Archive for the Biographical Category

Quiet Quitting

Posted in Biographical, Education, Maynooth with tags , , on August 16, 2022 by telescoper

Not long ago I had lunch with a friend and former colleague from Sussex now working elsewhere. During the conversation I found myself saying words to the effect of “It’s only easy being a manager of something if you don’t care”. Speaking in the context of University management I meant “care” about the things that matter, i.e. staff and students and teaching and research, not stuff like league tables and key performance indicators.

Over the years that I’ve worked in universities, I’ve seen them systematically taken over by people who really don’t care at all about the important things. The result among ordinary staff is exhaustion caused by the overwork required to meet arbitrary criteria of productivity imposed by a remote and uncaring managerial class. Universities are thus a microcosm of neoliberal society at large, with the management being the propertied class, the academics being the workers, and the students being mere commodities.

The drive to alienate and demoralize staff through overwork accelerated during the Covid-19 pandemic. Teaching staff were required to transform their working methods, undertake countless hours of unpaid overtime and suffer long periods of isolation and stress. Being a Head of Department with lots of responsibilities but no actual power and no reduction in teaching load to compensate for the administrative burden, compounded this They did it because they knew there was an emergency and because they actually care. In return for this sacrifice they have generally received no appreciation except for platitudes and nothing by way of financial compensation, with the notable exception of Queen’s University Belfast which paid a bonus to staff in recognition of their exceptional efforts. Well done to them, but they are the exception rather than the rule. Elsewhere the only reward for efforts during the pandemic looks likely to be real-terms cuts in pay.

My worry, which is rapidly becoming reality, is that in the post-pandemic era The Management, aware of how far their employees were prepared to go during the pandemic, will continue to take them completely for granted, increase their workload by recruiting more and more students to be taught with fewer and fewer resources, all of it driven by financial targets. Why do we continue to put up with this gross exploitation? Are we doomed forever to labour under the dead weight of managerialism?

Over the past few weeks I’ve seen a number of articles about quiet quitting, most recently this one in the Guardian. Roughly speaking “quiet quitting” means fulfilling one’s contract but not going any further – no work at evening or weekends, taking one’s full holiday entitlement, and so on. Staff have generally done these things because they care but that care has been and is still being systematically exploited. Indeed, it says something about the way higher education institutions operate nowadays that “working to contract” is generally regarded as a form of industrial action! Universities would grind to a halt without the good will of staff, and there’s very little of that still left. In my own case, my employer still hasn’t fulfilled the terms of my employment contract almost five years after I joined.

So am I now going to join the ranks of those quitting quietly? You might very well think that. I couldn’t possibly comment. What I will say is that my union, IFUT, is going to ballot its members next month on industrial action over pay. I think you can probably guess which way I’ll be voting…

The Student Accommodation Crisis

Posted in Biographical, Education, Maynooth with tags , , on August 13, 2022 by telescoper

These days many of Ireland’s newspapers are carrying stories about the drastic shortage of accommodation for students ahead of the start of the new academic year.; see, for example, here and here. Sinn Féin spokesperson on Further and Higher Education, Rose Conway-Walsh, has called on the Government to prepare emergency measures to tackle the crisis “before it’s too late”.

Unfortunately I think it’s already too late. I think this year we’re going to see a complete breakdown of the University system and that’s even without the industrial action that looks likely to take place. Although third-level institutions could have done more, the root cause is the funding model. There’s also a lack of housing nationally which is caused by systematic underinvestment over many years.

To illustrate the problems let’s look at Maynooth University, where I work. Some of the issues here are common across the University sector but some are specific. Maynooth is Ireland’s only real “University Town” in the sense that the University constitutes a very large part of the population; the local football team is even called Maynooth University Town. This is often used as a selling point for the University and indeed Maynooth is a pleasant place to work and study, but this year the special status of Maynooth is exacerbating the national crisis.

The number of permanent residents in Maynooth is about 15,000 and there is a similar number of students (13,700, including about 11000 undergraduates), so the population almost doubles during teaching term. Both populations are steadily rising. The University is recruiting more and more students without comparable increase in student housing – this year looks like being another record intake – but there is also pressure on housing due to other factors, particularly the dramatic expansion of the Intel plant in nearby Leixlip, with many of the new workers trying to find places to live in Maynooth. New properties are being built but at a rate much slower than the demand is increasing.

