Staff Development

It was Monday morning. Alison was feeling particularly grumpy. She’d had to work through most of the weekend, marking dissertations. And today had been blocked out for the Biology Department staff development session. She couldn’t think of a worse way to spend the day. It was the first day of the vacation. She had a pile of admin to finish off, and she needed to start chasing up the other dissertation markers before they disappeared on actual holidays.

Not only that, but the venue for the ‘Awayday’ was on the other side of town, and required her to take two buses, with a good mile of walking between them. And it was pouring with rain.

And to cap it all, at the end of the day the department were all  going out for a meal to mark the departure of a long-standing colleague. If anyone had asked her, she’d have thought that he’d left years ago, for all the impact he had on the department.

Derek, Emma and Ben kept well out of her way.

Eventually, she was on the bus. She opened her iPad and started reading a journal article which she’d downloaded several weeks previously and hadn’t quite got round to during term-time. Now she was reading it, she couldn’t for the life of her remember why she had thought it would be interesting. It seemed pretty irrelevant to her research interests. She skipped to the reference list. Nothing she recognised.

She closed the app and opened up a game of Solitaire instead. Sod them.

The conference venue was a shiny new building which formed part of the University of Burston expansion. Alison peeled off her soaking wet anorak at the Reception desk. “Burston Central Biology.”

“Good morning, Madam. That’s marvellous. You’re in the Shattock room, just down at the very end of this corridor.”

Alison was sure the receptionist was being sarcastic. She looked at him suspiciously. Was he making some kind of ironic comment about them being from a poorer university, without its own conference facilities? “Is there anywhere I can leave this?” She flapped her anorak towards him, causing a shower of raindrops to fall onto the highly polished wooden surface.

He reached under his desk for a cloth and started rubbing at the water. “Of course, Madam. The cloakroom is just over here. Shall I take it for you?” He looked as though he would rather walk across hot coals.

“No, that’s fine. I’ll manage.” Alison bent and gathered her things together.  It took a while, somewhat spoiling her attempt to look dignified.

She took her time hanging up her coat. Then she visited the Ladies. Then she went back to Reception.

“Is there anywhere I can get a coffee?”

“There are refreshments in your meeting room, Madam.” The receptionist managed to convey his disappointment that she could think that such a thing would have been overlooked in his establishment. Or perhaps that the standard of service was so much poorer at Burston Central?

“Oh. Thank you.”

She couldn’t put it off any longer. She walked slowly down the corridor to the Shattock room.

She was hoping that the meeting would be about to start by the time she got there, but inside the room everyone was still standing around.  The chairs were laid out in neat rows facing a screen.

There was a concentration of people to the left of the room, presumably where the refreshments were. Alison pushed her way gently through the groups, murmuring brief hellos. Her frigid expression helped to create a small space around her. She helped herself to coffee. Fucking staff development days. What a waste of time.

There was a large plate to the right of the coffee flasks, containing quite appetising-looking pastries. She was unable to prevent herself from thinking that this was a big treat. ‘Pastries. Ooh.’  She helped herself.

“They’re really good.” Sally came up to her. “What a treat. Pastries!”

Alison allowed a small smile to form. How feeble they all were. A pound’s  worth of cake, and they were all happy. Still, the pastries were good.

Geoff was hovering near the screen at the front of the room. “Er. Colleagues.” He raised his voice. “Colleagues. Shall we make a start?”

Reluctantly, they shuffled towards the seats. A small queue formed around the flasks again, but eventually, everyone was settled.

Geoff was moving impatiently from foot to foot. “Right then, colleagues. Let’s make a start. Lots to get through. Just before we get going, I’ve got a couple of announcements.”

He looked down at his notes. “Right. OK. Well, I’m pleased to say that Phil and Sally have agreed to step in as Joint Acting Course Leaders following Alison’s departure. They’ll be shadowing Alison until the summer. We’ll advertise during the autumn term.

“And there’s something else I just want to flag up. We’re going to need to do a review of assessment practices before September. I’ve asked Sally to co-ordinate this. We’ll need to look at everyone’s assessment strategies.” He looked hard at Jan, but she was staring at her phone, and didn’t seem to be listening.

“OK. Let’s get on. We’ve got a packed programme today, so we need to keep to time.” He looked around the room, making eye contact with as many people as possible. Alison was fighting back the urge to giggle. She looked at the window in an effort to distract herself. Outside, there were trees in blossom.

