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Two educational evenings [Mar. 10th, 2018|06:03 pm]
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On Thursday, as part of their industrial action, University staff held a teach-out - a day of talks, some relating to the dispute, some mini-lectures. I think these were going on at universities around the country - ours was held in the council chamber at Redhills.

We were there for two of the three sessions - the early evening's 'Free University', and the evening 'National Issues' session, to which [personal profile] durham_rambler had been invited to contribute, talking about the impact of the University on the City of Durham. I didn't see a full programme until we arrived, and now I think that he would have fitted better with the afternoon's 'Staff - Student - Community - Solidarity' theme (and there are some talks there I wish I'd heard, too).

The 'Free University' was a series of quarter hour talks on pet projects: an ex-miner turned anthropologist talking about the memorialisation of mining, an archaeologist talking about the Venus de Milo (why is she such a well-known sculpture? and why doesn't she have any arms?), another archaeologist on the landscape of the great depression (she plans to excavate a 1930s swimming pool at Hamsterley), a physicist talking about quantum computing (no, still don't get it). My favourite was the primatologist talking about primates, with many, many illustrations: big primates, little primates, baby primates (baby primates!) endangered primates (most of them) and the many things we still don't know about them.

The 'National Issues' session was more interested in rallying the troops - why this strike matters and why we are going to win it - which isn't to say that those things aren't of general interest, too. Critiques of the marketisation of higher education, and its malign effect on academic life, cast much light on the drive to growth at all costs which makes the University such a difficult neighbour. I was particularly interested in the contribution of Cheryl McEwan, who, very much in passing, made remarks about some of the University's buildings (yes, including Dunelm House) which I'd have enjoyed hearing more of.

In complete contrast, we spent the early part of yesterday evening at Majestic, tasting South African wines. Slightly to my surprise, the two I liked best were the from the two grape varieties I already associate with South Africa, chenin blanc and pinotage. None of the whites was as big as I was expecting, but the chenin, from Majestic's 'Definition' range, was fragrant, almost floral, with the faintest suggestion of spritz (we also tasted a viognier and a chardonnay, both of which I found under-powered and over-oaked - but then, I'm not keen on oak in white wines). The Meerlust merlot was more what I expect from the New World, massive and fruity but a bit overwhelming; the Chocolate Block and Capaia One were more subtle, and a tasting of this kind didn't do them any favours, but I'd happily drink either if it were offered to me. The bottle I bought to take home and drink with our pizza, though, was the Beyerskloof Reserve pinotage: I'm always suspicious of pinotage because it often has a burnt rubber taste which I don't enjoy. Here the same qualities gave the wine an agreeably smoky edge (and smoke, as it happens, is a flavour I like very much).

This entry cross-posted from Dreamwidth: comments always welcome, at either location.