It is now mid-August, about a month before term starts for returning students. This is the time when foreign students start arriving and looking for accommodation. As a matter of fact I have two PhD students due to start in September, both of whom are new to Ireland. Usually getting in ahead of the home students helps them find somewhere ahead of the rush, but this year there is absolutely no accommodation to be found in Maynooth. I don’t mean there’s a shortage. I mean there isn’t anything. And the incoming first-year students haven’t even started looking yet.

This year’s Leaving Certificate results will not be out until September 5th. After that more than 3000 students will begin looking for accommodation. But the supply is already exhausted in August. Some will find accommodation on campus, but at the moment there are over 800 Ukrainian refugees living in the halls who will have to leave at the end of August to make way for students, but where will they go? And in any case there spaces vacated will only accommodate a fraction of the new arrivals.

There’s also the question of cost. The law of supply and demand is merciless in this situation so as private accommodation is so scarce, the rents payable have soared. That’s fine if you’re a landlord, of course…

The only solution I can see in the short term is temporary accommodation in caravans or tents or perhaps in large buildings such as sports halls. That’s highly unsatisfactory of course, but the alternative is lengthy commuting which is exhausting and which we saw last year leads to widespread disengagement.

Maynooth has just opened a new building on campus, the TSI Building, with large teaching rooms anticipating ever-increasing class sizes driven by the bums-on-seats mandate. But how many students will be able to attend?

New Teaching Room in the TSI Building

I’ve been arguing for over a year that we need to accept the reality that many students will not be able to attend on-campus sessions as we would like them to so we should invest in remote teaching methods to allow them to study at home. We did this during the pandemic emergency and we should do it during the accommodation emergency too. I am appalled that Maynooth has not bothered to install proper lecture capture facilities in its teaching rooms. These facilities were commonplace in the UK long before the pandemic and it’s shocking that they are not deployed routinely in Maynooth. I have better lecture capture facilities in my study at home than the University provides in its lecture theatres.

Although this crisis has been brewing for many months, the Irish Government has done little to help. Individual universities have also been staring into the headlights and doing nothing. Government funding per student has been falling steadily so Universities wishing to maintain their income have been forced to recruit more students, despite the lack of investment in accommodation and other infrastructure.

It’s stressful enough for academic staff having to contend with this looming disaster, but I can hardly imagine how awful it must be for students. All I can do is apologize, which is something the people really responsible will not do.

Megalithic Mystery Solved!

Posted in Biographical, History, The Universe and Stuff with tags , , , , on August 8, 2022 by telescoper

This morning I realized that almost exactly four years ago I visited the megalithic passage tomb at Knowth. In my post about that visit I mentioned the extraordinary stone carvings found outside the tomb and their possible connection with astronomy. Following on from ChorizoGate I can finally reveal that the solution to this ancient mystery is in fact gastronomical.

Examining Again

Posted in Biographical, Education, Maynooth with tags , , on August 5, 2022 by telescoper

ChorizoGate distracted me from mentioning on here that the Repeat Examination period started on Wednesday. I usually write a post at the start of an Exam period to wish all the students good luck, but this time the first examination for which I am responsible took place yesterday morning, and I’ve already marked the scripts so in that case the die is already cast. I send my best wishes to all other students taking repeat examinations, though, including the first-years taking my paper later on this afternoon.

Today’s examination doesn’t finish until 5.30pm so I’ll have to collect the scripts on my way home to mark them over the weekend. I have another three examinations on my own modules next Wednesday but because of ongoing staffing issues I am also responsible for marking several examinations for modules I didn’t teach. I’ve got a busy week ahead so I want to finish marking today’s paper before it starts,

I also thought it was worth mentioning for any university teachers out there reading this that although they are held at roughly the same time of year in the two countries there’s a difference in the way resits are handled in the institutions I’ve worked at in the United Kingdom and the way repeats work here in Maynooth which is implied by the slightly different name.

In UK institutions with which I am familiar students generally take resits when, because they have failed one or more examinations during the year,  they have not accumulated sufficient credits to proceed to the next year of their course. Passing the resit allows them to retrieve lost credit, but their mark is generally capped at a bare pass (usually 40%). That means the student gets the credit they need for their degree but their average (which determines whether they get 1st, 2nd or 3rd class Honours) is negatively affected.

This is the case unless a student has extenuating circumstances affecting the earlier examination, such as bad health or family emergency, in which case they take the resit as a `sit’, i.e. for the first time with an uncapped mark.