Geoff continued. “OK. Well. This morning, we’re going to hear from Diane, from the Quality Department, about the new procedures for,” he looked down at his notes again. “For engagement monitoring.  And plans for the QAA visit in three years’ time. And then Hazel from the Centre for Academic Practice has kindly agreed to come and explain the new, er, professional recognition scheme. Then it’ll be time for lunch, which I’m told is very good here. After lunch, Chris is going to come and update us on progress towards the Research Excellence Framework submission, and we’ll finish off the day with a team-building session from HR.”

A chorus of sighs greeted this dispiriting agenda, providing an appropriate audio accompaniment to the eye-rolling which had met each of the topic announcements.

Jan raised her hand.

“Yes, Jan?”

“Geoff. I thought you told us that attendance was compulsory.”

“Yes, and thank you all for coming along, of course.”

“Where’s Chris, then?”

“Chris? He’s coming along after lunch.”

An expectant silence fell.  Geoff realised that something more was needed.

“He’s got important research obligations this morning.”

There was an outbreak of muttering. Geoff rushed on. “Anyway, let’s get going, shall we? Diane, over to you.”


Wading Through Treacle is entirely fictional. You can follow @wadingtreacle on Twitter, or like the Wading Through Treacle page on Facebook to be informed of updates, or click on ‘follow’ at the bottom of this screen to register for updates from Wading Through Treacle. For last year’s advent calendar, see The Unknown Tutor.

Feel free to send Wading Treacle accounts of daft things which could be fictionalised by email: wadingtreacle@gmail.com.

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Professionalisation

The Centre for Academic Practice was just beginning its weekly meeting. Hazel Gibbs, the Head of Centre, looked round the table to check that everyone was there. The team were settling comfortably round the table with mugs of coffee. Ruth was passing round a home-made cake. There was a low buzz of conversation.

“Ooh, Ruth, you shouldn’t have. I ate far too much at Christmas.”

“I was so going to be good today.”

“Mmm, what a treat.”

“Don’t mind if I do. Thanks.”

“Anyone see Panorama last night?”

Hazel waited until everyone had a piece of cake. She cleared her throat.

The voices died down and everyone looked towards Hazel.

“Right, everyone. Thanks for coming, as ever. Now, we’ll do our usual roundup of news, and then the only other item I want to discuss is the new target for Higher Education Academy recognition. I think I’ve mentioned this to most of you already.”

A murmur of assent went round the room. Rich was the only person who looked surprised.

“Not me, Hazel.” He looked hurt.

“Yes, sorry, Rich, I know you’ve been off for a couple of days. Are you feeling better, by the way?”

“Yes thanks, just a touch of stomach flu. Was that my back-to-work interview, then?”

One or two of the others sniggered.

Hazel forced a slight smile. “Now then, Rich. Of course not. Pop into see me after the meeting for that. The HEA target is… Well, let’s get to that in a minute. ”

She looked down at her iPad. She’d lost the thread.

“Yes. Round-up.” She looked significantly at Ruth, who was sitting to her left.

“Shall I start?” Ruth looked round the table. “OK. Well, this week I’ve mostly been working on the new resources for teaching observations. Trying to get a balance between support and compulsion. Not easy.”

There were nods round the table.

“And of course the usual rounds of School meetings and so on. Oh, and I ‘attended’,” she made a sign of inverted commas with her two index fingers, “a webinar on MOOCs. Really interesting.”

“MOOCs?” Rich looked incredulous. “Are you reinventing the English language? What’s a MOOC?”

Carol jumped in. “Massive Open Online Courses. They’re free online courses that anyone can join. The Ed Tech team were talking about running one.”

Rich rolled his eyes, but didn’t say anything. Ruth glared at him.

Hazel sighed. “Thanks, Ruth. Perhaps you could pop a little summary of the webinar up on the blog?”

Ruth nodded.

“OK. Now, who’s next. Carol?”

One by one they provided a summary of their activities. Hazel took a few notes, but it all seemed pretty similar to last week. Worthy, but dull. She didn’t have anything interesting to add when it came to her turn, either. She listed the university committees she’d attended that week, together with the various ‘task-and-finish’ groups for particular projects. None of which seemed to have made much progress. None of them had finished.

