I realise that one of the main things I learned at Essex was the truth about deadlines. If a task should take about a day, task starts 24 hours before the deadline. This acquired work habit has caused me terrible stress over the years. Too late to change now! (I used to teach lots of good stuff about study and planning at University of Warwick – but no effect on my own practice).
Thinking about writing this blog has actually been a bit unsettling – as was the original experience as a mature sociology student at Essex in the early 1980s. In a good way, obviously, in both cases. It has made me look again at how life cycle, social and economic change and the social/personal construction of reality (all perfectly serviceable ideas) have impacted on my life since I left Essex some 30 years ago.
Over the years, since I launched myself as a jobbing sociologist, researcher and project manager, proper sociological theory has transformed itself into a ragbag of esoteric socio-political views and opinions. A tendency, for example, to make up grounded theories based on passing observations and shouting ‘co-variance does not demonstrate causation’ at the television. Not to mention a grumpy distrust of almost all political discourse – a word I annoyingly over-use, I’m still interested in the concerns of younger feminists though, I buy the books, but, surprise, am developing my own theories about the myths and realities of being old and female. – might be called ‘The joys of invisibility’ or ‘Life in comfy shoes’.
But most of all, at Essex, I discovered that the best time one can have fully clothed is learning stuff, second best is teaching stuff. So every term I sign up for WEA (Workers Educational Association) classes: ‘The Operas of Wagner and Verdi’, ‘Rome from Republic to Empire’, ‘The Gardens of Gertrude Jekyll’ and so on. And all enhanced by a bit of ad hoc sociological analysis. Now retired from proper work, I teach occasional day schools for the same organisation, so far on ‘Feminism Revisited’, ‘Death Matters’, ‘The life and times of Arthur Sullivan’. It’s all a bit sociological don’t you think?