Letter: My `torpid' summer

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Sir: What did your editorial (21 August) mean by academics being too fond of their long summer of torpor?

I've just looked through my diary for the eight weeks that have passed since I finished marking exams and working the average 50-60 hour week of a university teacher and researcher.

I spent one week experimenting and collecting data, followed by two weeks at conferences (9am till 6pm in darkened rooms). I then came back for two weeks working a relaxed nine-to-six in my office preparing next semester's teaching materials, dealing with a backlog of administrative duties, examining a PhD student, preparing resit exam papers, and drafting research reports.

I did visit my partner's parents in Devon for three weeks, but took my laptop and spent two weeks writing three papers to submit to journals and two more conference presentations. I confess to taking a week off, including one day at the beach and one day to watch the eclipse. You may recall that it rained in the South-west for much of that week.

There are now four weeks before the students return, and I have to revive myself from this torpor. In that time two weeks are committed to attending more conferences, so I have two weeks to complete the preparation and printing of several thousand pages of handouts, write next January's exam papers, and complete two research grant proposals.

Newspaper leader writers, as the rest of us know, simply have to dash off a couple of hundred words on any topic that catches their fancy, and the rest of the day is their own.