She took a swig of her lukewarm coffee. “Right, that’s great, everyone. Thanks. Now, on to the main item.”

She looked around the table. “As most of you know, I was called in to see the Deputy Vice Chancellor on Monday.”

Most people around the table nodded. It was a small team. She often chatted informally with individuals about how things were going. It was good for bouncing ideas around. The only problem with that approach came when someone felt left out, because they hadn’t been in the office when she was bouncing. Rich was still looking offended.

Rich raised his hand very slightly. “I thought he’d left?”

Hazel was embarrassed. “Yes. Alan’s left. But there’s an Acting DVC – Sam. The Dean from Health and Social Care?”

“Has there been an official announcement?”

“Yes. No. I don’t know. Sorry, I should have sent something round.”

She had lost the thread again. She looked down at her notes. DVC. meeting. Targets.

“Anyway. I’ve been to see Sam. He’s got a brief for, er, students, and student experience, and all of that kind of thing. The VC’s in India but Sam wants us to get going with the new agenda. I’m sure you’ve all read about all of the teaching staff at the University of Huddersfield now having professional recognition with the Higher Education Academy.”

More nods.

“Well, of course, you’ll remember that we suggested this to the VC a couple of years ago, and he thought it was a waste of time.”

Eyes rolled around the table.

“Well, surprise, surprise. They’ve changed their minds. Sam says he can see that their student survey figures have improved, especially for teaching. Although he’s assured me that this could be correlational, not causal.”

Smug smiles and nods around the table.

“So, Burston Central has got targets for HEA fellowship now.” She looked up. “50% by the end of this year, and 100% by the year afterwards.”

Most of them had heard these numbers from Hazel earlier in the week, but it was a good opportunity to rehearse their feelings. And do some more eye-rolling.

“About time too.”

“That’s impossible.”

“Does he think we can wave a magic wand?”

“Academic year, or calendar year?”

Only Rich looked genuinely aghast. “You’ve got to be joking. How are we going to do that?”

Hazel looked at him. “That’s what we’ve got to work out. And I need hardly remind you all that as far as the VC is concerned, we’re here on sufferance. He wants to see results from this strategy, or …”

She didn’t finish the sentence. The DVC hadn’t either, so she wasn’t exactly sure what the consequences might be. On a rational day, she’d shrug her shoulders and decide that there was no sensible end to the sentence. What were the chances of a mass redundancy? The university was solvent, and they were jogging along, doing a fairly solid job, like most service departments. On a bad day, though, she could imagine the worst. She didn’t want to be known as the person whose department was closed down.

The others were still silent, waiting. She pulled herself together. “So. Let’s think about a strategy.”

“How many people are HEA fellows already?” asked Carol.

Hazel sighed. “Good question, but we don’t know. The HEA won’t tell us, because they say it’s confidential.”

Trish chipped in. “What about HR? They ask us every year for the annual data protection whatsit.”

“Indeed. But apparently, they don’t actually log that information anywhere. They’d have to go through all the forms again. But they don’t have the man, er, person, power to do it. And we aren’t allowed to see the forms ourselves, because some of the other information on them is personal.” Hazel sighed again.

“So we’ll have to survey every member of the teaching staff again to get a baseline?” Rich’s question was rhetorical. He spoke very slowly, as though explaining something to a small child.

Hazel ignored his tone. “I guess so. That’s if we need a baseline.”

Ruth backed her up. “We could just assume we’re starting from zero. Since we don’t have a baseline figure. I don’t think a survey will be practical, Rich. You know what it’s like getting a decent response rate from academics.”

Nods round the table.

Rich tried again. “So how will we know if we’re succeeding, if we don’t know where we’re starting? And how will we know whether people have achieved the fellowship, if we aren’t counting?”

Hazel shrugged. “Of course, we’ll have to start a system of registration. In collaboration with HR. But we can’t afford to spend weeks or months working out the baseline.” She realised that she was now speaking slowly, mirroring Rich’s patronising tone. Damn him. He really brought out the worst in her.

Rich contented himself with a raise of his eyebrows, and sat back. Point made.

“Anyway.” Hazel tried to regain some purpose. “Let’s share some ideas for gaining accreditation.”

Off they went, thinking about how to ensure that all teaching staff at the University were in possession of some kind of recognition of their teaching skills.  Clearly, Hazel intended this discussion to be productive brain-storming. Chris wondered if it would be more accurate to describe it as defeatist whinging.