Here in Maynooth, repeat examinations are generally taken for the same reasons as in the UK but the mark obtained is not capped. When I’ve told former UK colleagues that our repeat examinations are not capped they generally  don’t  like the idea because they feel that it might lead to many students playing games, i.e. deliberately not taking exams in May with the intention of spreading some of their examination load into August. There’s not much sign of students actually doing that in my Department, to be honest, for the reason that the results from the repeat examination period are not confirmed until early September so that students that deploy this strategy do not know whether they are going to be able to start their course again until a couple of weeks before term. That could cause lots of problems securing accommodation, etc, so it doesn’t seem to me to be a good strategy.

I’d welcome comments for or against whether resits/repeats should be capped/uncapped and on what practice is adopted in your institution(s).

ChorizoGate: an Accidental Hoax

Posted in Biographical, The Universe and Stuff with tags , , , on August 3, 2022 by telescoper

My Twitter account is usually a quiet backwater of social media, and that’s the way I like it, but there was an unexpected burst of activity and interest in it over the weekend. To amuse myself on Saturday morning I decided to post this on Twitter:

I thought a few people might find it funny, but it took off beyond my expectations. By my standards over 5000 likes counts as “going viral” (as you young people say). Most people saw the joke immediately – if you don’t get it, the image is of a slice of chorizo not an astronomical object – and some even joined in with puns and other jokes. Even funnier, some respondents earnestly shared their devastating insight that it was chorizo (or some variant thereof). I honestly didn’t think anyone would think that I was seriously trying to pass it off as a JWST picture; it was just meant to be silly. But there you go. That’s Twitter. I should also report that some people looked at the rainbow flags in my profile and proceeded to indulge in some casual homophobia. That’s Twitter too. Those people all got blocked.

Anyway, the day after I posted the image it seems a prominent French physicist called Etienne Klein who has many times more Twitter followers than I do, posted this embellished version. TRIGGER WARNING – it’s in FRENCH:

Notice the picture is exactly the same. What a coincidence! You might consider this plagiarism; I couldn’t possibly comment. I always regard anything I put on social media as being in the public domain so I’m not really bothered if other people “borrow” it. There’s quite a lot of plagiarism of stuff I’ve written on this blog out there, but life’s too short to get upset about it. Credit would be courteous, but one one learns that it isn’t generally to be expected.

As a matter of fact it’s not a new joke anyway. I didn’t make the picture and don’t remember where I got it from, though it was probably here.

Anyway, the funny thing is that this then got picked up by various other people:

and organisations:

There are others, e.g. here, here, here and here. Also here.

ChorizoGate all took off in a very surprising way. I’m not sure what the moral of this story is, other than if you make a joke no matter how obvious it is there will always be people who take it seriously…

Lá Saoire i mí Lúnasa

Posted in Biographical, Cardiff, Maynooth, Mental Health with tags , on August 1, 2022 by telescoper

Today, Monday 1st August 2022, being the first Monday in August, is a Bank Holiday in Ireland. This holiday was created by the Bank Holiday Act of 1871 when Ireland was under British rule. While the holiday was subsequently moved to the end of August in England and Wales it has remained at the start of August in Ireland. Today is also a Bank Holiday in Scotland, though the Scots have the best of both worlds and have a holiday at the end of August too.

I’ve mentioned before that 1st August marks the old Celtic festival of Lughnasadh, named after the God Lugh, on which is celebrated the beginning of the harvest season. It is also one of the cross-quarter days, lying roughly half-way between the Summer Solstice and the Autumnal Equinox (in the Northern Hemisphere).

Anyway, the University is closed today and I made the use of the long weekend to take a few days of annual leave last week, from Wednesday. I’ll be off tomorrow too. Those four days will be about it for my summer holidays, though, as our repeat examinations commence on Wednesday 3rd August and I’ll be busy doing corrections from then on. Incidentally, these examinations are called the Autumn Repeats consistent with the general interpretation here in Ireland of 1st August being the start of autumn. The weather today is certainly somewhat autumnal!

For various reasons we have a larger-than-average number of students taking repeat examinations this year. Moreover, one of our temporary lecturers left at the end of his contract at the end of June so is unavailable to mark his examinations. As Head of Department, and with several staff unavailable, it’s my responsibility to make sure that they get graded so it looks like I’ll have to mark the majority of his scripts as well as my own. And a few projects too.

