It was a usual hectic time-starved week: preparing classes, marking and grading papers, managing classes, while at the same time preparing the materials for the next teaching period. Here I find I am dependent on others delivering their components in time. If they’re late, I end up getting delayed, which has a knock-on effect on other planning. Yeah, that happened in the last week. So I ended up frustratingly behind in my own work schedule. Not a serious problem, but it will have a significant knock-on effect on the next week. At moments like this I realize that my own planning does not allow much leeway for the unexpected. I rely on things outside my control being ready on time. And likewise others presumably rely on me getting things ready on time. It’s a just-in-time system, with all the risks and hazards that entails.

One student wrote a paper on conceptions of time, and how time itself is not constant. He proposed a mission to our nearest black hole via a time warp to demonstrate his theory. Curious. It looked mathematically plausible, but we might have to wait a few million (or billion) earth years to physically demonstrate his theory.

More easily, a critical glitch in our JIT system was exposed this weekend by the sudden illness of a key colleague. I was a time zone away in the UK, and a series of frantic text messages were needed. But we managed to solve the urgent problem and arrange emergency cover. A JIT system with sticking plaster. There’s a need for good forward planning, contingency planning. We do not plan for the almost certainty of sudden absence.

Kiplin Hall clock

Kiplin Hall clock

It was a JIT system of a different nature in the UK: a private weekend trip ending with a visit to Kiplin Hall, where my brother and his wife work as volunteers. A splendid Jacobean country house with 400 years of history – I would have loved to have had more time to view the paintings and furnishings at greater leisure, but there was a plane to catch. Needless to say, I was struck by the delightful chiming clock in the hall (which serves as the restaurant), a 21st birthday gift from the estate tenants to the daughter of the manor in 1897. It chimed so beautifully and softly that I failed to hear the hour chime. Time knocked on.

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