“We could try workshops, but nobody will come.”

“Can we get HoDs to make it compulsory?”

“We could do all of the support online.”

Chris snorted involuntarily and tried to disguise it into a coughing fit. He turned to the wall slightly and rolled his eyes in a direction nobody could see. Hell was likely to freeze over before anybody at Burston Central completed an online course.

The brainstorming session was well into its third cycle of repetition before Hazel decided to call a halt.

“Well, thanks, everyone! Some great ideas there.”

Chris closed his eyes, the better to roll them in peace. He really didn’t think the cheery tone was warranted.

Hazel continued. “Ruth, I saw you taking lots of notes. Could you write us a little summary before our next meeting, please?”

Ruth looked pleased. “Sure. Although I may have written down what I wanted to hear more than what was said. Haha. I was just taking notes for myself, really.”

“I’m sure they’ll be terrific.” Hazel looked down at her iPad again. “Now, we really must move on.  Any other business?”

It was nearly lunch-time. They all sat silently, willing each other not to speak.

“OK. Great!” Hazel closed the cover of the iPad. “See you all later”

The Union Meeting, Part 2

In the previous post, Carol and Chris from the Centre for Academic Practice were attending their first Union meeting. There was too much business to cover in one post…


Holly looked fixedly down at her notes and read in a monotone. “the meeting is asked to condemn the attitude of the Vice Chancellor in criticising our Vice Chair in a public forum.”

“Hear, hear.”

“Victimisation.”

“Bloody typical.”

Chris cleared his throat again.

“Um. Could you just update us on this one?”

Martin looked hard at him. “You may know that I was recently elected by other academic staff to represent them on Academic Board. Shortly afterwards, the Vice Chancellor got an article in the local rag bringing up a, er, an incident from the dim and distant past, then put a motion to Academic Board saying it was bad publicity and I should consider stepping down.”

“The VC told the local paper?” Chris sounded sceptical.

“Well, someone did, and he hates me, so I think we know where to point the finger.”

“He hates you?”

Carol elbowed Chris again.

“That’s terrible.” Chris offered. “If true.” he added in an undertone. He continued at normal volume. “Sounds like victimisation. Are you going to step down from Academic Board?”

Martin glared. “No. I was democratically elected. We can’t let them intimidate us like that.”

Chris nodded convincingly. “Fair enough. I’m sure the incident was a one off.”

Martin narrowed his eyes. “Let’s go to a vote, then, Holly, if anyone’s not sure.”

Holly looked up from her notes. “All those in favour?”

Everyone sitting round the table raised their hands. Martin looked meaningfully at Chris and Carol. Carol lifted her hand slightly. Chris nodded.

“That looks unanimous.” Martin said.

Holly made a note.

“Right, I’ll take the chair back now. Thanks, Holly. OK. Item 3. Attack on our professionalism. The Centre for Academic Practice is insisting that we all have a teaching qualification.”

Chris opened his mouth, but closed it again when Carol kicked him hard on the shins.

Martin continued. “They’ve got no right. Nobody’s discussed it with us, and we’re the recognised Trades Union for academic staff. And we don’t need it anyway. Teaching qualifications. In HE. Do they think we’re school teachers? Do I have your approval to open a grievance with HR?”

There were nods and mutters of approval around the table.

Someone said “Centre for Academic Practice. What do they know about teaching?”

“Just management stooges.”

Chris cleared his throat again. Carol kicked him even harder. She raised her hand. “Could you tell us any more about what’s being proposed before we vote?”

Martin sighed. “I think it’s obvious. It’s just another form of management control. Student feedback isn’t too good, so they think a bit of paper will sort it out. They need to sort themselves out first.”

Carol persisted. “Yes, but I don’t think anyone’s told us what the management proposal is.”

“They want all academic staff to have a teaching qualification.” repeated Martin.

“Really?” said Carol. “Has there been an announcement?”

Martin looked very hard at her. “Not officially. Someone in the Centre for Academic Practice has told us about it. Early warning.”

“Oh well, glad to hear we aren’t all management stooges, then.” said Carol, icily. “Chris and I also work in the Centre for Academic Practice, and as we’re also Union members, we thought we’d come along to see how colleagues would like the Centre to develop the proposal. But I see you’ve all made up your minds already.”

