September 3rd, 2015

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The Fenny Tribe

As mentioned in my last (or last but one), on Tuesday I was in Cambridge for a PhD examination. The examination itself passed without incident, and altogether it was a very pleasant trip - not least in the chance it gave me to hang out with fjm and chilperic in London the night before, and with my friends Clementine and Yan in Cambridge in the morning. I think I mentioned that the Espresso Library cafe was next door to the place I used to work?

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There it is: Wellington House, East Road. Yes, I know, it's a bit blurry - I'm going to need to buy a new camera one of these days - but you're really not missing much. I see that it's no longer the happy home of the Geographic Information Systems company for which I used to work, whose name I'm avoiding not from any misplaced sense of discretion but because I've actually forgotten it, though I know they were ultimately owned by McDonnell Douglas if you cared to trace these things to their source. My proudest accomplishment there was a manual for their Reinforced Concrete Detailing software: I still have a copy of that, somewhere.

How foolish I was in 1988! I'd just got an MSc in Computing and a PhD in English, and I was following my then-partner to Cambridge, where they were working on Ben Jonson's masques under Anne Barton. The world was, in theory, relatively oyster shaped. But, deciding to get a job that combined my degrees, I ended up a technical author - which indeed used both, but at such a minimal level that I was very soon plunged into a boredom too deep for tears. It was only by the merest stroke of luck that having realised my mistake I managed to claw my way back into academia after all of... oh, eighteen months. It felt much longer.

On the train from London to Cambridge on Tuesday morning I dozed briefly, and dreamed that I had just woken at my desk in East Road, only to find, Bobby Ewing style, that the last 26 years had been a dream. All of the bad things that have happened to me or that I have made happen to myself or others - pouf! Also, I was still in my mid-20s. On the other hand, my children were dream children, I had published no novels, I had had no academic life. And transition was just a pipe dream.

The fact that my reaction in my dream was one of great disappointment pleases my waking self, because I suppose it shows that, taking one thing with another, my account is in credit, for all that I have made some large withdrawals to pay off Grief, and have set up a standing order with Regret.