Dear Reader,

The gong was not a gong, dear Reader.

It was a ping.

A bossy little ping, interrupting my reverie, and announcing the arrival of an incoming transmission to the Vice-Chancellor’s private jet.*

A trim figure in a flight attendant’s uniform sashays towards me and hands me a plastic tray with a scroll of ticker tape on it.

‘Thank you, Darren’, I say, unfurling the scroll carefully.

Dear Reader. It reads as follows:

Memorandum: to all Employees of the UWL in Taizhou with special reference to Incoming Pro-Vice-Chancellors

  1. The Vice-Chancellor Professor Sir Basil is not to be referred to as ‘the Son of Heaven’.
  2. The Great Yangtze River is not the most direct route from the airport to UWL Taizhou Campus. Employees are to get the no. 39 bus from the airport (32-hour trip, no stops). Expenses to be completed in triplicate.
  3. UWL Ethics policy expressly forbids any mode of transport to be powered by swans.
  4. The use of the terms ‘inscrutable’ or ‘deadly Asiatic poision’ is expressly forbidden by all incoming UWL staff; colleagues in Taizhou have agreed to refrain from using the term ‘foreign white devils’ in official university documentation.
  5. Our colleagues in Taizhou have also agreed to rename the People’s Boutique for Oversized and Deformed Foreigners ‘Western Klothing Inc.’ Please order your robes and mortarboards from them.
  6. Please be cognizant at all times of the need for cultural sensitivity in all interactions between the Centre and the colonies periphery  Taizhou.
  7. This communication will self-destruct in three seconds.


‘Darren’, I say, as I watch the ticker tape go up in flames. ‘Got any more of the hard stuff?’

‘Oh yes, Dr A’, says Darren. ‘White tip or lap sang?’


* on which I appear to have been for weeks: jet lag is so disorientating.


6 thoughts on “Ping

  1. I hope you and Nigel from IT are enjoying your tenure in India, dear Ada. I yearn to keep up with your exploits, but we have been so busy here at the International Interdisciplinary Conference on Elements of Runic Studies and 7-Dimensional Hilton Space, held this year in Cannes, where you were sorely missed. We toasted your health with a 1903 vintage red this evening, and all chimed in our hope that you have had your inoculations.

    1. How delightful to hear that the good people of the Bognor Regis Premier Inn let you back in, my dear, after the fracas at your keynote speech (‘Beyond the Macaroon: Low-level Mathematics and Me’) in the Winnie Mandela Bingo hall last year. Darren, Shiny and I are having a lovely time, thank you, dear, confused Mise. Shiny has had all her jabs, Darren has his worry beads, and I have a little something in my handbag for my nerves, so we are ready for touchdown.

      1. I have pressed the little button for you, my dear – Darren will escort you back to your seat in row 65 (middle) shortly, just as soon as he finishes notifying the authorities.

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