Martin didn’t even blink. “I’m sorry that you think that. But this really is an attack on our professionalism. We don’t need teaching qualifications” – he almost spat out those two words – “to teach well.”

“I’m sure that’s true.” Carol’s tone was calm, and even. “I think the purpose of the qualification is to acknowledge the professional achievements of most of our colleagues, and to enable us to provide support for those few who may, for whatever reason, find some aspects of teaching difficult.”

Chris had more difficulty staying calm. “You know, like those lecturers whose students write ‘always reads off the lecture slides’, or ‘my feedback was illegible’, or ‘I didn’t get my feedback from the second year until Christmas in the third year.’”

Everyone sitting in the magic circle had turned to look at them. “Oh well, if we’re going to be in thrall to student feedback…” said one of them,  a large, red-faced man wearing a checked shirt. The woman next to him sniggered.

Martin obviously felt the need to pull the meeting back to order. “Well, exactly, Jim. This is a knee-jerk reaction to some off-the-cuff comments from students which are better addressed at module level. Sledgehammers and nuts. Let’s go to a vote. All in favour of a grievance against this. When it’s formally announced.” he added, looking meaningfully at Carol.

Everyone in the inner circle raised their hands. Martin looked at Carol and Chris. Neither moved.

“All those against?”

Carol and Chris raised their hands.

“Two against, Holly.” said Martin. There was some whispering around the inner circle.

Martin raised his voice. “Right, item 4. Solidarity with the Halesowen branch.”

Chris nudged Carol and they both stood up. “Excuse us.” said Carol. “We’ve got classes starting in ten minutes.” They tiptoed to the door.


Wading Through Treacle fictionalises the stuff in HE which you couldn’t make up. You can follow @wadingtreacle on Twitter, or like the Wading Through Treacle page on Facebookto be informed of updates, or click on ‘follow’ at the bottom of this screen to register for updates from Wading Through Treacle. Feel free to send Wading Treacle accounts of daft things which could be fictionalised by email, too: wadingtreacle@gmail.com.

All characters are fictitious. Any resemblance to real persons, living or dead, is purely coincidental, unless it says otherwise (Times Higher journalists or government ministers, for instance).

If you want to read the Advent Calendar 2012, see the‘About’ page.

Training for Research Excellence

The Centre for Academic Practice has been tasked with making sure that all academic staff are qualified teachers. They’re making plans.


Off they went, thinking about how to ensure that all teaching staff at the University were in possession of some kind of accreditation of their teaching skills.  Clearly, Hazel intended this discussion to be productive brain-storming. Chris wondered if it would be more accurate to describe it as defeatist whinging.

“We could try workshops, but nobody will come.”

“Can we get HoDs to make it compulsory?”

“We could do all of the support online.” Chris snorted involuntarily and tried to disguise it into a coughing fit. He turned to the wall slightly and rolled his eyes in a direction nobody could see. Hell was likely to freeze over before anybody at Burston Central completed an online course.

The brainstorming session was well into its third cycle of repetition before Hazel decided to call a halt.

“Well, thanks, everyone! Some great ideas there.”

Chris closed his eyes, the better to roll them in peace. He really didn’t think the cheery tone was warranted.

Hazel continued. “Ruth, I saw you taking lots of notes. Could you write us a little summary before our next meeting, please?”

Ruth looked pleased. “Sure. Although I may have written down what I wanted to hear more than what was said, haha. I was just taking notes for myself, really.”

“I’m sure they’ll be terrific.” Hazel looked down at her iPad again. “Now, we really must move on.  What’s next? Oh, yes, research.”

There was a collective groan, followed by the Pavlovian response triggered whenever the team heard the word ‘research’.

“It would be fine if we had time.”

“I’d love to do more, but we haven’t got the right journals.”

“Well if the conference budget would only stretch…”

“What would you like us to stop doing instead?”

“With the quality of most research in Academic Practice, I’m not sure it’s worth bothering.”

Hazel sighed and waited for the familiar responses to be fully rehearsed. She cleared her throat. “Well, I’ve had a meeting with the Research Director, and he agrees with me that we don’t really have anything to contribute to any of the obvious units of study for the REF. Or any units of study, in fact. But that’s not what I want to talk about today.”

