The other Oxford

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    When i started at Balliol as a classics student in 1988, thought i’d end up becoming a lawyer or a civil servant or something. But a tutorial about plato with Jonathan Barnes (then the philosophy tutor at Balliol) changed all that. fell in love with philosophy and from then on knew wanted to devote my life to it. You know, we academics have the great luxury that our job is the thing we actually love doing. i almost feel guilty getting my pay cheque. Almost. I just love my subject; love talking about it, love teaching it, love reading it and love writing it (though i’m not sure any good at that).Any Fellow that you ask will agree that the worst part of the job is the administrative part, the endless forms we have to fill in. also, even though should enjoy marking essays, i don’t! My essay crisis consists of the three or four week backlog of unmarked essays have built up which must get round to clearing at some point.Right now, if weren’t a Fellow, i’d be unemployable. might look good on paper with all my degrees but i’m not a very worldly person. i don’t read the newspapers or anything like that, for example. I did once consider becoming a professional classical musician. play the piano and have studied it quite seriously, in paris amongst other places. i even performed for BBc radio 3 a long time ago. as a student, actually managed to make some money as a professional musician (while also studying, of course).However, in 1994 realised could not keep both up. i thought to myself: am going to be a philosopher or a musician? chose the former and think made the right choice: the fact that used to hate performing whereas look forward to lecturing is probably a sign that did. I used to be a fan of hip hop, especially the hardcore, politically motivated stuff. have the entire public enemy back catalogue. But i’m not into Jay-Z and all that ‘money and girls’ rubbish.How would my own philosopher tutor, Jonathan Barnes, have described me as a student? well, on one occasion when we got drunk together, he told me that he initially thought was a dilettante, presumably because he thought was spending too much time doing music. he has since had some nicer things to say about me!My friends had one word they thought applied to me: library. what can say? worked very hard and took things very seriously. Honestly can’t remember ever turning up to a tutorial without an essay. Do not miss my student days in the slightest, though. Life just gets better and better. Oxford certainly has changed since was a student here. For one thing, virtually all the shops that were around when was a student nearly twenty years ago have turned into coffee shops, which is fine, but the town really feels quite different as a result.Another thing that has gone is the classics bookshop where used to spend far too much money on second-hand books. Now spend far too much money buying them on the net. Every now and again some people like to herald the end of the tutorial or the lecture but that’s something hope never happens. As far as can tell, Oxford students have not become any more or less clever than they were. Oxford has carried on being the excellent university it always was.ARCHIVE: 6th week MT 2005

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