Happy days: memories of Essex Sociology
I have loved reading all the stories gathered in so far and share the affection and gratitude they exhibit. But there is one aspect of the experience that has not yet received the attention it deserves – how many ordinary happinesses there were and I am sure there still are. So here are a few of the many things that that still make me laugh or smile whenever I remember them.
Walking down to campus from Wivenhoe House.
The departmental reading room, especially when the morning rolls and coffee had just arrived.
Having to cross a picket line when I came for my interview.
Mary Girling’s huge dogs lying around the office when they were sick.
Walking past Mike Lane’s office after lunch.
Peter Townsend really meaning it when telling me that he was very pleased that the University had given me tenure despite the objections of the Department’s senior staff(himself included).
Staying overnight in George Kolankiewicz’s house in Queens Road with my first real duvet, my last outside toilet and my only Francis Bacon soon to live next door.
Stan Cohen’s greeting smile.
Dancing the ‘funky gibbon’ with Mary Mac at one of Ted and Shelley’s parties.
Numberless parties at Ken and Ev’s: great music, brilliant food and far too much drink.
Having to learn how to teach again after smoking was banned in all classrooms.
Seeing the first punk tour with Wreckless Eric, the Stranglers et al in the university ballroom.
Derrick Schwartz telling me that Harold Wolpe’s nickname amongst the graduate students was ‘killer’ because he always responded to their answers to his questions by asking them to explain why they had so answered.
Dropping in on George Kolankiewicz, Sean Nixon or Ted Benton for a chat.
The Rose and Crown.
Ted’s face when I told him at a party in the upstairs bar that my idea of communism was lying on a beach, listening to music and drinking beer.
Driving up to Colchester from London with Harold and Ernesto Laclau. They argued about Marxism all the way – never again, absolutely terrifying.
Many lifts from Harold on his own to and from London – also very fast but not quite so terrifying. I ultimately realized that he was trying to teach me how to theorize with his relentless ‘whys?’.
Being in a car going back to London wIth Jean Baudrillard – haunting.
Lifts to London with Sean, RIchard Wilson and Carlo Ruzza: life-enhancing and serene progresses.
Watching George on TV every night during the rise of Solidarity.
Harold’s poker evenings in Wivenhoe. I never played but Mike Lane, MIck Mann and colleagues from Literature did. No one ever admitted to losing anything…
The Fuller Bequest: it paid for two long trips to and around the US during the 1970s – Greyhound is probably the best way for a sociologist to travel around America, but does anyone have the time anymore?
An outdoor hot spring bath with Professor Fuwa and his colleagues on a Japanese mountainside when the first snowflakes of the winter started to fall.
Staying overnight at Dennis Marsden and Jean Duncombe’s, especially our breakfast chats.
Realizing that when Mary GIrling gave me a nickname it meant I was generally accepted as being a fit and proper person to be a member of the Department.
Spending time with Howard Newby in Madison when we were both exiles in America.
Maxine Molyneux when she suddenly swerved off the road and roared around a field when taking me and others back from the pub to my house in Wormingford – such is the power of Abbot Ale.
A gorgeous lunch at Mick Mann and NIcky Hart’s equally gorgeous house in Dedham.
The ‘Sociology of the USA’ class that lasted four and half hours.
David Lockwood’s amusement on suddenly realizing that we both had rather small feet.
Eating horse sashimi (and mushrooms) with HIromi Shimodaira in Matsumoto.
A lovely party at Ian Craib’s beautiful windmill in Sudbury.
Cruising (not really) in Santa Barbara and Hollywood with Harvey Molotch and Glen.
The External Examiner’s dinners.
Going with Pete Utting and Amalia Chamorro to the celebrations in Managua that marked the second anniversary of the Nicaraguan revolution – ‘presente’.
Getting extremely drunk (on Sociology as well as wine) at Bryan Turner’s house one night – I think that must have been when we became frIends.
Teaching the joint seminar in Government and Sociology with Bob Jessop. Having just ridden all the way from Cambridge on his pushbike, Bob would come in and speak perfect Jessopese for the first hour without a note.
DInner in Hong Kong with Ken and Ev, Travis Kong, Raymond Chan but unfortunately not Jimmy Wong.
Getting to know John Gagnon (a little). The most sophisticated person I have ever met – ‘awesome’ as he would never say in a million years.
An outdoor hot bath with Professor Fuwa and his colleages on a Japanese mountainside when the first snowflakes of the winter started to fall.
Great chats with Lydia Morris at the French House in Soho.
Bryan suggesting to me at the Dictionary Launch in the LTB foyer that I extend my work on labour rights to human rights more generally. I replied that unfortunately I knew nothing about human rights. ‘Exactly’ said Bryan, ‘nobody in sociology does’.
Suggesting to Richard Wilson that he extend his work on truth commissions to human rights more generally. Richard replied that unfortunately he knew nothing about human rIghts. ‘Exactly’ I said.
A summer holiday in Montecastrilli with Mike and Joan – delicious and topped off with dinner at a Michelin-starred restaurant in Joinville on the way back.
Visiting (many times) Katsu Harada’s beautiful, neo-traditional house in Kamakura and listening to jazz.
Harold’s inevitable response to any request for advice on a difficult personal matter, ‘Tony, do as you think best.’ Still good advice.