The sing-song yesterday was less excruciating than it might have been. The scientists all (not all of them mind, but a good couple of dozen) got up and sang together - old and young, students and faculty, admin and technicians. Regular readers (привет постоянные читатели) will know how important I believe this to be. Then we ceded the mike to the Engineers, the Central Admin, Grade VI and Above, the semi-professional contralto, Father Trendy, and an immensely tall chap with a fine tenor voice. A lot of folk had donated cakes and cookies, catering supplied warm tea and we all staked up €5 for a poor local wean in hospital. My HoD was sitting beside me and remarked how much he enjoyed this tradition - one of the few times in the year when the whole family of The Institute got together. He was only a little deflated when I pointed out that the cleaners were all sitting at that table, the secretaries there, the physicists over there, the biology graduate students next to the buffet (proper place for post-grads) and the Engineers all together as well. But it is ever thus the world over. There is nevertheless a sense of family about the place - you may not like everyone but you still know them and feel a common sense of loyalty.
After a quick trip back to the office to mark more lab-books we were called back to the canteen for the Retiree's Dinner. This is free-in and catered by catering. There was turkey&ham or goat's cheese quiche followed by cheesecake or Xmas pud, which I manfully tamped down on top of the scones, short-bread and Dundee cake of the morning. I asked where were all these Retirees on whose back I had just fed. I had hardly closed my gob on this question when the President stepped up to the mike. She commented on the fact that we are Institute of 2014. I've been quite negative about this piece of unscientific silliness. The Pres claimed that, when the data was being gathered, students from The Institute were asked what was the least good thing about their place of education. Our lads apparently said "leaving the place when we're done". If that's even partly true, that indicates that we're doing something right.
Mais revenons a nos retraités. Anyone who has served their time and retired in the previous year was given an eulogy by their Line-Boss, and a gift from the President as well as a slap-up feed. It's a Good Thing to say out loud what people may have written on the going-away card earlier in the year. The recognition and appreciation counts for a lot - offsets the sense of being financially undervalued. I could well believe the old chaps when they affirmed that it had been the best years of their lives. It's been my best year this decade: I've now completed one academic cycle. It's hard to credit what a difference 11 months and 600 contact hours with students of such a wide range of ages and abilities (not to mention 200,000 words on The Blob!) has made to me. I hope I've made a small-small difference to some of the students . . . и вам уважаемые читатели.