As I write, dear Reader, I am sitting on the balcony of the three-story art-deco home that I had the perspicacity to buy in the mid-1970s for thruppence when the university was little more than an untidy collection of semi-converted farm outbuildings running Latin evening classes. The balcony looks out over the university campus, and is the perfect size for my long-range telescope.

Today, swarming around the marigold-infested base of the Humanities Beacon, is the new intake of students. They arrived yesterday, lost and bewildered after being deposited on campus by their relieved loving parents.

I have decided to address them, in my capacity as Head of Runeology.

My companion (ever-sympathique!) has brought me my morning crème de menthe, today’s post (a letter from the National Driver Offender Retraining Scheme), and a megaphone.

I am ready.

I turn the megaphone on.

A terrible screech fills the air. The students pause in their pointless milling.

‘New Student Intake 2013’, I begin (my voice rolls magnificently through the valleys of the campus).

The students are gazing around in dull-witted fashion.

‘Welcome those taking Runeology 101’, I say.

‘Greetings to our new friends across the water, from St-Charles (Illinois), Dickson (Tennessee), Santa Cruz (California), Bethesda (Maryland), Talent (Oregon; no pressure, dear!), Parkersburg (West Virginia), Waltham (Massachusetts), Seattle (Washington), Port Saint Lucie (Florida), Ellicot City (Maryland), Bronx (New York!), Tallahassee (Florida), Fremont (California), Ashburn (Virginia), Ann Arbor (Michigan), from San Antonia, Houston, Spring, and Plano (all from Texas – I feel sure you must know each other already, my dears!), West Yarmouth (Massachusetts), Vancouver (British Columbia), and Montréal (Quebec)!’

The students are looking alarmed.

‘To our friends from closer to home’, I add, ‘from Bristol, Slough, Edinburgh, Dunmow (Essex), Huntingdon, Worcester, Cirencester, Cambridge, Gloucestershire, Chatham (Medway), Langport (Somerset), Telford (Telford and Wrekin), Leyland (Lancashire), Stoke-on-Trent, Coalville (Leicestershire), Macclesfield, Staines-upon-Thames, and of course, Nottingham – welcome!’

One student has had to sit down. The others are fanning her with their iphones.

‘I salute those from further afield!’, I continue. ‘Welcome, new students from Moréac (Bretagne), Lyon (Rhone-Alpes), Jerusalem, Adelaide (South Australia), Johannesburg (Gauteng), Seoul (South Korea), Hanau (Hessen), Bruchköbel (also in Hessen – I hope you two will get along, my dears!), and Amberg (Bayern)!

And last but not least, to the new students from Ireland – from Bodyke (Clare), Dublin, Limerick, and not forgetting Galway – fáilte roimh chuile dhuine!’

The students have now clumped together in a protective formation known to the Romans as ‘the turtle’.

‘Do not bother me with trivialities about your timetable, exam revision, or how to pronounce your hometown correctly. I am just reading from the list given to me by the NSA admin staff.

You will get no trouble from me’, I conclude, ‘as long as you follow my rules.’

I turn my megaphone off.

Welcome to the new academic year, dear students.

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5 thoughts on “Urbi et Orbi

  1. So much for leaving academia, Ada. I hope my cousin Ethel, from Bethesda (Maryland), will not give you too much trouble. Her stalking tendencies seem to have been partially contained by the new diet.

    1. Ah, it’s the small print, dear Mise, the small print. My redundancy agreement does not come into force for some months. What else can I do but devote myself entirely to my students in the meantime? PS. I have invited Ethel to a little soirée for first-year tutees – I do hope the sherry will not disrupt her delicate metabolism. PPS. I shall of course continue to prepare myself – and those dear Readers who might similarly be trembling on the very brink of liberation – for the entrepreneurial future.

  2. Rules? What are the rules? I would like to know the parameters before committing to anything so enigmatic as runeolgy. Great Aunt Brunhilde warned me not to go rattling any of the skeletons in our Viking closet.

    1. No, I definitely have you on my list of first years, Ms End. But rest assured, you will be following a path trodden by great men and women. Ah, Brunhilde. Brunehilde Coriander von End, of the Illinois Ends, I believe. I remember her well – such a promising young researcher! What a pity it was about her and the Hnaef dig scandal.

      1. According to family tradition, poor Brunhilde was falsely implicated by old Ad Hoc of the Frisian Haki Sackers – those miserable marauders – but that was ages ago and we Enders bear them no malice.

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