At least my term as Head of Department is due to end soon. I was appointed to this position in 2019, initially for three years starting on 1st September so August 31st 2022 is my last day in office. That reminds me that I stepped down as Head of School of Mathematical and Physical Sciences at Sussex on 31st July 2016, i.e. six years ago yesterday. How can it be so long?

I moved back to Cardiff in 2016 to a three-year, part-time position which would have come to an end in 2019. I supposed at the time that I would then take early retirement and that would be that. I certainly didn’t imagine then that I would move once more, this time to Ireland nor did I think I would be Head of Department anywhere.

Reflecting on my decision to leave Sussex and return to Cardiff I wrote this:

I’m not going to go into all the reasons for stepping down, but one of them is I wanted to establish a better work-life balance…. I was therefore more than happy to accept the offer of a position here on a 50% salary. In other words, I am officially a part-time member of staff. I’m planning to use the other 50% to pursue some other interests, such as writing a couple of books and running the Open Journal of Astrophysics, but generally just taking more time off the treadmill of academic life.

It didn’t quite turn out like that, but at least I did what I was appointed to do at Cardiff. It was just chance that led to the change of plan, with the opportunity of moving to Ireland coming out of the blue. Instead of taking 50% of my time off, from December 1st 2017 until July 2018 I worked 50% of the time at Maynooth, commuting to and fro across the Irish Sea: thereafter I worked here full-time.

When I was appointed Head of Department of Theoretical Physics in Maynooth in 2019 I received some (sarcastic) comments about that bit above about the “treadmill of academic life”. In truth I didn’t imagine that it would be as hard as it turned out. I wrote in 2019:

It’s about three years now since I stepped down as Head of School at the University of Sussex at which point I didn’t imagine I would be stepping up to be Head of Anything again, but to be honest this position has a smaller and much better defined set of responsibilities than the one I used to hold so I’m actually quite looking forward to it.

Of course I didn’t know then that the Covid-19 pandemic would strike in 2020, exacerbated by staff shortages and lack of support at University level, creating a huge increase in workload and stress. The job has been far harder than I imagined it would be, not least because there is no proper job description for a Head of Department at Maynooth. The “smaller and much better defined set of responsibilities” I anticipated turned out not to be the case at all. Indeed, the workload associated with being HoD has grown substantially over the last three years, with fewer resources and lower levels of support.

In short, I can’t wait for this month, and my term as Head of Department, to be over. I am not going to leave Maynooth and will continue doing teaching and research (including supervising graduate students), both of which I enjoy. But after this month time I will have served my time as Head of Department and it will be someone else’s turn to climb up on the treadmill…

The Soundtrack of Summer

Posted in Biographical, Music, Television on July 31, 2022 by telescoper

I just heard of the death on 4th July at the age of 82 of Austrian actor Robert Hoffmann who I remember very well for his role as Robinson Crusoe in the TV series The Adventures of Robinson Crusoe. That series was first broadcast in 1964 and was repeated frequently over the years, especially during the long summer holidays. I loved the theme music when I was a child and it is now redolent with nostalgia, forever associated with memories of childhood summers before life got complicated. I’m sure that is also the case for many others, so perhaps you won’t mind wandering off down memory lane with this:

The Kindness of Faces

Posted in Biographical, Cardiff, Film, Television with tags , on July 28, 2022 by telescoper
Bernard Cribbins

Another bit of sad news arrived today. The much-loved character actor, singer and comedian Bernard Cribbins has passed away at the age of 93. He was a remarkably versatile performer who appeared in scores of films and TV programmes over the years, including numerous stints on Jackanory, on which he revealed himself to be a superb reader of children’s stories, and providing all the voices for the TV series of The Wombles. Rest in peace, Bernard Cribbins (1928-2022).

Reading about his death and looking at pictures of him taken during his long and varied career got me thinking about something I’ve wondered about many times over the years, namely what is it about certain faces that makes them appear kind?

I know it’s a subjective judgment whether or not someone has a kind face but it does seem that many people do agree on it. I certainly think Bernard Cribbins had a kind face and it stayed with him all through his long career. Among actors, Tom Hanks is another prominent example. His face has clearly influenced the roles he has been cast in. No doubt you can think of others.