She looked round the room. This was a new topic. She wondered if there would be any novel responses. “The Research Director has suggested that we work with, er, with HR…”

She was rudely interrupted.

“Work with HR? Ha bloody ha.” Rich had, after all, found a familiar refrain. “That’ll be the day. They have glacial timescales for getting anything done.” There were murmurs of agreement.

Hazel ignored him. “Work with HR,” she continued more strongly, “to improve the package of support for research staff. The Research Centre wants to aim for the, the,” she looked at her iPad again, “the HR Excellence in Research Award from the European Commission. To get that, we need to, er, have robust implementation plans to show how we attract, manage and develop research staff.”

She looked up. “So, our part of that would be the ‘developing’. We need to put together a special academic practice programme for research staff. HR will probably carry on with all the usual stuff about induction to the university, plus some generic career development material, but we need to think about things like, er, ‘what it means to be a researcher in 21st century Burston Central’, or maybe ‘standing in for your supervisor when je can’t make a lecture’ and that kind of thing. Any other ideas?”

Nobody commented. Chris closed his eyes again. Christ on a crutch. It was hard enough being a PhD student or a post-doc without having pointless staff development inflicted on you. He suspected that wasn’t the kind of comment Hazel was looking for.

“Well, great. Rich, you’ve got research experience. I’d like you to take the lead on this one, please. Can you canvass some views, set up a meeting with the head of Training in HR, and the Research managers for the Schools, and get some ideas together by, say, the last staff meeting of this month?”

Rich preened slightly. “Well, it’s nice to see my previous work being recognised. I’ll do my best to squeeze this in. Does anyone else want to contribute?”

Nobody commented. Chris, the only person in the room with a PhD, sat silently. No chance. Whoever took this on would be lucky to get away with mild abuse of the ‘Those who can, do research. Those who can’t, teach. Those who can’t teach, become Academic Practice tutors’ variety. Rarely would so little be inflicted on so many. He was pretty confident nobody would remember his research credentials.

Rich smirked. “Oh, OK then. Well, I’ll see if I can get some active researchers to give us some ideas.”

Hazel winced. She wondered if Rich was the most tactful choice. But in all honesty, it wasn’t top of her list of priorities, and he was probably safer on this than on the HEA accreditation. She’d had complaints about his teaching observations before.

Rich read her mind. “Not sure how much time I’ll have for the HEA stuff, though. Sorry, chaps.”

Hazel nodded. “Well, you can’t do everything, can you?” She smiled weakly, and checked her iPad again. She brightened. “Right, everyone, I think that’s all I wanted to tell you about. Anything else anybody wants to chip in?”

It was nearly lunchtime. Nobody said anything. People started to close their notebooks and pick up phones and keys. Chris caught Carol’s eye. She looked as though she did have something to say, but had lost the will to bother. They grinned sheepishly at each other. Rumbled.

“OK, well, thanks, everyone. Same time next week.” Hazel was already almost out of the door.

Chris waited for Carol at the door. “What were you going to say?”

“Oh, nothing really. Just that I got a paper accepted for the HEA conference in July.”

“That’s great, Carol. What’s it on?”

“You know that student partnership thing I was working on? I did some evaluation and wrote it up. Thought it might be worth a try.”

“Brilliant. You should have announced it. I bet nobody else is doing any proper research.”

“Oh, proper research. I don’t know about that. It was just a bit of evaluation.”

Chris smiled at her. “Don’t be so modest. It’s more than most people can manage. Shouldn’t you be contributing  to Rich’s project? It would give a bit of credibility, recent research experience and everything.”

Carol winced. “I seem to be a bit too busy…”

They both giggled. “Fancy a coffee?” said Chris. “We can have a therapy session. No, I mean we can talk about professionalising the academic workforce. Make plans.”

“Good idea. I’ll just get my coat.”

They headed off to the campus coffee shop.


Wading Through Treacle fictionalises the stuff in HE which you couldn’t make up. You can follow @wadingtreacle on Twitter, or like the Wading Through Treacle page on Facebookto be informed of updates, or click on ‘follow’ at the bottom of this screen to register for updates from Wading Through Treacle. Feel free to send me accounts of daft things which could be fictionalised by email, too: wadingtreacle@gmail.com.

If you want to read the Advent Calendar 2012, which has a bit more of a narrative, see the‘About’ page.