These Sunday postings are challenging. Increasingly, I find myself in meetings asking colleagues whether we really wish to continue contributing our labour to untimetabled student-enrichment events and Saturday Open Days. When our workload documents allow only 100 hours annually for ‘Fuzz’ and when that ‘Fuzz’ includes all the emails, external examining, editorships – all the academic citizenry that is so important for demonstrating our broader cultural value – it is clearly an impossible task. My new lodgers have been taken aback by the relentlessness of the academic working rhythm. We joke, sure, about the up side to the flexibility, which means that I can just decide to not get up on a Monday morning. But they also know that I’ll just work through into the night before hitting the pillow again.
Sunday postings have been challenging on other days because I have struggled with how to make marking read as anything other than bureaucratic and repetitive. Or with how not to sound a melancholic note as I struggle with the overwhelming nature of owning a house that needs work when I have neither the money nor the time to find pleasure in such work. Yesterday – the day I learned rabbit-rabbit-rabbit, which, despite being part of an immigrant English family in Canada was a totally new aspect of my cultural heritage – I found myself slack-shouldered and exhausted in IKEA. For some readers, this may be a common experience. Me? I normally thrill to the mass-produced dreamscape of desire and fulfilment. But I just couldn’t find the passion. Thursday through to Saturday felt as though I was working from underneath heavy cotton wool trying to power myself up the hills on leaden legs.
But today is different.
Today I wake up with renewed energy. I drink coffee in the kitchen and listen to Radio 4. I plant out hardy herbs in a disused toilet cistern and enjoy the feel of the soil underneath my fingernails. I do my laundry and hang it out on the line. I clean the bath and the sink to a shine with bicarbonate of soda and spend a long time scrubbing the week off me. Self-care she called it once. I assemble the food and the plates and the glasses and the cutlery and all the little things. Sunshine. A riverside picnic. Eastwood Farm. I remember that the last time I walked through its watermeadows was 2008, a winter high tide on the Avon. Today is sunny and warm. Perfect for a blanket on the river’s edge. Just as the website promised, there are herons and buzzards. The dogs walking their owners are admirably well-behaved, considering the Payoyo cheese and cured tuna from Cadiz and the courgette and lemon cake.
I resolutely refuse productivity today and I don’t believe that I discuss anything squarely archaeological in the warmth of the October sun. I am happy in the company that I keep, in the conversation and in the silences, and I think there is no shame in rest.