Monday, January 19, 2009
Rain poured down at dawn on the first day of classes as I showered and breakfasted and left my flat early to take the bus to get to Bedford Square. The idea was to beat every other faculty member to the basement copy machines. I needn't have worried. No one else had surfaced for a first class on a Monday and I had the premises entirely to myself. In fact, I had only 7 students in my Writing II class in the lovely ornate Room 12 with its brass chandeliers and its ornamental ceiling plasterwork and moulding.
Class One is devoted to going over the syllabus and explaining course requirements and getting to know new students. The way I did this was through an assignment entitled 'Primary Sources' in which I ask students to pick any 6 words or short phrases that best describe their journey through life. They then expand on these phrases by writing an accompanying paragraph that fleshes out the essentialist idea and helps create a mosaic that informs the reader about the writer's past. They set to work cheerfully as sunlight flooded the room. I am looking forward to this course which includes field trips with accompanying assignments to Cornwall as well as Portsmouth and Winchester when the weather turns warmer.
During my hour long lunch break, I caught up on email, did some more photocopying and noticed that life had returned to the campus' academic building, former home of Lord Eldon, Chancellor of London. Other professors started to descend down to the copy machine. I had a chat with Llew who was headed to Manhattan to meet Chrissie to pick up the stuff my parents and I'd sent through her for him from India. We decided to speak again later in the day.
At 2pm, I left for my second class which is located in the University of London's Birkbeck College. This Writing II class had a larger enrollment--16 to be precise. Several were returning students who'd taken my Writing I class last semester but several were new faces, three of whom are from Turkey. It is like a mini-United Nations in this classroom with students from India, China, Korea, France and the United States and, no doubt, they will bring a great deal of their own background and heritage to bear upon our study of London's multi-cultural and multi-racial quarters as well as the ethnographic profile that I have asked them to create based on individual research and personal interviews. It promises to be an exciting semester and I am looking forward to it.
I left this class early at 3. 30 pm (instead of 5 pm) as I had an appointment with the specialist physiotherapist that the NHS has finally allotted me. Imagine... I had to wait for three whole months to be granted an interview with a specialist physiotherapist. This, I guess, is the down side of socialized health care. In the United States, I'd be able to see any specialist of my choice within 24 hours. Here, I had to wait for three whole months! On the other hand, in the United States, the visit would have cost no less than $400--of which I'd have to pay a co-pay of $30 per visit, my medical insurance covering the rest. In this country, I was not required to spend a penny but imagine if I hadnt seen a private physiotherapist as I did in October itself since my Aetna Global Insurance covered it, I'd have been writing in agony for 3 months before I could find relief from pain! It is truly hard to imagine such a situation and it explains why the United States is so reluctant to go the socialized medicine route. The wealthy would never tolerate this sort of time lag even while the poor would finally have access to quality health care. It is an impossible dilemma to resolve and today, the day on which the first African-American President of the United States is sworn in as the leader of the First World, I have to wonder whether we Americans will ever be able to settle this impasse.
Paul was very professional indeed as he started from scratch. I had to go through the plethora of questions--where, when, how did the affliction (Plantar Fascittis) assault me. What have I done so far to relieve my condition? What sort of exercises have I been prescribed? etc. etc. He started from Square One, asking me to walk across the room so he could assess my gait. I was pronounced to have a right foot that is flatter than the left (hence the persistent pain in its arch), a right foot that flares out slightly when I walk, weak hip and knee muscles (that are probably responsible for the pain in my knee every time I have done a bit too much walking). Paul recommended a series of exercises (I will be retaining two of the old ones and adding two newer ones) as well as an exercise that involves the use of an elastic rubber band to strengthen the muscles on my right ankle. He too (like my homeopath Alpana Nabar of Bombay) has suggested that I avoid all unnecessary walking for the next two months at least to allow the muscles and tendons to relax completely. This means that I will have to scrap all self-guided walks though I can still do the museum visits in short spurts. I have to admit that I was rather "naughty" (as my friend Cynthia Colclough puts it) and as soon as the pain in the knee disappeared over the two weeks that I stayed in Bombay (where the warmer weather also helped), I was out and about again...hey, you can't keep a good gal down! Now I know better and shall follow doctor's orders walking no more than for 20 minutes at a stretch and carrying as light a load as possible. The very thoughtful gift that Chriselle gave me for Christmas (a pedometer) will prove very useful as it measures the number of steps I've taken, the number of miles covered as well as the number of calories that have been expended with each step that I take.
On the way home, I felt the beginnings of a cold. My throat felt raspy and dry and I became aware of a strange weakness descend upon me. I took a Crocin immediately and had an early dinner and got into bed with the idea of turning in early. Then the phone began ringing off the hook--first it was Cynthia catching up with me after my return to London, then Stephanie Provost called. She is a close friend of my close friend Amy Tobin and has also been posted in the UK for a year from the States. She is a marketing whiz and works for Twinning Tea Company and will be launching this product line in Europe. Her work involves a great deal of international travel but she is certainly up for doing anything cultural or artsy as well as taking daytrips with me on the weekends. The good news is that the company has given her a spiffy car--a Lexus--and pays her gas bills! This will allow us to take daytrips at the weekend once the spring thaw arrives. The bad news is that she doesn't work in London but in Andover and, therefore, lives right now in Wimbledon (on the outskirts of London) and will likely be moving shortly to Richmond. We have made plans to meet on Sunday, January 25, to take a day trip to Oxfordshire to see Blenheim Plaace and Klemscott Manor (home of William Morris) and will synchronize our respective calendars at that point and try to find weekend slots during which we can take in a few new plays and go to the opera. So many wonderful plays have recently opened in the city starring some really big names (James McEvoy, Imelda Staunton, Hayley Atwell, Patrick Stewart, Ian McKellen, Edward Fox, Christopher Timothy, Steven Tomkinson, etc.) and I am keen to see them all.
Just then Llew called and we had a long chat and caught up with everything that had happened that day. He had the day off (Martin Luther King Day) and with the USA gearing up for Obama's big inauguration tomorrow, it promises to be an exciting and very historic day in the country.
I was asleep by 9. 30 and awoke at 5. 30 am (which I guess is better than awaking at 3.30am!) but I still keep hoping that I will sleep until at least 6 am each morning. I guess I am slowly getting there.