(aka Bike, est. 2007)
Copyright© 2017 Angharad
This is a work of fiction any mention of real people, places or institutions is purely coincidental and does not imply that they are as suggested in the story.
I sat with my second cuppa and flicked through my notes which were in plastic pockets in a lever arch binder. Goodness, I haven’t done this for a while; okay definition of habitat, ecosystem, biome yep—could probably do this in my sleep but the art is to do it while keeping the students awake.
Flipping to the pocket at the back, did I have any tricks—nah, just a DVD, which I quickly loaded into my ’puter and scrolled through them, a quiz with twenty questions. Now do I make it a team thing or individual? Let’s see how many turn up once they realise their regular lecturer is off sick.
My tea had gone cold so I left it and went for a wee and smartened myself up, freshened my lipstick, checked my hair, that sort of thing. In a Chanel suit, you don’t need much else except perhaps a complementary squirt of Coco. I collected the file including the DVD, my handbag and sauntered up to the lecture theatre. Some of these students probably won’t have a clue who I am, as I usually do the professorial lecture before Christmas. Oh well, those who turn up will get the bonus of sharing in my genius and enormous modesty. I almost smirked as I wandered through the prep room door at the back of the room. Alex the technician nodded to me and told me that the projector was all set up. I thank her, she’s fairly new and when she asked if she could sit in from the student’s side, I agreed. If anything goes wrong she’ll be on hand so that’s okay.
Somehow word had got out that the nutty professor was doing the session and the room was quite full—hang on, there’s a group of second year’s sat up the back, what’s going on? How did they find out? I spoke quietly to Alex and she told me that Diane had sent out a text message practically across the whole department and here I am hoping to wing it for an hour and a half and chat with the students for the last thirty minutes. I’ll sack her when I get back to my office, bloody woman. The thing is I know exactly what she’ll say, “I didn’t want you to be lonely in that big room.”
I loaded the quiz but didn’t run any of it. With two hundred students teams were hardly going to be feasible. So it would be an individual thing if we got that far. I introduced myself and got a round of applause, apparently for managing to walk in ‘those heels.’
“Okay people, we’re, well, I’m going to be talking about what ecology is, how we measure and use it here and why. The why is very important because in this massively overpopulated world, we have to work hard to prove the negative effects that humans are having on the planet its other denizens and their habitats especially in this climate of alternative facts, which means untruths and deliberate lies and climate change deniers, who believe in god but not scientific evidence. Right, somebody give me a definition of a habitat...” We were off and for two hours we kept each other occupied. I made them draw up the habitat of a science student and then build the ecology around it. It was ten minutes of nonsense but then I showed them a clip from my film, ‘Dormouse’ and asked them to do the same again.
“Where do we find dormice, so what is the habitat, and if anyone says a teapot, I’ll make them stand on one leg outside in the cold until the rest of us finish.” They said woodland and hedgerow and then I showed them all the sorts of habitats in which dormice are found, from half way up mountains in Germany, to tea shops in Lyme Regis. The latter is true, a dormouse happened to just wander into a teashop in Lyme a few years ago. Ended up in Paignton zoo so we have a clear record of it, how it got there, goodness only knows.
We did the dietary bit, what do dormice eat? I had to disqualify tea cakes, despite the teashop event. We had nuts and acorns—the latter are very poor food source, very little nutritional value compared to a hazel nut. They got fruits and seeds—which is what nuts are—but they didn’t say insects, which was good because when I showed the clip of a dormouse slurping away on the caterpillar of a purple hairstreak, a butterfly which feeds on oak, they were almost shocked. Even the second years who’d turned up hadn’t seen that clip because we decided it was too icky to put in film, instead having one grab a fly which was curled up for the night. The best I’d seen was one with a maybug, these are cockchafers and I could hear the dormouse crunching it from five yards away.
I stopped after an hour for loo breaks and sent Alex to bring in one of the hibernating dormice, who were in nests in artificial holes in the ground. Each was actually a nest box through which we can monitor life signs and if necessary remove them for feeding or treatment if disease is suspected. We had one die last year and I had the skeleton removed and reconstructed before putting it in a small glass holder. So we had two objects to show them which I kept until the last ten minutes, which just about gave everyone a chance to view my special animals, but asking them to be quiet in case either of them woke up—well, you know what I meant.
Alex took our sleeping beauty back to the labs and I went off to my office. Having just taught for two hours and it being well received, I was buzzing as I got back to my office.
“You managed to stay awake then—though I suppose the pains in your toes ensured that,” she smirked at me. I was so high I wasn’t aware if my feet were sore or not. “You weren’t lonely then?” Told you.
“No, half a dozen turned up and we had a natter over tea and scones for a couple of hours, a bit like your average morning.”
She scowled back at me.
“It went okay, I got Alex to bring in a dormouse and they spent ninety minutes oohing and ahhing.”
“Your usual trick then.”
“Pretty much, did you miss me?”
“When?” she said dismissing my question in a perfunctory manner.
“I was going to take you to lunch.”
“Oh, we all missed you dreadfully,” she said trying not to laugh. “Even the vice chancellor was worried by your absence.”
“What he came over?”
“Only to borrow a book. I told him you were teaching and he said he was glad one of us was having an easy time.”
“Cheeky sod, I’ve a good mind to starch his underpants.”
“Ahem, you were saying about lunch...”
I shook my head, “Come on, Watson, the lunch is afood.”
“A food? Isn’t is usually afoot, Holmes says?”
“D’you want to eat something’s foot?”
“Uh, no thanks,” she replied pulling a face.
“Well, shurrup and get moving.”
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