At the start of December I had a crazy full-on academic mummy day which I have been meaning to write about but I have been too busy. Now the baby and the husband (and both the cats) are asleep and I have a spare few minutes.
We had a lot of snow early this year which seemed to bring the UK transport infrastructure to its knees. Naturally this coincided with a workshop which we were committed to running for a network I am organising. The blizzard timed itself for rush hour so that people who were coming from other parts of the UK had already travelled safely. Which was good in a way, but it also meant we couldn't cancel the event as that would have been pretty lame if people could make it from Southampton but couldn't come from the other side of the Meadows. So I took Mr Bitey (who now has 2.25 teeth) in his pram to nursery in thick, thick snow. Have you pushed a buggy in the snow uphill? Not very easy, even in spite of kindly souls who help you over kerbs. Nursery was in uproar because the catering supplies couldn't be delivered, but luckily Mr B had a a packed lunch. I was running a bit late by then due to my Arctic buggy voyage so I had to jog through the snow in my hiking boots to the Edinburgh Uni campus where the workshop was held. Just as well it wasn't on our own campus which is in the real wilderness.
Let's take a moment at this point to dwell on the extreme irritation that academic workshops can cause. There seems to be a universal law of Obstreperous Professors (OP) which will guarantee one will show up at any workshop I am involved in. An OP will seize upon innocently chosen words from everyday language and insist it should be defined. An OP will quibble over tiny points and generally waste as much discussion time as possible. An OP will have an endless fund of stories which illustrates their importance and grandeur. An OP will insult other workshop attendees and start academic cat fights. An OP will be incapable of accepting that a (relatively) young female academic might be leading a workshop and therefore, be temporarily, leading them. The OP of this day chose to address me as “Little Miss Bossy Boots” as I facilitated his group. My outrage is hard to frame in polite text so I shall not comment further. Without wishing to be sexist, OPs tend to be a certain age of gentleman who like to draw attention to themselves. I have never met a female professor who behaves in such a way, but I suppose my sample size is smaller as there aren't many female CS professors.
Alright, back to the snow. About half the people registered managed to come for the workshop. Some had to leave early to pick up their own children because the Edinburgh schools closed at midday due to the snow. Things gradually became more chaotic as the snow got worse and the local bus service stopped, trains stopped running and the airport shut. The nursery called me mid-workshop to tell me Mr Bitey had a fever and Calpol (usually magic stuff!) wasn't working to reduce his temperature. Please could we pick him up early, they said. My husband, knowing that I was trying to facilitate the workshop all day, kindly set off from work to nursery, a journey which normally takes 25 minutes but on this day took 4 hours and involved loaf bribery from a Warburton's driver. So I had to run the workshop until almost the advertised finishing time. I did try pretty hard to close it early to the relief of some attendees who needed to get home themselves. But, being an academic workshop, some attendees just kept on talking and I ended up quite bluntly and firmly saying “Now we should all go home!”. Then we had to tidy up which took ages. So I ended up running back across the Meadows in my hiking boots to fetch poor Mr Bitey who was the last child left in the nursery by this time.
You might hope that would be the end of a long day, but no. My husband made it home in time to find Mr B feverish again and me getting in a bit of a first time mum panic. I made the mistake of checking the NHS website and following a flow chart which directed me to the NHS phoneline and then an out of hours clinic at the hospital. Of course, these phone lines are ultra cautious about babies if you answer “yes” to a question about whether the baby has spots and even although he had perked up hugely by the end of the phonecall we still thought we ought to follow it through. Everyone wrapped up warmly, and ventured back in the car on the un-gritted roads to the local hospital where the out of hours doctor plainly thought we were mad to to come and see her about a cold and nappy rash (as the spots turned out to be). Particularly because Mr B was grinning and happily eating his socks during his consultation. All was well in the end, as it turned out. Although I am getting on OK with juggling work and being a mum, snow adds an extra layer of craziness which I can well do without! So let's hope there will be no more this winter. Please?