This is not just about showbusiness of course. I have met many people in the course of my life who have what I’d describe as kind faces, but what exactly is it about their faces that makes them so? It seems to involve a certain shape – softer features perhaps, not too angular – with rounder eyes and an easy smile. Other than those vague considerations I really don’t know. I have looked back through the personal library of kind faces in my memory and they don’t really have much in common at all. Whatever it is, it’s not the same thing that makes a face handsome or beautiful or sexy, though those are also of course subjective. For me there has to be a hint of danger for someone to be very sexy; a kind face is perhaps too bland.

Anyway, I remember many years ago talking with a (female) graduate student in a pub in Cardiff about this subject. In fact we started talking about which men in the Department we thought were the most handsome – I’d better keep quiet about that bit – but got onto a more general discussion. She had – and presumably still has – what I’d call a kind face, and I told her so when the subject came up. She was very aware that people thought that too and wasn’t entirely pleased about it. She said her face made people assume she was extremely emphatic and proceed to burden her with their personal problems even if she didn’t know them very well. I’d never thought of that downside before then.

In Macbeth, Duncan says “There’s no art / to find the mind’s construction in the face”, and there’s no necessary connection between a kindly disposition and a kind face. No doubt there are successful criminals, con-artists and the like, who trade on their apparently kind faces to manipulate their victims. On the other hand, in a world that can be incomprehensibly cruel, it can be nice to see a kind face even if it’s just a superficial relief.

Any theories on what makes a kind face and/or other examples of people who have such please use through the box below.

Life and Chemical Imbalances

Posted in Biographical, Cardiff, Maynooth, Mental Health with tags , , , , , on July 21, 2022 by telescoper

Although it has weighed on my mind in recent weeks, and I have mentioned it on this blog a couple of times, I’ve managed to avoid writing too much about the fact that exactly ten years ago I was languishing in the high-dependency unit of a psychiatric hospital. Today I saw that there’s an article doing the rounds about mental health issues so I thought I’d use it as a pretext for getting some of the memories of that time off my chest.

The article I mentioned above has the rather misleading title Depression is probably not caused by a chemical imbalance in the brain – new study. What the article argues is that there isn’t a simple cause-and-effect relationship between depression and the chemical serotonin. There may well be a biochemical explanation of depressive illness that involves serotonin, but it’s obviously very complicated. That shouldn’t surprise anyone. Very few things in neuroscience are simple.

Unfortunately some people are misrepresenting the piece by claiming that it proves that a widely-used class of anti-depressant drugs known as Selective Serotonin Reuptake Inhibitors (SSRIs; the best-known of which, Fluoxetine, is known by the trade name Prozac). This class also includes Citalopram and Paroxetine (trade name: Seroxat), both of which I have been on. The latter is not available on the National Health Service through a General Practitioner, but must instead be prescribed by a consultant psychiatrist because of rather serious side-effects.

I refer you to an explanatory article Dean Burnett who explains that nobody really knows how these SSRI anti-depressants work, and why it is not surprising that they can have unexpected side effects. I hope that the articles I mentioned above help make it clearer what is involved being on medication of this sort. These drugs are in widespread use, but ignorance about them is spread even wider.

Anti-depressants are not only prescribed for the treatment of clinical depression but also for, e.g., anxiety disorder, panic disorder, and post-traumatic stress disorder. It is for these things rather than depression per se that I have taken SSRIs. Nobody really knows why anti-depressants work against depression (although there is clinical evidence that they do), and there is even less understanding why (and, in some cases, evidence that) they are effective for these other conditions. Like many treatments they seem to have been discovered empirically, by trial and error.

As Dean Burnett explains in his article, SSRIs work by increasing the level of Serotonin (a monoamine neurotransmitter). However, taking an SSRI increases the level of Serotonin almost immediately whereas the effect on depression takes weeks to register. While low Serotonin levels may play a part in depressive illness, they’re clearly not the whole story.

Ten years ago, in the summer of 2012, I experienced awful problems largely as a result of trying to come off the medication I had been on since the previous autumn. The withdrawal symptoms then included shaking fits, insomnia, visual and auditory hallucinations, nausea, and hypervigilance.

The effect of this extreme collection of withdrawal symptoms was that I didn’t eat or sleep for a couple of weeks. My mental and physical health deteriorated steadily until my GP referred me to a psychiatric hospital just outside Cardiff. When I arrived there they took one look at me and put me in a high-dependency unit, under close supervision.

