Unexpected advice on the cultivation of dahlias (Rousse)

As I walked across the exam room I started to argue the value of timed written assessments that comprise a compulsory multiple choice section followed by a choice of two essay questions from a selection of five. The invigilator hoping to start his exam cast me a stern look and I understood that this was perhaps not the time and place for such a conversation. I gathered up the papers of the students who had just finished my exam and headed off to find the registry staff who would count the scripts with me to ensure that I had everyone’s work.

Over the summer all the admin staff had moved offices and it soon struck me that I had no idea of where to find anyone. I wandered over to the new campus reception area on the ground floor and waited my turn at the public counter. It was a beautiful piece of interior design: a massive polished granite curve in a huge open gallery, more like something that you would find in an exclusive American hotel than on a British university campus.

Just as I was wondering what kind of staff would work here one of the receptionists shouted out “Advice on the cultivation of dahlias for Ms D!” When nobody else responded and all heads turned in my direction I realised that this call was for me. How irritating this was for someone who has no interest whatsoever in dahlias, and had worked hard to earn a PhD to replace the title “Ms” with “Dr” long ago.

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