the rivers rather than keeping it in bogs on the moors. She immediately sums it up-towns are flooded so that Grouse shooters don't have to wade through bogs. Evidently a scheme to stop the drain off on the grouse moors was vetoed by a Tory minister who owned a grouse moor himself.That,she says is happening in African countries despite the UNDP's efforts to stop it.

Can't help feeling tense reading and re-reading my lecture notes making fiddling changes in ink to the typescript which are illegible when looked at a second time,cramming in new facts and generally rendering them incomprehensible before delivery. I never got this worried when I was lecturing several times a week on subjects I knew nothing about. 

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