I think they thought I was suicidal but I really wasn’t. I was just so exhausted that I didn’t really care what happened next. I was however put on a kind of `suicide watch’, the reason for this being that, apparently, even while sedated, I kept trying to pull the tube out of my arm. I was being fed via a drip because I was ‘Nil by Mouth’ by virtue of uncontrollable vomiting. I guess the doctors thought I was trying to sabotage myself, but I wasn’t. Not consciously anyway. I think it was probably just irritating me. In fact I don’t remember doing it at all, but that period is very much a blur altogether. Anyway, I then found myself in physical restraints, so I couldn’t move my arms, to stop me pulling the tube out.

Those days are painful to recall but I was eventually moved to a general ward and shortly after that I was deemed well enough to go home. Fortunately, I recovered well enough to return to work (after taking a short break in Copenhagen). I signed up for 6 weeks of talking therapy. I had to wait some time before a slot became available, but had appointments once a week after that.

At the end of the summer of 2012, I was offered the job of Head of the School of Mathematical and Physical Sciences at Sussex University. I moved from Cardiff to Brighton in early 2013 to take up this new position. I hadn’t been there for long when my old problem returned. The stress of the job obviously played a role in this, and I soon realized that I couldn’t keep going without help from medication. It was then that I was tried out on Paroxetine, the dose being gradually increased until I was at the maximum recommended level (60mg daily).

While this medication was effective in controlling the panic disorder, it had some unpleasant side-effects, including: digestive problems; dizziness; difficulty in concentrating; fatigue; and the weirdest of all, a thing called depersonalisation, which I still experience (in a relatively mild form) from time to time.

I found myself living a kind of half-life, functioning reasonably well at work but not having the energy or enthusiasm to do very much else outside of working hours. Eventually I got fed up with it. I felt I had to choose between staying in my job as Head of School (which meant carrying on taking the drugs indefinitely) or leaving to do something else (which would mean I might be able to quit the drugs). I picked the latter. The desire to come off medication wasn’t the only factor behind my decision to stand down from my job at Sussex, but it played a big part.

I knew however that Paroxetine is associated with notoriously difficult withdrawal symptoms so, mindful of my previous experience in 2012, I followed the medical instructions to the letter, gradually cutting down my dose over a couple of months during the course of the Autumn in 2016. I still had significant withdrawal symptoms, especially the insomnia, but not as bad as before.

In 2016 had no idea that I would move to Ireland in 2017. I’m glad to say, though, that despite the isolation and stress caused by the pandemic, and workload issues generally, I’ve managed without any form of anti-depressants since then, though it hasn’t always been easy. Let’s just say that I am greatly looking forward to reaching the end of my term as Head of Department of Theoretical Physics at the end of next month…

Heatwave

Posted in Biographical, Maynooth with tags , on July 18, 2022 by telescoper

The extremely hot weather currently engulfing much of Europe has reached Maynooth, although the temperature here is around 30°C, which is warm by the standards of Ireland but not as extreme as the >40ºC predicted for the UK today and on the continent. Maynooth is in the part of Ireland where temperatures are predicted to be highest.

I’m told that a “heatwave” is defined in Ireland as four consecutive days with temperatures above 25ºC. That is relatively cool by some standards but not for this temperate island. Still, it looks like it will break by Wednesday.

I don’t function very well in hot weather so I’m staying indoors where it is relatively cool (although we have no air conditioning). The highest temperature I’ve ever been in was 48ºC in Aswan, Southern Egypt, where I was on holiday in the 90s. That was different though as it is basically a desert climate and was a very dry heat. I found as long as I drank plenty of water I felt OK. A few summers later when I spent a few days in New Orleans it was barely 30ºC but so unbearably humid that I found it impossible. Humidity in Maynooth today is about 40% so it’s not too bad.

Before coming to work this morning I put out lots of water in the garden for the birds, who need to drink as well as bathe. The local robin has been very vocal over the last few days as if to demand that I keep the water supply refreshed. I’m convinced this bird thinks it owns my garden and that I am its servant. Elsewhere in the garden I moved my dwarf fig to a shadier spot, it being rather frazzled.

I checked on Maynooth University Library Cat’s bowl on my way too, though he himself was nowhere to be seen, no doubt sheltering in a cool spot somewhere.

The thermoelectric wine cooler in my kitchen has been struggling noisily to maintain cellar temperature (12-14 ºC) . It’s quite old so this heatwave might well finish it off. Let’s hope the same isn’t true for too many humans…